So, you’ve been thinking about setting up an online store, right?
And why not, as Canadians have embraced online shopping big time, and it would be great to get your business a share of those sales. But setting up an ecommerce website does need careful planning, as well as time, patience, and money of course. Whether or not to take the plunge and sell online also depends on various factors such as what type of product you specialize in, who your target audience is, the resources you have at hand and more! Still interested? Well, here are some factors to consider which may help you make an informed decision…
Some products may be better suited for online sales, while others might require a physical presence, or have a limited shelf-life, for example. Is the market already saturated with other vendors selling the same thing, and do you think there is still a place for you? If your product is new, innovative, or niche, then you may be just one of a handful of online retailers.
Who is your target audience, and do they typically source and buy your product online? Understanding your target audience’s behaviour will be key to your success. Your new ecommerce website may provide them with a convenient way to access your product, or on the other hand may fall flat as they prefer to shop at a physical store.
Leading on from the question ‘Is there place for you?’, it’s essential that you do plenty of competition research to evaluate their individual approaches to selling online. You can quickly pick up from an ecommerce website whether the business is doing well or falling by the wayside. Concerning the latter, a tired appearance, poor performance and out of date information are all red flags.
You will need a substantial amount to invest in the design and development of your new ecommerce website. Keep in mind that the cheapest option may not deliver you with the online store you need. You will also need to get your new website seen by customers once it’s live, so online marketing will need to be budgeted for. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to pay for website hosting, support, and maintenance.
Following on from website development, you’ll need to choose an ecommerce platform that meets your online business needs. There are quite a few platforms to choose from, depending on how complex your online operations will be. It’s always best to talk to an ecommerce company to see which platform will suit you best. Ecommerce solutions do vary, with differing costs.
All online payments on your ecommerce website will need to be processed by a third-party payment gateway provider, such as PayPal or Moneris. These providers will in turn deduct a percentage of the sale for their service, which will eat into your profit. Shopping around for the best payment gateway provider can take some time, so will need to be done well in advance of your website being launched.
It’s important that you familiarize yourself with any regulations or compliance issues related to selling online. This will include tax regulations, data protection laws, and any industry-specific regulations – which can vary greatly from country to country. Remember that certain products are prohibited for online sale too.
How will you fulfil orders and get products sent out to customers? It’s essential to have a robust strategy in place to how you will handle logistics and fulfilment. Your customers will expect you to have a reliable system for shipping and delivery, which also includes robust packaging and a policy for handling returns.
Just like a physical shop, customers may want to speak to you to ask questions, confirm an order or make a complaint; they will also do this in email format too. This kind of activity can eat away at your valuable time but will be essential to do right to keep your customers happy. Do you have the capacity to process customer service calls and emails, or will you need to outsource this service?
As mentioned above, you’ll need to get your website seen by potential customers. There are two main ways of search marketing – SEO and PPC (also known as Google Ad Words). SEO marketing can take time to filter through, whereas Google AdWords can have almost instant effects. Both are best undertaken by a digital marketing specialist and will require investment. Social Media marketing is by far one of the most cost-effective ways to get your new website and products seen and can be done by yourself.
Taking the step to sell online is very exciting and done right can be very profitable, but don’t’ be impulsive and leap on in! Doing thorough research yourself and asking the advice of others in your industry, as well as ecommerce experts is essential. Like any other new business, take time to create a detailed business plan that outlines your online selling strategy. This will also be crucial if you need financial assistance in setting up your new ecommerce business.