You've put the hard work in, building your business from the ground up, and now you're forced to go online!
You're moving from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce.
Fortunately, that doesn't mean starting again.
Far from it, as you might already have much of what you need, such as products, suppliers, bookkeeping, and business registration.
But what you might not have are a website, social media accounts, distribution channels, payment gateways, and all the online tools that go with them.
And if you're new to eCommerce, it can feel quite overwhelming.
But don't worry, trust me, if you've set up a successful business (at any level), you can master eCommerce.
And once you do, you can sit back and watch as your business grows 24/7!
Buy a domain name
Your domain is crucially important as it's the address consumers will use to find you. Ideally, it should be the same as your brick-and-mortar store and the .com extension.
If (yourname.com) isn't available, add a simple suffix to it (yournamestore.com). Only use an alternative domain extension, such as a state version (yourname.ca for California); if you've exhausted all .com alternatives and your business trades locally, never use hyphens or numbers.
Like WooCommerce and Shopify, most eCommerce platforms provide a domain name service, and there are also various domain buying platforms to choose from.
Set up your online store
Once you have a domain, you can set up your online store.
There are now numerous eCommerce platforms that enable you to go 100% online with zero technical skills. And complete business platforms like Square.com allow you to turn a website into an eCommerce store that supports your original brick and mortar. Or you can use a WordPress platform, create your own site, avoid the fees, and use eCommerce plugins to customize it for sales and payments, etc.
Here are two different approaches to taking your business online.
Shopify — Shopify.com is an eCommerce platform you use to build and host your online store. Shopify scores high on ease-of-use, provides payment processing, clean modifiable web themes to suit your brand's look and feel, and shipping services, including calculated shipping rates and labeling.
Shopify charges a monthly subscription and a transaction percentage fee.
If you want a simplified solution that enables you to get online fast and provides most of your eCommerce needs, use an eCommerce platform.
Square — If you already have a website, you can plug in their eCommerce tools or add a checkout button, and you're good to go. But what Square really provides is a complete business package. Including website development and hosting, order fulfillment, shipping, and an array of innovative business software and hardware tools to help you run your business.
The Square option is for those who want to use one platform to run everything; it's more than just an eCommerce platform; it's a way of doing business.
WooCommerce — If you already have a site built on WordPress, then WooCommerce is a great solution to add an ecommerce store to your site. This is a WordPress plugin that provides all the tools you need to sell online.
Choose a Theme
Think of a website theme similar to the interior structure and design of your brick-and mortar-store.
If you're using an eCommerce platform like Shopify, you can find themes in the Shopify theme store, for WordPress, browse their vast theme library relating to your niche.
The theme you choose determines your website's functionality, its look, and your customer's experience. You can choose themes based on industry, such as travel or fashion, and then customize them to suit your brand as you build your site.
Brand your ecommerce store
For many brick and mortar stores serving a local community, branding might not be on the top of your list. However, once you move online branding takes on more importance. This is particulary true if you are selling to a national or state-wide audience.
When branding your store consider the following elements:
Imagery — Infuse your site with colors and imagery that convey your brand and the nature of your business.
Logo design — You may or may not have a logo. But, if not you will need to create one. If you don’t know a local designer, you create a custom logo for your business online quiet easily.
Tagline — Although not necessary, a tagline if a great way to convey your strongest brand message. It works hand in hand with your logo. A tagline is usually no more than 3 to 5 words.
About page — The about page is where you get to speak directly to your customers. Use this page to highlight your brand story, values and mission.
Add essential pages
Your website is nothing without content, and your content plays a pivotal role in your website's performance, ranking, and conversions.
Content includes written text, images, videos, and infographics. All your content must be consumer-focused, and its purpose is to transport your visitor from the landing page to checkout.
Here are the pages your eCommerce site has to have; you can add more as you grow:
Homepage — Your homepage is your shop window to the world. It must be of clean design, have a navigation bar, your contact details, a brief description of who you are, what you do, and how you help your audience, a banner/notification bar highlighting offers, and your logo in the top left corner.
Contact Us — You create trust by providing numerous ways for consumer engagement. Try and include email, phone, live chat, social media, a contact form, and business times.
Product pages — You need beautiful, professional images with scroll and magnification capabilities, descriptive product text with headings, subheadings and bullet points, and customer rankings and reviews on all your product pages.
Return and exchange policy — According to an Accenture Strategy 2018 survey, "66 percent of consumers think transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand". It pays to be clear on your policies.
Shipping FAQ — Shipping times and fees play an essential role in consumers purchasing decisions. Ensure you have an easy-to-understand system in place, with every possible FAQ answered.
Most eCommerce stores provide in-house shipping, or 3rd party plugin shipping solutions. And all provide you with the relevant information your consumers need.
Set up Your Payment Gateways
Today's consumers want as many payment gateway options as possible to pay for products and services.
Credit cards are still the primary form of payment, but now your business also needs to accept third-party payment services (like Amazon Pay, PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay).
Ecommerce platforms also provide payment gateways, much like Amazon, it collects and saves payment and shipping details, enabling a convenient return customer check out.
To accept online credit card payments, you'll need a merchant or business account with a payment provider. Payment providers require you to have a Tax ID, but as you're already in business, that shouldn't be a problem. When choosing a payment provider, ensure their platform integrates seamlessly with your eCommerce store.
Most popular alternative payment gateways include:
- Secure Pay.
Ensure Shoppers Know You're Open for Business
You need your audience to know you exist and where to find you. You make those happen by running marketing campaigns that target your audience's preferred platforms and by promoting your website.
Here are five channels and strategies that can help you do it:
Content Creation — To drive organic (free) traffic to your website, you must put relevant and valuable content on your website and social media platforms. It could be a blog, on-site content, infographics, pictures on your Instagram account, or videos on YouTube.
SEO (search engine optimization) — The better your website's SEO, the better your search engine rankings will be. Focus on using targeted keywords that people use when looking for your product, ensure your site is mobile-friendly and fast loading.
Social Media — You can announce your arrival using social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. Aim for quality, not quantity, and only use the media platforms your target audience is on. Post frequently, interact with your audience, provide free advice, and link everything back to your website.
Influencers — Referrals are great for business. A powerful way of getting the word out there is partnering with influencers to promote your brand. Use micro-influencers that are popular in your niche, as they're more affordable, and their audience will have a genuine interest in your products.
Google My Business — If you haven't yet created your Google My Business account, do so now, and it will appear in Google searches and Google Maps when anyone searches for your business in that area.
Bonus tip: It also helps your website's SEO rankings.
Time to Start Selling Online
You now have everything you need to take your store to the online world. As you’re going through the above steps, remember that the most important part of building an online presence is creating a store that your customers will connect with. Set up a store that works, create a brand around it, and start getting your name out there!