How to set up an online shop

 7 June 2013

Kirsten Hendrich is a jewellery designer who set up her own ecommerce website. She shared advice on how to set up an online shop to support your creative business.

Kirsten Hendrich designed parts of her website herself, but you could also use a ready-made template website.
Kirsten Hendrich designed parts of her website herself, but you could also use a ready-made template website.

Most businesses of any sort are now online. It's a great way to market your business and make your products accessible.

With today’s fast technological developments, it is now affordable and fast to get your business online, no matter what your level of technological confidence is.”

I designed the website I use to sell my handmade silver jewellery myself. I utilised my Photoshop skills and sought help from my contacts to help me with website development and photography.

The rest was helped along by hard work, careful budget planning and patience.

It is now affordable and fast to get your business online.

More and more jewellers are now focusing on selling their products through their website. It makes sense to offer your website visitors the opportunity to purchase directly from you, the maker.

After all, if you're a jeweller, you offer uniquely designed, handmade products, and people are likely to be exploring your website because they like your work. It’s the perfect opportunity to make easy sales.

Here is how to get started setting up your own online shop – and why it's so important to create your own ecommerce store, either for your jewellery brand or for any other creative business where you sell your own work.

Selling your creative work online

Depending on what you want from your website, it doesn’t have to be difficult to set up an online shop.

If you are looking for a small outlet to sell your designs in order to boost your yearly sales – perhaps alongside gallery and trade show sales – then you won't have to spend vast amounts of your business budget or allocate a lot of time.

However, if you would like your online shop to become your main source of income, you must be prepared to work hard.

Setting up an ecommerce website which is strong enough to compete with fierce competition online will take time and patience.

If you don't have the contacts or skills to set up and market your website, it will also take some funding.

Running your own ecommerce site provides you with:

  • Control over the sale of your work.
  • The full value of the work, as you will not owe commission fees.
  • The opportunity to interact with your customers and gain feedback about your designs.
  • The ability to save some of your precious budget outlaying stock on a 'sale or return' basis to stockists. If you develop your website enough, you can afford to live off your web sales and choose stockists which buy your stock upfront.
  • Assets – if you develop a strong, successful online brand, a website with strong links and design can provide a healthy profit should you ever decide to sell your business.

How to build your online shop

Template websites

Blurry images, small thumbnails and dodgy DIY attempts can lose you sales.

These days many template websites are widely available. You can choose from a wide range of ready-made designs and also add your own company branding.

This is a good option for those with small budgets or little technical knowledge. Simply upload your products and information and it’s live.

Available options include WordPress, who have ecommerce plug-in options. You could also use sites such as MrSite and Wix.

I always used WordPress before setting up my own custom site as there are so many templates to choose from, and they are very established.

The downsides to a template website are:

  • The template might not provide all the features you may want.
  • It can’t always compete with bespoke websites in terms of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – meaning you may struggle to score as highly as your competitors on Google.

You might also want to check there is support in place should you have any technical problems.

Overall, template websites are a fantastic choice for those who see ecommerce as an additional outlet to sell their work, rather than a strong main source of income. They are affordable and fast.

Bespoke website design

Investing in bespoke website design and development can be costly. Some of the benefits to having your own specially-designed website include:  

  • You can design something completely unique which matches and reflects the individuality of your brand.
  • You can pick and choose the features you want, some of which might not be offered by templates or third party sites – such as specific colours, logo sizes, image sizes, and product description word counts. 

For those who are focusing on their ecommerce site as a main outlet for their work, bespoke web design is really worth considering.

To reduce costs, you will need to shop around to gather quotes. Web design companies can quote you significantly different prices.

You could also consider approaching university graphic design and web development students. They are always looking to boost their portfolio, and their prices will be significantly cheaper than professionals.

It is also worth utilising your own creative flair. Designing your own website, or at least coming up with some ideas, will reduce the amount of time a designer will need to spend designing your site.

This will reduce costs. If you are a confident Photoshop or illustrator user, you can create mock designs as a basis for your web designer and developer to work from.

Bespoke websites are often more superior in terms of Search Engine Optimisation. They can be tailored specifically for Google searches which your target market might make to find a company or product like yours.

If you hire a website designer and developer, make sure they consider your SEO requirements.

Third party store websites

Another option is to maintain your own website as a basic portfolio. This provides examples of your work, information about you and where your work can be purchased, but also offers an online shop option by referring your website visitors to another website to purchase your work.

You are not there in person, so make sure you cover the questions which might be putting your customer off.

Examples of third party websites which will host the 'shop' area of your site include Big Cartel, Etsy, or Folksy.

This is a great option for someone who already has a website, but has no ecommerce set up, a very limited budget, little time, little patience, or little technical knowledge.

It is impossible to be a master at everything, and if website maintenance and setup isn’t your expert field and you can’t afford to outsource help, this is the perfect option for you.

These third party sites are already set up ready to go, and they have all the features and admin systems you need to handle sales.

3 things every online sales website needs

1. Accessible, attractive presentation

No matter what route you choose when setting up an online store, you must remember presentation is everything.

Customers are very much accustomed to shopping online these days. They expect high quality and strong presentation.

2. Strong photography

Your photography must represent your designs in the correct manner and show them off well. Blurry images, small thumbnails and dodgy DIY attempts simply won’t make your website stand out, and can lose you sales.

Remember, all a customer can judge your work on is your photography, unless they have had the opportunity to see your work 'in the flesh'.

Online shopping is all about trust, presentation and looking professional.

3. Detailed information

Provide all the information you can about your products. You should include descriptions of:

  • materials
  • weights
  • sizes
  • what inspired the design
  • whether the customer can order a customised version
  • any matching products you also offer
  • delivery times
  • delivery cost
  • returns information
  • how to care for your designs.

You are not there in person to answer any queries as you would be on a shop floor or at a trade show. Make sure you cover all the possible questions which might be putting your customer off making a purchase.

Setting up online can be as easy or as difficult as you choose depending on what you require. There are plenty of options available to help businesses with varying budgets and technical knowledge.

It is definitely worth setting up an ecommerce outlet – each and every sale can soon add up.

If someone is on your website, they are obviously tempted, so tempt them further with the option to make a purchase!

 

What do you think makes for a good online shop design?

Find out more about Kirsten Hendrich's jewellery designs by visiting her website


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