Start an online store for your brick-and-mortar business
It’s a popular decision among small business owners to move their retail stores online, and for good reason. Building online stores opens your retail business to new sales opportunities and different markets. You're no longer limited to selling from your brick-and-mortar shop's location.
The expertise needed to start an online store depends on your goals and the time and resources you want to expend. Here's how to get started in migrating your retail business to an online format.
Benefits of selling products online
The primary advantage of starting an online store is that your doors never close. This allows customers to shop 24/7. There’s no need to pay overtime to employees, keep the lights on or pay rent. Your customers gain the convenience of shopping from their living rooms.
You can easily expand your e-store's inventory simply by adding more web pages and purchasing the products. This lies in contrast to physical stores, where you may have to remodel to add costly floor space. Online store expenses may include domain and web hosting fees, the initial graphic design or changes you might want later and computer costs.
Regarding inventory, you sell on demand, and you don't necessarily need to have the products physically in stock before customers can purchase them. You can order, drop-ship or produce what you need when you make a sale.
Setting up e-shop
When you’re learning how to sell products online, the easiest step is to choose an online selling platform. You can opt for a full-fledged e-commerce store or sign up for a seller’s account with an online marketplace. You can also use both. It depends on your goals, needs and ability to run an e-commerce business, the types of products you sell and your customers’ online buying habits. For example, customers may not want to pay higher shipping fees for bulky or heavy items like appliances or car parts unless you're able to offer discounts.
You'll also want to make sure your business insurance covers the activity that occurs on your chosen platform. If you're primarily importing goods from overseas to sell, it may be more difficult to find a comprehensive policy for your online company. These are important considerations to remember before you make a final decision about how you'll sell online.
If you decide to learn how to set up an online store on your own, there are plenty of online tutorials and helpful e-commerce platforms that can host your site and walk you through setup. Many offer templates that make setting up your e-shop a straightforward process. You can also monetize your existing company website by adding a "purchase products" section with an order and payment function. Some digital service companies offer e-commerce modules and source code that allow you to simply copy and paste the information into your current site coding.
For online marketplaces, sales transactions are processed by the host site while shipping and customer service are handled by you. It’s simple to set up and maintain, and it can give you access to scores of potential customers.
Design, build and spread the word
Next is the matter of designing your e-commerce site and building your product pages. The design should be consistent with your brand and physical store. For instance, a flower shop would likely choose a bright color scheme versus basic black and white. E-commerce platforms typically offer plenty of design options by providing templates to choose from or allowing you to design them from scratch.
When building your product pages, provide as much relevant information as possible to help customers make purchasing decisions. This means adding high-resolution photos of the products shown at different angles. Try to give a full but concise description of the product, including any technical specifications. Don’t make the descriptions too complicated, though, because they can show up on posts when you use social media to market products.
Whether your retail shop is a physical storefront, a virtual market or both, it’s important to protect yourself against unplanned loss. Business insurance can keep your company running and financially sound if the unexpected happens.