Having an online store lets you tap into an unlimited market of potential customers, not just in the local area, but worldwide. Because your online store is open 24/7, you can generate sales even when your physical store is closed. And without limitations, you may choose to offer a wider range of products online than in your physical store.
In terms of customer engagement, an online store can improve accessibility by saving your customers time and travel to access your products. They can browse or search at their leisure, compare products and prices, and get their purchases shipped wherever they wish.
Here are a few things to consider before you take your store online:
Does taking your store online make sense from a financial standpoint? How might your online store affect your physical store’s performance?
Are you products and services already over-saturated online by businesses offering similar wares? Are there niche services or products you can offer?
Who will manage the online store by entering new products, updating existing products, dealing with customer inquiries, and fulfilling orders? Can this be done with your existing staff complement, or will you need to hire additional staff?
What will you offer online? Will you sell the same products as in your physical store, or a reduced or expanded offering?
What software or third-party service will you use to create your store? You could create the store using WordPress and Woocommerce (no-cost, open-sourced software), or alternatively you could use a fully-hosted eCommerce solution such as Amazon, Shopify or Wix. The former allows you full control over the shopping experience and the flexibility to add the features you require, but you’ll have to look after linking payment services and safely protecting online user data. The latter take some of the guesswork out of setting up your store (Shopify has a built-in payment system, for example), but may not offer the flexibility you require. Often, extra functionality comes at an increased cost.
How will you accept payments from online clients? Will you use your merchant credit card account, or a payment gateway such as PayPal, Stripe, or Amazon Payments?
Will you limit sales to just Canada? Canada and the US? Or open sales up to a worldwide clientele?
How will the products be shipped? How much will it cost? Will you use Canada Post only, or also ship by courier? Will you offer in-town delivery for your local customers? How about “hold for pickup”? Will you offer shipping insurance?
Will you ship the products yourself, or use a fulfillment company such as Fulfillment by Amazon or Shipwire?
Will you draw from the same inventory as your physical store, or will you maintain an online-only inventory so customers will know (i.e. be guaranteed) that a product is in-stock when they order it?
How will you handle returns or exchanges from online customers?
You’ll no longer be face to face with your customers. You’ll need to consider steps to protect yourself financially from fraudsters. Vetting services are available for online purchases so you’ll have reasonable assurances that the customers and credit cards you are dealing with are legitimate.
How will you promote your online business using a combination of both traditional and online media? Are you social media savvy? You’ll be competing against all other companies offering the same products and services. How will you stand out from the crowd?
Think you’d like to make the leap? Give us a call today at 204-728-3037 and arrange a no-cost consultation. We’ll help you make an informed decision about your eCommerce options!