If you’re a bricks-and-mortar only business, the events of the last few months may well have convinced you that now is the time to take the plunge and go online.
While a traditional store allows for immersive experiences and allows you to interact directly with your customers, you’re also limited to when you can open (Sunday trading hours for example mean you only have a certain window of time to make sales).
Research shows that most consumers will only travel between 10 and 20 minutes from their home to make a purchase. This means your catchment area is severely limited, therefore sales are limited to.
What’s more, if government directives require you to close due to something like a pandemic or you suffer a fire or flood, your business can no longer operate.
Developing a digital presence gives you both agility and accessibility, something that many organisations operating exclusively from a physical location lack. A website provides around the clock access to your products and services, gives you a wider customer base and arms you with a wealth of data which can be used to make better business decisions.
What’s more, consumers are increasingly leaving the high street behind and heading online instead. The latest Local Consumer Research Survey shows 33% of consumers look online for a local business every day. All told, 90% have searched for a local business online in the last year. You need to be online to be visible.
Transitioning to selling online can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re new to ecommerce. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. Here, we’re breaking down the whole process into seven easy steps for you.
Step 1: Audit your stock
Depending on what you sell and how your products are supplied, it may not be possible to offer everything you sell in store on your new ecommerce website. Audit your products and determine which items you want to make available online. You’ll need to consider supply chains and the logistics of shipping to customers plus the practicalities of storing potentially a greater amount of stock.
Step 2: Decide how you’ll handle orders
Before you get started on a web design brief, it’s a good idea to have a framework in place for how orders will be handled. Doing this before your site is designed means you can focus on things like staff training, acquiring any new equipment you may need or perhaps even hiring new team members while your web design team is physically building the site. That way, when your web site is ready, you should have all you need in place to begin selling online, rather than face a lengthy delay as you get organised.
Think about who will be responsible for online orders – will there be a dedicated person to pack and ship? Do you need a separate space set aside in your warehouse or store room to allow for packing up orders that come through online? Will you drop ship from your supplier? Will you make Post Office runs or do you need to explore partnerships with couriers?
Step 3: Find a web designer
At this stage, the exciting part of the journey begins! You have lots of options when it comes to finding a web developer. A Google search is a good place to start but don’t underestimate your own personal network of contacts. Ask other local businesses or supplies who they used or take to your social media profile and request recommendations from your connections. Be sure to check online reviews too. If you’re on a strict budget, freelancer or gig economy sites are also viable options.
Your web developer should also be able to help you purchase a domain name and arrange web hosting. Make sure the domain is purchased in your company name and registered to your business address, rather than the web developer’s. If you don’t do this, technically the site will belong to the developer and not to your business which places you in a vulnerable position should problems occur.
Step 4: Decide on your e-commerce platform
There are many e-commerce platforms out there. Options like Shopify and WooCommerce (which commonly integrates with WordPress) are very user friendly, so you don’t need to be a tech wiz to keep your new site running smoothly and up-to-date. Again, your web developer will be able to help and should have made recommendations as part of their pitch.
Step 5: Create a marketing plan
While your web developer gets to work building your site, work on your marketing plan. This step is vitally important as it sets out how you’ll make people aware of your site and use it to generate revenue. If you aren’t that familiar with digital marketing, you may want to call in a professional to help with this document.
Popular options for marketing an e-commerce site include pay per click adverts, SEO, email marketing, content marketing and social media.
Step 6: Testing
When your new site is built, your web developer should test that it is all working as it should. This will include walking through the order and check out process and viewing the site from different devices (such as a desktop and a smartphone) and using a range of browsers.
You can use this period to also test your own internal systems. Have a few dry runs of the order process so you and your team can practise receiving an order and then packaging and sending out an item. You may find some of your draft processes don’t work as well as they should; that’s OK. The point of testing is to identify any areas of concern and pinpoint problems so you can resolve them before you deal with real paying customers.
Step 7: Launch!
Congratulations, you can now start selling your products online!
Need more help? If you’d like to explore selling online, get in touch with Adrac today.