How to move your retail store onlineSaša Zgrabljić
During the current Coronavirus outbreak, many store owners are wondering how they’ll survive the crisis. Considering many people are currently unable to leave their homes, having an option to shop at home might be the answer.
Moving from a brick and mortar store to a webshop might seem like a huge undertaking; however it’s not impossible. Depending on your business’ size, the whole process might be straightforward, or if your store is larger, the process might be a bit more complicated. To help you navigate this process, we’ve compiled a list of steps needed to start selling your goods online.
Decide on a domain name
If you already have a website, you can skip this step.
There are three essential rules you need to take into account when choosing your domain name:
1. It should be similar to your business or brand name
Once your online store is set up, you’d want your customers to find your webshop. Customers will look up your store using Google or other search engines and will use keywords such as your store name, so it has to be related to your actual store or brand name.
2. It should be catchy so customers can easily remember it
If your business name is long or complex, it’s a good idea to shorten it or use only bits of it for your domain name. For example, the World Health Organization uses the short version of their name for their domain – who.int. Another example would be Drogerie Markt, which again uses the shortened version DM as their domain name. We also use a shortened version (Sysbee), as our company name is System Bee Ltd.
3. It has to be unique
This is the most important rule, as the DNS system doesn’t allow multiple different websites to use the same domain name. If someone already holds the domain name you wish to use, you can either contact them to try and acquire the domain name or register a similar domain. There are many, many different TLDs available currently, so if you can’t get .com or .net, you can use any of the other 200+ TLDs available.
Choose a platform
Choosing the perfect platform for your webshop is no small task. Start by considering the size of your future webshop.
Smaller webshops are usually created using one of the premade solutions, such as Shopify or other website builders. There are many such providers available online, and they typically allow customers to create a webshop in several quick steps. Another option for smaller shops is the WooCommerce + WordPress combination. Again, quite easy to set up and with a large community built around it, WooCommerce is often an excellent choice for small businesses.
However, larger companies will require more complex solutions such as Magento. Considering we’re a Magento-oriented company, we’ll focus more on that.
Magento is an e-commerce platform primarily used for larger e-commerce projects. Compared to previously mentioned platforms, Magento requires a higher level of technical expertise due to the more complicated setup process and on-going maintenance requirements. Considering the high costs of hiring internal developers, many companies decide to use external help for their Magento development needs. If you’re unsure who to choose as your development partner, we can recommend several development agencies, depending on your project needs.
Choose a hosting provider
As you can already guess, shared hosting isn’t an optimal environment for Magento. Magento requires more resources than a standard shared hosting can provide, which is why we recommend using at least a VPS server to host your Magento instance.
However, more complex projects will require a more complex infrastructure behind it, especially if you take high-availability into account. With that in mind, we’ve created a specially designed environment for Magento, which will ensure your webshop is always up-and-running. With our Magento Optimized environment, we take care of the infrastructure behind your webshop, as well as provide you with ongoing proactive support, allowing you to focus on growing both your online and offline store.
If your project doesn’t require such a complex setup, you might be able to host your webshop on a shared hosting platform. When choosing a shared hosting provider, make sure to pay attention to available resources (disk space, concurrent users, bandwidth, etc.) and uptime.
Another thing you should also consider is using an SSL certificate. Without an SSL certificate, customers won’t feel secure to enter their payment details when prompted. High security is crucial for webshops, so make sure your provider of choice offers free SSL certificates (as we do for all of our packages). Free SSL certificates will provide you with the required level of security, without having to worry about renewals and expiration dates.
Choose payment options
Another thing to consider when moving to an online sales model is the payment options available to your customers. If you offer only limited payment options, chances are some of your customers will walk away when they reach the end of the shopping cart.
Credit cards will require you to use a payment gateway. There are many available, and they usually offer similar options. One of the most important things to consider is the transaction fee, which is the fee they charge per transaction. Obviously, the smaller the price – the better. If your payment gateway charges a more substantial fee, and you have many transactions daily, you will end up paying a large sum each month.
Another essential detail to take into account is the level of support they provide. This might not seem as important at first; however, if you experience any issue with your account (for example late payments, etc.), you will need to get in touch with their support, so make sure it’s up to your standards.
Some of the most popular international payment gateways are PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Payments, Adyen, Authorize.net, Braintree, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to consider local payment gateways, as they usually adhere to local laws much better.
Another payment option is a bank transfer payment. This option is slower for customers, as it requires you to manually check if the payment went through, and will need you to include this check in your day-to-day business. However, it’s still quite popular around the world.
Lastly, cash is still king for some countries (including Croatia). Providing an option where your customers can pay on delivery is much appreciated in such markets.
Of course, there are several other payment options, such as e-wallets and cryptocurrencies, and their popularity depends on the market. For example, e-wallets are quite popular in the USA and China.
Define delivery and return options
Delivery options greatly vary depending on the goods you’re selling. If you have a supplier, it might be a good idea to use dropshipping. Of course, this depends on your current store policy, but such practice is quite common in e-commerce, as it removes the whole product’s storage fanfare.
If you already own a store with physical goods, dropshipping will probably not be your choice, as you most likely already have a storage facility for your products. However, you will have to consider what delivery options are available to you and how you’ll track them. Most delivery companies offer various e-commerce services, such as package pickup, package tracking, online payments and more.
Another thing to define is how your customers can return products if they’re unhappy with their purchase. Considering your customers can’t see the product before buying, having a return policy is very important. However, this can bring you additional operational and logistics costs. Having a well-defined return policy can help you avoid customer service issues along the line, so make sure to cover all of the most essential details, such as how many days after the purchase can the product be returned, in which case can they return it, etc.
Termsfeed wrote a great article covering all of the needed segments of a good return policy.
Define legal policies
As mentioned above, a good return policy will save you a lot of trouble later on. However, there are several other documents you need to have on your website to adhere to the e-commerce standards (and laws!). We advise you to consult your legal department (or external legal aid) when you’re creating these documents, as they will be the grounds for any disputes arising from your online business.
Terms and conditions
This document serves as a contract between you and your customers. It helps you define many important details, such as prices, discounts, delivery regulations, etc. Terms and conditions serve to protect both your and your customers and are the primary place everyone will look when there’s a dispute.
Considering the rules put in place by the GDPR legislation, and the fact your customers are entrusting you with their data (including credit card details), you need to have a document explaining how you’re keeping their data private. GDPR also requires you to list all of the customers’ data you’re processing and why, along with many other details. Considering penalties are quite high, we recommend you put particular care when defining your GDPR guidelines.
Pay attention to SEO and marketing
Once your website is up and running, you’ll want your customers to find it. An excellent way to do so is to use proper keywords and relevant information. Imagine your online customers as your physical customers – you will have to target them the same way you target your physical customers.
Invest in Google Ads and Facebook Ads (if you’re using social media), and pay attention to Google Analytics – they will give you a good idea on what’s going on with your website. SEO can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to leave it to the professionals. SEO isn’t just using the right keywords and writing useful content; it’s also the structure of your website, excellent user experience and many other, more technical details.
We also recommend engaging with your customers via social media. If you’ve just opened a webshop, let your customers know. Word of mouth is essential, and if your customers are happy shopping at your store offline, they’ll let their friends know if you’ve come online.
Introduce necessary workflow changes
Selling goods online will bring on some new challenges for brick and mortar store owners.
Proper inventory management is crucial. When running an online store, one of the most important things you need to do is to ensure your website displays actual product availability. If your customers order a product which is not in stock, you’ll have to deal with complaints and refunds, which ultimately hurts your brand’s image. There are many ways to manage your inventory. Some require a lot of manual work (such as keeping track of your orders via a spreadsheet), and some will do the work for you but will cost more. Whatever way you choose, make sure your webshop stock is always up to date.
For more information on this topic, we recommend checking out Disruptive Advertising’s 5 tips for effective inventory management.
Another necessary change is the customer service aspect of online shopping. With traditional retail stores, you do your customer service face-to-face. When you move to an online store, you’ll have to provide customer support via phone, chat and/or email. Support channels will definitely vary depending on your customer profile. Younger customers tend to use social media to communicate with support, while B2B communication usually goes through tickets and emails. We chose Zammad, an open-source helpdesk software, as our platform for tickets and emails. It’s a great solution as it supports email and live chat, and you can also integrate it with phone support and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Telegram.
Whatever channel you decide to use, make sure you provide the same level of customer care online as you do offline.
With the current crisis, moving online is more necessary than ever. Although it might seem like a tedious process, if you follow the steps outlined above, you should be up and running in no time. If your project is large, and you require help with this process, we’re here to assist you. We can connect you with proven development agencies, help you with the domain registration process and provide you with a stable and scalable infrastructure for your new webshop. Now is the time to move online.