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How to create a digital storefront for small businesses

As more and more of our lives move online, it has become critical for businesses to have a presence on the internet. Many people use Google search to find solutions to their pain points and if you don’t have a digital storefront or it looks a bit scruffy then you will be looked over for the next store. But how can you create a digital storefront for your small business? Here are four steps to creating a digital storefront.

STEP 1: Choose your web hosting provider

Like with finding a landlord for your brick-and-mortar shop, the same needs to be done for your digital storefront and this is done by finding a web hosting provider. There are a wide variety of web hosting companies in South Africa, but you must choose a web hosting package that offers an SSL certificate for your website. The web hosting provider is where your website – your digital storefront- will live.

STEP 2: Make it pretty

When you are walking through the mall, you are scanning the storefronts looking to see anything interesting and the best-looking storefronts get your attention. The same goes for your digital storefront. It must look professional. If you aren’t very good at design, you would be advised to hire a web designer. Here are the things to keep in mind when designing your website:

  • Think mobile-first: As many people use mobile devices to search for information, it is critical that your website is responsive to different mobile interfaces.
  • Make it easy to scan: Ensure the information is laid out in a way that is easy to read and navigate through.
  • Have a simple design: Make sure that your design is simple and easy to understand.
  • Simplify your checkout: After you have finished shopping being able to check out quickly is important to avoid abandoned carts. You need to ensure that your customer knows which payment methods you accept. You should have the top two payment methods which your customers prefer to use.
  • Get professional photographs: Images are critical for the aesthetics of your website. When taking photos of your products ensure the customer can clearly see the details of the product and that the style of the photographs agrees with your brand voice. This is an area where a little bit of investment can pay off in the long run.

STEP 3: Keep it secure

Many people fear online scams and fraud, and this prevents them often from buying online. You must have an SSL certificate on your website so that you can receive personal and payment information online. You should also consult with your web designer or hosting company about what other security features are important to help your customer feel safe purchasing online. Use standard logos to show what security features your website has.

STEP 4: Create the skeleton

As you walk into a department store you will see signs and pathways directing you to different parts of the store. If these signs were unclear, you may get frustrated and leave, the same is true for the pages and the pop-ups you use on your website. There are five pages to consider for your website:

  • Homepage: This is your shop window and needs to capture the attention of your customer. Make sure that the image and information above the fold are enticing and inviting. Above the fold means the first part of the webpage you see before you scroll down. You should also have a clear set of categories in the header or sidebar section of the webpage. It is also important to look at your competitor’s website to see what customers look for in a webpage.
  • Category pages: Ensure you list your products in easy-to-understand groups which are universally understood. This will help your customer to easily find the product they are looking for in your shop.
  • Product page: This page is essential for e-commerce. This is where your customer gets all the information about the product. You need to ensure the product specifications are clear and comprehensive. You should have clear high-definition pictures of your product. Another aspect is to have a buy or save to wish list button. Finally, you should have social proof and other related items your customer may be interested in.
  • Checkout page: On this page, you need to be sure there are not any hidden costs which are added during checkout unless you want your customers to abandon their carts. Your checkout page should offer a guest checkout option for first-time buyers, and you should indicate clearly which payment methods you accept throughout the buying process.
  • Legal information page: You need to have some pieces of legal information on your website. They are your privacy policy and how you protect the details of your customers. Next, you need to state the terms and conditions that you have in your business and finally, you need to put any disclaimers on your website that relate to your industry. It would be advised to get a lawyer to help with this information.

By following these four steps, you will have a digital storefront which customers would like to enter rather than click past.

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