This article has been updated on 28th June 2018. It was originally posted in March 2013.
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So you want to start an ecommerce store. You are comfortable on the web, you are familiar with using ecommerce stores but you just don't know where to start when setting up your own.
In this post I am going to go through the basic steps you can take to get your ecommerce store off the ground using Magento. Of course, the first step might be 'Find a good web developer' and if you can and you want to hand over this task then you should do so.
You may be on a tight budget and a good web developer can put a big dent in your costs, not all ecommerce projects have the capital at the start to do this, so there are alternatives that you can consider.
There is nothing wrong with not being able to fork out at the start of your project, at this stage you may just want to prove the concept that your idea will work and you can sell your products online.
Once you have proved the concept that is when you may want to step up a gear and start seeking some professional advice. In this article, I am going to focus on the options you have for building an ecommerce store using Magento by yourself.
You should note that other ecommerce platforms are available and you should look around, check out the functionality and pick the one that is right for you.
I personally like using Magento because it has pretty much all the functionality I need out of the box and I can access new functionality fairly easily when I need it - plus it is the most popular ecommerce platform in the world, which means there are a lot of resources & help out there and it is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
- Hosting - The first thing I would like you to consider is which version of Magento you are going to use and how it will be hosted. You can choose Magento Open Source (the free version previously known as Magento Community Edition) or Magento Commerce (previously know as Magento Enterprise Edition) - but for the purposes of this article let’s assume you will choose Magento OS. To make life easy for you, try and find a host that will pre-install Magento on the server for you, particularly if you are not very technical, installation of Magento 2 can be tricky for the uninitiated.It is also a good idea to choose a hosting company that has experience with Magento, they will be able to give you some limited technical support if you find yourself having problems with the website. Take a look at the following Magento expert hosting companies.
- Design: "Ahhh, but what about the design, don't I need a red-hot designer to make my site stand out?" Are you kidding? There are thousands of themes (designs) that have been created that can be 'plugged' straight into your Magento store. Some of these are free but typically for a well designed professional theme you are looking at around the $50 - $200 (£35 - £135) mark.In many cases the only thing you need to change is the logo and if you were pay someone to create one of theses designs you would be looking at 10x - 20x the cost of purchasing 'off the shelve' . NOTE: It is also worth thinking about how your design will look on many devices for example - How it looks on a computer screen will be different to how it looks on a smartphone or a tablet.When looking through designs look for ones that are marked 'Responsive'. These will look good no matter what size screen you are viewing the store in, they alter their appearance for the appropriate screen size. Ignore mobile devices at your peril, think about them before purchasing a theme as many of your potential customers will be using mobile to view your site.Do a search on Google for 'Magento Themes' or 'Magento Responsive Themes' - there's a lot of results, take a look through - there is something for everyone.
- Get the basics covered first -
- Setting up the catalog- Now you have a store up and running what should you do next? Download our free sample training material. This will take you through the first steps of setting up products and attribute sets. Getting the attributes sets right for products is a first before you start building your catalogue (all is explained in the material).
- Payments - Taking payment on your store is obviously very important. PayPal is integrated from the off so if you have a PayPal account (and if you haven't it is very quick to set up) you can take orders right from the go. Check out the PayPal options in the configuration menu. Other payment methods can be used, SagePay is a popular one but many others can be integrated.
- Transactional Email - One last thing to look at for a basic set up is the transactional emails. These are the emails that go out when someone has placed an order, or requested a password and are generated by the system. Magento comes pre-supplied with these emails but you do need to make at minimum some minor edits. You can do this through the System> Transactional emails option.
- Ready for Launch? - Now you have a product catalogue and means for customers to pay you are up and running. There is a lot more work for you to do to refine and personalise your store but you can do a lot of this while the store is running. The next thing to look at is how you market and promote the store. Consider the following ways of marketing:> Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
> Pay for Click Advertising (Such as Google Adwords)
> Email Marketing, do you have a current list of emails (past customers and prospects) that you can promote to?
> Using social media
> Promotions and discounts - To name just a few ways to encourage visitors to you store.
- Monitor, refine and test - Having a good analytics package such as Google Analytics is a must for any store. For me an essential part of running an online store is understanding the statistics that are produced. Signup to Google Analytics .Get good at checking you analytics, there are tutorials available on your analytics account. From now on you want to track where visitors came from (Adwords, SEO, email marketing), how much did they spend or what did they do. All this information is available through analytics and it can help shape marketing decisions going forward.Testing.Whenever you make a change to your store you should be able to test if the change has increased or decreased sales (amongst other things). You should be able to get much of this information via analytics.If you can do split testing (something for another article but look it up), hunches are good things but hard data should be king when making decisions that could affect sales.
- Adding new features - As you get more comfortable with your store and Magento you may want to start adding new and exciting functionality. What if you want to start a customer loyalty programme? How about you want a complete online/offline stock management system? Maybe you want to link your store straight into your email marketing system - these can all be done through the use of 'Extensions'. These are like apps for your store and can be downloaded and installed at a click of a button. There are thousands of these extensions - check them out at Magento Markeplace, the possibilities are almost limitless.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and only the start of your ecommerce journey
JUST LAUNCHED! On-Demand Tutorial - How to Build a Magento 2 Store
If you want a more hands-on approach why not take a look at our Magento Merchant Training courses which will not only teach you Magento but also how to run an ecommerce store, it requires no specific expertise and could help you on the fast track to your first Magento store.