With change in consumer habits triggered by the new normal, one of the world’s first e-commerce sites, Amazon saw its stock value skyrocket to nearly 80% since the beginning of 2020. This is proof of how the pandemic has accelerated the shift from physical to digital touchpoints. We’ve always known that e-commerce was the future (previously, we cited eMarketer’s forecast that retail e-commerce sales worldwide will reach USD 5 trillion by 2021), but at the rate things are going, it seems like that the targets will be surpassed.
Now is the time to jump on digital transformation for many brick-and-mortar stores that have yet to explore online as a sales channel. Along with the rise in e-commerce transactions, brick-and-mortar stores are reporting sharp declines. Businesses that want to survive have to accept and embrace that digital is not just a channel for advertising, but also a channel to proactively acquire leads and convert to sales.
Pivoting towards selling online, whether exclusively or as part of an omnichannel strategy, requires rethinking a brand’s operating model. Operating models for e-commerce evolve according to customer requirements and behaviours, complemented by the right technology stack.
When it comes to the right technology stack, the first two questions that brands typically ask are: “How do I start my own online store?” and “How much does an online business cost?” Here we will define each component of setting up an online store and the costs that going digital would entail:
Registering a domain name
Website setup costs entail factoring in the domain name. Brands have a choice to register a new domain name or purchase one that already exists.
Purchasing a domain name is coursed through a domain name registrar. Registrars manage the reservation of domain names, and offer different packages to suit a plethora of needs. A new domain typically sets back clients around US$10-20 per year, while a pre-registered domain could cost more, depending on its popularity.
It is a common practice for registrars to provide the first year on an “introductory price,” and then shoot up the costs on the succeeding years. These renewal prices typically shock brands, thus it is imperative to look into the entire package in the long-term.
Hosting a website
Web hosting is usually offered at US$100 per year or per month, varying according to client requirements. Servers that can handle more traffic naturally command higher prices:
These are the most popular hosting types:
• Shared hosting – Where a website shares a server with other users
• Virtual private server (VPS) – Where hosting resources and environment are exclusive to you, though a physical server is capable of handling multiple VPSs.
• WordPress hosting – For WordPress users, where access to features like free themes and plugins are included
• E-commerce hosting – Where plans are customised for online stores
• Dedicated server – The most expensive option, where users have their exclusive server
For those interested in e-commerce hosting, an SSL certificate may be a mandatory purchase. An SSL certificate, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, is a type of digital certificate that provides authentication and enables an encrypted connection. It signals to visitors that a website is safe and secure. A website with a valid certificate will show up on a browser with a lock icon.
The cheapest type of SSL certificate is domain validation SSL which costs about US$8 – US$10 per year.
Web development and maintenance
Our philosophy in developing websites is a thorough understanding of our clients needs, so we can offer them the most up-to-date solutions, and ensure that website experience will have an impact on customer experience.
Brands should consider the purpose of their website before selecting a designer or developer, or commissioning a project. It doesn’t matter if a website has all the bells and whistles, if it doesn’t succeed in targeting the brand’s prospective customers, or isn’t set up to drive engagement and conversion.
After the development process, maintenance is another non-negotiable for any website. Website maintenance entails consistent checking for issues and ensuring that it is updated, security patches are installed regularly, if you are using a VPS, OS version and language that is being used for website is updated as well, and making sure no defacement is there by using defacement tools. Outsourcing web maintenance on a retainer basis gives brands peace of mind, allowing them to rest assured that their website is healthy, drives continued traffic, and follows standards for SEO and Google rankings. Maintenance vendors usually offer this on a monthly basis, charging for a certain number of hours.
Finally, digital marketing is a crucial component in an effective online store or e-commerce website. This includes SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), which should be incorporated in the code by optimising URL, title, meta tags and images. Moreover, as a website is composed of elements such as graphics and text, SEO best practices play a crucial role in optimising the file sizes of graphics and ensuring copy content is keyword-rich.
Along with web maintenance, SEO is a long-term commitment. Continuously optimising the website using on-page and off-page efforts will drive continuous organic traffic to the website.
Those setting up a website need to know their website performance in order to inform their website optimisation strategy. This will affect how they form their content strategy, social media strategy, and digital marketing strategy. Setting up Google analytics properly with the website is an important step to getting the insights you need to market your business.
An effective website is not only a sum of its parts — domain, hosting, development, maintenance, digital marketing and analytics — but a cohesive whole that creates a great user and customer experience.
Our team of highly experienced strategists, creatives, digital marketing specialists and technophiles can help you with your online store or e-commerce website. Reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our enquiry form to discuss. You can also take a look at our list of services.