The Internet has revolutionized how we do many things; from how we consume information to how we do business. The number of businesses taking their sales operations online is increasing by the day. According to stats published by LemonStand, a Canadian e-commerce company, there were over 12 million e-commerce websites on the web as of 2015, all looking to bite into the trillion-dollar market.
Starting an e-shop exposes your products and services to millions of potential customers. You will no longer have to worry about getting into trouble with a landlord, because you can run an e-store from the comfort of your own home and you can easily track your sales performance. Before you can start reaping the many benefits of having an online business, you first must put effort into building an effective e-shop.
This is how to do it.
1. Find a Company Name
You just don’t set up a website one morning and start selling a product or service. Although e-shops are Internet-based, many jurisdictions will require you to register the business with the relevant agency and obtain any necessary permits or licenses. Even if online businesses may not be regulated in your country, it is important to set up a company through which you will run the e-shop. This will help to improve the credibility of your e-shop. As such, begin by:
- Selecting a company name – Find a name that represent the values, personality or objectives of your business. Make it unique, so that your brand can stand out from its competitors.
- Getting the products ready – Before breaking into the online market, do your research to identify the products that you can sell with ease. Although digital products like software are the easiest to sell online, there is no limit on the kind of products you can offer: antiques, furniture, apparel…anything can sell online.
Once you have identified the product, purchase enough stock to get you started. If you will be getting your products from suppliers, cultivate solid business relationships with at least two of them. If you manufacture or build the products yourself, be sure to get several units ready before launching the shop.
2. Develop an e-Commerce Website
When it comes to online retail, the quality and responsiveness of your website plays a crucial role in attracting potential customers. Hire experienced web developers to do the job for you. The things you and your development team should consider when setting up your e-commerce website include:
- Domain name -Your domain name is a pathway for potential customers to reach or access your website. It should reflect the kind of products or services offered on the site
- Web hosting – A reliable web hosting service provider will ensure your site stays online all the time. There are thousands of providers, all with different kinds of hosting plans. Your development team can help you settle on the right web host
- Uniqueness -It is essential that your developers create a unique design. Check out your competition’s websites to ensure your designs don't look close
- Security – e-commerce websites are primary targets for hackers and fraudsters. Be sure to purchase a private SSL and dedicated IP address to keep your site secure and efficient.
- Payment gateways – Payment gateways authorize payments made by customers and process them into your merchant account. The checkout process should be simple and straightforward
- Optimize for mobile devices – With the vast majority of people using mobile devices to access the Internet, your website must be mobile-friendly.
Website Design and Development Agreement
An Agreement concluded between the Developer and the Customer that is used when the Customer wishes to hire a Developer to create a fully functioning website.
3. Open Communication Channels
There are probably thousands of other e-shops in your product niche, so competition for customers on the web is fierce. One of the best ways to attract and retain customers is to maintain an active line of communication. Here are the popular tools for e-commerce communication:
- Live Chat – Although very resource-intensive, live chat is an efficient way for customers to interact with your business in real-time. It makes them feel like they are in a brick and mortar store where they can shoot a question to a sales agent before making a purchase. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Forrester, a global research firm, 44 percent of Internet users said live chat is one of the most important tools a website can offer
- E-mail – Email support is a must-have for any e-shop. Add a ticketing system to enable you to track customer emails.
- Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms – These sites are best for offering quick responses to customer queries and monitoring what Internet users are saying about your brand.
- Blog – A blog, depending on you content strategy, can be a good way to tell the story of your brand and promote products and services. Use it to keep your customer updated on upcoming offers and events.
- Phone support – When customers call in, they feel closer to your business. Phone support also enables you to attend to your customer’s needs in real time.
Regardless of the communication channels you choose to open, prompt response is a must if you want to enhance customer loyalty. Address complaints before they get out of hand. In this age of memes and viral Internet posts, a customer complaint – genuine or not – can spread like wildfire before you have a chance to respond.
4. Find a Shipping Carrier
Unless you sell software or any other intangible digital product, you are going to need a shipping carrier to deliver products to your customers. As an e-commerce newbie, finding the right shipping partner can be a challenge. Consider:
- Reliability – Shipping carriers can either improve or worsen your customers’ e-shopping experience. Find a carrier who specializes in providing shipping services to e-businesses. It is also ideal to work with several shippers, as this gives your customers the freedom to choose their preferred carrier
- Cost – Shipping charges vary among carriers. Your shipping strategy should determine which carrier you choose to work with. For instance, if you plan to offer free shipping to your customers, for example, you should find a cheap but reliable carrier.
- Speed of delivery – You definitely don’t want to keep your customers waiting too long for their purchases. If you promise quick deliveries, the only way you can stay true to your word is by working with carriers with quick shipping speeds. In general, carriers with a large fleet of vehicles have quicker delivery timeframes.
- Transparency – Avoid shippers that are not transparent with their delivery methods and timelines.
Website Terms and Conditions
This template is used to outline the terms and conditions of a website. The client must agree to these terms before purchasing a product.
5. Customer Reassurance
The online marketplace is full of scammers and fraudsters. It takes a great deal amount of trust and confidence to actually make a purchase from your e-shop. This is one of the main reasons many online shoppers prefer to shop from large e-retailers like Amazon and Etsy, even when smaller e-shops are offering the same products at lower prices. According to Baymard Institute, as many as 68.81 percent of online shoppers abandon their carts during a shopping session. 18 percent of these shoppers abandon their carts because they could not trust the e-commerce sites with their card information, while10 percent felt the return policy wasn’t satisfactory.
This is where customer reassurance comes in. You need to make your potential customers feel and know that they are purchasing from a trustworthy retailer. So, how can you reassure your customers?
- Privacy Statement – A privacy statement or policy – which should be published on your website – should detail how your e-shop gathers, stores and uses customer information
- Terms and Conditions – Terms and conditions, or terms of service, should outline the rules which customers should abide by when using your website and its tools
- About Us – This page should provide information about your company. Tell customers where its physical offices are located. Provide a postal address, phone numbers and other useful identification information
- Returns Policy – Sometimes goods get in damaged in the shipping process. A returns policy informs customer how you handle the process of replacing defective merchandise.
6. Promote Your Business
With everything ready, you can launch your website and shift some of your energy to promoting the e-shop. There are various offline and online strategies you can use to market it. Offline methods typically include running advertisements about your online brand on local newspapers, magazines and other print publications and speaking about it in various events or conferences where your potential customers are likely to attend. Also, don’t estimate the marketing power of friends and family. Encourage them to spread word about your e-shop.
Online marketing methods are by far the most effective way to promote an e-shop. Social media marketing, for instance, can help to drive traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular social media sites to your website. Email marketing involves sending promotional newsletters to the customers in your email list. Besides being very cost-effective, this method gives you the power to control who sees your message. This means you can offer incentives like coupon coders to specific customers. Other web-based promotion strategies include affiliate marketing, search-engine advertising and blogging.
There you have it. The complete guide to setting up an e-shop! Remember, it takes time to build the online credibility of an online business. However, if you follow these tips closely, it shouldn't take too long from your e-shop to gain traction. You can also have a look on the Starting Business website and check out their very helpful and professional advice on E-Commerce Solutions. Good luck!