According to the figures from the CSO, there are 248,344 small and medium enterprises active in Ireland and only 32 pc can take an online sale. What is behind this lack of investment when big retailers like Amazon are making inroads into the Irish market?
It's easy to become overwhelmed when you start looking into setting up an online store so we're here to break down what you need to do. If it's still too much consider consulting with a professional.
Let's look at things to consider when setting up an online store.
So what do you need to do to be able to sell products online?
First, you need to choose a platform for selling online. There are multiple platforms in use today that give you the store and payment functionality to sell products online. Platforms can either be self-hosted or cloud-based. Let's look at the most popular E-commerce platforms in Ireland in 2023:
The Share of E-commerce Platforms being in the Irish Market:
- WooCommerce 32% (Self-Hosted)
- Shopify 20%
- Squarespace 14%
- Wix 11%
- Ecwid 5%
Let's do a brief comparison of the above
This is a WordPress hosted platform and is very popular because it is very customisable and is free to install but you still need to pay for WordPress hosting. It does require someone to manage security updates and server maintenance so bear that in mind. It's definitely a platform for the more technically savvy.
Very Customisable Free to use and download.
Requires More Maintenance
Free ( But Does Require WordPress Hosting )
Shopify is an e-commerce platform you can use to build an online store. It allows you to sell both online with your website and/or in person using a point-of-sale app. It claims to be user friendly but I have found it difficult to master the user interface. It's not difficult to add products but if you're looking to design your entire website using this it can get tricky to get it looking good.
Lots of Themes to choose from
Limited customization for product and content pages
Basic Shopify Plan from €32 per month.
Squarespace again like Shopify is a website builder and e-commerce hosting platform. You can choose from multiple templates. A lot of templates look well for boutique stores, clothing and restaurants but might not suit other service businesses.
The cost of hosting is included in the monthly subscription.
Limited customer and technical support
Personal: €14 per month.
Wix is also a page builder and e-commerce host. Wix is a good platform for businesses that need to quickly and easily create an e-commerce website but again it can be hard to get it looking the way you want. Like a lot of site builders, websites can all end up looking the same.
Large app marketplace
It is a website builder first and an e-commerce solution second.
Business Basic: €20 per month.
Ecwid is becoming more popular in recent years. A handy thing is the ability to embed Ecwid into an existing website. This can be a big thing if you already have a website that working well and you don't want to mess around with things.
Pros: Lets you sell on any website
Cons: It offers a stand-alone site option, but it only has one page which is bad for SEO.
Free Plan + Venture plan from €14,08/mo
What should I consider when choosing the right e-commerce hosting platform?
Every business has different needs so it's important to see if the platform you choose has the functionality to do the things you want it to do. List out what your business needs to be able to do. Some factors to consider are:
- Business Needs: Choose a platform that suits the specific needs of your business, ie digital sales, online
- Ease of Use: How easy is it to add products and update the website?
- Price: How much is it to host for the year and are there any hidden transaction fees?
- Scalability: How easy will it be to scale the business in the future using the existing platform?
- Support: When something goes wrong, who can I turn to for help?
Let's look at an example. Let's say you run a flower shop and these are your requirements:
- Add and display flowers for sale.
- Manage delivery
- Sell Vouchers
- Manage inventory
Seems pretty standard but let's look at some potential extras you might need.
- Do you need to restrict delivery based on Post Codes?
- Shut down your store over the holidays?
This functionality is not available in Shopify or Squarespace but it is in Ecwid and WooCommerce.
This is where you can run into problems. Everything can be a trade off and you are trying to find the best solution that suits your business needs.
It's always important to talk to an e-commerce expert to guide you through this process.
So you've chosen a platform, what should your goals be?
1. Build a User-Friendly Website
Create a well-designed and easy-to-navigate e-commerce website to provide a positive user experience for potential customers. If you are using a page builder like we discussed above hire a web designer to go over it and improve the design. This is a one-off fee but will pay dividends in the end.
2. Optimize for Search Engines (SEO)
Implement SEO strategies to ensure your products are discoverable on search engines, helping potential customers find your online store. Add your products to your Google business profile. Hire an SEO specialist to help with this.
3. Establish a Strong Social Media Presence
Utilize social media platforms to create brand awareness, engage with your audience, and drive traffic to your online store. Use Facebook and Instagram to push products to your customers and find out if your e-commerce platform supports social media integration.
4. Implement a Content Marketing Strategy:
Develop valuable content, such as blog posts, product guides, and videos, to attract and retain customers while showcasing your expertise. Utilize Online Advertising:
Facebook Ads can be a really cost-effective solution for local retailers. Use this in combination with Google Ads, to drive targeted traffic to your website.
5. Monitor and Analyse Performance:
Use analytics tools to track website performance, customer behaviour, and sales data, allowing you to make informed decisions and continuously optimize your online selling strategy.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages but it's a learning curve so take the first step and start doing a bit of research or consult with an expert.
Whatever you choose, we're here to help so give us a call for a free consultation.