While the world of the internet and might have revolutionized the way we ‘work, rest and play’, we shouldn’t allow this cloud our judgement. There are, indeed, a great many people who haven’t fully tapped into the benefits offered by digital technology. In the US, more than a quarter of small businesses don’t have a website – with the figure topping 40 per cent in the Midwest.
Increasingly, however, small firms can’t afford not to do business online and that means an awful lot of people still need help to make the transition.
While setting up a website can be done within a matter of minutes, things are a little more complex if you’re looking to create a shop. There are, in short, some ‘things you need to know’ before you get started. Here are six…
What are your competitors doing? While you might well have a good idea about your offline competitors in your town or region, your online competition might come from different people entirely. Going online, to an extent, renders geographical boundaries obsolete so you now need to research the people selling the same products and services as you. What do their websites look like? What price do they charge? What do you do differently?
If you’re selling goods online, it’s likely that you need to consider shipping. You’ll need to charge this to customers, so make sure you research the cost of your preferred postage method and pass on a fair price that covers all of your costs but doesn’t put shoppers off. You might even pick up international customers too so make sure you’ve researched the cost of this too.
Handling money poses an extra level of risk. You need to be able to ensure that you have a web page that can process payments securely – and that you have a robust security package that can detect and repel cyber threats so that you don’t lose confidential data.
Offline principles online
If you’ve got a shop already, you’ll appreciate the tactics required to attract customers. From good window displays to effective marketing, great customer service and a welcoming in-store experience, there’s much you can do. When you go online, you need to keep this in mind and consider how to achieve it all digitally. That means a well-designed website with all the information your customers need, an easy way for them to select and pay for the goods they want to buy and easy ways to contact you through forms or a readily available email address. The principles of business are the same, it’s only the methods that change when you take your shop online.
Just as every shop needs decent premises, every website needs the right host. Search for a package that is right for an e-commerce website, so that you will be able to cope with the performance and security elements required.
How will people find your shop? It’s important to identify your target customers and develop a strategy for alerting them of your presence. That means building a social media following, developing an email database, considering launch offers and promotions and thinking of any PR opportunities you could embrace to get the word out there.