To date, we've helped over 1,300 businesses startup, with one in ten of those entrepreneurs choosing to start up in retail.

From the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall and from niche fashion lines to hand-made products, retailers supported by Transmit Startups can be found in all shapes and sizes across England and Scotland. Many of our retailers can be found exclusively online, with others leveraging an online presence alongside a physical store.

One of the first hurdles for entrepreneurs starting up in retail is launching a website that can function as their online shop. Although it is fairly simple to set up a reasonably well-designed, brochure-type website using ready-to-go themes (from platforms such as WordPress), establishing a retail website can be more complex.

7 Things Your Ecommerce Site Must Have

A retail website must have the ability for customers to browse through products, add them to their baskets, seamlessly apply discount codes and make secure purchases.

With mobile browsing and purchasing now becoming the norm, not having a mobile-optimised online store can cost retailers in lost sales - this means mobile optimisation also needs to be added to the long list of retail website 'must haves'. To make things easier, we have included an 'ecommerce checklist' for your online store:

  1. Make sure your website is fully responsive - This means its design and layout should be fully optimised when viewed on mobile, tablet or desktop to deliver the best user experience.
  2. Test your website - Ask your friends and family to browse your website and test it yourself across different browsers (such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari). You should also ask them to complete a purchase through the site to ensure that the payment goes through successfully and securely.
  3. Products must be easy to find - Make sure your products are easy to find by incorporating a search function and the ability to browse products by category, price or colour for example.
  4. Speed - Make sure your site loads quickly and that product images are not too large as they may slow the site down. Fast loading times will appeal to shoppers and fast website loading times will help your site to rank on Google.
  5. Give perspective customers all of the information they need - People browsing your website are less likely to convert to customers if they don't have enough information about the product. Make sure all of your product descriptions and specifications (ingredients, sizes and dimensions) are complete and include plenty of images and extra information such as product reviews wherever possible.
  6. Make sure your contact information is available across all of your site's pages - This makes it easy for customers to send questions and queries. Your terms of purchase, exchange, return and delivery information should also be available to read.
  7. Marketing - Site pages should be easy to share via social media channels and ensure there is an easy way on your homepage for customers to sign up to receive emails from you. Having an offer attached to this is a great way to prompt customers to sign up.

When entrepreneurs approach us with their business ideas, we help them turn these into a reality through our startup loans, business mentoring and by offering valuable advice about the best resources and other partners available that can really make sure a business ideas take off. One of these partners that we would recommend to retail startups without hesitation to help setup a website that ticks the seven boxes above is Shopify.

Shopify allows people without any website coding skills to build their own online shop, for web, mobile and even social channels.

If you want an ecommerce system that you can manage yourself and not have to outlay thousands of pounds, then Shopify is probably the best option on the market at the moment. We've compiled a list of just some of the benefits of using Shopify to start your retail business below:

  • Build and customise your online store with no design or coding skills
  • Choose from over 100 professional store templates (just because it's easy you don't have to have a store that looks like everyone else's!)
  • Accept orders in seconds with email and mobile notifications when a new sale comes in
  • Fulfil orders with just one click, making order management a breeze
  • Integrate shipping with every major carrier (FedEx, UPS etc.) and provide your customers with tracking information for their orders
  • Monitor the performance of your website using analytics so that you can make the right business choices
  • The ability to integrate over 1,000 applications that can help you to automate your accounting, send promotional emails or even expand your business seamlessly into new marketplaces such as Amazon
  • Complete mobile integration between Shopify and both you and your customers means that you can manage your business and orders even while away from your desk.

If you want to find out more about Shopify, take a look at Shopify's free guide: How to Start An Online T-Shirt Business.

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