Integrating an online store into your business Featured

Tips to integrating an online store for your ‘real’ bricks and mortar business

Online shopping is ‘da bomb’ right?  There is no annoying sales assistants, prices are clearly marked on items, you can take as long or as little as you like without feeling like an a..hole if you walk out of the store with nothing.  I can understand why consumers are taking on e-commerce simplicity over shopping in real bricks and mortar shops.  But for those bricks and mortar businesses this inevitably means there is less cha-ching and more ho-hum going on in store.

So as a business owner you might be considering entering the world of e-commerce or online shopping (as most non-tech people refer to it).  It sounds easy, and you feel confident you’ll nail it, as you are a supreme retail operator.  You commission someone to build your site, it’s ready to go and now its up to you to load inventory and start selling….six months later and still nothing has happened.  Sadly I have seen this too many times in my career, business owners invest good money into stepping their business up into the online world only to underestimate the time and commitment that is involved in running an online store.  Speaking from my experience, if you decide to go down this route you are pretty much building a second business….Question, is have you got the time or the funds to make it work?

When you decide to build and online shopping platform there are a monumental amount of tasks involved in getting it up and running.  There are many web designers out there who will happily build a shopping website for you, but they don’t necessarily mentor you through the process of getting it up and running.  Safe to say not many of these web designers have probably even worked a day in their life in a retail environment before (tip..maybe a good question to ask when seeking a web designer).  So to help you out I have put together a comprehensive run down of things you will need to do or consider before you take on this project.

Write content about your business

Every website needs to have content about the business in order to attract some attention from search engines.  If your product is a particular niche or point of difference, then a page about your specialisation is a must.  Other pages to consider writing about are:

  •      About us (your story)
  •      Meet the team
  •      Customer testimonials
  •      About your brands

Think about your product offering strategy

It’s all well and good to stock 1000 items in your real bricks and mortar store, but uploading these products to your website can be tedious.  Unless you can afford a fully integrated point of sale system/website store, than achieving this task may require the service of a few data entry consultants.  If you are just starting out and going down the do-it-yourself option of loading inventory I recommend a few simple tips:

  • Start out with a small sample of products e.g. your top performing products, longer shelf life, core product range
  • Add a sample of seasonal lines to boost the range and keep customers coming back to your site
  • Use a spreadsheet to breakdown the requirements of each product and the fields required by your website before loading them online e.g. product description, sku/product code, price/s, tax
  • Utilise suppliers product descriptions, image databases – always ask them for the data first before you manually do it (might save you a great deal of time)
  • Ask your web designer if they can bulk upload products from your spreadsheet

Be clear about your policies

Like any retail shop you need to have clear policies documented and clearly accessible to the customer on your website. A few policies you may need to consider having are:

  • Refunds & Exchanges
  • Delivery policies
  • Order cancellation
  • Legislation such as liquor or tobacco
  • Privacy policy

Consider your security

Taking payment online is quite a simple process with many vendors that can assist you with setting this up e.g. Eway, Stripe, Paypal.  Providing customers a secure platform will ensure higher success rate of sales, less inconvenience caused to clients with their data being stolen online, and minimise risk of transaction reversals on your business (yes, it does happen)!  Using a reputable web host, acquiring an SSL Certificate (security certificate), and using a quality payment platform are vital steps to ensuring a secure online shop.  A good web designer should guide you with these processes.

Visualise your site

Before you go ahead and get your website designed you need a fairly clear vision of what you want your customers to experience when they are on your site.  It is a great idea to check out your competitor’s and even big market players to see what they offer.  Even testing out a few purchases to see what it is you do and don’t like about their sites, a bit of market research will only improve the experience for your customers.  Lastly, remember don’t feel the need to imitate someone else’s website use your imagination and think outside the box!

Have your branding elements sorted

Once you have a clear idea about your website design, it is vital to get your website branding elements sorted for your web designer.  Provide them with a bank of high quality logos and images in both landscape and portrait.  If you don’t have quality images for branding your website, it might be worthwhile to plan a photo shoot or consider purchasing stock images from sites such as Shutterstock or iStock photo.

Have a regular maintenance plan for after launch

If you want your website to be successful you need to have your finger on the pulse.  This will require at least one person to dedicate a minimum one-day a week to keeping the site fresh with new products and adding exciting, rich content to attract customers.  Ensure that you and your staff receive proper training on the site so you can manage it in-house and iron out any issues early on in the piece.

When I decided to invest my time into building a fully-fledged online store for my florist I made some fundamental changes in my business. I actually relocated my shop and halved my rent to take on this task!!  The money I saved in rent I could put towards staff to run my operations of my retail shop whilst I built my online store.  Looking back now if I hadn’t taken this project on, as seriously as I did, I honestly do not think my shop would be operating anymore.   Retail is a tough gig, so getting yourself online is a vital step to growing your business, but remember it is not an easy task especially if you want make it work!



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