In just a little over 20 years, online shopping has evolved from a unique idea to a nearly indispensable industry. Now, more than ever, online shopping has become embedded in our new normal, with e-commerce sales expected to top $4 trillion by the end of 2020.
With a growing market of online buyers, the time is ripe to start an online business. Here are five things you need to nail down if you’re looking to start an online store.
1. Product Sourcing
Your products are the lifeblood of your business, and knowing where to get them can spell the difference between failure and success. You’ll need to offer the best quality products for the most affordable price if you want to build your profits and your brand.
There are many ways to source your products, all with their own pros and cons. The most common methods are to create them yourselves, get them via dropshipping, from manufacturers, or to buy wholesale.
Creating your products lets you control your branding, pricing, and quality. But it can be harder to scale, especially if you’re the only one making your products as you’ll have less time (and possibly energy) to meet large orders and develop other parts of your business.
If you choose dropshipping, you’re not selling items you actually own or made. Customers order from your website, and you forward those orders to your suppliers, who then ship the product to your clients. While dropshipping is cheap and convenient (you don’t have to keep any inventory yourself), you’re bound to face a lot of competition.
Manufacturing is ideal if you have a guaranteed market for your idea and want someone to produce the goods for you. The downside, though, is that it can get a bit pricey (ranging in thousands of dollars) to fulfill your initial orders.,
Getting items wholesale is a great way to save money and time, allowing you to cut down on transport costs and get more bang for your buck. However, some suppliers enforce price controls that prevent or limit you from offering discounts, which could hurt your bottom line.
Study each model’s advantages and downsides to choose the most suitable one for your business.
2. Order Fulfillment
Order fulfillment involves getting your customers’ orders, processing and shipping the order, updating your inventory, and handling any returns. The process ends when buyers receive and are satisfied with the delivery.
Because it’s such a key part of your customers’ satisfaction, setting up a smooth eCommerce fulfillment system is crucial to retaining them and growing sales. More than half of shoppers evaluate online orders based on the speed of shipping, and nearly 40% of buyers say they stop shopping with a retailer if they experienced lousy deliveries.
Streamline you order fulfillment with these tips:
- If you have an external manufacturer, coordinate seamlessly with your suppliers with an order management system (OMS), such as Drupal Commerce, Shopify Plus, or Lightspeed eCommerce.
These platforms enable end-to-end order visibility, so you, your supplier, and customers are always on the same page when it comes to order details like availability and quantities.
- Pick shipping companies with a broad (even worldwide) reach. Thoroughly check their background, previous performance, fees, and monitoring systems, and evaluate them regularly as you work with them. They should also have integrated delivery enhancing software that automates shipping labels based on delivery schedules and optimizes costs according to the package’s destination.
- Select favorable warehouse locations (such as those near your buyers’ locations) to send your orders quickly and cost-efficiently. Choose shippers and warehouses that can meet next-day, same-day, and other fast-shipping demands.
Consider using warehouse management systems software to help you control and optimize your inventory management, accuracy, and tracking, and other aspects of your warehouse workflow.
3. Hosting and Domain Name
There are an estimated 2 billion websites on the internet and by the time you read this sentence, hundreds more will probably have popped up. This is why your domain name, or your web address, is so important in making sure that your customers can find you.
To help shoppers remember your web address, pick an SEO-friendly domain name that is unique and represents your business. Look up keywords and frequently typed questions online to find out what your potential clients are researching. If you’re targeting customers in your area, do local keyword research and specify your location (while you’re there, you can even bookmark the page or note your observations for your future local SEO marketing campaigns).
Be sure to pick domain names that aren’t trademarked so you won’t get into legal trouble. Registering your domain name ASAP also prevents other businesses from taking your preferred name.
However, getting your first-choice domain could be for naught if your website is down. That’s why you need a reliable hosting provider to make sure you have a consistent and strong web presence Services come in packages varying in ease of access, support, features, pricing, etc.
Consider these things when selecting your hosting provider:
- Security of payments and details via credit cards, debit cards, etc. on specific servers;
- Maintenance costs;
- Storage capacity of chosen servers;
- Availability of customer support;
- Any other additional charges.
One hosting provider you can tap is Siteground, which primarily caters to small businesses that want top-notch yet affordable hosting and customer service plans.
With your domain name and hosting needs taken care of, you can start building out your website.
Websites act the same way a physical retail store would. For example, your online shop has a storefront through your homepage, a products display section (or pages, in this case), a payment processing area through your checkout, and others. Once inside your store, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to learn more about you and find and buy what they want.
As you build your online store or website, keep these things in mind:
- Set up your About Us and Contact Us pages to help visitors know your brand and how to reach you.
- Display your items neatly on your product pages, each with its product name, price, and call-to-action (CTA) button.
- Showcase high-resolution product photos.
- Adopt a visually appealing website theme and homepage that reflects your branding styles.
- Make your CTA buttons prominent but not too glaring.
- Keep your checkout straightforward.
- Integrate your payment gateway and other necessary apps.
- Create relevant blog posts, using keywords that improve your site ranking on search engine results.
- Display your return, refund, and exchange policies.
Aside from being an essential marketing tool, your website also establishes your credibility as a business. Whether you’re an executive coach offering your services to clients, or selling cupcakes, books, or clothes, investing in your website is a must.
5. Email Marketing
A catchy domain name and an engaging website aren’t enough to bring in new clients. You’ll need to get your name out there. This is where email marketing comes in. Email marketing is one of the best ways to help you grow your sales and conversions. Every dollar spent can get you an ROI of $42 on average.
Establish email marketing as your startup’s primary promotional tactic. Use it to announce your upcoming sales, introduce new products, invite shoppers to refer your store to their friends, entice them to complete their purchases, and more.
To develop your email campaigns:
- Plan your email marketing workflows, from collecting email addresses to delivering messages.
- Automate your email processes by setting triggers for sending specific types of communications, such as abandoned cart emails, welcome emails, thank-you messages, etc.
- Invite visitors to subscribe to your newsletters through opt-in pop-ups when they arrive on your site.
- Create your email list and segment your recipients based on their ages, interests, site activity, level of engagement, and other factors. This enables you to personalize your promotional messages and convert shoppers more effectively.
- Craft the right subject lines, design stunning newsletters, and create exciting content for your email campaigns.
Build your email campaigns with tools such as Sendinblue, which lets you automate your workflows, personalize your messages, A/B test subject lines, and more.
Sendinblue is also user-intuitive, with drag-and-drop capabilities to help you customize your newsletter templates smoothly, among many other features.
Keep in mind, though, that running email marketing campaigns takes much work. If doing it yourself starts consuming too much time and focus, you can get a marketing technologist (and build your marketing team from there once you’ve grown your store).
With the right email marketing tricks and tools, you can launch your online store, foster regular customers, and grow your sales fast.
Get started with your online business.
Starting your online store is an exciting but challenging venture. If you’re serious about growing your store profitably, building these five pillars of online selling will help set the foundation for e-commerce success.
Marc lives and breathes writing. He writes about marketing, business, sports, cybersecurity, or just about anything and everything under the sun.