In a world where various business platforms are gradually shifting from physical to online presence, many shop owners and prospective entrepreneurs can’t help but consider building online stores for their establishments. If you are one of them, then you are on the right path.
Offering your products and services online wouldn’t only grow your business, but will expose it to opportunities an ordinary brick and mortar platform can’t give you. The problem is that people are often dissuaded by the process—either the unfamiliarity or the legwork—involved in establishing an online store.
Whether you trade on locally made shoes or you plan on opening a new company that manufactures baby diapers, if the process is what’s stopping you from putting your business out there online for the world to see and patronise, simply follow these easy steps ranging from creating your initial business plan to getting professional help for your product description.
Your Business Plan
This is very important for both physical and online businesses. Every successful businessman started with a plan—that is, a breakdown of his agendas for the business and a roadmap detailing the steps he has to take to ensure the business reaches the goals he set for it. Not starting with one means setting yourself and your business up for failure.
A good business plan, whether for a brick and mortar store or an online business, begs and solves the questions:
- ‘Why do I need to go into this business?’
- ‘What am I selling?’
- ‘Is there a viable demand for my products and services?’
- ‘What’s my business’ brand name?’
- ‘Who are my customers?’
- ‘Does my business have a competition?’
- ‘Where will my business be in the next five or ten years?’
- ‘Do I possess the necessary skills for running such a venture?’
- ‘Where can I find experts in the field?’
- ‘Do I have the necessary finance or do I need investors?’
- ‘How do I manage finance?’
- ‘Do I need employees?’
- ‘How do I market and advertise my products and services?’
- ‘How do I measure my business’ performance?’
The questions go on. Remember that asking them is as important as answering them. Once you have solved those problems and laid out a plan, then you are ready to proceed to the next step.
Choose a Legal Structure
This is where you assess the type of business you are going into and decide which one of the various business structures suites it. Is it a sole proprietorship? A partnership? A corporation? An S corporation and a limited liability company (LLC)? Or a limited liability partnership (LLP)?
Whichever you decide on, do bear in mind that it will affect how much you pay in taxes and the amount of paperwork necessary for making your business and its name legal.
Choose the Products and Services You Offer
Choosing the right products and services to sell, especially in today’s very competitive market, is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although you have already listed those products on your business plan, it is essential that you revisit them again and evaluate them with regards to what’s in the market today.
Why? Because there is a huge difference between the products and services consumed today and those consumed in the nineties. Also, there are thousands of products and services being sold online today. Can you make yours stand out from the crowd? If yes, then what makes them stand out?
Here some more questions you ought to clear out:
- What exactly are you selling?
- Are you excited about what you want to sell?
- Would you purchase and use it if someone else was selling it?
- Who will buy it?
- Is there a demand for your product and service?
- How does your product meet your customers’ needs?
- How do you obtain your product—from a supplier or do you manufacture it?
- What’s the cost of producing it?
- Is the price of your product reasonable and will it sustain your business?
- How will you deliver your products to buyers?
- Can you envision yourself selling what you are offering today in the next five to ten years?
Get Barcodes for Your Products
If you want to legally sell products to people online, then you have to procure Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes, especially in the United States. But if you are selling your products internationally, then you will need European Article Numbering international retail product code (EAN-13) barcodes.
Depending on whether your products are of various sizes, colours et cetera or not, you will need separate codes for each product.
Have Your Inventory Ready
Before you officially go online, you ought to have a reasonable inventory of your products ready. Do not make the mistake of going live with your online store, only to realise, as sales start pouring in, that you don’t have enough of the purchased products ready for shipping.
This is where you also consider the issue of storage and shipping, because you can’t have a sizeable inventory without a conducive place to store them and a means to ship them to customers. If you can’t afford a warehouse, then consider using companies like Amazon that can store your items and ship them out as your customers make their purchases.
Set Up an E-Commerce Website
This is the platform on which you want to sell your products and services. Hence, you must take extra care to make sure you get it right.
First consider which webhosting site to use. Top hosting sites provide you with a means to purchase a domain name as well as the tools needed to set up your store. Research online stores similar to yours and find out the platforms they use in order to know which hosting service suites your business. LINUX VPS @ Open Host is a popular path treaded by many ecommerce store owners.
There are also many other things to consider:
- Have you thought deeply about the domain name to use and how it reflects on your brand?
- Do you need a website designer?
- Do you need copywriters to help with the descriptions of your products and even write copies for your website pages?
- You, of course, need a blog where you can post informative content related to your products and services and interact with your customers.
- Have you set up your shopping cart?
By now you are ready to launch your online store. Be mindful that online business doesn’t end in launching your store. Like in any other business platform, it is just a start to the months or even years of efforts that will unleash your establishment’s success.
Therefore, as soon as you have launched your online store, proceed to adverting and marketing. Depending on your finance, your marketing and adverting efforts can go beyond the simple use of word of mouth, social networking sites, driving sales through mobile marketing, and content marketing via your blog. It can even extend to the use of Google AdWords, press releases etc.
No matter how far your finance takes you, remember that dedication to what you started can be the difference between success and failure. Your dedication can come in the way of maintaining your business by seeing to technical aspects like fixing a bug on your website, the efficient management of your inventory, customer service through email marketing etcetera.
And always find ways to remain enthusiastic about your business.