Top 5 Tips for Building An Online Store
So you’ve decided to expand your business to an online store. That’s great! Being online expands your audience reach, discoverability, and ultimately, your potential sales. But creating a successful online store isn’t necessarily a turnkey process; it requires research, strategy, maintenance, and trial and error. The good news is, when done right, your online store can become a huge asset to your business and extension of your brand. Read on to learn the basics of getting started.
1. Pick Your Platform
This is a big one. Your platform is the foundation of your online store, and although most platforms offer a degree of flexibility, it is up to you to do the research to see what fits your needs, preferences, and budget best. There are lots of user-friendly platform options out there that are intuitive and streamlined, so do some exploring, sign up for some free trials, and do everything you can to make sure the platform you choose is the best fit possible for you and your business. If you are not quite sure where to start, check out our eCommerce platforms comparison to see how the top platforms compare based on pricing, features, ease of use and more.
2. Get Your Stuff Together
Once you’ve got the framework for your store figured out, it’s time to decide what items you want to sell. If your business isn’t inherently a retail company, this could be a simple selection of inventory like gift cards and branded swag. If your brick-and-mortar business is more traditional retail, preparing your online inventory may be more of an undertaking. Some eCommerce platforms -such as Volusion– also offer integrations with top dropshipping suppliers so you can sell inventory directly from the supplier without physically holding the stock. In general, the most important things you should look for in each of your items is quality and adherence to your brand.
When a customer orders something from your online store, the online experience and items they receive make up the entirety of their customer experience. There are no sales people to help them pick the right size, style, or model, or to make them feel positive about interacting with your brand. Everything that will impress or turn off your customer is right there on the website. If what you’re sending them is of the quality and appearance they’ve been expecting (or better!), you’ve done your job. But if you skimp on quality, the item isn’t as expected, or something goes wrong in transit, you could lose a customer in one fell swoop.
Adherence to your brand is another important factor. If you typically don’t offer many products and start offering everything under the sun out of nowhere, the intent of your business becomes lost and the integrity of your store disappears too. Do your best to stay within the realm of items someone might expect to see walking into a brick-and-mortar version of your store (whether one exists or not). Keep your inventory of high quality and focused to your specific audience and you’ve done the bulk of the work you need to succeed.
3. Make a Great First Impression
Once you’ve decided on the right products for your online store, you need to make them look their absolute best to create the most impactful first impression. This is your chance to show off what you’re offering in the best light possible, so highlighting each products’ unique features, details, and options is key. Even if you’re selling things that seem self-explanatory (like gift cards, for example), having high-quality, high-resolution photography will instill confidence in your customer that they know what they’re getting. Paying a professional photographer for this step can be a very worthwhile investment that can make you a lot more money down the line.
The item descriptions that accompany your photos are also crucial in helping customers decide whether or not to make a purchase. Your description should include everything a customer may ask in a retail setting, so think of yourself as someone completely new to the product as you’re describing it. Key specs like size, color, and materials are important for your customer to know, and this is also your chance to draw attention to anything unique or enticing about your product that may not be obvious from the photo. This is where you get to brag, so don’t let the opportunity go to waste.
4. Show off
This is the best part—when you get to reap the rewards of your hard work and watch the profits come in. Once your online store is open for business, you have to share it with the world! Use your social media channels to connect with existing fans who will hopefully share the news with their friends and family. A few very affordable social media ads or boosted posts can spread the news about your new online store to an audience that you can target yourself with their available filters. If any well-known people or businesses are fans of your product, reach out to them and see if they’ll give you a shout-out on their channels, or tag them in yours. This is a great way to get increased visibility and trust without spending a dime.
Lastly, traditional promotions like direct mail, TV, and radio ads can also be a worthwhile spend depending on the kind of products you’re offering and the audience you want to reach. What’s most important is that you develop some kind of marketing plan to accompany your online store so that your investment and time don’t go to waste.
5. Keep Up the Good Work
Even if you set up the perfect online store, that doesn’t mean your work is done. An online store should get just as much care and attention as a physical store would. Monitor your sales, including what people are buying, which options they like and don’t like, how long they spend looking at each page, and what items are often purchased together. Every purchase a customer makes tells you about how successful your online store is doing, and is a clue as to how to maximize your sales. Your chosen platform will monitor a lot of your data, but it’s up to you to keep an eye on it, analyze it, and put those findings into practice. It may feel tedious, but the smarter you make your store, the more of a payoff you’ll see and the more successful this new extension of your company can be.