19 Feb A Guide to Setting Up Your Online Shop
If you are one of the tens of thousands of retailers seeing a downturn in shop sales, then this article is for you!
Once upon a time you could simply set up a shop on your local high street and start selling your products. It wasn’t effortless but it certainly did get your products to market relatively easily back in the day.
Over the past few years we have seen the high street independent traders thin out dwindling sales, lower footfall, higher business rates and the elephant in the room, online shops selling products direct to your customers. In fact, we know that many of a certain demographic will see products in a shop, price check it online and even try clothes on before ordering online for next day delivery.
If you are one of those retailers who has experienced all of the above and are going through tough trading times, then read on…
Will an online shop increase my sales?
The answer to that is quite possibly. You will be selling to a wider audience, therefore if your products, customer service and delivery options are good, there is no reason why your sales shouldn’t increase.
Setting up and e-commerce website in itself is not that expensive if done in a measured and logical manner. My advice is to start small with a handful of products; your best sellers would be a good start, then build on these by adding other products as you get used to processing orders on a regular basis. Promoting your products online is the most challenging area as you need to drive traffic to your online shop by linking to the shop itself or individual products themselves via social media. In other words, shout from the rooftops that you are now selling online, if the price is right, orders will come.
It may also be a good idea to send regular newsletters to your existing customer base, making sure they have opted in to receive marketing emails from you first. A great service for that is, for example, Mailchimp which will make the process quick and easy. Using your existing database may well flush out “lapsed” customers who haven’t visited you in a while and remind them of what great products you had in the past. It’s worth a try isn’t it?
How can I setup an online shop?
There are a few options here, some are easier than others and some allow you to control your brand or business more closely than others.
- add a shop to your existing website
- use a proprietary online shopping platform
- create a new website with e-commerce built in
- setup a store on an auction site or shopping site
All of the above have their pros and cons.
If you have your own website promoting who you are and what you do, then you could simply add a “shopping cart” to the website. In most cases this is relatively easy, especially if you are using WordPress as the basis for your website. A single plugin to WordPress can transform your website into an e-commerce website, one such plugin is WooCommerce which is currently active on 3.9 million websites worldwide, and with a little help with the setup you can be selling online in a matter of hours.
Proprietary shopping platforms allow you to use their software on a subscription basis which you can link to your website’s domain name. You can then “brand up” your online store to suite your existing business brand. You are limited by the terms given to you by the host platform, however these may well suit you and are a good way to get started by yourself without outside help. This can be daunting; however, the initial setup costs may be lower, but you still need to factor in your time to set everything up.
Creating a new website from scratch may sound intimidating or expensive, however you may be surprised with the finished result. A specialist e-commerce website designer can seamlessly integrate your products into the whole site, adding cross-sell, upsell, custom pricing and customised delivery schedules. Another benefit of the “start from scratch” approach is that you can then style everything to be “on brand”, including photos and graphics for the website. If you are selling high value or high-quality products, this is definitely the way forward to sell online.
You can of course simply sell individual items using the likes of Amazon or eBay. Both are perfectly good platforms to sell online. There are limitations to the features and you obviously have minimal control of your brand identity, but hey, in 2019, 2.5 million sellers used Amazon to sell roughly 4000 products a minute. what could possibly go wrong? Will your products get seen? Will your products be too expensive? Will you build up a loyal customer base? These are all questions that need some serious thought, ultimately will you be able to compete?
I have decided to setup a new e-commerce website, what’s next?
In our opinion you have made the right decision. The first decision is: do I want to build the site myself or have a dedicated e-commerce professional do the job for me? We think you should shop around to find someone who understands the e-commerce webscape, who can deliver both the design and functionality that you are looking for. We would recommend a WordPress website (WordPress powers roughly 35% of all websites worldwide) running the WooCommerce e-commerce plugin. Being the most popular platform has its benefits, great support, great functionality and great integrations with delivery services such as UPS, DPD, TNT etc.
You will need to think about the following elements:
- Products – which products to start with?
- Product descriptions – be user friendly and non-technical
- Product photography – be creative, professional and eye-catching
- Product pricing – be competitive
- Product packaging – plain, simple and affordable or branded and costly?
- Product shipping – remember the customer wants it fast!
As you can see it’s all about the products!
Once you have decided which products you want to start with on your online shop, you will need to consider all of the above in order to get your product available on your shop. Instead of the buyer visiting your retail shop on the high street to look and touch the product. they will have to have a similar experience online in order to buy without touching or seeing the product for real.
Photos and videos are the only way to show off the products themselves, however good descriptive titles have a twofold effect of not only describing the product correctly but also letting search engines know what is on your online shop, so think hard and get the description right. Good product photography comes at a price but with a few creative props you can usually start on a budget, isolate your product against a plain background, light it well, and all you will need to capture the image is a good quality smartphone camera.
Make sure your pricing is competitive, buyers will shop around for the “best” deal. It might be that you start selling slightly cheaper and a smaller profit in order to be competitive with other online providers, sometimes simply being transparent and offering “free” shipping you can make a difference to whether a potential view buys, otherwise you have to have very special differentiation as to why potential customers should buy from you.
Packaging is as important as the product itself. In the first instance, don’t go overboard, just keep it simple and affordable so that you can still make a profit on your online sales!
Shipping the packages reliably is as important as the initial sale. If the product doesn’t get delivered on time, you will lose all trust from the buyer and won’t get repeat orders, or even worse – a bad review!
How do I get buyers to pay for my products?
The best way to frictionless e-commerce is to use a payment gateway that everyone trusts. PayPal is the biggest and the best when setting up your online shop, its simple and easy to use and more importantly – trusted. Your buyers don’t even need a PayPal account to use PayPal on your website. If you are already trading at a retail level, you can always ask your current terminal provider if they have an integration for accepting payments on your website. Believe it or not, taking the money off customers is the easy bit!
Is this the death of High Street Retail?
Certainly not! Yes, it’s true that UK high street sales are dwindling, but if you have a niche product or high-quality product, buyers will always want to touch, feel and see the quality of that product. The only way forward is to have a healthy split between online sales and retail sales in order to keep your shop open and profitable. For those in the know, a split of 50:50 is the target for online vs retail sales over the next few years, and that should be your target too.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter where the sales come from, as long as you are making sales and more importantly, making a healthy profit too.
Sell online, it’s the present and the future.
If you would like one to one advice on how to effectively sell your products online why not speak to the experts, Call Andy or Caitlin on 01382 221777 for an informal chat and see what we can do to transform your High Street retail business into an online business that can compete with the rest!