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How to take your business online – a simplified step-by-step guide
Taking your business online isn’t easy. Since the pandemic, over 67% of the consumers have reported that their shopping habits have evolved, and they prefer to shop online, or at least thoroughly research online before purchasing. Retailers have evolved into the growing internet space, which has proven very lucrative and profitable and has improved customer experience and convenience to a huge extent.
For example, grocery stores started going online less than two weeks into COVID, and in less than three months’ time, the grocery eCommerce business achieved three to five years’ worth of growth. Over 20-30% of the grocery businesses in the United States moved online during these testing times. Since COVID, customers have lowered their loyalty towards specific brands, and have adapted to purchase products that are either lower in cost or out-of-stock at their locations. Customers have also started enjoying contactless payments, social media shopping, and such.
Today, the growing access to the internet in the hands of consumers have created a need for businesses to take their business online. Whether you are a tiny grocery store in the corner of your town or a small business owner, there are huge benefits to set up an online store. However, there are a few things you need to understand before taking your business online.
- Why take your business online?
- Building your online store
- Making your store eCommerce ready
- Increase your customer reach
- Evaluate and grow your online business
Why take your business online in 2022?
While taking your business online in 2022 is a no brainer, here are some of the reasons that will give your confidence about your idea. The simplification of taking your business online will enhance your brand and fuel your business.
Reach more customers easily
One of the many benefits of taking your business online is the elimination of limitations and timings. Your physical store could be located in any location, and your customers can purchase from you across the country or even the world. By building an online store, you remove the limitations of geography and in less than a month’s time, you can grow your local business to global.
No time or location limits
Since there is no need for a physical storefront or transactions, your customers can access your store and place orders from their preferred location and convenience. Doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or regular business hours, you don’t need to be in front of the customer to convince them about your products or services. WIth an online store, customers who haven’t purchased, but simply visited your store, can be converted into leads and eventually into customers.
Branding your business
Today, customers are first researchers. They definitely check a business’s brand online before making a purchase. Customers check your online presence to guage your brand authority by making judgements about your product listings on your website. Customers also check user reviews, and such. Frankly speaking, the lack of online presence can seriously impact the trustworthiness of your business.
Thus, having an online presence is not only important but essential for anyone who is looking to brand their business for long term goals. By building an online presence, you can help your customers boost confidence in your, which eventually affects how they make purchase decisions and conversions.
Cost effective business growth
By taking your business online, you will be building completely new sales channels at a very cost effective rate. Plus, an online business will help you automate repetitive tasks, target the right market, automate your accounting process, and manage your inventory efficiently. All your sales and marketing data is collected and analyzed from one common place, helping you make better decisions in the future. With all these advantages, you will be able to minimize your cost of business development to a great extent.
1. Taking your business online – Strategy
Now that you have a fair idea about the perks of taking your business online, let’s understand the steps involved in implementing the process.
1. Market research and first steps
First, let’s assume that you already have a business offline, and given that assumption, it’ll be easier to outline the market research part. But, taking your business online changes some aspects of your business in transformative manners. So, some of the steps you’ve already taken when starting your offline business will be reevaluated and analyzed keeping in mind the online strategy required for success.
- Evaluate the possible scenarios
- Inventory management
- Finalizing your pricing strategy
- Building an online business plan
1.1 Evaluate the possible scenarios
If your business has been primarily offline, it’s important to understand whether it actually makes sense to move online. There are possibilities and factors to consider before you make the move. Here is a list of scenarios that will help you evaluate.
- Market growth opportunities – For taking your business online, you need to understand if there are possible opportunities and room for you in it. You can evaluate the market visibility using some of the following aspects:
- Market size – does that market have enough room for growth? How hard it will be to compete against existing competitors?
- Online audience – does your customer prefer to buy online? Are their shopping habits aligned with their goals? Would you buy your product online?
- Market Demand and product visibility – now that you understand what your competitors are up to and you understand if you have a gap to fill, determine the potential of your product. For example, will your product help customers look to buy similar products online? Will it offer better pricing, better shipping options, or in general, simplify the life of the customer by purchasing from your directly?
- Figure out the market demand for your product
- Determine if selling online will bring the expected profit
1.2 Inventory management
Taking a business online offers your will opportunities for growth. However, with growth comes a challenge to manage inventory. Traditional methods of inventory management are not viable any more. You will need better methods to manage your inventory that aligns with your online store’s customer interaction, purchasing decisions, and demand. Inventory management becomes an integral part of your online business because you will need to constantly stay updated about which products are high in demand, and which products need to be quickly removed from your store so that better products can be placed in front of the customer.
- Inventory and stock expenses – With an online store, you might need to manage a large inventory to quickly fulfill orders. You also need to keep your suppliers and manufacturers in the loop to meet with the growing demand of your products.
- When it comes to taking your business online, you will sometimes experience what we call demand shocks due to market fluctuations. You will be dealing with enforceable customer reactions, which will need you to sometimes overstock the inventory or oversell without inventory making it difficult to fulfill orders.
- With increase in product demand, comes the complexity of inventory management. Taking your business online without preparing for the complexity will push you towards finding temporary solutions to challenges, which migth not end up well as an integrated solution.
But these problems are sorted by most eCommerce platforms for you. So, you won’t have to go through a steep learning curve when it comes to inventory management. You will also be gathering tremendous amounts of data from your online store, gathering insights on how you can better manage your inventory over time, which you can utilize to predict your inventory requirements.
Inventory management like Just in Time, First in First Out, and Six Sigma can be used to improve your inventory management process. To make the process easier, platforms like Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce offer inventory management dashboards to easily track your stock. You also have a huge number of third party plugins for efficient inventory management.
1.3 Finalize your pricing strategy
If you are following the steps correctly, you will have taken care of market research and inventory management. Now comes the most important part – determining a pricing strategy. It’s understandable that you already have a pricing strategy set for your offline store, but now that you are diving into a completely new business growth model, you might want to evaluate the pricing strategy by looking into opportunities and risks involved.
For example, your competitor is selling a similar product online, and your product is visible exactly next to theirs. How would you price the product in such a manner that your ideal customer would still purchase your product instead of theirs?
When it comes to taking your business online, you will need to offer better pricing compared to your competitors, and also target the right segment of customers, who are looking for exactly the product you’re selling. You can charge a higher price, but that requires you to offer better options compared to your competitors. Higher customization in products can compete with products with less customization and lower prices.
1.4 Building an online business plan
When it comes to taking your business online, you will need to rethink your business plan. By building a business plan, you can set a blueprint for business growth, and a roadmap for how you want your business to operate and scale. On the basis of all the importance you have gathered, you will be in a position to understand the change you need to make in your existing offline business plan. Just a quick google search will offer hundreds of different business plan templates that align with your goals.
Once you’re done with this, you’re ready to build your online store. However, at this stage, it is beneficial to start looking for eCommerce development agencies who will help you design and build your online store at affordable rates to decrease your time to market.
2. Start building your online store
Now that we have market research ready, we can start building our online store. The process is pretty straightforward if you have a reference point and an agency sorted.
2.1 How to choose the right eCommerce platform
Most businesses start with Amazon, FlipKart, eBay, and Etsy, which offer ready options for businesses to start selling online. However, these platforms come with a price. They charge commission upto 10-15% on sales prices, which might be your total profit when you’re starting out. Thus, it is better to launch your online store, which give you 100% freedom and opportunities for growth. By launching your online store, you can create your own customer journeys, which help you convert your customers’ offline experience into your online presence.
Many startups today choose to build independent stores using Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento to take their business online. In fact, independent stores can integrate with other marketplaces and sales channels. Getting in touch with an eCommerce development company can help you understand your requirements and choose the right platform for faster growth.
2.2 Find a domain and hosting service
The right domain name is easily understandable and represents your brand. It also tells your customers about the first impression they’ll make about your store. By choosing a domain name that is similar to your offline store, you will be able to leverage the trust and transfer it to your online store. Also, in this competitive day and time, there are competitors with similar products and brand names. Think about how you can stand apart from your competitor by choosing a domain name that matches with your brand identity and products.
The basics of selecting a good domain name are simple – make it familiar, spell it correctly, avoid complex words, hyphens, and above all, try to keep it short. Once you’ve finalized a domain, make sure you check if it’s available and not already registered by some other brand.
Once you’re ready with the domain, think about hosting. A domain or web host offers servers for a website to be located and accessed from. You also need to make sure that the hosting service offers enough storage, speed, reliability and an uptime guarantee. A good domain host will also support online payment integrations.
If you’re unsure about your domain and hosting, approaching your eCommerce development agency is a very good option because they can offer reliable domain and hosting at bulk prices.
2.3 Design your website
Just like you would make your offline store organized and properly designed for your customers, you will need to design the website keeping in mind your customer tastes and preferences. Take up elements from your offline store and let the existing brand image guide your choices.
A good eCommerce development agency will offer a number of design options to choose from. They will also make sure your brand image is properly aligned with your goals and objectives.
2.4 Promote your products on your store
Just like a traditional offline store, your products will be arranged in aisles and shelves to help customers make purchase decisions. Your online store is simply a digital counterpart of your offline store and you will need to promote some specific products just like you would in your offline store. While offline stores have people who guide your decisions, online stores have no representatives to help your customers make the right purchases. There is nobody to guide your customers about prices, variants, options, discounts, and offers. All of this has to be done directly in the store, by placing the right information in front of your customers. So, here’re some quick ideas on how to showcase your products and services.
- Product Images – Make sure you upload high quality product images with zoom functionality. All images need to be of the same size and quality to ensure coherence.
- Product Descriptions – Try to simplify your description and avoid complex jargons, cliches, and long sentences. Try to offer information that is relevant to your customer. For example, a customer purchasing a dress will need to know about the fabric, washing instructions, fitting, return policy, refund policy,
- Product Categories – Offering customers a property organized store adds to their purchasing experience. Adding filters, sorting options, pricing options, and search will help your customers find the right product without losing their mind.
3. Get your business ready for eCommerce
So you built your online store, and launched it with products. But that’s not enough. Your customers should be able to pay you and you should be able to fulfill orders. You will need to integrate a payment system and align your business processes with the store. You will also have to manage the shipping and fulfillment. Let’s discuss this in more detail.
- Integrate a payment system
- Align business processes with your store
- Handle shipping and fulfillment
3.1 Integrate a payment system
Most stores require two types of payment options: cash on delivery and credit cards. However, there are many different payment options available at your disposal. For example, you can integrate payments like NetBanking and UPI (for Indian customers) and even offer crypto payments to an extent. Your eCommerce development agency takes care of the integration. However, you can also configure the payment gateway manually by signing up for services like Stripe, Paypal, or RazorPay, which connects directly to your bank account and charges a minimum of 2% of the transaction to complete the payment.
3.2 Align business processes with your store
With a host of available options available these days, you can easily integrate your online store with your physical storefront’s back-end accounting, marketing, manufacturing, logistics, and inventory management systems. It’s seamlessly integrated using automation apps that enable you to access your workflow and processes into a single system, making the overall process seamless.
3.3 Handle Shipping and Fulfillment
Now that you have taken away the geographical limitations of your physical store, you will be fulfilling orders from across the globe. Such orders require management of logistics and delivering the product to the customer on time. You might have to deliver a last minute order in your locality or ship across the country. You will have to come up with a shipping and fulfillment policy. Your eCommerce development agency will help you find and choose the best delivery partner for your product, with reasonable costing and timely delivery.
4. Making your store easy to discover online
The Internet is a jungle of websites and data. How will a potential customer find you online? Creating an eCommerce store is just a starting point. You will have to make your store easily accessible and discoverable for online success. Here are the starting points.
- Optimize you store for search engines
- Setup a Google Business Profile
- Become available to your customers
4.1 Optimize your store for search engines
The first step is to become visible to the search engines. By implementing the best practices, you will be able to rank higher in Google’s search results, which will eventually drive traffic to your website. There are a number of SEO plugins and applications available to help you perform on-page as well as off-page search engine optimization. Some eCommerce development companies offer free off-page optimization as well.
4.2 Setup a Google Business Profile
When your existing customers google the name of your business, they’ll find you on a Google Business Profile. To leverable customers who already know about your business, it is essential to create a Google Business Profile page. This also offers a link to your online store, and thus, your existing customers can not only find you online, but also access all your products and services through your website instantly.
With a google business profile, you brand yourself in front of your customers, potential employees, stakeholders, investors, and the media. It’s important that you present yourself appropriately in your google profile, because it is very much visible and important for your customers to become confident about your brand authority. Here’s how to present your business in Google:
- Be very clear about your business and what it offers
- Highlight you unique selling points to stand apart from your competitors
- Make your profile personable and offer a brief history
- Optimize the content of your business profile
4.3 Become available to your customers
At the end of the day, it’s about how customers find you online and how quickly you can convince them to make a purchase decision. It’s essential to research where your customers are essentially buying from? What website are they visiting and what social media posts are influencing their purchasing decisions? With proper market research, you will know where your customers are.
For example, you can use plugins and some level of custom code to enable selling on multiple sales channels like Amazon. The products that are currently visible on your website will be seamlessly streamed to Amazon and your potential customers on Amazon will be able to purchase directly from there. Ask your eCommerce development company to help you integrate these features to seamlessly integrate your store product with other major online retailers.
If your customers are on Instagram for example, you can easily open an Instagram store directly from your eCommerce platform.
5. Get more customers to you online store
Until the beginning of the 20th century, advertising was a hit or miss. Businesses could only advertise in a widely consumed media. For most businesses, approaching the wrong customer, who doesn’t require their services, even after spending huge amounts of money in advertising, is not logical. Digital marketing has given opportunities to marketers and business owners to approach the right customers at the right time, with the right offers, to help them make better and faster purchasing decisions.
Imagine a business owner starting an online business, and finding that there are no visitors to the store on the launch day. It’s a nightmare for online entrepreneurs and business owners. But there are options. If you want your online store to start receiving visitors and customers, you can start marketing your products and services using digital marketing. Here are some of the available options.
- Digital marketing opportunities
- Digital marketing strategies
- How to define your target audience?
- Define your marketing objectives
- Draw up a marketing plan
5.1 Digital marketing opportunities
The internet has opened up tremendous opportunities for digital marketing. Your potential customers are to make purchasing decisions but also to function in the day to day lives using google searches to emails and more. Each digital interaction from a user is converted into an action which can be utilized to predict customer behavior. Online marketing opportunities include social media marketing, Email and SMS marketing, Google Ads, Youtube, and blogging.
However, the internet is constantly changing and new avenues are being created and introduced. Choose the avene that fits your business perfectly. You will always discover new ways to market your products and services online.
5.2 Digital Marketing Strategies
Using time-tested digital marketing techniques and strategies is a way to go for new stores. For example, you can leverage influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, referral campaigns, conversion rate optimization, personalized campaigns, organic marketing methods, or even guerilla marketing techniques to generate more sales online.
A wholesome strategy for digital marketing will include a mix of some of these strategies. However, you’re never limited to these techniques. There is a lot of room for improvement and innovation.
5.3 How to define your target audience?
Understanding your target audience is the key to defining a solid marketing strategy. Who are your customers? What are their preferenceS? What are their purchasing habits? When do they go online? BUilding an ideal customer persona will help you determine your approach online. Digital marketing is all about personalization, and using a targeted persona, you can reach customers in a very agreeable manner.
5.4 Define your marketing objectives
Every marketing exercise you undertake must have a measurable goal. The essential end goal is always driving more sales, but when you’re trying to define a marketing objective, you need to dive deeper than that. You should be able to answer questions like, where is the marketing funnel clogged? Am I going through lack of awareness or lack of conversion? Define your marketing objectives so that you can solve these sales funnel problems with a pinpointed marketing strategy.
5.5 Build a marketing plan
Building a marketing plan is necessary after you’ve determined your target audience and marketing objectives. You’ll be taking critical decisions by taking into account budgeting factors, crafting the marketing message to influence consumer behavior.
Read more about how to build a marketing plan for your eCommerce business?
6. Evaluate and grow your online business
It is easier than ever to evaluate your online store because of the vast amount of data you’ll accumulate over time. You can’t measure how many people see and respond to a hoarding, but you can measure it when your customers visit your store from Google or Facebook Ads. The data that is captured from your store and marketing activities can be analyzed and put to work. There are three major insights on how to analyze your data and grow your online store:
- Understand your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
- Measure the metrics
- Optimize, iterate, and grow
6.1 Understand your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
There’s an agreeable overlap between KPIs for your physical and online store. In online stores, you can measure granular level data at every stage of marketing and sales, offering an excellent opportunity for you to analyze and iterate upon. Some of the popular KPIs include organic acquisition traffic, cart abandonment rate, email clickthrough rate, impressions, reach, and engagement to name a few. If you integrate Google Analytics to track your traffic data, you’ll be able to get all these metrics right away, without much hassle. The most important part here is that metrics are available, but you need to choose the ones that are right fit for your business growth.
6.2 Measure your analytics
Integrating Google Analytics with your eCommerce store offers great benefits. You can also use Google Tag Manager to measure relative KPIs relevant to your business. Most of the data collection can be implemented without worrying about coding or even logging into your online store. Over time, you will realize which strategies are working and which are not. You will also be able to easily identify your key performance indicators. While your goals and objectives remain unchanged, you will have a fair idea about what works and what doesn’t.
Taking your business online is a brave move, and sometimes, when things don’t go as planned, it can feel daunting. One of the biggest roadblocks business owners face to start selling online is the technicalities involved. You might feel that you need to hire a whole team of individuals to get your store up and running. But that’s not the reality.
You don’t need to go looking after the perfect team and hire them full-time to get your job done. Instead, we offer ready teams that will design, develop, and market your eCommerce store. Every e-commerce story has a beginning, and Reman Technologies would love to help you take off. Whether you are a small business owner or a full-scale enterprise jumping onto digital transformation, we offer a 14 days free trial of our teams and resources.