Retail Websites - The Basics
- The Basics -
Does my small business really need to have a website?
Only you, the business owner, can answer this question honestly.
If you already have enough business and you feel your communication with current customers is strong enough, you may not need a website.
If you would like to attract new customers, communicate and build loyalty with your current customers, or allow people to buy your products online, you need a website! A website is a multi-functional tool through which people can get information on how to find you, what you offer, what makes you unique, and what’s new in your store.
What is the difference between an online store and a website?
An online store is simply a website where customers can actually buy products and/or services. You would choose to build an online store if you want website visitors to be able to order and pay for products or services available on your site. If not, all you need is a website.
How much does it cost to have a website?
Having a website involves three basic costs: the development of the site itself, hosting the site, and registering the domain name.
Development is the creation of the images, graphics, text, links and code so you have a website that looks good and is informative. Some website platforms provide templates that make it easy to design a website, but if you are not comfortable doing so, you can pay a designer or developer to help. This cost could range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but it is a one-time investment for a website you own indefinitely.
"Hosting the site” means the website files are put on a large server so the general public can access your site anywhere they can access the internet. Hosting costs vary but average around $20 to $50 per month, based on the website functionality and the hosting provider.
Registering the domain name (www.yourcompany.com) will cost about $10-$20 a year, and you will need to renew each year to keep your domain name. Your domain should be simple and easy to remember; ideally, it is your store name. Also consider using the same name for your website as you do for your social media channels, so customers can find you more easily.
What platforms can I use to create my website?
Building a website is easier than ever. Some top picks include Wix, Duda, HostGator, and Squarespace. These sites will allow you to develop, host, and register your domain name all in one. They will also ensure your website looks great on both a desktop computer and a mobile device.
For more information, read this article from PC Magazine.
What should I include on a basic website?
When creating your website, think like a customer first. Your website needs to make it easy for customers to find and contact you, so put this information front and center:
- Contact information, including store phone number and email address
- Store hours, updated regularly if they change
- Store location(s), including address, a map if possible, and a picture of your store so they will recognize it when they get there
Then, let customers know what you carry, even if you do not sell products online. Include a list of inventory categories (for example, English & Western riding apparel, equine supplements, grooming supplies, etc.) and pictures of your store interior with merchandise nicely presented. If you offer services such as blanket washing or embroidery, include a page that highlights those offerings. You may also list brands you carry in the store.
Other items to include on your website include a calendar of events (if maintained and updated regularly), current product promotions and sales, and links to your social media channels. If you have an email newsletter or would like to start one, include an email sign-up form on your website. You may also include an FAQ page to help customers find answers to most popular questions you hear.
You can also share your personal or brand story to establish trust and authenticity with your audience. Include an “About” page to share the story of how you started in the horse industry and in the tack store business.
I want to sell products directly online. What platform can I use to create an online store?
Starting an online store may not be necessary if your in-store business is thriving. However, as the retail landscape evolves, more and more customers are looking for online shopping options.
Some of the website builders above, such as Wix and Squarespace, also allow you to integrate shopping right into your website. Or, you can choose a separate hosted e-commerce platform such as Shopify. Read more about e-commerce platforms here.
What else should I consider when creating an online store?
Before deciding to launch an online store, you will want to consider:
Shipping and returns
For in-depth information about launching an online store, visit this Big Commerce blog.