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Posted on: 09 September 2017
At the moment you’re maybe posting your latest offers on facebook and relying on people coming to your shop to buy them. The chances are only a small portion of people who see your posts are actually in a position to pop into the shop and buy them… So why not offer those who can’t get over to see you the chance to buy as well?
100% of those worried about having an online shop are worrying without cause!
As long as you do your homework, get everything straight beforehand, have a strict process set and in place, everything should go smoothly from the off. Research postage and courier prices and get a system drafted that you are sure you’ll be able to keep to. Think about how you want to accept payments, what you’re willing for a payment gateway to charge you in commission and how it’ll affect your margins on the products you sell.
Think about what you can achieve in the time you have available to you during your work day. If the shop is generally quieter during certain hours of the day, use this time to process and pack your online orders. Make time or delegate responsibility to an employee to update the website with new products or remove ones that you no longer sell. This is an extension of your physical shop, treat it as such and keep it in order.
A potential system could run like this: 9am-10am - Previous Days orders Packed and website updated with new stock if new stock arrives. 4pm-5pm - Orders taken to post office or collected by courier
Don’t be tempted to offer or advertise same day shipping if you are in any doubt as to whether you’ll be able to fulfil that. Next day or two working day shipping is absolutely fine as long as you state clearly that, this is what you are offering.
Most e-commerce systems allow you to enter a weight and dimensions of each item you sell, which the system can use to calculate the shipping costs of a customers shopping basket. You can set minimum prices for shipping and different pricing bands depending upon the weight or combined dimensions of the customers product choices.
You’ll need a payment gateway and an account that can be linked to it. Most take a commission for sales through their platform, which is unavoidable so take into account their charges when pricing your goods for online sale. Payment gateways like Sagepay, Worldpay, Stripe and Paypal are some of the most popular gateways and it’s really down to personal choice who you go for. If you’re dipping your toe in the water of online sales then PayPal Express is a good starting point as it lets your clients pay with either their PayPal account or their credit card and is extremely easy to set up. You can also offer PayPal as an option too even if you go with another Gateway to handle your Payments.
Initially it would be a useful process to keep stock you plan to sell online separate from stock you intend to sell in your shop. This can help keeping track of what you have and makes sure that a customer doesn’t buy the last item you have off the shelf before you take it off the shelf to fulfil an online order. You can usually set stock levels on your website so that when an item has sold out it becomes impossible for anyone to buy it until you have restocked and told the website you have more stock. Take time to update the website with your new stock levels whenever you receive a new delivery from your supplier. If you’re selling stock that you will also have on display in your physical shop make sure you have a reliable suppler who can get you more stock next day, if there is a situation where you sell an item off the shelf and don’t have the stock to fulfil an online order.
Any website that you have to be a rocket scientist to manage is not going to be right for you. Some systems are specifically designed for larger businesses and contain features and functions that the normal business would never use or have need for. On the other hand some systems are so simple that they don’t contain nearly enough features to successfully manage an online shop and are designed for companies selling one or two products with unlimited quantities. A good system can be tailored to what you want to sell and the features that you need can be switched on or off depending upon your need for them.
It’ll be a huge temptation to put EVERYTHING you sell online as soon as you can. Start small with a few top selling lines and the things you think customers will want to buy. Spares and small items you don’t sell that often are not going to attract much interest initially. Pick a good selection that you know will be good sellers and have attracted the most attention when you have posted them on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. As time goes on, you can add your less popular products to the shop. The more you have on there initially, the harder it will be to manage. As you get more confident about managing your ‘2nd Shop’ you can add more products and lines to your site.
Theres tonnes of agencies and developers out there who could sell you a simple site with an e-commerce system bolted onto the top of it, cobbled together on the cheap or implemented via third party plugin. These systems may be cheap and cheerful but that comes at a price. Many times these ‘cheaper’ solutions either don’t work in the way you want and cannot be tailored to your business and how you want to sell items. These systems can break without warning from either a conflict with the plugins or because they simply aren’t intended to run in the way the developer has tried to make them.
Work out what you want from an online shop, what you need it to do for you and choose a developer who can understand and deliver what you want at a cost you’re happy with. A good developer will ask questions about what you want to achieve, always be suspicious when a developer doesn’t ask any questions. More than likely you’ll get what they want to give you, which may be the only thing they are able to deliver.
Communication is key with online shops, a customer expects the same level of service and communication as if they visited your physical shop. A customer is treated badly and they won’t return, they may also tell their friends about their bad experience. Likewise if a customer is treated well, they’ll come back… and recommend you. This is the referral business model, news of good and bad service spread quickly and even more so within niche businesses with dedicated communities. With social media it’s even easier to tell someone you’ve had a good/bad experience with a particular shop, more so since Facebook introduced their ‘Recommendations’ feature.
If a customer queries an order delivery or shipment date, reply to it as soon as possible. One of the worst things for a customer is not being told if an item will be shipped late or has suddenly become unavailable. Simply not replying to these emails or messages is not good practice. You don’t have to hand type every email. Write a few templates for different circumstances (Late shipment/Out of stock/Shipment Times) that you can simply paste in and append the clients name. Keep it brief and businesslike and make it clear that you appreciate the client’s business. Likewise your e-commerce system should be set up to send automated messages when an order has been picked, packed and dispatched. Send tracking numbers if available so the client can track their order once it leaves your shop.
In short, running a successful online shop can seem daunting but done right it can be an indispensable addition to your business and over time can become second nature to administer and run.