If your company sells goods in a brick-and-mortar store but not online, you could be missing out on an incredible revenue-generating opportunity. Is your business ready to reap some of those online sales? Launching an online store can be challenging for small businesses, which are often short on time, budget and staff. But ecommerce vendors can help you make designing and maintaining an online store relatively simple and affordable.
Here are 10 important questions to ask when creating your company’s first online store:
1. How do I start building my online store?
If you can’t afford to hire someone to build a custom online store, don’t worry. There are plenty of ecommerce vendors that can help you create one quickly. “They can take the hassle and headache of hard coding, hosting and doing maintenance on a server of your own out of the online store equation.
Such companies as Ginger Domain let you design the overall look, feel and functionality of your online store. They also let you do things such as upload your product catalog, set up customer shopping carts, securely accept payments and handle order fulfillment. These services securely host your online store on their own servers. You can link to your online store from your company’s main website. Ecommerce services such as these usually require some basic initial set-up work on your part.
2. How can I best customize the overall look of my online store?
In most cases, if your company already has a website, your ecommerce site should reflect your existing online look, including your logos and color schemes. If you don’t have a business website, choose background and accent colors for your ecommerce site that complement your logo.
Most design templates from ecommerce vendors come with preset theme settings that don’t require HTML or CSS knowledge to customize. So, it should be relatively easy to upload your logo and product images and add banners, slideshows and more.
3. What type of payment system should I use?
We CCavanue, Techprocess and PayPal when you’re starting out. That’s mainly because the third-party processor is so widely known as a secure system for accepting online payments.
Still, many shoppers prefer to pay for online purchases with their own credit cards rather than use PayPal or other third-party payment processors. You can obtain a merchant account with each individual credit card company. Many charge fees per transaction ranging from 2 to 5 percent, plus a percentage of the total purchase amount. Some also charge monthly, quarterly and annual fees.
4. How will I handle customer service?
To respond to customers’ concerns efficiently, you may want to choose an ecommerce vendor that gives you access to a reliable customer relationship management (CRM) tool. Most of the major ecommerce vendors offer CRM options.
CRM tools document, streamline and structure the many ways merchants interact with customers in one central place, including customer contact information, recent purchases, complaints and pending orders.
5. How should I determine shipping costs?
It’s often easier and more accurate to leave exact shipping-cost calculations — both to you and your customer — to the carrier you use. The major carriers will calculate shipping costs for you for free, and most major ecommerce vendors allow you to integrate those costs into your store’s checkout section. On the other hand, you may want to consider offering free shipping, at least for orders over a certain amount.
6. How do I create the best product images and descriptions?
“Online shoppers don’t get to see, touch, feel or smell your product”, so the next best thing is a crisp, clear product image. While he says you shouldn’t entirely cut corners on photography, you don’t have to hire a professional to get high-quality images. But you should use “a 16-megapixel DSLR camera, decent lighting and a light box,” he advises. A photo lightbox is a tent-like container with several light bulbs aimed at its interior that photography professionals often use to create well-illuminated images of objects.
7. Should I allow customer reviews and social sharing?
Giving customers the ability to comment on your products and leave ratings can help boost their confidence in your store, Peterson says. Positive reviews and social media shares could lead to more sales, but there’s also the risk of negative comments. Several major ecommerce services offer customer review options that allow you to respond to — or remove — undesirable comments.
8. How will I start to attract shoppers?
After your store is up and running, spread the word both online and off. Placing links to your store’s web address on your company’s main website and in your email newsletter campaigns would be a good start. We also recommend creating Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube accounts representing your online store. Updating your company’s social media sites a few times a day can drive traffic to your store by drawing attention to daily deals and other promotions.
It’s also advisable to choose an ecommerce vendor that automatically uses search engine optimization (SEO) for your store’s content. SEO tactics can give your store a higher ranking in search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
9. How should I handle returns?
Every store has to deal with returned items. Double-check that your ecommerce vendor provides built-in tools that let you quickly and easily replace merchandise or refund purchase prices, restock your inventory and send emails to customers about the status of their return.
10. How can I track the success of my store?
Try to select an ecommerce vendor that offers free self-service analytics, often driven by Google Analytics, and other reporting tools to help you track your store’s performance over time. These can tell you how many people are visiting your store and how often, where they live and how they found you. They can also show you which websites drive the most traffic to your store and which products customers look at and purchase most and least often.