Everything you need to know to start an online store

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Starting an online store can be intimidating. But the barrier to entry for becoming an online retailer is actually quite low. That’s because e-commerce platforms enable you to quickly and easily set up shop on the web – even if you’ve never done it before. South Africa’s leading specialist web hosting company, xneelo, has put together a simple guide that’ll help you start an online and e-commerce store. Let’s jump right in!

Hosting your e-commerce site

To set up an online store, you’ll need a website listing your products for sale. The three key elements you’ll require at this stage are a registered domain name, a hosting account, and an HTTPS connection.

First on the list: your domain name. This acts as your site’s address and makes it possible for customers to find you and browse your store. Choosing an easy-to-recall name and registering it will help drive visitors to your site.

Next up, choosing a hosting provider that will manage the server where your website is stored. It’s important to choose a provider that you’re comfortable working with on a long-term basis because this will be an ongoing relationship. Before choosing a hosting company, you might want to test out each option’s customer service. You’ll want to look for 24/7 availability, quick responses to your queries, and clear explanations.

Xneelo hosting plan

Essential e-commerce security

E-commerce involves asking customers to trust you with sensitive information, including their credit card details. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates enable HTTPS, a secure connection between web browsers and your site’s server, so your customers’ information isn’t likely to be stolen. Xneelo provides free SSL certificates to all of its customers.

Of course, additional security measures are always recommended to further protect you by preventing attacks from hackers. For instance, you may consider adding a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to your site. This helps to maintain your store’s reputation as a safe place to shop online, and protects both your brand and your revenue streams.

Choosing your e-commerce platform

Now that you’ve got your website hosted and its security sorted, it’s time to choose an e-commerce platform. These platforms make it easy to display your products and accept payments online. Some of the platforms to choose from are Shopify or WooCommerce – the latter can be easily added to any WordPress site.

‘Hosted’ platforms, like  Shopify, don’t require a hosting infrastructure, which seems like an advantage at first. The downside is that they limit your control over your content, along with your design and development choices.

With a self-hosted platform, you also have ultimate control and flexibility over your store’s content and design. WooCommerce offers extensions to help you with shipping, product display options, social media marketing, data analysis, and much more. In other words, you can fully customise your store to meet your exact needs.

Selecting your payment gateways

Once you have a platform and your hosting in place, you still need to decide how customers will pay for your products. Choosing the right payment gateway is no small task. After all, you want to be sure that your customers’ payment information is in good hands.

Fortunately, popular e-commerce platforms tend to support multiple well-known and trusted payment gateways:

payment gateways

Many of these payment options are quite affordable. For example, PayPal and PayFast are available on both WooCommerce and Shopify with no upfront costs. All you need to pay for are the transaction fees.  For a store that’s just getting started, these gateways are great choices.

Some of the other trusted gateways you may want to look at include SnapScan or MyGate.

No matter the gateway you choose, it’s best to opt for those that don’t require a merchant account, and are supported by WooCommerce or one of its extensions. You’ll also want to conduct careful research into the fee structure for each option, in order to avoid any surprises in future.

SA e-commerce on the rise

With South African e-commerce expected to grow almost 9% annually over the next five years, now is the perfect time to get into online retail. Fortunately, you now know what you’ll need to start an online store.

Xneelo registers domain names, provides high-quality web hosting and are known for their reliable, 24/7 customer service. They also host many of South Africa’s top e-commerce stores, so you can be assured you’ll have everything you need to get started.



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