Go e-commerce! How to Get Started with Online Sales in 10 Steps
Thinking about going online with your sales? Interested in creating an online store from scratch? From this article you will learn how to get started.
1. Choose the products.
Start from assessing your products and deciding if people would be willing to buy them online. Then, do the same for all your suppliers – is any of them able to supply you with products that would do well in an online store? Also, decide if you want to sell mass products (e.g. groceries or clothes) or if you’re looking to fill a specific niche (e.g. tea or leather goods).
Once you’ve made your decisions, pick the items you will offer as your additional products in your cross-sell and up-sell efforts. Then, prepare a solid description for each of the products. First: create a copy for each item, describing its characteristics in detail. Second: take a couple of high quality pictures to show the product at different angles and allow for zooming it. Third: choose the packaging – do you want to go less waste or would you rather send your products in designer boxes with tissue-paper and elegant notes? Depending on the nature of your assortment you have a lot of options to stand out from the crowd.
2. Define your target group.
If you know what it is that you’re going to sell online, it’s time for you to decide who you are going to sell it to. Don’t use your instincts here – use solid data. Contrary to popular belief, the offline sales you’re making now gives you a lot of ways of learning about your customers’ needs and likes. You can encourage them to take a quick survey, interview them, or simply analyze the data you’ve been collecting on them in your loyalty program. All this data will help you decide what your customers preferences are as far as products, communication and customer service is concerned.
Also, decide if you’re ready to expand your business abroad or if you want to build it within your country only.
Next, analyze the data and segment your clients based on their common features and buying behaviors. To make your future work easier, visualize each segment with a customer persona, that is a fictional character that represents a typical customer from a given segment. Referring to such personas will help you better adjust both your online store and marketing efforts to your audience, making the whole enterprise much more efficient.
Remember that once your online store goes live you need to keep your knowledge about the customer preferences and habits up to date, as they tend to constantly change.
3. Map your online sales channels.
When building your online store, bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be your only selling channel. You can still use eBay, Amazon or social media at the same time. Available systems and integrations for your online store will make it easy to achieve – the contents of your online store will be automatically shared with your partners and your store will also generate product feeds for Google Shopping and Facebook.
Also, think of the place of this e-commerce store in your entire business ecosystem. Remember that today the omnichannel approach is preferred, but this doesn’t have to involve complicated integrations or advanced mechanisms. All you need to do at the beginning is to make sure your message and customer service stays coherent across all channels – whether it’s your online store or your Instagram account.
4. Create your value proposition.
Answer a very simple question that your prospects are more than likely to ask themselves: why should I do my shopping at this particular online store? Give them a catchy – but honest! – reason to believe that choosing you is their best choice. In other words, offer them a unique value related to buying from you. To create a good value proposition, do some research of your market, find out how your competitors stand out and think of a way of doing the same. Also, consider the profits you can bring to your customers and the problems you can help them to solve. Once you start using your value proposition, remember to check regularly if it’s still resonating with your audience.
And do use your value proposition everywhere: on your homepage, on the product pages, in your email communication and on your social media. In the long run, consider creating different value propositions for different segments of your clients – e.g. one segment may be responsive to special offers while another one to instant delivery, and other still to your assistance with choosing the best product.
5. Take care of the logistics.
This part is as important as all the previous ones. Once your prospect becomes your customer, he or she will have to deal with your customer service and logistics. Make sure it’s sound so that your customer is happy and wants to come back to you in the future. First: offer many different payment methods and hassle-free invoicing. Second: ensure an efficient storage and shipping system, as well as a range of delivery options. Third: build an efficient and customer-friendly system of dealing with product returns and complaints.
Agreed, this is a lot of work but fortunately there are many tools and subcontractors to help you out. Depending on the scale of your business, you can even outsource your entire logistics – from storage, through packing and shipping, to dealing with the returns!
6. Estimate your costs and income.
We’re assuming that you have a business plan for your business. What you should definitely include in it is the expected conversion rate for your online store, average order value and the maximum cost of acquiring sales from an online campaign. Estimating these indicators will make it easier for you to design your online store and plan your marketing activities.
Bear in mind that the pricing policy is your biggest leverage of profit. So, if you’re standing out from the competition thanks to a specific value you provide, you don’t need to fight for customers by lowering your profit margins.
7. Choose the technology.
This is one of the key decisions that you need to make when setting up your online store. The choice you make will affect the costs you will have to endure. But it will also set a limitation for future development of your online store. So when considering the former bear in mind that you may need flexibility and scalability to be able to continue to grow. Also, make sure that the technology you choose allows for building a secure and mobile-friendly online store.
Depending on your needs and business challenges, here are your options:
Software-as-a-Service – this solution is perfect for those who want to get started quickly and aren’t even sure if their business will work. If you’re pressed for time and eager to quickly confront your business vision with the market, go for a ready-to-use solution such as Shoplo or Shopify.
An open source solution is perfect for those looking for something ‘good enough to get started’. If you want to be able to customize your online store but at the same time you’re willing to accept the risk that if your store is successful you will have to migrate it to a different platform, go for WooCommerce or Presta Shop.
If your e-commerce is a truly ambitious venture, you need a tool that will force a certain standard upon you and will be able to handle a large scale business. If you have no problem with investing some time and manpower – as well as some effort – to develop your store, then go for Magento 2 Community or Enterprise.
Finally, a custom solution built from scratch or based on half components is a perfect option for those who have very specific needs and don’t want to be limited by anything. If you’re willing to invest in an online store that will work in the years to come, you want it to be unique and give you a technological advantage (e.g. dedicated PWA, m-commerce apps or development towards microservices), go for a custom-built software.
8. Create great customer experience.
It’s no coincidence that ‘customer experience’ is a keyword these days. In the world of cut-throat competition your customer’s positive experience with you store is the basis for building long-term relationships that will bring you steady revenue. So start building this experience as soon as you start creating your online store. First: take care of the user experience, i.e. the ease of browsing the products and finalizing transactions (focus on mobile devices!). Second: ensure a positive experience at every stage of the customer journey – from the first contact with an online ad, through customer service and delivery, to sending a feedback request after purchase. Third: learn to listen to your customers.
Customer feedback and the questions they ask are extremely valuable, especially at the initial stage of setting up your online business. Use the former to improve your business in the indicated areas and answer the latter in the form of e.g. a FAQ section in your online store.
9. Create your marketing strategy.
Having a well-built and user-friendly online store is only a half of success. To make it profitable, you need to sell a lot, and this is only possible if you attract quality traffic to it. How to make that happen? First: by creating relevant and attractive online ads. Second: by properly targeting them. Third: by properly configuring your web analytics and drawing conclusions from the data you collect.
Remember to collect qualitative data on the traffic in your online store and the buying behavior of your customers from the very beginning. And read this article to learn about the mistakes to avoid while doing it.
10. Measure, test, improve and scale it!
Once you launch your online store and start promoting it, set yourself up for constant optimization of your activities. Test different solutions – but remember to test them in small steps, i.e. check the effectiveness of one variable at a time. What can you test? Many things: the color of the ‘Add to cart’ button, prices, color scheme of you store, CTA... Remember that sometimes a seemingly small change can bring you spectacular effects!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to be considered when setting up your own online store! Fortunately the trail has been paved a long time ago – we went the route from nothing to a thriving online store with many customers, including the well-known Kubota brand. And we will be more than happy to help you – contact us for details!