Help for Your Online Shop: Finding the Perfect Platform for Selling Your Wares

Now that you have got all your wares aligned and thinking of launching your online business, it’s time to start finalizing the most suitable platform for yourself. Online retail sales in the UK reached £52.25 billion, which shows the immensity of the online market.

Below are some of the considerations you need to make before settling on the finest platform to sell your products/services online:

Stock Size

What is the stock size you’re looking at? When you’re looking for a store platform to use, be sure to see that you’re paying the smallest possible amount of money required. Conduct thorough research to make sure you aren’t being ripped off.

Security, Hardware, and Monitoring

Ideally, you should have a say in the hardware as well as the operating and security solutions being chosen by the web hosting service. Choose advanced and reliable server line operating systems like IBM iSeries to ensure that your money doesn’t go down the drain.

The hardware also needs to be sturdy to bear the brunt of thousands of visitors monthly. Make sure to see the essential RAM and CPU components.

Physical vs. Digital?

This is one of the most crucial questions worth asking. Are the goods you sell are physical or digital? This will vastly impact your shipping costs. Did you know that eight out of ten customers would choose an online retailer just because of free shipping? That’s why it’s wise to hunt for a platform that fits your product needs – just like a glove.

Financial Feasibility

See if the different deals offered fit your budget. If possible, go for the opportunity to pay monthly installments rather than promising to share a small percentage of your sale with the company.

Self-Hosted or Cloud Platforms?

If you’re sure you can modify the look of the online store, then by all means, you should look for platforms enabling you to go for self-hosted stores. Many e-commerce platforms allow you to alter your store as per your needs.

Some popular cloud platforms include Bluepark, Volusion, Shopify, and Magento Small Business. Cloud platforms are all the rage but you need to know the pros and cons before deciding if it is your thing!

Pros and Cons of Cloud Platforms

You don’t need to have any capital expenditure or pay any maintenance charges. That’s because these platforms come with their own set of technical support so you can sit back and let them take care of the technical nitty-gritty details.

But here’s the con: You might not be able to get your hands on highly customized websites with exclusive website branding. Also, you might not find the scalability for websites to grow along with your business needs.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosted Platforms

Supposing you opt for the self-hosted e-commerce, you have the flexibility of creating a web store with customized branding. The solutions are scalable, with the potential to grow along with your business.

However, with these platforms, the costs can go upward to thousands of Euros a year. You’re also exposing yourselves to security issues when using a free shopping cart.

The Bottom Line

Coming up with your online shop just requires one thing: research! So, conduct ample research based on the product/service you sell so that you’ll be able to round up some of the best platforms out there to make your online shop functional. You can have the right information at your disposal by comparing the major e-commerce players to get the best deal.

Rebecca O’Brien has worked on the tech support team for a web services provider for several years. She likes helping people, especially small business owners, and has the ability to word things in an easy to understand way.

5 Fundamentals of Customer Winning Web Design

The design of your website can make or break the success of your business. Do it right and you will be reaping the benefits for years to come. Do it wrong and you will find it hard to bounce from it.

While it may be hard to discuss what is considered appealing design, as this is something highly subjective, it’s much more easier to discuss the fundamentals of a design that will bring more customers and leads.

In today’s article, we’ll go over the fundamentals of customer winning web design so that you can implement them on your website and take your business to the next level.

  1. The Goal

A website with a goal is a successful website. Every website owner should be clear on what the goals of the website are: is it to attract more readers? Increase the sales of a product? Get more leads for their services? To inform? To entertain the masses?

Your website’s goal should be immediately obvious when someone lands on your website and you need to ensure every page has a clear and distinct purpose which serves your ultimate goal. By doing this, you will make sure your website is easier to understand.

  1. Visual Content

Visual content is essential to every website. You can use images and infographics to communicate information in a fun and easy way. Using photos of your products helps visitors to visualize how your product looks so they know what they are buying. Videos are more engaging than images and can be used to showcase your product in action or to add a welcome message for new visitors. Because they are more engaging, they have better chances of users viewing them and they also have a better potential of going viral.

In a nutshell, visual content can make a lasting impression on your website visitors, so don’t leave this one out.

  1. Branding

Your website should be a natural extension of your brand. As a business owner, you already have a brand, an image that your customers associate with you, your services, and your products. You should take that image and incorporate it into your website by using your brand’s colors and fonts, and using the same voice that you use in everyday communication with your customers and clients. It will make you stand out from the competition and make your customers relate to your business more.

  1. Mobile Friendly Design

If you want to improve the number of visitors who interact with your website, develop a mobile-friendly website. Not only will it help retain visitors on your website longer, it can also improve your conversion rates and boost your SEO in the process. Your website should be easy to read and navigate on smaller screens, images should scale correctly to accommodate for smaller screen size. Social media buttons for sharing your content should show up below the content without obstructing it.

Furthermore, you should also consider using 2 step optin forms which are less obtrusive on both desktop and mobile devices. They won’t show up until a visitor clicks on them, which means visitors won’t get annoyed with popups they can’t close until they have had a chance of reading your content and engaging with it.

  1. Clear Navigation

The navigation on your website should have a clear path to how you want your website visitors to move around on your website. It should be laid out in a logical and hierarchical fashion so website visitors can use your website with ease and progress through it in order to get the best possible experience. To aid you with this, use one level of navigation and consider utilizing drop-down menus to add additional pages if they are necessary. On top of that, you can also add a search bar to your navigation menu to make it easy to find relevant content. Make sure the search has an auto-complete function and the ability to correct the typos to ensure visitors don’t miss out on any search results.

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that the design of your website should be appealing. But, it is much more important that the design is appealing to your visitors than your personal preference. Furthermore, it is also much more important that the design of your website presents the best possible user experience for anyone who lands on your website and to make your website easy to use.

By implementing the 5 tips above, you’re surely to accomplish your goals and gain more customers.

Strange Things That Can Affect the Popularity of Your Website

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People who create websites want them to be popular. This basically goes without saying. But the things that can affect your website’s popularity is definitely worth highlighting. Especially when there are a lot of factors you may not have even considered. Here are some of the strangest things that can affect your website’s popularity!

How long you’ve owned that domain

This is one of the most underrated factors when it comes to website development. Sure, a domain that was created a year ago won’t have automatic precedence over a six-month-old domain. But how long you’ve owned the domain isn’t necessarily how old the domain is. If there have been previous owners, then this can definitely result in changes to search engine rankings. Google isn’t too keen on a domain that has been “passed around” a lot.

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Photo credit Medith IT

Of course, a change in domain ownership isn’t always going to negatively affect your popularity. Someone looking for the website that used that domain in the past will come across your website – that’s technically a free visitor!

HTML

You may not think that the HTML skeleton of your website would matter all that much. Of course, you know that it is important because it’s part of what dictates what appears on your website.

But clean, clear HTML and messy, undetailed HTML can produce the same front-end website. What your website code looks like won’t affect the visitor’s enjoyment much. But it will affect how well search engines can read your website! It’s vital that you understand exactly how HTML and search engines interact.

The location of your business or web host

Wait, what do web users care where you’re actually based? As long as it works the same way, people wouldn’t care all that much if the Facebook offices moved from, say, California to Fort Payne.

But, yet again, it’s not the front-end visitors you have to worry about. It’s the search engines! Your precise location in a city is relevant. Your proximity to other businesses is relevant. Where the searcher is in relation to where you are will also be taken into account. Google Possum, a recent update to its algorithms, have made it easier for smaller businesses in this regard.

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Photo credit Tammy Strobel

Content length

A lot of people are under the impression that really short videos and articles is the key to success. After all, don’t we live in a time where everyone has a really bad attention span? Well, actually, this isn’t really true. Both people and search engines have shown a preference for longer content as opposed to micro-content. Videos and articles that take around four to seven minutes to read or watch seem to be the most popular.

Spelling and grammar

Exactly how important this is is often disputed. It’s fair to say that not every website with atrocious spelling and grammar is severely penalized when it comes to popularity. But search engines aren’t particularly fond of it, and will take it into consideration if you don’t meet other quality criteria. Plus, people who are actually looking at your website are bound to be a little annoyed if you fail in this area!

Vital Steps To capitalising on the online side of your business

Taking your business online is a step that’s expected nowadays if you want to compete on any meaningful level. But it’s a big step, and a step that can have costs high enough to require serious consideration. Although luck can be a factor in your success, there are many things you can so to give yourself the best possible start online. That’s why we’re going to look at some of the things you need to nail down when getting into online business.

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Web hosting

Websites require more than just design. Before launching it, you need to consider what type of web hosting you need. You can host a site on your own servers if you’re big enough, but a lot of businesses simply aren’t. Web hosting companies have plenty of these servers and plenty of space you can use. There are a lot of different options on packages, as seen on websites like this one. You may have need of one domain name or several. Perhaps you need email addresses to go with it. Have an idea of what you’re going to need from your website and your domain name when making your choice.

The website itself

It’s time to look at the site itself. What is your site supposed to do for you? Is it to provide information? Or do you need to be able to sell direct from your site? The answer to this question will determine how you design the site and whether you need a shopping cart. If you want your site to sell for you, every part of it should be leading visitors to a call-to-action. This can be done in many ways, including providing useful information to help buyers make a decision,  displaying deals prominently or placing testimonials strategically on your site. Put priority on the simple facts visitors need to know about accessing your product and what it does. The more in-depth stuff can be a click away for those interested.

 

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Social media

It’s not just the people coming into your website that you need to market to, either. The art of social media marketing is about targeting the right people with your content. Start building links with like-minded people in your industry and learn from them. Think about what value your content delivers and to whom before you launch it. Depending on what kind of business you run, you want to target people on different platforms. LinkedIn can be a good step for B2B marketing. Instagram is great for lifestyle, food or fashion businesses. Twitter is good for just about any business. Do plenty of research on how to successfully use social media and learn all the tricks of the trade.

The power of data

One of the ways to get your marketing right, online and offline, is to know your customers. The internet is particularly good at helping you divine just who your demographic is. Data on your sites and social media accounts can tell you all kinds of things. Surveys can help you build an even better understanding. Find which pages are popular and use that data to better funnel traffic towards sales. Through social media, you can follow those following you. In doing this, you can learn a lot more about the kind of customers your products attract. Using that information, you can then go on to make marketing that is even more specific in its targeting.

The networking potential

It’s not just customers that the internet gives you a lot more opportunity to connect with. Partnerships on the internet are easier to find than ever before. Getting in touch with those in industries related to yours is as easy as an e-mail. Businesses can collaborate in cross-promotion online with a lot less effort than through traditional media. There are also the middlemen who can help you build your brand. The influencers, the bloggers and the Youtubers. There are a few different ways to get them on your side. Sponsorships are one of the most popular methods. There are others who will simply be happy to review or feature your products for free access to it. Just make sure you’re offering just as much in the partnership as the others. Otherwise, things might sour quickly.

Online business is about knowing how to situate yourself and make the best use of what the internet has to offer. Mostly, this means new methods of presenting your services and finding the right people to connect with. A great online presence can have significant real returns with the right effort.

 

Is your website prepared for the worst?

board-1004128_640In the early days of the Internet, the ‘worst-case scenario’ for a website was suffering from a server outage or exceeding its bandwidth limit. But today, the ever-present threat posed by hackers is much more serious, which can have far-reaching consequences for your business.

With the cost of cybercrime projected to reach $2 trillion by 2019, it makes sense for any organisation with an online presence to prepare their website for the worst. But how do you know whether you have ticked all of the right security boxes? Well, you need to have introduced or implemented the following…

The right web host

The first thing you need to address is your web host. If the servers that your site is located on don’t have defiant defences in place, hackers will have complete freedom over its data and documentation. So, look for web hosting services that prioritise security.

Features and technologies that are somewhat essential include SSL certificates, hardware firewalls, two-factor authentication, and protection against DDoS attacks.

Tight access control

In order to access sensitive or confidential information, several hackers will target the administration level of your website, which is easy to infiltrate if unprotected. Along with strong usernames and passwords, you should change the default database prefix to something random and hard to guess.

It is also a good idea to limit the number of login attempts and password resets within a certain time, as cyber criminals may target email accounts as well. Login details shouldn’t be sent over email either in case an unauthorised user has gained access.

Tight network security

Just like the admin level of your website, members of staff may also be inadvertently allowing hackers to access site servers via their own computers. Therefore, it is imperative that passwords are changed frequently, never written down, and contain a strong combination of letters and numbers.

You should also make logins expire after a short period of inactivity and ensure any device plugged into your network is scanned for malware each and every time.

Updated software and systems

Seeing as software updates cost vendors an untold amount of money to develop and release, you should take them seriously. By failing to install an update that was designed to address vulnerabilities in your operating system or web application, you could be leaving the door wide open to hackers.

Don’t assume that one little update won’t make a difference either. Cyber criminals are constantly scanning thousands of websites looking for weaknesses and won’t waste any time telling other online offenders where to strike.

Regular back-ups

Even with these security steps and protective precautions, your website will never be completely impenetrable to an attack. However, preparing for the worst also means having a recovery plan in place, which will ensure your site is up and running again in no time.

Whenever someone creates or saves a file, it should be automatically backed-up in multiple locations both on- and off-site. That way, if a physical hard-drive fails, you can still recover crucial documentation from the cloud.

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