When you decide to open your online store, you have to chose either a fully hosted SAAS or a self-hosted platform. You need to take this decision carefully after evaluating your business goals.
Fully hosted solution is suitable for those who are non-tech or don’t want to deal with technical and security issues. You pay a monthly subscription fee and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about security and software updates as it is fully managed by the solution provider.
That is why SAAS like Shopify is always a better option for beginners. Here you can launch your store without any hassles. It is the world’s simplest do-it-yourself, user friendly platform to build your online store.
But, keeping in view your business goals and complexity of your website, you might have to decide about hosting your own website and shopping cart. Though there are pros and cons of having a self-hosted store, the main advantage is that you have full control over it. You are also not bound by the terms and conditions of service providers as in fully hosted solutions.
This article will help you follow all the steps required to open a self-hosted online store in India.
As you own core code, you can easily customize it any way you want. You have more flexibility with self-hosted platform but you are responsible for updating the software and for security of your site. You may also need to hire a developer to run your store and to keep it secure.
Ultimately, it’s your choice and decision to choose whichever solution you feel is suitable for you. You need to take the right decision as it is quite difficult to migrate to different platform later on.
Steps to open a self-hosted online store in India
Without a well-written business plan its difficult to make any focused efforts. Plan every specific detail about your business. This will help you to fix clear and realistic goals and to have a long term vision.
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.
Read: Writing a business plan
You need to identify a profitable product to sell online. With so much competition around this is the most important and difficult task to do. It involves a great deal of research and analysis to find a profitable product to sell.
Today almost anything is available for sale online and to make your place is a tough challenge for every online seller. You need a unique idea and right pricing to beat the competition. So, find good quality and profitable product(s) to sell.
Terapeak is awesome tools that can make this job easier for you. You will get real time reports about which products are trending on Amazon India and eBay, Amazon global. You will see sudden rise in sales by listing these products. Those who plan to sell internationally online from India will find Terapeak an indispensible tool.
Open a business account and get your company registered if it’s a partnership or Pvt. Ltd firm. There is no need to register proprietorship firm.
If you are selling taxable items, you need to have TIN (VAT/CST no.). You may also require other licenses like food license to sell food products. Consult your CA regarding any registrations required for the products you want to sell.
Useful reading: Ecommerce Laws And Regulations In India
Next step is to register a good, easy to remember and preferably short domain name. Look around at popular sites and see what kind of names they have. See the examples of leading sites like Myntra, Flipkart etc. These names are short, creative and stick to customers’ memory. So, do lot of brainstorming before you finalize your domain name.
You need a good registrar to register domain names.
Godaddy is world’s no. 1 registrar.
Bluehost is also good as they offer free domains when you buy hosting plans.
With offices in India, both Go daddy and Blue host offer 24/7 phone support. This is a huge advantage. Their executives guide you at every step.
You need a good web host. Shared hosting plans are recommended for small merchants as dedicated hosting plans are costlier plus you have to bear expenses of installing security softwares like Norton.
You can upgrade to dedicated hosting anytime once your business starts growing and when you want to take your store to the next level.
Be careful while choosing the hosting provider. Don’t buy hosting plan just because it is cheap. Choose a reputed, reliable and secure web host.
Most of the web developers are ‘hosting re-sellers’ and they buy re-seller plans at a cheaper price. Nothing wrong in that. It’s their business. But, if you hire a developer, make it sure he is providing a good hosting solution.
An important point you should keep in mind while choosing a web host is whether they provide 24/7 support or not. This is important as you may need help in case..
SiteGround is highly recommended web host. It offers managed services and an unmatched 24/7 support at affordable prices.
After you have registered a domain name and have chosen a web host you need to install a good shopping cart. There are many free open source shopping carts. Carefully analyze and compare the features before choosing the right one for you.
The best thing about open source software is that you don’t have to pay. You can download it for free.
Some of the best ones are:
Out of these, Magento and WooCommerce are becoming extremely popular and the number of online stores using these shopping carts is continuously increasing. If you hire a developer, tell him about your choice of shopping cart.
You need a PCI compliant payment gateway to accept payments from customers. It’s your responsibility to give a smooth and secure checkout experience to the buyers with payment options like:
- Debit card
- Credit Card
- Net banking
- Wallet/Cash cards
- Cash on delivery
There are many good and secure payment gateway service providers in India. Read this article to know about PCI compliance and to see the list of payment gateways in India.
For accepting international payments choose Paypal.
Now this is quite a challenging task to chose a shipping partner. Just like choosing a payment gateway you have to carefully select the courier companies. Choose the best logistics service to transport the products to customers. You can choose a single or multiple shipping vendors.
You have to look into factors like rates, number of pin codes served, international deliveries and above all, safe transit of products before finalizing your shipping partner(s).
As customers now appreciate free shipping facility, don’t add any delivery charges to the final price of your products otherwise you may lose business. So, you need to negotiate rates with the shipping partners to find the cheapest way of sending packages.
These are some of the best and reputed logistic providers which specialize in e-commerce deliveries.
- IndiaPost (Speed Post, Express Parcel)
- Ecom Express
Needless to say, you can’t take the risk of your site getting hacked. So take your site security very seriously and install security software like Sitelock and sucuri right from the beginning. Also, backup your site and its database.
You must also obtain SSL certificate for your domain. This helps build trust among customers by ensuring them that their transactions are secure. When a customer sees green address bar with your store name starting with https while making payments, he is not afraid of data theft and successfully completes the transaction.
Fully hosted e-commerce platform Shopify has SSL certificate enabled on all of its stores.
Obtaining https will also help your site to get higher search rankings.
We’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal […] while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe.
Get your free SSL certificate.
After working so hard to build your online store, you won’t be able to make any sales if you have no traffic. So, you need to optimize it to improve SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rankings.
You don’t need to hire an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert in the beginning. Just do what needs to be done and your store will get visibility.
These are three basic things you MUST do to get your store found by search engines:
- Create accounts on Google and Bing Webmasters. Watch this video to learn why you need this:
2. Keep your site regularly updated. That’s why it’s important to add a blog to your store. Keep regularly posting relevant information/articles on this blog. In case, you want to build store on Shopify, they have a built in blogging tool.
3. Promote your store creatively on social media and through other channels.. This will bring more traffic which leads to higher search engine rankings.
So there you have it. Carefully analyze the pros and cons before making a choice between fully hosted and self hosted solution. I hope information provided in this post will prove to be helpful to merchants planning to open a self-hosted online store in India.