In 2012, there were 183.8 million online shoppers in the US, and that number is expected to reach 189.4 million this year. With that big of a consumer base, it’s high time that even small business owners jump onto this rapidly expanding market and allow their wares to be purchased online. In this post we cover a few of the basic steps involved in launching an online store.
Before you make the big step towards launching your own online store, consider the following pros and cons:
Pros:Bigger Catalogue You can have more products available to your customers since you don’t have to worry about keeping a physical inventory and bringing everything to a stall.
Wider Reach There are virtually no boundaries online so the website is accessible anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. A website is also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and business doesn’t stop even on holidays!
Easier Management Today’s e-commerce platforms provide easy-to-use tracking systems for payment, delivery, inventory, and sales among other important information.
More and more companies are taking their business online, with plenty of big brands already established in this virtual space. Directing traffic to your site will be your initial challenge.
Harder to Build Trust Customers are naturally more wary of buying from a store where they can’t be 100% sure that the products or the seller is genuine. You need to earn that trust by providing contact details, comprehensive product descriptions (including images), and customer reviews/testimonials.
With these issues carefully considered, you can set your sights on launching your e-commerce site.
Building a WebsiteThe process of building a website can either be very painstaking or painless.
The Easy WayIf you do not want to spend too much in this step, you can try your hand at designing the website yourself. There are many e-commerce solutions that provide everything you’ll need to build your site and operate it on your own. You can choose from premium platforms such as Big Commerce and Volusion where you’ll have to pay upfront and monthly fees to avail of their services, or you can go for free platforms like Magento or even Wordpress with its many e-commerce plugins.
Your WayIf you want your site to truly stand out and look professional without too much effort on your part, hire a professional. You’re bound to have a much better looking and functioning store, but you’ll have to shell out anywhere from $500 and up.
You’ll also have to decide on a shopping cart software that will systematize and automate the actual buying process for customers. You need to take into account the available payment methods (credit card, PayPal, etc.) and the security systems in place for those methods.
Once the website and its important processes set up, you just need a secure and reliable hosting server that can handle large files being uploaded and traffic fluctuations.
Take your small business online now, and supplement your store’s sales!