Colourful digital artwork displaying several household goods to depict online shopping.
04/06/2024

E-Commerce on a Budget: How to Build an Affordable Online Store That Converts

Have you ever thought about turning your side hustle into a successful business? You could be making one-of-a-kind jewellery or baking the most delicious cookies around. But is renting a store, handling inventory, and dealing with customers too much to wrap your head around?
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The good news is that you no longer need a physical store to make money online. You can start your own online business even if you do not have any money or web design skills. E-commerce has created a whole new world of possibilities for anyone who has a great product and is willing to learn (Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it seems!). This guide will help you create an affordable online store that converts – meaning it turns curious visitors into loyal, paying customers.

Why E-Commerce is Your Perfect Match

An online store functions as your virtual storefront, with its doors open 24/7. It provides products to not only a regional but a global audience.

Customers can browse and buy stuff from anywhere in the world with just a few clicks. E-commerce eliminates the distance barrier, giving you access to customers you never imagined.

Here are a few reasons why e-commerce is a great option for aspiring entrepreneurs...

  • Low startup costs: No need to worry about costly rent or building costs. E-commerce platforms provide budget-friendly ways to get your business up and running without the hassle of setting up a physical store.
  • Flexibility: You can run your business from anywhere. With e-commerce, you can choose your own schedule and work at your own pace while managing your current workload with little to no disruption.
  • Growth: As your business expands, so can your online store. Simply add more products, handle increased sales, and scale your marketing efforts as needed, ensuring your business can adapt to changing demands.
Man holding a magnifying glass.

Define Your Brand Identity Before Launch

Before diving headfirst into website design, take a moment to solidify your brand identity. What makes your products special? Who is your ideal customer?

Finding a Gap

Are you a sustainable clothing designer? Do you specialise in custom pet products? Don’t try to do everything for everyone. Find a gap in the market and cater to a specific audience. This allows you to build a loyal following and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.

    Understanding Your Customer

    Who is your ideal customer? What are their needs and frustrations? Understanding their pain points allows you to create persuasive messages that align with them. Imagine selling handmade phone cases. Your target audience may be interested in a different layout but worried about security. Emphasise the longevity of your content while displaying eye-catching imagery.

    Online shopping and e-commerce website experience in NZ.

    Choosing the Best Website Builder

    There are a handful of user-friendly website design platforms that are specially made to provide individuals and budding entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to create and host their online stores.

    Here are some of the most popular options, known for their affordability and ease of use...

    Shopify

    Shopify boasts an intuitive dashboard for users, with drag-and-drop functions that make setting up your shop a breeze. It also boasts a vast library of beautiful, customisable themes, ensuring your store perfectly reflects your brand.

    Pricing structure: Shopify offers a range of plans, starting from $39 for basic features and scaling up to $2300 for advanced functionalities, catering to businesses of all sizes and budgets.

    Ease of use: Easy

    Ideal for: Businesses selling online

    Design: Wide range of themes

    E-commerce features: Most comprehensive

    Visit: www.shopify.co.nz

    Wix

    If you're familiar with website builders, Wix will feel like a natural extension of your skills. Its user interface is designed to be simple and intuitive, and they even offer a free program for you to dip your toes in before committing. However, keep in mind that the free plan has some limitations. Upgrading to a paid plan unlocks Wix’s full e-commerce potential.

    Pricing structure: Free to $500 per month.

    Ease of use: Easy

    Ideal for: Beginners, simple websites with some e-commerce functionality

    Design: Modern, drag-and-drop builder

    E-commerce features: Limited

    Visit: www.wix.com

    Squarespace

    Squarespace is another great option for those who prioritise aesthetics. Its designs are clean and modern, perfect for displaying your products in the best possible light. While Squarespace is known for its user-friendliness, it can have a slightly steeper learning curve than Shopify or Wix.

    Pricing structure: Plans start from as little as $16 to $52 per month.

    Ease of use: Moderate

    Ideal for: Creative businesses and online stores

    Design: Stylish, modern templates

    E-commerce features: Moderate

    Visit: www.squarespace.com

    WooCommerce

    This powerful plugin transforms your existing WordPress website into a fully functional online store. While WooCommerce requires a bit more technical know-how than Shopify and Wix, it offers incredible flexibility. If you’re comfortable learning the ropes, WooCommerce can be a cost-effective solution in the long run.

    Pricing structure: Free but does not factor in the running cost of a WordPress website, hosting or domain fees.

    Ease of use: Moderate

    Ideal for: Businesses with an existing WordPress site

    Design: Customisable with themes

    E-commerce features: Highly customisable (requires plugins)

    Visit: www.woocommerce.com

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    Conversion Lead Design

    Your online store is your digital storefront; first impressions matter, so a website with visually stunning and user-friendly designs is essential. Many platforms provide a selection of pre-designed templates and themes that you can customise to align with your overall brand aesthetic.

    Here are some elements to prioritise...

    • Quality images: Showcase your products in detail. Invest in good lighting and clear photos that capture the essence of your products.
    • Navigation: Simplify the journey for customers to find what they're looking for. A well-optimised navigation menu and intuitive layout are not only important but crucial for ensuring a satisfying and seamless shopping experience.
    • Mobile friendliness: With the increasing use of mobile devices, ensure your store looks flawless and functions perfectly on all screen sizes.
    • Product descriptions: Don't settle for generic descriptions. Write persuasive narratives that tell the story behind your products. Highlight their benefits, address the paint points they solve, and use creative language to paint a picture in the customer's mind.
    • Blogging: A blog connects you with potential customers on a more in-depth level. Share insights about your products, offer helpful tips and establish yourself as an expert in your niche. This builds trust and credibility, ultimately leading to more sales.
    • Design: Focus on clean lines and easy-to-read fonts.
    Art collage of a woman with a megaphone.

    Let’s Talk Marketing

    Building a functional online store is just the first step. Business is about attracting and retaining customers. With a few budget-friendly marketing strategies, you can drive traffic to your shop.

    Social Media

    Leverage the power of Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok to attract attention to your products, engage with your audience's wider community, and run targeted ads with a budget that suits you.

    SEO

    Optimise your product listings with relevant keywords to boost your store's visibility in search rankings. Remember, this strategy is long-term but can deliver a steady stream of organic traffic.

    Email Marketing

    Create an email list and send engaging newsletters that feature your products, offers, and behind-the-scenes snippets.

    Smiling young Asian woman shopping online with smartphone.

    E-Commerce Toolbox

    Guide to useful tools, online platforms, and apps...

    • Payment processor: You will need a payment processor to accept customer payments. Popular payment processors include Stripe, PayPal, and Square.
    • Inventory management software: This software will help you track your inventory levels and prevent you from selling out of stock. Popular inventory management software options include Zoho Inventory, Orderhive, and Fishbowl.
    • Shipping software: This software helps you calculate shipping rates and print shipping labels. Popular options include ShipStation, ShippingEasy, and Ordoro.
    • Marketing tools: Use marketing tools to promote your online store and reach new customers. Popular tools include Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Mailchimp.
    • Customer service software: Customer service software helps you communicate with your customers and address their questions and concerns. Popular options include Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Help Scout.
    • Analytics tools: You will need tools to track your website traffic and sales data. Popular analytics tools include Google Analytics and Hotjar.
    Woman using laptop for online shopping purposes.

    Don't Go It Alone

    Are you tired of website builders that charge a small fortune?

    Lab007 creates stunning, mobile-friendly e-commerce websites that won't break the bank. Our one-page website starts at just $1990 (NZD/ GST excluded) and includes everything you need to get your business online.

    Why struggle with complex platforms - let Lab007 take care of the technical stuff so you can focus on what matters most: your business. Contact Lab007 today for a free quote!

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    Want someone to build the site for you?

    Contact Lab007 today about creating a branded website that integrates with an e-commerce platform.