One of the best ways to give your brick-and-mortar store a boost and to reach out to new customers is to expand your business by establishing an ecommerce presence. Although the internet can seem easy to use and quite approachable, setting up your website is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to put a full-fledged plan in place if your online shop is to succeed and augment your physical store in the best way possible.
Plan in Advance for Your Shopping Cart Platform
In order to give your customers a way to purchase what you are selling, you will need to choose an ecommerce platform that contains shopping cart software. Believe it or not, the experiences that customers have as they check out are so crucial that they determine whether the buyer will follow through with the purchase or click away in a matter of seconds. Abandoned shopping carts are inevitable to some extent, but you want to keep their numbers as low as possible.
To that end, figure out in advance what features you want in your shopping cart software. Most ecommerce entrepreneurs require seamless integration with shipping, product copy that is maximized for search engines, responsiveness to mobile devices, the ability to customize and adapt as their needs change, and integration with the accounting software that they may already be using. The more that you can automate your process from the start, the better off you will be. Making processes automatic can keep you from needing to manually enter information into a spreadsheet or typing out your own shipping labels by hand.
Ask your vendor about value-added items such as customer loyalty capabilities, gift cards, and other promotions. They may already be included free with your cart software, or you may be required to pay a bit more for them. In spite of the expense, they can be a fun and innovative way to get potential online customers interested in buying from your e-store.
Consider Bundling Cart Features in the Beginning
As you have already seen, shopping carts contain numerous features. Some of them, for instance, come with online hosting already included. Since it is likely that your sales will be modest at first, even if you are doing a brisk trade at your brick-and-mortar location, it makes good financial sense to leave the designing and hosting to the professionals. Once you are stable and established, you may want to customize your website on your own, but that’s a challenge for a later day.
Prepare Your Infrastructure
Before you decide on a shopping cart or even consider beginning to process credit cards online, it is important to have all of your ducks in a row. For one thing, settle on a design for your brand logo that represents both your brick-and-mortar store and your ecommerce site. If the one for your physical location works well, no changes are necessary.
Now you can move on to your home page. Since online customers are easily frustrated and distracted, make sure that this page is clear and easy to understand. Don’t attempt to crowd it or to overwhelm visitors with busy colors and patterns. Your home page is your one and only chance to make a favorable first impression, so don’t waste it.
Next, devote your attention to categorizing your products in ways that customers can easily understand. Obtain images for each product that are clear, and then write accompanying copy that gives customers an accurate description of what they are looking at. Compose your return policy with transparency as your number one priority. If you’re in doubt, run it past friends and colleagues.
Give Some Shopping Cart Trial Runs
You have many options when it comes to ecommerce platforms, making it a challenge to know which to select. Fortunately, most allow you to give the system a trial run for 14, 21 or even 30 days before buying. By all means, take advantage of this benefit – but not until you have your infrastructure in place. After all, the clock is ticking as soon as you set up the cart, so encourage friends, family, and customers at your retail store to make a purchase on your site. Of course, ask them to provide you with feedback about your site as well as how the purchase went. After all, positive customer experiences are the holy grail of ecommerce.
List the Products That Have the Highest Potential to Sell Well
You have the advantage of already having your foot in the retail waters. Therefore, you probably have a very good idea of what your bestsellers are. At least while your website is in its infancy, it makes sense to feature these tried-and-true items. Meanwhile, you can conduct your own experiments to expand your offerings by floating a few products on eBay or Craig’s List.
If they are popular there, you have good reason to believe they will be big sellers on your website as well. As a general rule, however, avoid trying to market items that are overly complex or that require in-person explanations. They might be better suited to your physical location.
Make Security a Priority
It is a myth that data breaches and fraud only happen to big businesses. In fact, smaller enterprises are often targeted by criminals because their owners are less likely to have invested in security measures. Consequently, it makes sense to invest in an anti-fraud screening service that is specifically designed to detect and intercept fraudulent orders before they go through and become chargebacks.
On another note, make it a priority to monitor your ecommerce platform’s security. From time to time, it doesn’t hurt to call your provider to ensure that you have the latest software upgrades. Criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to circumvent security measures, and you need to make every effort to stay one step ahead of them.
Broaden Your Sales Channels
Your best bet as a new ecommerce entrepreneur is to start small with your website, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way. Just as you can feature products that are popular with your retail store customers on your website, you will eventually have the chance to make your sales flow in the other direction as well from your website to your physical location. In addition, you can consider marketing your wares on wholesale venues as well as eBay and Amazon, at local fairs and bazaars and even internationally.
Launching your ecommerce site is a little bit like standing at the top of a hill ready to move a large boulder. The learning curve and challenges may seem formidable at this stage, but once you make that first hard push, the components will be put in motion and progress can be made. Obviously, it will be important to control the direction and momentum of your business just as you would need to do with that rolling boulder. However, today’s technology has the potential to provide you with a vastly expanded customer and product base that you can translate into huge profits.