Business and Operations
Earn your slice online
Opening new doors for attracting new customers
By Stacy Bradshaw
All across Canada, people are searching for great pizza
on the Internet. If your pizzeria is listed in the local business
section of the three biggest Internet search engines: Google, Yahoo,
and MSN, that’s great. But it’s just a start.
How to launch your own pizzeria website
All across Canada, people are searching for great pizza on the Internet. If your pizzeria is listed in the local business section of the three biggest Internet search engines: Google, Yahoo, and MSN, that’s great. But it’s just a start.
Once these potential customers find you, how do you take it from there? Canadian pizzaiolos are realizing there’s a big difference between having an “online presence” and having a website that greatly contributes to the bottom line. You know you need a professional, up-to-date website, but you don’t know where to begin. Don’t let your fear of the unknown stop you from launching your site.
Whether you want a simple marketing website to drive customers to your pizzeria, or a sophisticated online ordering system to increase takeout and delivery sales, the following guidelines will help make your dream website a reality.
Determine goals and objectives
Is your primary goal to setup an e-commerce site where you can take online orders and credit card payments? Or is it to generate more in-house sales?
Consider how much time and money you have to invest. An e-commerce site will cost more to develop and maintain. You’ll need to offer online customer support and service, and pay additional transaction and merchant fees. Not to mention it could significantly change the way you run your daily operations. Opening an e-commerce shop should be like opening a new business, complete with a business plan in-hand and your goals clearly defined.
Most of the costs of a simpler site, one that allows you to show off your menu, profile the pizzeria, and offer coupons and other promotions, are up front with fixed monthly fees.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to check out some other pizza websites before you start. Look for ideas and decide what elements you like and dislike. The more functions you want your website to perform, the more money you will have to spend.
Investigate development options
Research and weigh your options against all factors: time, money, your skill level, and the requirements outlined in phase one. These factors will dictate how you design your website.
Option A: Web design software (Advanced, do-it-yourself)
Do you have the tech-savvy, time and the willingness to learn how to design your own website? If so, you’ll need the right tools. Here is a very basic overview of what you would need:
A web design software to design the pages of your site. Design software packages range in levels of difficulty, for example XSitePro for beginners to Dreamweaver for professionals.
There are also a number of other services you will need to source, including purchasing a domain name (ex. www.mypizzashop.ca), finding a hosting company (essentially, to rent space on their server monthly), and purchasing a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software to transfer your web page files to the hosting company.
Keep in mind, there is a significant learning curve with web design software and it is not recommended for building e-commerce sites.
Option B: Browser-based website creation services (Entry-level, do-it-yourself)
Browser-based website creation services are the easiest to use, according to Rick Broadhead, Canadian author of Online Selling and a guest speaker at the recent Visa Small Business, Big Thinking Conference in Toronto.
Browser-based services are popular with small businesses because they don’t require any new software. The entire website can be created online. Better yet, hosting and domain names are included in the monthly price.
Many Canadian-based providers offer an online store (or “shopping cart”) option, designed to take online orders and process secure payments.
Keep in mind, however, that many browser-based services use generic design templates, limiting your options in terms of customization, aesthetic design, and marketing and merchandising capabilities. Hiring a professional web developer to add new functions to these and any site you build yourself is always an option.
Option C: Hire a professional web developer
An independent web designer or professional web development company will allow for a sophisticated design and layout and endless merchandising capabilities. But it is often the most expensive option.
Choosing the right developer is critical. Ideally, you want to hire a designer or company that is familiar with the pizza industry. Search the web for a company that suits your individual needs.
Unfortunately, developers are not generally concerned with the profitability of your website. It’s important, therefore, to have your business goals clearly defined and in writing. Maintain an open dialogue with the provider about what you hope to get out of your website.
Arm yourself with the right questions: do they offer 24/7 tech support? Do they have an emergency, after-hours contact number? What are the monthly costs in terms of maintenance, updating, service, etc.?
Become an online merchant (for e-commerce sites only)
If you plan on taking online orders, shopping cart software is a must. It allows online customers to “place” items in the virtual cart. Upon “checkout” it calculates a total for the order including taxes. Look for a shopping cart solution that accounts for delivery fees, multiple fields (for toppings), coupons and discounts, order confirmations and minimum order amounts.
You will also need a secure payment processing component and a merchant account (separate from your in-house account) for each type of credit card you want to accept: Visa, MasterCard, etc.
Broadhead recommends, as a Canadian merchant, restricting yourself to merchant accounts offered by Canadian financial institutions and Internet payment service providers. He also warns small business owners about the hidden fees of merchant accounts, including set-up, transaction, equipment rental and monthly fees.
Shopping carts range from powerful, advanced software programs that can tie into your company’s POS and other back-end systems, to the most basic of e-commerce solutions. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what features you want to offer your online customers, and choose a system that fits your unique requirements.
Whether you’re developing a sophisticated online shop or a cost-efficient, yet stylish website, remember the basic principles of web design still apply: keep it simple and keep it current.
Blogs, seasonal promotions and coupons-for-download or online ordering are great ways to keep your site up to date. You can offer online contests, surveys and other interactive features that also help you gather customer e-mail addresses. Then you can add e-mail campaigns to your list of innovative marketing solutions.
The possibilities are endless. With Canadians across the country researching everything from their new car purchase to the tastiest local takeout joints online, launching your own pizza website is the best way to turn browsers into buyers. •