This article was originally published on July 10, 2017, and was updated on March 24th, 2020.
With the current COVID-19 crisis continuing to unfold with an unknown ending point, small business owners are looking to adapt as quickly as possible to the changing environment. One method that many are adopting is adding an ecommerce option to their business.
In normal circumstances, there are many benefits to integrating an online shop with your brick-and-mortar store. But in the current economic environment, many businesses are finding that having an ecommerce option for their business is crucial.
If you’re not sure where to start, this guide will help you get started.
5 tips for adding an ecommerce shop to your business
If you want to add an ecommerce option to your brick-and-mortar business, consider the following tips.
- Determine what you’re going to sell.
- Find an ecommerce platform and domain.
- Make inventory management a focal point.
- Get the most out of your chain suppliers.
- Market your goods online.
1. Determine what you’re going to sell.
Before you can sell online, determine exactly what products you plan to sell online. If you already have an inventory of goods, you can use historical sales data to determine which in-store products you also want to offer online. Think about which products perform best at your store and make sure you highlight those products front and center on your online store.
Another consideration when choosing products to offer online is whether you have a targeted product or service that fills current needs. If not, perhaps there is a product or service that you could quickly spin up and into production.
An example of this would be the various breweries and distilleries now making hand sanitizers. They identified an urgent need and quickly shifted their offerings to match that need.
2. Find an eCommerce platform and domain.
Once you’ve secured a domain name that’s tied to your brand, it’s time to pick a platform. Various ecommerce platforms make it easy for businesses to upload goods, customize the customer experience, facilitate orders, and manage other areas that directly relate to selling online.
With that in mind, there are two basic ways to approach finding an ecommerce store.
Do it yourself
Much like any website, you have the option to build it from the ground up. If you’re a web developer or you have a team that can build an ecommerce store from scratch, this might be a great option. Creating your custom ecommerce store gives your business more flexibility and can save you from paying a monthly fee to use another service or software.
If you’ve already got a WordPress website, learn how to add WooCommerce to start selling online.
Purchase an all-in-one ecommerce solution
The majority of small business owners don’t have the resources or wherewithal to build an ecommerce shop from scratch. For many, using pre-built ecommerce platforms or online marketplaces is their best bet.
These types of ecommerce options provide turnkey solutions for businesses that want to sell products online. For example, GoDaddy’s Online Store is fast and simple to set up and includes powerful selling tools and flexible shipping and payment options. This solution also features integration with online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and Walmart.
3. Make inventory management a focal point.
Any business owner who sells goods understands the concept of inventory management. Every product transaction is collected, remaining inventory for that item is reconciled until the availability threshold hits a minimum, and a new order is placed for that product.
Businesses that practice good inventory management can increase their product turnover, meaning their products are not sitting on shelves for a long period.
If you’ve never sold your products online before, it might be hard for you to gauge demand. Add products to your ecommerce store slowly so that you can get a good idea of online demand. Also, don’t be afraid to say “no,” and tell users when items are out of stock.
Pro tip: You don’t need to sell every product from your brick-and-mortar online.
In fact, in the current market environment, having a smaller targeted selection of items online is preferable.
If you don’t take the precaution of carefully choosing which products to offer online, you could run into a bottleneck if you have more orders than available inventory, and delivery delays could lead to a poor customer experience.
4. Get the most out of your supply chain partners
Inventory management has as much to do with your supply chain partners as it does with your data and order management skills. Most brick-and-mortar businesses have a pretty basic supply chain, the flow of goods from raw material and production to distribution. It usually looks like this:
- Producer — The partner tasked with taking raw material and creating the goods.
- Distributor — The partner who transports the goods to your business.
- Retailer — Your brick-and-mortar store.
- Customer — The partner who purchases and uses the good.
Integrating ecommerce will require a new supply chain process. Rather than customers physically taking products home from your storefront, they will need to have it delivered to their home through a direct distributor or via a fulfillment partner.
You can get the most out of your supply chain partners by comparing different solutions at each stage of your supply chain. However, be aware that in the current economic situation, your options may be somewhat limited, so you’ll need to be flexible.
While it’s important to optimize each channel in the supply chain, it’s also critical you keep a good partner when you find one. The process for switching partners can be tedious, expensive and detrimental, so try to keep turnover to a minimum.
5. Market your goods online
Selling online is a lot like selling in a store. The more traffic you create, the more sales you make. When building an ecommerce shop, think about how best to market your products.
A few general tips to marketing an ecommerce store are:
Create unique product content
Content is a critical cog in your online marketing machine. As it relates to ecommerce, it’s important to create unique product descriptions for all of your items. Many businesses that sell online do not take the time to write unique, actionable product descriptions. You can gain a competitive advantage by writing unique copy and adding high-quality images for all your products.
Use social media wisely
Social media is a great way to get your business in front of a large audience, especially with so many users checking social media constantly during this crisis. When marketing on social media, take the time to ensure that you’re striking an appropriate tone. Being overly sales-focused will be a turn-off.
Also, keep in mind that social media should be a means to driving more visitors to your websites, so always think about optimizing your posts to push users to your website.
Don’t forget email marketing
In the world of consumer sales, an email can be one of the most valuable pieces of information you collect. A creative email marketing campaign can generate repeat business, push a lead through your sales funnel, or help stay top-of-mind for future needs. Find new ways to collect emails on your website and send actionable, unique emails to your lists.
Brick-and-mortar companies that have yet to integrate ecommerce into their business model should strongly consider adding an online store. It’s a great way to add revenue streams and test the market before adding a new product to your line. For businesses that are considering ecommerce integration, the tips above will help you get off the ground and stay afloat.