Having a clean, user-friendly website is one of the first steps you take when you finally take the plunge and launch your own business. It’s a crucial part of your marketing strategy, and is a central point for existing and potential customers alike;
Today, it’s common practice for businesses big and small to make their products and services available through their existing websites. E-commerce has grown from an added element of convenience to a customer expectation. Taking things a step further and adding those capabilities to your site means you’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, increasing your revenue and improving the overall buyer experience in the process – if done right, of course. If you’re thinking about turning your website into an online shop, here are a few pointers to get you on the right track, complete with funding opportunities.
The first step – after you’ve purchased your domain name, of course – depends on what kind of CMS you’re currently using to run your site, or, if you’re starting from scratch, which one suits your style and needs best. The two most popular names out there are WordPress and Wix, two very user-friendly platforms that allow you to build a basic website in minutes. Big names like these will have some sort of e-commerce offering either built in or as a plugin (e.g. WooCommerce for WordPress), and will offer some guidelines on the finer points of getting your online shop up and running.
Once you’ve settled on your CMS, you’ll need to decide on the e-commerce platform you want to use – many customers opt for a combination of Shopify and WooCommerce, because WordPress is the most popular CMS out there. You’ll also need to set up a Secure Sockets Layers or SSL certificate. Any site worth its salt will have this additional layer of security baked in to encrypt sensitive data, protect your buyers, and make you a more trustworthy vendor. It’s absolutely necessary if any kind of payment is to take place. These e-commerce tools offer a step-by-step guide to get things set up quickly, but your marketing and IT team will work hand in hand to make sure everything is as it should be and primed to delight your customers.
So far, so good, right? Time to talk euros and cents. Like most major business moves, turning your website into an e-commerce powerhouse costs money, especially if your company needs a highly customised solution or design. If you’re a more established operation, finding the budget to sell online might be a fairly straightforward affair, but everyone from smaller businesses to SMEs and fresh startups might need a little support to get things up and running.
If you’re based in Malta, find out if you’re eligible for the e-commerce Grant Scheme first. That means you can spend up to €10,000 and get half of that back, possibly to re-invest in your business! The first step is to write up a proposal detailing your business idea and the ins and outs of your online shop and/or app. This great initiative is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and gives you a maximum of €5,000 to cover things like:
- Registering a domain name
- Hosting fees for the duration of your project
- Your CMS
- This includes licenses you’ll need throughout your project
- An e-commerce site and/or mobile app in line with your brand
- Shopping cart integration
- Miscellaneous setup fees
- These cover anything from CMS setup and configuration to system design, customisation and development, integration with payment services, and implementation from testing up to go-live.
You might be wondering: ‘how do I know if I’m eligible for this grant?’ I’m glad you asked. Any enterprise that does not currently have an e-commerce facility is eligible, even if you have a ‘regular’ website up and running. The service provider doing the work for you needs to be registered with the Measures and Support division – you can find a list of approved service providers on the division’s site.
Need help applying for this fantastic opportunity, or drawing up a proposal? Get in touch and we’ll be your financial guide!