What you need to know before creating your webshop

So, you’ve decided to create an online shop for your food and drinks business. Great! And now you’re wondering where to even begin.

Setting up a webshop can seem like a daunting task, but fear not. The Hawkker team consulted ecommerce and food industry experts for their top advice on how to get started quickly, efficiently, and cheaply. Read on for some top tips and tricks to get your ecommerce up and running now!

Know your brand

“People respond well to a visual and brand identity,” says Harry Creswell, a London-based front-end web developer and freelance designer. “It’s incredibly powerful to be able to relay what your brand is through your site and your products. It also helps you to cut through the noise of all the other vendors offering similar things. So, find your hook.”

The organisers of Brick Lane’s famed Truman Markets agree. “You have so much competition, there’s so much choice, so you need to stand out from the crowd… You really need to make sure that your branding is clear, concise, and unique, so that people can see you’re offering something different from everyone else.”

Platforms like Shopify are easily customisable, so that your website can reflect your brand identity and personality. “I think Shopify is a great way to launch your products online,” says Creswell. “It’s a robust platform with lots of integrations and customisable elements, and it’s easy to use.”

Start small

At least in the beginning, keep your business’s offerings to a handful of products. “We used to say, load all your products up on the site and off you go,” admits Matthew Gillet, Chief Commercial Officer at Slerp, a direct-to-consumer solution that enables businesses to easily offer pickup, on-demand, pre-orders, and nationwide delivery. “But say you have a wine merchant, and they’ve got 47 malbecs. No one is buying from a selection of 47! So you narrow the range to just five wines, and you feature one that’s ‘Recommended’. And all of a sudden, everyone is buying the recommended one.

“People want a finite selection of choices. As customers, we don’t want to be bombarded with options, even if we do want to feel like we’ve made the choice ourselves. Offer a curated selection and let your customers choose from those. The same applies with menus. And right now, lots of people are doing specials, boxes, meal kits, and wine pairings; recommending pairings of various items leads to higher basket sales on your webshop, because people like to feel like they’re being catered to.”

Creswell echoes this sentiment, urging vendors to start by offering a pared-down selection. “It’s obviously not as simple as just getting your product on your site,” says Creswell. “There’s collecting money from customers, keeping inventory, shipping and delivery, etc. That’s why it’s important to start small. Start with just a handful of products and ease yourself into it. Keep it simple, keep it small at the beginning, and when you’ve become more familiar with how it all works, that’s when you can start expanding.”

Keep it simple

This mindset should also apply to your ecommerce site. Creswell urges food and drink vendors to start simple: “Get on Shopify or Squarespace, or something similar. I don’t recommend employing someone that you’re going to pay thousands of pounds. Set up something like a Shopify first, and just test the waters. Get it out there on your social media channels; it’s going to be really handy for you to develop an understanding of how ecommerce works. You can sit down one evening and play around. Products like Shopify have made it so simple that even with no tech expertise, you’re going to be up and running within a weekend, and probably sooner. And on top of that, you’ll have a good understanding of how your site works.

“Then one day, if you get to the point where you’ve outgrown your website, that’s when you can approach someone to build you something more custom. But I don’t think you need to be really out-of-the-box with your ecommerce solution unless you’re a big brand who wants to do something really bespoke. For the majority of sellers, the customisability of most platforms will suit your needs perfectly.”