Retail advice – If you are not online already, should you be?

Two important factors for the growth of your business are the ability to find new customers and positive communicate with existing ones. If you capture these two then you should be on for a successful sales record. Online presence, through one of the selling platforms available, or your own e-commerce store, is a popular way to do this.

You do not need multiple storefronts to create a global brand. You do not need a global brand to sell globally. Everything from dog toys, food, training programs to veterinary prescriptions can be sold online and it is where a large proportion of buyers like to shop. You should ask yourself what do your customers like to do? Do they shop online for everything else but your service? Or are they just waiting for you to offer it?

Having an online shop opens you up to 24/7 sales, potentially all over the world. You’ll no longer be held to the opening times you can offer in your actual store or shop. A successful e-commerce store will allow you to create a passive income. Once you have invested the initial financial and time set up and can reap the rewards as time goes on.

Should you be on a sales platform? eBay? Amazon? What level of competition will you face? Very stiff is the probable answer. Can you cope with the pressure of letting another company call the shots on what you can and can’t advertise and sell? There are a lot of opportunities on these platforms, that being the case there are a lot of very motivated people working them.

You will also be able to compete within your market place as far as you are willing to ship. It isn’t just a better price that drives people to shop online. Convenience, next day delivery, range of products and ease of use of site all factor in and are metrics that must be considered.

The more concise and complete your mission statement the better. A blurb, ingredients, pictures or videos all add value but it’s that statement of purpose that will automate your sales process via the web. If items are of a specialist nature within the industry you already have a head start.

Be mindful of time spent answering emails and inquiries. When you first go online you’ll be sat watching for those first sales to come rolling in and with them will be emails at 12.01am asking about products. It is easy to get lost and never switch off. Set your working times from the start and make sure you manage your customers’ expectations with an out of office reply or automated order received email.

Security is – and should be – one of your biggest considerations. How secure is your mailing list? Do you comply with GDPR? How secure are your online payments? How secure are your admin login details? Because they will be stolen and you could very well lose access to your whole online investment.

I can’t stress enough how unprepared you and your business are for the hacking world to find you without security in place. Losing a days trading to a DDoS (Direct denial of service) attack is one thing. Your whole mailing list getting hacked through a backdoor you left open and getting their accounts emptied is quite another. If you are not confident in this go and find someone who is, and pay them to protect you. No level of encryption and or security is enough now.

  • Do you have a structure in place to answer questions, pack orders and arrange for courier collection or do you need more staff for this?
  • Do you have the skills to deal with your online store being affected by a technical fault or do you need to find a good tech person?
  • How much are you spending on the site? The payment account set up or hosting organised. How long will it take to payback?

The above considerations sounds expensive but it doesn’t have to be. You can offer your products via platforms such as Amazon and Etsy or go and have an online store of your own creation. The budget is what you decide. What you do need to consider is the commissions you will pay to third party sites against the set up cost and maintenance of your own. Many people find the cut they have to give eBay galling but 1,300 people became eBay millionaires in 2018 so the opportunities are there.

At the end of the day you need to think about your products, your customers and your competition. If any one of these has a heavy online presence you should seriously consider getting on board and making your own waves. If two of these are online often you are behind the times. If all three know more about the internet than you do you are probably looking at red lined bills and wondering what went wrong. Don’t ever think your business is too small or too local. Global giants and local millionaires are born through online presence now like they have never before. Keep at it.

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