As the situation due to COVID-19 continues to bring uncertainty to our communities, more and more small businesses are transitioning into the digital space. However, going from a brick and mortar retail store, to an E-Commerce online store can be a daunting task. In this article, we will go over some top-level concepts to point you in the right direction. As every business and website will be in a different situation, we hope to educate and provide recommendations that any small business could use when starting an online store. For a PDF copy of the presentation, CLICK HERE.
What is E-Commerce?
E-commerce, also known as electronic commerce or online stores, is defined as buying or selling products, goods, and/or services, online. These stores are growing in popularity from both the number of online stores and the amount of customers buying online. In 2019, US consumers spent nearly $602 Billion online. This was an increase of nearly 15% year over year, and the numbers continue to rise. Not only are sales online increasing, they are also taking up more of the retail market share. Last year, 16% of all retail spending, was online.
Online stores come in all shapes and sizes from the largest aggregators such as Amazon and Alibaba, to name brand retailers such as Williams-Sonoma and Nike. In addition, streaming and other online services are also considered E-commerce such as Netflix and Spotify. However, you do not need to be a huge corporation to have an online store or offer products and services for sale on your website. Whether you are a dog trainer or a life coach, every industry can survive online.
What are the moving parts of an online store? Typically, it involves three components:
- Website: the place where your customers can go to see your products, and houses your online store.
- Shopping Cart: the feature on the website which allows users to save items to purchase immediately or at a later time.
- Payment Processor: the system that securely charges a user’s credit card.
- Note that there will be always be fees. For example, 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction as well possibly monthly fee. Different tiers depending on use and/or non-profits.
Where to Start Your Online Store?
With a Current Website
First, do you have a website that is already built? If so, look to see if your website content management system (CMS) has E-commerce capabilities.
- GoDaddy Website Builder: has a store feature that allows you to integrate with other online stores such as Amazon and Etsy.
- WordPress: integrates with WooCommerce plugins to create online stores. Other plugins such as Event Espresso work well for service/event registrations.
Search on Google for your “your website platform + e-commerce”, to see what options your website has.
With Other Digital Assets
Next, look at your current digital assets such as your Point of Sale (POS) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. A lot of systems have solutions for ecommerce websites. For example:
- Square POS: system integrates with the website platform SquareSpace. This can be helpful for business owners as the POS monitors inventory.
- HubSpot CRM: integrates with an E-commerce website platform Shopify. This can be helpful marketing to your current contacts.
If you already have a digital system in place, look into their E-commerce solutions to help get up and running quicker.
Need to build a new website from scratch? There are solutions that are easy to use and quick to get set up:
- Shopify: this website CMS is specific to E-commerce and has a built in POS system. They have prebuilt themes (page designs) to choose from. Can create something quickly, but limited in the amount of customizations.
- Wix: this website CMS can be more user friendly from a website design standpoint. Still has prebuilt themes, but the system is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Has E-commerce store options that integrate with PayPal.
Things to Keep in Mind When Building Your Online Store
In addition, you will want to ensure that your website is PCI Compliant (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). In order to securely collect credit card information, you may want to consider the following:
- Is your website encrypted with a Secured Socket Layer (SSL Certificate)?
- Are you using an authorized credit card processor such as PayPal or Authorize.net?
- Is any sensitive information encrypted and not shared with third-parties?
At the end of the day, make it work! Your website or online store does not have to be as fancy as Amazon, it just has to be easy:
- What are the costs of the platforms or systems?
- How easy is it for me and my customers to use?
- Do my customers feel comfortable making a purchase (security)?
- Is the purchase process seamless? From browsing, to adding to cart, to checking out, to confirmation email.
- Follow through! Go above and beyond for your customers. Get their order delivered quickly, send a thank you note, give discount for next order, etc.
For more information on setting up your E-commerce website, or help with any advertising/marketing needs, please contact us below. We will continue on how to track and promote your store in Part 2.