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If you’re operating a retail business, you know the importance of eCommerce in 2019. Shoppers love buying things online, and to stay competitive in today’s market, you simply must have a means of selling your products to the connected masses.

Starting an online store can seem like a daunting task, but modern tools and solutions have made the process relatively simple.

Before starting out, you must decide whether your move into online selling is an expansion or a complete change of your business model. Many retailers and manufacturers have completely stepped out of the brick-and-mortar shop front to cut their overhead — is this the route you want to take in the long term, or will you always have a physical shop?

Next, you will need to consider logistics and fulfillment. Do you have the means to make or obtain, store, and ship your product? Adding eCommerce to your business model means that you will need to operate a mail-order-type operation. You may need to secure storage space or work out drop-shipping arrangements with your suppliers. You will also need to sort out your shipping department (if you need one), which may mean taking on more staff.

The next step is defining your online presence. A large number of retailers start their eCommerce venture on established sites such as eBay or Amazon. You will want to ask yourself if these venues are the best way to reach your customers, or if creating your own online store is the better option. Most eCommerce businesses will leverage existing platforms AND operate their own website.

Opting to use auction sites or Amazon will cut a lot of the work out of launching your eCommerce venture, but as your sales increase, you should expect to pay for third-party tools that make it easier to manage bulk listings.

The more costly option is the development and operation of your own site. The benefit of going this route is that you have full control over the look and feel of the store. Your business probably already has a website of some kind, so you won’t have to start at the beginning with buying a domain name and finding a host, but you will need to:

  • Redesign your website to include an eCommerce store.
  • Add your products to the store, including descriptions and high-quality photographs.
  • Put a payment processing system in place.
  • Develop a workflow for fulfillment so that you’re notified of orders and can ship out your product in a timely fashion.
  • Be prepared to provide customer service via phone or email.

The good news is that you won’t have to do this alone. There are many companies who specialize in building eCommerce websites and helping you set your business up for success in online retailing.

Advertising Your eCommerce Store

Options here are nearly limitless. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start by informing your existing customers of your online store and ask them for feedback on its look and ease-of-use.
  • Consult with or hire an experienced digital marketing agency. Online selling is a science that has been perfected over many years — it’s best not to try to reinvent the wheel!
  • Make sure your site is Search Engine Optimized for customers who might be searching for your product.
  • Consider Google AdWords if you have the marketing budget to support a paid campaign.
  • Social media can be a great way for small businesses to advertise for free. Choose a single platform (such as Facebook or Instagram) and focus on building a following there.

Questions to Ask Before Expanding Your Business Online

  • Have your customers asked if you have a web page?
  • Are you losing customers to businesses that have an online store?
  • Do you have the resources to run a packing and shipping operation?
  • Will the profits generated from your online store justify the upfront and continuing costs?
  • Do you work with a trusted IT provider who can help you manage the technology side of your business?

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