Selling online series – part 1

Hi Guys

Introduction to online selling

I realise that it has been quite a long time since I posted a new update.  This is because I have been extremely busy working on other projects.

More recently, I began working on a new online shop, selling water boosters.  These are pumps or sets of pumps designed to increase the water pressure within a building, where mains water pressure is not sufficient for the needs of the building.  I have been involved in the pump and liquid business for nearly twenty years in one way or another and so, this is new, but not totally alien to me.

After a while of getting used to the different types of pumps and the wide ranging applications that they are sold into, (by the way, I’m far from an expert yet!) I started to realise that most (if not all) my direct competitors had an online presence and moreover, they were set up for ecommerce.  The definition of ecommerce (for me anyway) is the ability to sell and transact the business wholly online.  Whether customers go to the said websites, browse around and pick a £3000 or more pump set and pay for it with a credit card is highly doubtful.  But my competitors certainly give that impression that they do.  So I have been plunged into the world of selling online.

This series of blog posts will hopefully describe my journey from setting up the site to actually making money.

Obviously, I’m not new to working online, I have several blogs and have design/written and managed a number of websites since 1995.  But actually putting a shop together and getting people to buy stuff is a little bit scary.

Domain name and hosting for selling online

We as a company decided to bring to life one of our older and unused domain names. Whilst modern search engine optimisation (SEO) doesn’t especially like the idea of using keyword stuffed domains, it does like older domains, that have some history.  Therefore, we thought it was a good choice and saved the minor issue of thinking up a new name and buying etc.  We then got one of the technical guys to add this to our hosting package (but you could easily pick one of the major companies, 123-reg, godaddy etc instead)

Shopping carts

The next hurdle we came to was deciding on a shopping cart.  As we didn’t really have a proper business plan nor budget for this project, we decided to look at the bottom of the market, i.e. free solutions.  A friend on mine recommended we look a Opencart.  Opencart is one of those opensource programmes where a bunch of clever people get together and do something for free.

Opencart comes with a single theme, which you can download either free or premium ones, in the say way you can with a wordpress blog.  It was easy to set-up and our hosting platform has the ability to just press install and no need for any behind the scenes technical work.

Payment gateway

So our website was set-up and ready for adding products.  The next thought we had was, “what if someone wants to busy something!!” You can imagine the panic.  Within Opencart you can add a number of payment modules, like Sagepay, Worldpay, Paypal and set-up bank transfers etc. So that is actually very simple.  The hardest part is making sure your business bank account allows for online transactions and you  may need to sign up with one of the payment providers to get a merchant account.  We had a relationship with Streamline and they in turn are involved with Worldpay.  So once we were through the set-up period, took about a week, we could added the basic settings to opencart.  We also, decided to set-up the ability to take customer’s credit card details via the telephone.

More to follow in the second part of this series.