I get on average one call a week from companies interested in ‘selling online’ – and why wouldn’t they? It is an obvious step for a well-stocked bricks and mortar distributor or wholesaler to widen their potential market by opening a 24/7 online shop. They have seen competitors or colleagues do it with great success and would like to apply it to their own business.
I would suggest that anyone embarking on this journey would treat this with the same importance and considerations as one would have with a decision to open up a new physical branch or outlet.
Key requirements for setting up an eCommerce website
Where will I locate my shop? – Are you aiming to open this outlet at the back of your house or in the main street of a large town. Your ‘domain name’ serves as your address so purchasing one that reflects what you do and your target audience is key e.g. if selling in Ireland ‘www.yourcompanyname.ie’ might work (especially if what you sell is described in your company name).
What am I stocking in my shop? – Are you putting your entire stock database up on-line or a select number of products?
What price am I charging on-line? - Do you offer a special on-line rate? What price should existing traditional customers expect to pay? Will they get their special prices and terms?
Who pays for shipping? – Is there a standard shipping rate?
How will I accept payments? – There are a number of on-line payment services available but they all come with their benefits and drawbacks. Some charge per transaction with others on a percentage basis. Opening a ‘Merchant Account’ with one of these can be time consuming and needs to be planned well ahead of the launch or opening.
How are the goods packed and delivered?– Is there a solid warehouse process in place to handle the orders when they do come in? What happens in an ‘out of stock’ scenario?
What about ‘Returns’? – A process needs to be in place for handling returned goods and refunds. A higher percentage of returns should be anticipated from an on-line environment.
How are you going to promote your new shop? – THIS IS THE BIG ONE! If you were opening a new physical outlet, you would consider all sorts of advertising and promotion to gain footfall through your door. The EXACT same, if not more, is needed to get traffic to your website. There are numerous ways of doing this but each will take a significant investment both in terms of time and money:
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – Are you competing with some big names for decent Google ranking? Do you know how it works and what is expected?
Pay per Click - – a more expensive method and can haemorrhage money if not carefully controlled
Inbound links - – are other sites happy to promote you. Google loves inbound links – moves you right up the pages
Social Media – depending on your target market, this may play a major part in your promotion – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc etc …….
Traditional Marketing - – use traditional marketing methods such as printed media, leaflet drops, in-store promotions etc to direct traffic to your website
Measure, measure, measure - – make sure that you are on top of the game in terms of measuring key indicators for your on-line business:
Time spent on site
On-Line salesKeyword analysis
So now we have answered some of the questions above are you really prepared for selling online? There are many considerations but it need not be a daunting prospect with the correct information to hand.