Give me a minute to set the scene. You’ve been thinking for some time of ways to increase channels to market and revenue for your business. Then one day, by chance, while browsing the internet you stumble across one of the many articles (adverts) telling you about the unparalleled growth of online buying, how you can take your business online in minutes and have a fully functioning online store that’s going to revolutionise the way you do business. Sounds fantastic, where do I sign-up.
Surprisingly, for such a big decision I find most businesses have made very little thought or preparation for something that could have such an impact on how they operate their business. So, before you decide to start selling you products/services online ask yourself whether you have the answers to some of the questions that I like to ask clients before they venture down this path:
What’s your goal
If you’ve read any of my other blog posts you know my love of setting goals. As always, I can’t stress this enough, without goals how can you measure success? Take a few minutes to sit back and think ahead; what does success look like for your business and where would you like to be in the next year. These goals don’t need to be set in stone, but be specific. If the aim is to grow revenue by 10%, state it and it will give you something to measure against. Just remember to be realistic.
What are you selling?
This in particular will have a major impact on how you approach taking your business online.
Firstly, what are you selling? Is it a digital product or is it tangible and needs to be shipped? If it is to be shipped you need to understand how you’re going to deliver goods and at what cost. Do you already have the weight and dimensions of your products, or is this something that you’re going to have to collate and record? Additionally are you planning to offer national and international delivery? Are you offering to combine shipping or multiple item orders? These are all questions you’re going to have to have clear answers on, otherwise you could find yourself out of pocket.
Secondly, you need to consider any necessary man power. Do orders need to be manually picked out of stock, packed and shipped? Can this be completed within your normal daily business workflow or do you need a new process. You need to understand that in the event that your website becomes a huge success can you cope with, and meet demand? It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem.
Thirdly, how many line items do you have? There’s nothing to stop you selling 10,000 different products/services online, but that’s a lot of data entry and set-up. To start with you may want to focus on your bread and butter products/services and see how you go.
How do you intend to sell?
Via a website of course. Sounds straight forward enough. Unfortunately nothing’s every as straight forward as we’d like. First things first, do you have a website? If the answer’s no then you need a budget to get one. If you do have a website does it have the capabilities to add an eCommerce system to it? Any way you put it you’re going to need to invest in getting the right system up and running, so having a budget is paramount. And by budget I don’t mean “we can spare $1000”. eCommerce sites are typically mission critical which means regular maintenance and guaranteed uptime neither of which are easy or cheap.
If you’re serious about taking your business online then you need to be serious about investing in the right solution to reach your goals. You not only need to consider the look and user experience the site offers, but how it’s performance will be measure, how content is updated, is the site being promoted and does it integrate with additional marketing strategies such as email, social media sharing etc.
You also need to consider whether you’re planning on managing stock level on your site or want it to talk to your existing business systems. Getting different systems to speak to each other is rarely as simple as flicking a switch.
How do you get paid?
Depends on how your business operates. Be warned whichever way you go, everyone’s going to take their percentage, so you need to compare the terms before you make a decision
If you’re just starting out the simplest and easiest way is to use someone else’s payment gateway, such as PayPal or Stripe. These are very simple to set up and enable you to except payment from a host of credit cards. However, some will take your customers offsite, so it’s not the most seamless solution.
If you’re a well establish business with an existing business bank account, my advice would be to speak to your bank and see which of their payment gateways they recommend. These can be integrated within your site, but be warned they will insist on the site meeting certain criteria, which leads me to the next question
What do you need to be concerned with?
Security. No one likes getting sued for lost or stolen data, so it’s paramount that your site is set-up with the appropriate level of security. If you’re planning on using a merchant account, your bank is going to insist on you setting a lot of this up before it will approve it’s usage on your site. This includes essentials tasks such as purchasing and installing a SSL certificate and setting your site up with a unique IP address. There’s a wide range of security options available at varying price points, so research is recommended.
Terms and conditions. Again your bank’s going to insist on a comprehensive overview of these for your online checkout. You need to be very clear about how your site is secured and how you intend to handle each order, including delivery times and returns/refund policies.
Is this everything you need to know?
In short no. It’s a simple overview of what you should consider before you proceed with a project of this magnitude. There’s no one size fits all solution for eCommerce and in my experience each site and the tools they utilise are always selected on the individual need of the client.
We develop our website using WordPress, so as a company we like to use WooCommerce as our eCommerce platform. I’ve found this to be a great solution for most businesses, but how the product is managed, shipped and paid for is always unique for each client.
As always I’d love to hear about your experiences and anything that you feel I may have missed. Also, if you have any questions or have an upcoming project you’d like to discuss please feel free to contact us.