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Moving online during the quarantine: how to create a successful e-shop?

During the time of the coronavirus pandemic, people began using computers and smart devices significantly more often and it prompted the businesses to move online and create e-shops more rapidly. According to the data of the Internet Service Centre DOMREG at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), during the entire period of the quarantine, from the beginning of March 2020 to the end of May 2021, more than 59 thousand new .lt domain names were created; most of them were created for e-shops.

After the beginning of the quarantine, we have recorded a surge in the registration of new .lt domain names and currently, the activeness is returning to its usual rhythm. The quarantine conditions have become less strict and people naturally resume their usual life. Moreover, in the months of summer, the activities are slower because it is the time of vacations. However, the users’ habits of buying online, that have formed during the quarantine, will remain. If the companies use internet besides the usual business, even the new businesses will find it beneficial in the long term if they have more sales channels”, – thinks the Head of KTU Internet Service Centre DOMREG Daiva Tamulionienė.

Registered .lt domain names during the Covid-19 pandemic

According to the entrepreneurs, not everyone had a successful beginning of e-commerce and the sales via e-shops did not cover all the income loss. Others, who were scared of challenges and simply waited during the quarantine, have fallen further behind and now are forced to figure out how to revive their sales.

E-commerce remains the focus of attention and the attractiveness of the Lithuanian e-shops might likely increase because of the taxation of low value consignments from third countries with abolished VAT reductions that will come into force in July 2021. It may not cause a powerful boom but it will encourage the local traders to feel braver in the development of the Lithuanian e-shops.

First step – domain and its name

As soon as the quarantine was introduced and the physical locations of commerce and service provision were closed in March 2020, Valerija Andre, marketing manager of the enterprise “BEAUTY BAY & SPA” managing beauty salons, started creating an e-shop herself because the enterprise suddenly lost its income and had no time or financial possibilities to search for programmers.

“The first step was to choose a domain and its name. We had already created the name for our beauty salon and we chose .lt domain to indicate that our business is located in Lithuania and it will be a Lithuanian e-shop. This domain is the best for conveying this message”, – thinks V. Andre.

According to the Head of KTU Internet Service Centre DOMREG Daiva Tamulionienė, while choosing a domain, people frequently make the mistake of checking in other domains if their preferred domain name is unavailable.

“Domain .lt indicates the user’s country or the Lithuanian origin of the product and its relations to Lithuania; therefore, the domain itself signifies that it is a Lithuanian shop. Many users identify that the business is local according to the .lt domain; therefore, it means quick delivery of goods, service in the Lithuanian language, opportunity for a quicker contact by telephone, the shop is more reliable and secure, the consumer rights can be defended in Lithuania in the case of disputes.

When an e-shop is Lithuanian but has another domain, it may raise suspicions that the shop is falsified, the seller may be unreliable, etc. I always recommend Lithuanian e-shops using .lt domain and if the preferred domain name is unavailable – search for synonyms or alternatives in the dictionaries of the Lithuanian language”, advises D. Tamulionienė.

Daiva Tamulionienė, DOMREG Daiva Tamulionienė, Head of KTU Internet Service Centre

The domain choice strategy should be clear according to the target market. If the goal is to sell to the Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and establish as the local player in these markets, the domains have to reflect it. For example, the e-commerce giant of the Baltic States pigu.lt is known in the Latvian market as 220.lv and in Estonia as kaup24.ee.

Is it possible to create a successful e-shop without the help of professionals?

After the domain name registration, choosing the domain name server and the provider of file hosting services required for the operation of the e-shop, the address of the e-shop becomes functioning in a few hours.

“At the beginning, the domain registration and hosting services make people feel apprehensive and doubtful, particularly, if they are doing it for the first time. However, currently, the providers of IT services go further and can offer automated, simplified options for website creation. One of them – the use of “Installatron” tool. This tool replaces a complicated manual installation of a content management system (for example, “WordPress”, etc.) and it takes just a few clicks to install it automatically. Then, all you have to do is choose a preferred design theme and upload the texts, photographs and other information. After publishing the website, it can be improved later without any restrictions”, - claims Elidijus Čypas, quality assurance specialist at “Interneto vizija” providing server services.

On the next day after the creation of the .lt domain name beautybayspa.lt, V. Andre logged onto the server administration “DirectAdmin” and used it to create the email boxes and installed the content management system “WordPress” (CMS) with several clicks of the mouse using “Installatron” – the guide for software installation in the server.

“The installation of the website CMS was very quick, convenient and simple using the “Installatron” tool in the server administration panel “DirectAdmin” of the “Interneto vizija”. After choosing the preferred CMS, filling in several fields and clicking the button “Install”, the website is installed in the server and, after a few moments, you can log for the CMS administration. I did not have to copy the files to the server, create and configure the database which would be too complicated for a less experienced person”, – V. Andre shared her experience.

When asked why she has chosen the “WordPress” CMS, the respondent replied without hesitation that this system for uploading the content to the website and its editing is the most convenient to the person who has no knowledge of programming.

Valerija Andre, BEAUTY BAY & SPA Valerija Andre, „BEAUTY BAY & SPA“ marketing manager

“I find this content management system easiest to understand because I had experience working with this system. A great choice of design templates and plug-ins, flexible content management with a builder. Moreover, I did everything by myself and quickly without any help from programmers during the quarantine: I installed the content management system as well as the required plug-ins, found the appropriate design template and uploaded all the content. It was probably helpful that I already had the experience of the website administration. Of course, in this case, I had to create the website from zero by myself – register a domain, install a new CMS – but I learned everything and it was not difficult”, – rejoices the marketing manager.

Why is “WordPress” so popular?

The open code free “WordPress” is the most popular CMS in the world. According to the data of the “WordCamp”, more than 30% of all the websites of the world operate in the “WordPress” platform. It makes more than 75 million websites and e-shops. This CMS is used by companies such Sony, MTV, BBC or Lithuanian iki.lt, makalius.lt and kavosdraugas.lt.

The IT specialist of the Lithuanian Research and Education Network LITNET and KTU lecturer Jolanta Totoraitienė claims that this CMS has gone a long way from the first edition in 2003 – from the tool for the creation of simple blogs to the complete content management system that can be used for the creation of almost any type of website: from simple blogs to business websites, e-shops for the sales of physical or digital products, catalogues and corporate websites for large companies.

“Over time, “WordPress” was constantly improved and expanded, to make it easy and understandable like an ordinary computer text editor without any knowledge of programming. A user-friendly interface is the maximum simplification of the “WordPress” interaction logic. Simply put, the indication on the button tells you what to do.

The creators focused not only on the simplicity of use and availability but also on its high speed and security. The “WordPress” website installation in the server with a database will take up to 4 minutes and even faster if you use more convenient tools, such as “Installatron”. The possibilities of “WordPress” can be expanded using any of 64 thousand available plug-ins. The abundance of free and payable design templates allow creating a professional-looking website or e-shop,” – states J. Totoraitienė.

Too good to be true

Besides the very important advantages, there are also disadvantages that need to be overcome or at least considered by the owners of e-shops who use this CMS. The biggest criticism is expressed to the “WordPress” for its security gaps; therefore the CMS, and all the plug-ins and design templates have to be updated often – as well as the computer’s software.

Jolanta Totoraitienė, LITNET Jolanta Totoraitienė, IT specialist of the Lithuanian Research and Education Network LITNET

“An open CMS code has disadvantages: it is easier for the villains to find its vulnerabilities. More and more hackers (who certainly lack ethical consideration) crack the “WordPress” websites. The number of viruses, spam senders and cracked websites is reducing slowly, despite the attempts of the “WordPress” creators to amend the security gaps by regularly issuing the patches. It indicates that the CMS is not updated as often as it should and without this maintenance, it becomes a perfect target for the hackers”, – notes J. Totoraitienė.

According to the experienced IT specialist, sometimes a timely update of this CMS is impossible because the plug-ins are incompatible with the updated version. When “WordPress” is updated, the compatibility of installed plug-ins and design templates can be lost. It can cause serious problems forcing the “return” to the previous version.

“You should not become fascinated with free design templates and plug-ins. They are often produced by beginners who are only learning programming or design. It is better to acquire a design theme created by professionals for your e-shop which is constantly updated and has a large group of users. Moreover, it is not recommended to use “WordPress” while installing shops that have two thousand or more products. It is said that the expenses are disproportional to the benefits because the “WooCommerce” still lacks the functionality suitable for the larger shops”, – warns J. Totoraitienė.

Planning helps to avoid mistakes

According to the quality assurance specialist at the enterprise “Interneto vizija” providing information hosting or server services to the websites and e-shops E. Čypas, planning and development of the business idea helps to avoid chaos, wasting time, unreasonable investments and expensive mistakes.

“Before the creation of e-shops, the potential customers are apprehensive that it will be a long, difficult and complicated path. Therefore, sometimes the ideas remain unrealised if the entire process of the creation of the e-shop is seen as an insurmountable mountain top. In this case, our simple advice is to begin from the business plan: define clear goals and available opportunities. It will allow you to see what kind of website you need and how much funds can be invested and who can do the work: whether you will need the programmers or you can create the website independently”, – advises E. Čypas.

Challenges after the start

The domain name registration and the CMS installation are very quick and simple processes, but the big challenges begin after the creation of the e-shop. It has become apparent to the marketing manager of the enterprise “BEAUTY BAY & SPA” managing beauty salons V. Andre.

“When CMS is installed in the server, the first challenge I faced was the increase in the speed of the uploading of pages and SEO. It is not difficult to create an e-shop by yourself, particularly, with the use of convenient server management tools and automated software installation in the server. It is much more difficult to create the content of the e-shop and make it informative, quick and user-friendly.

While creating the content, I am constantly thinking of SEO. I have installed several plug-ins indicating the website’s compliance with the specific keywords. The work with keywords requires creativity; it is not easy but it is very important. It is the basis, because the websites and the descriptions of products are created according to certain keywords. If SEO requirements are ignored at the very beginning of the creation of the e-shop, later on, the internet search systems give such a website a low rating and people who search for the product do not trust it.

I think you can create the basis of SEO yourself. Later, when the business is growing, it would be useful to apply to SEO specialists for consultations if you want to attract larger traffic to the shop and have bigger goals. It is not enough to simply create an e-shop and upload the products.

I am constantly working on the goal of reaching higher positions in the “Google” search to move the e-shop to the first positions in the search results. Moreover, we constantly communicate in social networks, make increasing investments in the advertisement”, – V. Andre talks about the specifics of the attraction of visitors to the e-shop.

The importance of SEO

The quarantine increased the interest in e-shops significantly which caused fierce competition online. Before the quarantine, there was little competition in some segments of goods; however, after the establishment of thousands of new e-shops, the attraction of visitors became the arena of vigorous fighting for clicks. Many e-shop owners underestimate the importance of SEO. It is a big mistake, because the goal of SEO is to increase the traffic of visitors from the “Google” organic search. Very often people get disappointed in e-shop because of the lack of visitors.

Elidijus Čypas, Interneto vizija Elidijus Čypas, quality assurance specialist at “Interneto vizija”

“Currently, there are trillions of active websites in the world. It is not enough just to create an e-shop; you have to work harder to make sure the visitors know about your existence. Therefore, we recommend announcing your website in one way or the other: advertising it online or using SEO.

We recommend using SEO as a marketing tool if your website has a sufficient amount of content that could be used for the purposes of SEO. Therefore, high-quality content of the website is very important: the detailed descriptions of products and services, a section of advice, a section of articles.

Besides the content, other factors are also important for good results of SEO: uploading speed, keywords and loads of other things. Before the beginning of the work with SEO, it is recommended to make a so-called SEO audit which highlights the areas for adjustments”, – says E. Čypas.

The most popular plug-ins of the “WordPress” CMS are “Yoast SEO”, “All in One SEO”, “The SEO Framework”; they will help you to independently manage the e-shop’s SEO. Other SEO tools for further work – “Ahrefs”, “Majestic”, “Backlinkwatch”, “Moz”.

The first buyer – in the first week

After significant contributions to the creation of the e-shop, it is natural to ask when you can expect the first sales. According to V. Andre, who has independently created the e-shop beautybayspa.lt and won the game “At the threshold of 200 000”, the e-shop received the first visitors and first orders very soon. However, it should be noted that Valerija was so successful because she has made the keyword analysis, considered the structure of the e-shop before uploading the products onto the shop and prepared the content according to SEO requirements.

“I had the first buyer pretty soon – within the first week after launching the e-shop. When the quarantine began, the sales became more active. It was an incentive to develop e-sales in addition to the physical shop. Even now, when people can come to the physical shop, many of them have developed a habit of buying online; therefore, we will continue focusing on the development of the e-shop, in particular, SEO. Previously, we only had a representative website and did not believe in e-commerce but the quarantine changed our approach”, - shares V. Andre.

Published 2021-06-16