The Internet today is full of virtual stores. You can buy everything remotely: from books, clothes, appliances to an expensive car or rare antiques. The e-commerce market is increasing, and its most successful participants reach millions of turnovers each year. Statistics show an increase in the size of the average check of online shopping, the active involvement of buyers from large cities and small towns, and a wide variety of forms of payment and delivery.
Today you can create your online store yourself and free – many services will tell you how to do it in a short time and with maximum effect. The idea may be attractive, but the organization of virtual trade has its pitfalls. Consider in more detail the pros and cons of a free online store, the stages of its organization, and possible alternatives.
Is it possible to create an online store for free, and when it is appropriate
When considering making an online store yourself and for free, it is essential to understand that you will not avoid costs altogether. At a minimum, you will have to register a sole proprietorship, pay social fees and taxes, pay the sales managers, maintain the range, logistics.
Therefore, a “free” virtual store means no costs for its development and filling. The easiest way is to use particular online builders who provide convenient and straightforward tools for quick website creation. The user can choose one of several templates, the components, and the modules he needs. He also gets a free domain and hosting.
You can create an online store yourself in a few hours, while professional work on the website takes weeks or even months.
For all its appeal, this idea is unlikely to be commercially successful. The newly created store is likely to have limited functionality. Restrictions can be of various kinds up to the impossibility of calculating the full range, which means an automatic reduction in sales and profits.
Free online stores usually do not have an original design, worsening the consumer’s perception and creating difficulties in the promotion. Oils in the fire and adds third-party advertising, which is necessarily present on such a resource. A free domain name will be at best, a third-tier that search engines are unlikely to like. It may turn out that only the demo version of the service is free to top it off. For further work, it will offer to buy the chosen package of services for money.
Creating a store based on free templates only makes sense for micro-business owners: handmade home sellers, private services such as a hairdresser, masseur, or manicurist, as well as those who do not have far-reaching plans. If, from the first day, the qualitative and functional product capable of developing and work for many years is necessary, it is necessary to approach its development seriously. By following the link, you can read about the evaluation criteria of the online store.
Features of an online store created “by hand”
A joint study of CMS Magazine and ADN Digital Studio is devoted to a detailed analysis of the capabilities and characteristics of the most famous builders. Analysts selected 40 ready-made templates and compared them with several parameters. The main selection criterion was suitability for working with e-commerce, i.e., creating catalogs and support payment systems. The results essentially make up the picture that users want to build their online store for free and quickly.
The following parameters were evaluated:
- Domain and hosting. Almost all platforms allow you to use your previously purchased domain. Some (for example, Eshoper) will enable you to do this after the full redemption of the website. The possibility of transferring the website to third-party hosting in most cases is prohibited.
- Creating a store and adding products. Experts evaluated the possibility of adding products (manually), editing fields, customizing the interface “for yourself”. Almost all platforms received negative evaluations. Tilda, Diafan.Cloud, AdvantShop, Eshoper, “Merchium”, Wix has more or less vast possibilities. The same platforms offer templates that correspond to modern ideas about the design of online stores.
- Sales and payment methods. About half of the platforms allow you to create a personal account of the user, display product recommendations (“Choose this product”, “You like it”, etc.), provide the opportunity to issue discounts, and give coupons. The choice of payment methods is quite broad.
- Promotion and analytics. Most platforms have their analytics tools, reporting systems, the most “advanced” platforms (AdvantShop, AllTrades, Eshoper, InSales, Webassyst, uCoz, InSales, Tilda, LPgenerator, etc.) allow you to edit titles, descriptions, keywords, meta tags, add robots.txt, XML web sitemap, etc. that is, perform SEO-optimization.
- Price. The spread is large and depends on the tariff plan. The fee may be charged daily or depending on sales. The complete list of features is available only in the paid version. And only the most expensive tariffs have no restrictions on the number of added goods.
Thus, the relationship is apparent: the more complete the functionality, the higher the price for monthly use. This once again confirms that only the simplest online store designed for test use can be created independently and free of charge. In the future, to implement advanced solutions, you will have to turn to the tariffs, which provide for the payment or buy additional modules.
Pros and cons of a free solution
The main advantage of a free solution is maximum savings. You can do everything yourself as you like, without paying for the work of specialists involved. You will also be able to adjust the settings after starting the project.
But be prepared for the obvious disadvantages:
- weak level of execution – even the most thoughtful builder will not replace the experience of professional developers;
- design patterns and difficulties with promotion;
- instability of work, low level of safety.
As a result, instead of focusing on business processes and factors of profit growth, the entrepreneur is engaged in work in which he understands poorly. It is much better to entrust the job to professional performers or abandon the idea of your website in general and use functional platforms, which for a modest fee allow you to organize trade throughout the country without the hassle of development and configuration.
How to create an online store yourself: step-by-step instructions
Creating a unique online store can be represented as a diagram that includes the following steps:
- Choosing an idea. It should be interesting, as original as possible, and in demand.
- Creation of inventory: search for suppliers with the most favorable conditions, calculation of the possible selling price, level of profitability, profit, determining the position of competitors.
- Registration of a sole proprietorship or a company of another organizational and legal form. Choice of the taxation system.
- Choosing a domain, website management system, developing an original design or purchasing a finished product. A domain is the address of an online store. It is good if it is short and memorable. The name may reflect the category of goods sold or services.
- Content creation and placement. The texts on the website must be unique, the photos – original. You can prepare the content yourself or use the services of professional copywriters and photographers. An excellent way to attract attention is to organize a free blog or section on the website with valuable tips on the products offered, current news, describe the application’s features, etc.
- Development of payment schemes. To work with customers across the country, it is necessary to connect the ability to receive money from bank cards and electronic payment systems.
- Elaboration of the delivery mechanism. Optimally, it offers customers options to choose from Ukrposhta, Nova Poshta, and other services. Payment may be fixed or depend on the weight/cost of the purchase. You can set the order amount at which delivery will be free – this will push the buyer to a larger volume of purchases.
- Attracting customers. There are many ways: contextual advertising, SEO-optimization, e-mailing, promotion through reviews and recommendations on social networks. By the way, how to get back lost customers read the link.
According to the latest data, the share of visitors from mobile devices exceeded the number of those who access the Internet from a desktop computer (55% and 45%, respectively). Any modern online resource (including a store) must be adaptive or have a mobile application. This will help attract and retain a vast number of visitors.
An alternative to your website can be selling goods and services through social networks or specialized aggregator websites. Consider both options briefly.
Sale through social networks
The most successful in this regard are Instagram, Facebook. The online store can look like a thematic group or a separate page, which instead of user data, contains information about the products: description, photos, prices, reviews.
- Easy entry. You can create a page or group for free and without programming skills.
- Several active channels of communication with the audience. Users can write personal messages, leave comments, make reposts.
- Ease of distribution. The first “visitors” of a group or page, as a rule, are the “friends” of the creator, who are willing to share updates with other friends. In this way, it is possible to reach a wide audience quickly.
- Ease of creation gives rise to high competition. At the same time, the limited functionality does not allow to stand out firmly among competitors.
- Social network users limit the audience. Promote the public offline is more complicated than a regular website.
- It is not possible to accept payments remotely – only cash. You can offer customers to send transfers to the bank card of the group organizer, but this will negatively affect the level of trust in the store.
- Complete dependence on the social network. The decline in the network’s popularity means a decrease in the number of buyers in the group. If the page is blocked, customers will be lost.
It is not possible to analyze the behavior of visitors. At the same time, the website’s presence allows you to learn a lot about the audience and apply this knowledge in marketing strategy.
Sales through social networks can take place at an early stage to test demand. The group can also be another channel of communication with the audience and the website (but not instead).
Sale through the website-aggregator of goods and services
An aggregator website is a resource that collects information about specific offers of goods or services — any category: clothes, jewelry, appliances, etc. The aggregator offers the user a selection of goods or services according to the request. A description of the characteristics is presented for each item.
We have several large websites hotline.ua, price.ua, ek.ua, m.ua, and others. Working through aggregator websites is a quick way to start selling online. This is a way out for “young” stores and individuals who do not want to invest in promotion and promote their websites. Customers who are ready to buy a specific product come to the aggregator. In addition, this resource increases consumer confidence – all sellers working on the website are tested.
As a result, we can distinguish two main rules of online sales: find a profitable niche and adequately organize the process. With the right approach, you can make an online store online for free or with a small investment while immediately reaching an audience ready to buy. It is imperative in this case to choose a resource with the optimal combination of functionality and price.
Help in creating an online store
It is not always possible to do without a free template for creating an online store, or for a free CMS, you need “add-ons” that are difficult to make yourself without sufficient skills. In this case, you should contact a company that develops online markets.
What to look for when choosing an organization
It is worth focusing not only on the company’s experience and portfolio but also on essential factors. Find out if the organization develops turnkey projects or deals with only a specific part of the project – of course, the first is better. Also, be sure to ask if the company makes websites adaptive and provides further services: audit, SEO, etc.
Our company PBB design is ready to offer customers a wide range of services for website development of any direction and its further maintenance and promotion. We can do everything: from the layout to the advertising of the online store, while always ready for a dialogue with the customer.
Our websites are adaptive, user-friendly, modern. We are always ready to provide a potential client with a portfolio and cases. At the same time, we try to maintain the most democratic prices at a high level of work and service.