E-commerce was a thriving market before COVID-19. According to Big Commerce, “E-commerce is growing every day.” How much exactly? The market is growing so quickly and so much it will be worth over $740 billion by 2023.
Now, thanks to people spending more time in their homes — and brick-and-mortar stores being open for limited hours or not opening at all — online sales are through the roof. Tech Crunch reveals that COVID-19 is greatly speeding up the shift to predominantly online retail, so much so that this transition is now likely to take place up to five years sooner. What’s more, “U.S. online sales for September increased 43% year over year, reaching $60.4 billion,” Digital Commerce 360 writes.
These facts make it clear. The future of retail and the future of business lies on digital platforms. Don’t be left behind. Stay relevant and profitable by taking the leap to e-commerce.
To maximize your chances of success, take careful notes on these opening an online store tips.
Update Your Technology
In order to maximize computer sales, you need reliable technology. When it comes to opening an online store tips should guide you to assess your needs and ask questions — a lot of them.
Start with the basics. For the most part, it is largely unnecessary to purchase all new computers and laptops for your e-commerce company. Unless your hardware is especially outdated, it should do just fine. Instead, it is wise to invest in a fast and powerful internet connection.
Your hardware and the speed of your internet connection are not the only things to consider. Draft a list of other pertinent questions to ensure that you have everything you need to support your business when it debuts on the web and on an ongoing basis. Consider:
- What is “fast”? Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Three years ago, businesses averaged connection speeds of 18.75 Mbps. That figure is growing every year, and one business’ needs will be very different from another business’ needs.
- How much bandwidth does my business need? Along the same lines, consider how much bandwidth you will need. Determine your company’s bandwidth needs by taking into account the number of employees you have, the online activities you plan to support, and the number of devices connected to the network. For instance, you will need 75 Mbps for “video streaming, frequent file sharing, numerous POS transactions,” according to business.org. Further, Kinetic Business recommends 10 to 15 Mbps per employee.
- What storage solutions suit my company? First, your company needs backup. Do not store data on a physical hard drive and a physical hard drive alone. Why? If something should happen to that particular machine, you are opening up your business to data loss, security breaches, and unnecessary downtime. When considering cloud storage and other storage solutions, think about the size of your business, the usability of the software, and whether platforms offer any perks, like some free or temporarily free storage.
- What are my security needs? One of the most important things for any business to contemplate is security. Do you need two-factor authentication or end-to-end encryption? How secure does your information need to be? Opening an online store tips need to include security considerations. Customers must trust that their transactions are safe and secure to continue working with you.
You should also consider using a free invoicing and billing app to help you keep track of your finances for your business.
Tackle Brand Marketing
“Finding a niche that you can specialize in and are passionate about is one of the most important things you can do when building your business,” Inc.com writes. Once you find that niche, it is essential to brand your business the right way. Brand marketing is a critical aspect of opening an online store tips. What does brand marketing entail?
First, understand the values your business represents and how your marketing and advertising reflect these values. For example, a doctor or medical office wants to exude reliability and trustworthiness. That means marketing campaigns will be science-based and feature doctors and nurses doing their jobs well.
For example, a billboard with a doctor or nurse may show them wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). That image conveys the message that Americans can trust them to take precautions to keep their practice and their patients safe. Similarly, a billboard for a lawyer may cite a compelling statistic about car crashes and show a well-groomed lawyer in a suit. By contrast, a beer company wants to promote relaxation. They want their product to be associated with fun. As such, ads feature people lounging on the beach, sitting near the pool, or getting together to watch sports. People are more likely to be in their swimsuits, T-shirts, or casual wear. All of these considerations come back to a company’s brand and brand marketing.
Another important part of brand marketing is your customers, particularly your customer reviews and testimonials. Entrepreneur magazine encourages new businesses to view customers as brand ambassadors. “There’s nothing quite like the glowing testimonial of a satisfied customer to add credibility to your business,” Entrepreneur writes. While you may initially invest in marketing that supports your values and the messages you want to send, your customer saying it for you is that much more powerful.
If a customer writes a review saying that a doctor’s office is punctual and dependable, many new or prospective customers trust that review over your advertising materials. Inc.com reveals that a shocking 84% of consumers “trust online reviews as much as friends.”
Brand marketing plays a large role in opening an online store tips. Give your new business a leg up by using your brand to send the right messages and, whenever possible, taking advantage of customer reviews to do the talking for you.
Identify Your Edge
Related to brand marketing, another important part of opening an online store tips is identifying your edge. It is essential to have good customer reviews and to use images and text that align with your business’s values. It is also critical to take it one step further. Try to look at things from the customer’s point of view. In a world full of doctors, lawyers, and retailers, why should they choose you? What sets your company apart from the others in its niche?
For example, if you plan to start an e-commerce store selling casual clothing, like T-shirts and jeans, consider why customers should choose your T-shirts and jeans. For example, you may consider narrowing your focus even further. Consider selling shirts and pants manufactured out of recycled materials or sustainable materials. Design shirts displaying messages that are on a theme — messages like “Bee Kind” or “Save Our Oceans.”
Another tact is to produce custom shirts. Let customers know you are their go-to online store should they need T-shirts for events, like company outings, bachelorette or bachelor parties, or sporting events. Let them know they can rely on you if they want an especially unique message or image. If they would like an image or quote from an obscure television show on their shirt, make it clear that you can do that for them. Use this as your edge to set yourself apart from the competition.
Opening an online store tips focus a lot on branding and marketing. Further your success by finding your niche and sending a clear and cohesive message to your customers about what makes you stand out in your area of business.
Make Plans For Packaging and Shipping
A list of opening an online store tips would be remiss without a section on packaging and shipping. “The most successful merchants use strategic shipping options to differentiate themselves from their competition and increase margins,” Big Commerce writes. Of course, strategically choosing shipping and packaging requires knowing what drives that strategy or what factors go into making these decisions. Here are a few big things to consider when putting together a packaging and shipping strategy.
- Identify your customers’ priorities. A good place to start is by figuring out your ideal customers’ priorities. Do your customers want fast shipping, low costs, or eco-friendly packaging? What is most important to them? Consider your service or product. If you are selling medications, chances are your customers will prioritize fast and reliable shipping. If you are selling reusable water bottles, packaging made out of recycled materials may perform better with your customers. If you are uncertain, consider polling your customers and/or listen carefully to customer feedback.
- Pick a shipping method. There are various methods to choose from. Some include free shipping, same-day shipping, Less-Than Truck Load (LTL) freight carriers, and air shipping. To determine what method is best for you, consider time, reliability, and costs. If you find reasonable air shipping rates, for example, it is one of the fastest shipping methods.
- Do the math. As previously touched on, the best shipping method often comes down to math. Weigh the costs to you (any applicable credit card fees, product cost, packaging, and shopping) versus your profit. Ensure that you include all costs and you are happy with your profit margin before proceeding.
- Cut costs whenever possible. If you can cut costs without sacrificing quality or service, do it. For example, wholesale printing services may be able to help you print packaging and/or labels with your company logo in bulk and at a considerably lower price point than the competition.
When pursuing opening an online store tips, pay close attention to tips about shipping and packaging. After all, they will make up a considerable portion of running your online store or e-commerce business.
It may surprise you to learn that, in order to successfully open an online store and keep it running, you are going to need a lot of insurance.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), most small businesses will need property insurance, general liability insurance, and workers compensation insurance. Of course, securing appropriate, affordable insurance is not necessarily straightforward. Your needs will vary based on a great many things. For example, if you are running your new online store out of your home instead of at a separate physical location, that is something you need to let your insurance company know. “If you’re operating your business out of your home, ask your insurer for additional insurance to cover your equipment and inventory in the event of a problem,” Entrepreneur recommends.
Liability insurance will protect you and your employees should your products or services cause damages. Purchase workers’ compensation insurance if you have more than three to five employees (the exact number will depend on the state where you are doing business). Even something as innocuous as an employee tripping on the way inside the building can end up as a workers’ compensation lawsuit. Be prepared for all incidents and eventualities.
Look To The Future: Contemplate How Your Company Might Grow
With any luck, your business will flourish and you will need to look beyond opening an online store tips. You may keep some of these tips in mind while turning your attention to how to grow your business and further increase sales.
Consider what steps you may need if you are successful beyond your wildest dreams and set aside funds accordingly. It is always best to be over-prepared than under-prepared. In that same vein, consider some of the steps you might take if and when you reach a certain number of sales.
For example, will you hire more employees? Will you have time to do it? If taking time out of your day to hire new employees may affect your bottom line, consider recruiters, like retail, sales, or banking recruitment companies, to help you meet those needs. Similarly, if you are starting your business in your home, take a look at commercial properties for sale. Know what you can reasonably afford in the future if you reach certain sales goals and company benchmarks, and know when to purchase commercial properties. If you hire 10 or more new employees, for instance, you will need the space to accommodate them.
COVID-19 is changing e-commerce for good. Online sales are higher than ever, and now is the perfect time to break into that field. Following opening an online store tips to prepare your new business for its debut.