28 Oct Should You Create an Online Store?
The internet has changed how we do everything — how we communicate, do our banking and even how we shop! Many of us consumers around the world now prefer to virtually shop from the comfort and safety of our own homes. Much of this online shopping is possible thanks to e-commerce platforms. While the e-commerce revolution has made shopping easy for most of us, it’s also opened up tons of opportunities for businesses big and small.
In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly important to meet growing consumer demands, while also maintaining an income of revenue if your in-person store is temporarily closed or limited to the number of visitors due to lockdown and social distancing safety restrictions. Therefore, if you want to meet your customers’ needs while also staying ahead of the competition, it might be time to consider starting an online store of your own.
Let’s take a closer look at why you should create an online store, including the opportunities it offers for your business, how to get started with e-commerce, and how to choose an e-commerce platform.
E-commerce is an ever-growing industry, and businesses of all sizes are taking advantage of what starting an online store through an e-commerce platform can bring to their business. As a business owner, you simply can’t beat the opportunities of e-commerce in today’s market.
Consider these four benefits of e-commerce for your business:
- Grow your customers — An online store helps you reach both current and potential customers with ease, no matter where they are located. Before you opt for an e-commerce platform of your own, you can try out other more popular platforms, such as Amazon or eBay.
- Expand your reach — With an online store, you’re not limited to customers who live near the location of your brick-and-mortar store. In fact, you’ll have a global reach, as e-commerce allows for easier international selling.
- Cut back on budget spending — Having an online store cuts back on the costs required to operate a physical location, no matter whether you transition fully into e-commerce or pursue a combination. With the need for fewer employees with an online store, you can also save on staff costs.
- Analyse your sales — E-commerce platforms provide analytic tools to better track your sales and customer engagement. You can use this data to fine-tune your marketing strategies, grow your website, and boost your sales.
The benefits are clear, but how can your business transition to e-commerce? Let’s find out!
Getting Started with E-commerce
Moving to e-commerce requires serious planning and consideration. Follow these three important steps for getting started with e-commerce for your business:
1. First, Do Some Groundwork.
Assess the strengths, processes and products or services of your business. You need to make sure that starting an online store fits into your business strategy and goals. Starting an online store may require you to set new goals, but remember to keep your goals specific, relevant and realistic. It’s also important to understand and define how your online customers will be different from your in-person customers, as well as how you plan to encourage your current customers to adapt to your online store. With these differences in mind, you can then develop your e-commerce marketing strategy.
2. Know What Your Customers Expect.
Next, you need to know what your customers expect from an online store, and more specifically what they expect from your business. If your online store doesn’t meet your customers’ needs, then they won’t be doing business with you online. Be sure to make your online store easy to navigate and make purchases, as well as compatible with multiple devices (mobile, desktop, etc.). Don’t forget to make customer feedback and support options easy to access, along with your privacy and security policies easy to find.
3. Set Up Your Virtual Storefront.
After these first two steps, you can finally set up your online store. You may either need to create a brand-new website if your business doesn’t have one yet, or you will need to integrate your current website with an e-commerce platform. For your customers, all they will need to access your online store is your web address! As a store operator, however, you will need to set up what is known as a merchant account to link financial and inventory information between your physical store and your online store.
Your business will need more than just a website to operate your online store, however. You’ll also need to choose an e-commerce platform that is secure, flexible and optimized for user experience design.
How to Choose Your E-commerce Platform
E-commerce was already a rapidly expanding industry before 2020, and this year it has grown even more substantially than anyone could have predicted. With so many platforms and services on the market, how can you choose the right e-commerce platform for your business?
Keep these features in mind when searching for your e-commerce solution:
- Starting Process — Choose a platform that is easy to design and easy to get started using. Some of the best e-commerce platforms will offer a selection of templates to start with that will make your online store look professional and unique. You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to make your online store live!
- Navigation and Security — Not only should your store be easy to set up, but you should look for a platform that provides easy navigation on both the consumer and business end, along with one that offers reliable security measures. It’s crucial to offer an easy shopping experience for your customers, otherwise they will take their business elsewhere. For security, be sure to choose an e-commerce platform that utilizes encrypted security measures and supports HTTPS/SSL features.
- Integration Capability — There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel when transitioning to e-commerce. If you want to keep many of your current systems and marketing applications in place, look for an e-commerce platform that offers seamless integration capabilities for your every need. Along with this, the platform should also offer the ability to integrate web plugins and extensions for full customization.
- Payment Methods — There are now many ways for customers to make payments online. If they can’t use their preferred payment method, they will have to shop somewhere else. Make sure your e-commerce system can support a variety of payment options, including credit cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Square, etc. Not every platform is compatible with every payment method, so be sure to also know which payment methods your customers are most likely to need.
- Mobile Accessibility — More consumers worldwide are online shopping from their phones and mobile devices than ever before. Therefore, your e-commerce shop has to meet the modern demands of mobile accessibility. A mobile-friendly platform prevents your business from immediately losing potential customers who visit your website on mobile devices.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — To make your online shop more visible on Google and other search engine results pages, it needs to be SEO-friendly. Ranking high up in organic search results is key to the success of any online store. Look for an e-commerce platform that allows you to use your own domain name (i.e., website address), add your own content, and gather customer reviews.
- Analytics Reports — Like all elements of business, you can’t improve unless you are monitoring and tracking your progress. The best e-commerce platforms will allow you to track analytics like your sales data with reports that can be generated in real-time. Your e-commerce platform should also provide these statistics in easily digestible formats.
- Technical Support — E-commerce relies on technology, and all technology is susceptible to encounter technical hiccups at one time or another. Unless you’re a software developer yourself, you’re going to need a reliable and readily available tech support team to quickly resolve any issues you may encounter, for the benefit of your business and your customers!
- Pricing — Finally, pricing is the last important element to consider. Some e-commerce platforms charge flat rates, some charge monthly, while others might add on extra costs for subscriptions. It’s important to set your budget ahead of time but also be willing to bend your budget for the right platform that will fit your needs and operate properly. Think of your e-commerce platform as a valuable investment into the long-term growth of your business.
Reliable E-Commerce for UK Business
If you are looking for a reliable, user-friendly, easy to navigate, mobile-friendly and fully-equipped e-commerce platform to set up your online store, look no further than eZnet Stores from Virtual Stacks Systems UK! As a secure, cloud-based e-commerce solution, eZnet Stores offers all the features and functionalities that you need to make your online business a success. Whether you are a small business owner or run a larger operation, we have you covered for all the e-commerce and digital marketing needs of your UK business. Contact us today to get started!