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It is important to remember that just because it is now easier for businesses to sell online that doesn’t mean that it is now also easier to be successful at selling online.
Anyone embarking on this journey should treat it with the same level of importance and consideration as opening up a new physical branch or outlet. It requires plenty of thought, sufficient time and adequate resources.
At an early stage in the planning process with our customers we sit down to map out and discuss the fundamental aspects related to not just setting up the online store but also to how it will be managed going forward. If you are thinking that an online sales strategy could be right for your business it is worth taking the time to document your answers to the questions below.
1. What business problem would you like your e-commerce site to solve or what opportunity would you like it to target?
General goal setting will provide a broad strategic focus for your internal team and your website/systems provider. Set objectives and KPIs that can be measured and that are relevant to the overall goal you would like to see your e-commerce site achieve., e.g; sales value target, no. of online customers, average order value etc.
2. Do you plan on integrating your e-commerce site with your business system?
You can choose zero level, low level or to have a high level of integration with your existing business system. The cheapest and easiest way of establishing an e-commerce presence is to choose the low zero integration option. If you plan on only processing a handful of orders every day, then this option would probably be sufficient.
For those businesses with serious e-commerce ambitions high level integration offers multiple benefits with the automatic synchronisation of data between your on-line store and your business system saving time and money, reducing human errors and ensuring your customers don’t purchase out-of-stock items or incorrectly priced merchandise.
3. Who will be your assigned project manager for your e-commerce site?
We would advise appointing a project manager to this venture. Selling online could be a hugely successful opportunity for your business but, as with your store or trade counter, you wouldn’t leave it without a manager; someone responsible for ensuring you attract customers to your site, drive sales conversions and also ensure your customers remain satisfied.
4. Will your e-commerce site target business to business or business to consumer customers, or both?
There are key differences between a b2b and b2c e-commerce site that you must take into account during the planning and design phase. For example, registration approval may be required for your b2b customers to allow them to access their specific pricing terms etc.
5. What products will you stock in your online shop?
Are you planning on putting your entire stock database up on-line or a select number of products?
Is there money to be made specialising in a particular product range only? Is there enough of a margin to be gained when you take into account the costs of purchasing and shipping the items?
Once you specify the product range to be included you then need to define product types, supply product descriptions, sort your products into categories, add appealing product images, define product tags and other SEO parameters for your entire product range. You must do this to make the product search and comparison easy for customers, resulting in more purchases. Setting up products in the best way possible is highly important for an online store.
6. Do you need to make any amends to your order management systems to facilitate e-commerce?
Payments – How will you accept payments? Opening a merchant account with an on-line payment service needs to be planned well ahead of the site launch date. For b2b sites who will be responsible for authorising online credit check requests?
Logistics – If you specify delivery times who will be responsible for ensuring these times are met? What happens in an ‘out of stock’ scenario? Will you manage on-line orders from multiple branches?
Shipping – Will a standard shipping rate apply? Will you offer free shipping? How is shipping calculated – by weight, volume, distance etc.
Customer Service – Who will deal with customer service queries, complaints and returns?
If you would like more information on selling online then download our free guide to selling online to find out if it is the right option for your business.