Advancements in technology are drastically changing how we do business as electronic commerce offers endless opportunities as well as easy, quick and affordable ways to create a business online. However, developing a plan is crucial for a long lasting and profitable business. In today’s commerce world, almost everything is being sold online. While there are still many businesses that believe traditional physical stores are the key to success, no business should ignore the importance and the significance of selling their business or brand online. An online store is an essential addition to a physical store and it can even be the main source for your sales.
It is very important for you as a business or brand to first analyse how an online store will work for you. You may find the advantages of selling online outweigh the disadvantages. Doing proper research now will help throw your doubts out the window. A few of the advantages include:
- Affordable Startup Overheads. In general, online stores are a lot cheaper to set up, run and maintain as compared to a physical store. You can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in rent, property tax, insurance and a number of personnel or employees. You will only spend for the professional website development, hosting of the website and the domain name. It will also include the required purchase of the SSL certificate and the required monthly fee for the gateway of your choice. Expect to shell out between $3000-$7000. This is a small investment as compared to building and running a brick and mortar store.
- Expandable Geographical Reach. Depending on the product or brand that you’re selling, your business can become known nationwide or worldwide if you have an effective online store strategy. But you have to take note that if you ever sell your products out of your country, you will need to comply with different regulations and taxes. Plus, an online store can get you potential customers who have not purchased anything with you before.
- Adaptable to Quick Changes. Let’s say for example you want to change the prices of each item. With an online store, you can change these details by adding a different value into the product’s price field. In a physical store, however, you need to change the price tags one by one on the product shelf and in your inventory system. Although there are barcode readers or RFIDs installed, it will take hours for you to update everything.
- Increased Visibility and Measurable Results. Investing in online marketing and SEO will be a key factor because you will be more visible to customers and your target niche. Many people doubt SEO and digital marketing, but it really works. Many businesses, big or small have seen the benefits of having an effective marketing plan and SEO strategy that works. You can have more reach with your target audience and your visibility will be over many fronts. Your online marketing plan can also be measured and the required changes can be made based on the results and numbers you have.
Building an Effective and Impressive Online Store
Building an online store can be hard at first and many businesses don’t know where to begin. Understanding and knowing your priorities can help in building an effective online store.
1. Develop a Business Plan
You need to have a strategy detailing how you will push your products and services online. How will your website look? How will you engage customers? Do you have a back up plan if your website goes down? Figure out the costs of manufacturing, shipping costs and other fees you need to cover.
2. Choose Your Products
Your online store will not matter if you don’t know what products to sell! Before building anything, know what you want to sell. You could sell a wide range of products or services or a single product that will suit your customers.
3. Know Your Target Audience
Once you have decided on the products that you want to sell, you need to do the necessary research to capture and engage your target audience. You also want to make sure if there is still some space in the market for your products and for new players. Taking advantage of Business Intelligence and knowing your competition will help you penetrate your chosen market.
4. Test the Waters
In the real world of buying and purchasing, it’s wise to try selling your products through flea markets, consignments, festivals and such before taking the big leap and opening a store. This also holds true for online stores. Try selling individual products on social media. If you see the demand increasing at a steady pace, then you can improve your inventory and have a dedicated website where your customers and potential buyers can reach you directly.
5. Set Your Budget
Once you have your product and your target audience, you have to work on your budget. Have a rough estimate about the costs involved. Your budget should include the maximum amount you’re willing to shell out and some for contingency just in case you need some money for any extra work. Also, consider having an extra 20% on top of your budget just in case. You don’t want to get stuck.
6. Register a Domain Name
Think of a name that is short, easy to remember and if possible catchy. It should be unique and should reflect your brand or business. Try to check a domain registration company to check different names until you find one that suits and satisfies your needs.
7. Choose Your Software
This will allow your customers to view your products and make a secure purchase. The software will store all the required customer information. Be sure that the software runs on all platforms and devices. Remember that at present, most people are connected to the internet using their smart wireless devices, so make sure whatever you choose is mobile and desktop friendly.
8. Payment Method
This is one of the most important components of an online store. Payment methods should be stated if you’re accepting credit or debit cards, PayPal, Visa or MasterCard. Also ensure that your transactions are secure because some customers are not keen on giving out their payment information online
9. Store Features
The template, colour, fonts and the overall look of a website matters. Your website is your window to your customers and if they think it’s messy or too cluttered with contradicting fonts and colours they will surely not spend much time browsing through it. Make it look simple yet informative and secure. Include features you and your customers will be able to use to engage with each other. Upload relevant and useful content to your site to make it more engaging and provide traffic.
10. Market Your Online Store
Once you have launched your online store, it’s time for you to market it. Make it visible and let people know your store exists. Take advantage of social media, email marketing and SEO to get your online store out in the open. “If you build it, they will come” as Kevin Costner said in Field Of Dreams.
Good luck in building your online store!