How to Transition Your Company to E-Commerce
Six months ago, the idea of starting to sell your products online would have been a question of costs vs. benefits. Could your business support running an online ‘side’ venture? How can your accrued experience as a brick-and-mortar store be applied? Can you reach new audiences online?
Nowadays the way your customers shop has shifted almost entirely online. E-commerce could be the key to surviving the lockdown. The question may not just be whether your business can support an online store, but if it can survive without one. So how do you move your business online? Consider the following points:
How will customers find you?
Before thinking about how to create your website and taking product photos, you need to understand how your customers will find you. Search ads, social media ads, and organic search results drive the most traffic for most e-commerce sites. Knowing how you’ll bring customers to your website helps you understand who your website is for, what products customers may want to buy from you, and your marketing costs.
What will you sell?
Consider what products your customers might want to buy from your brand, including changes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ve seen these categories do well:
- essentials (e.g., groceries, medicines, etc);
- home workout equipment;
- personal care; and
- cooking tools.
Be sure to look into shipping costs. The ideal e-commerce product is small, light, and high value, helping to keep shipping costs down.
What happens after you get an order?
How will you pick the products, package them for shipping, and ensure they arrive on time? Post offices are closing early and shipping delays happen. Warn your customers of any issues, be as candid as possible at all times, keep your inventory levels up-to-date, and provide insights and tracking info. The delivery of products might be out of your control, but the information provided doesn’t have to be.
Creating Your Website
Now it’s time to create a great website and accept orders. E-commerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace were created to make it easy for small business owners to get started.
Some key points when planning your e-commerce site:
- Be sure your site is well-designed, easy to use, responsive and intuitive. Think of your website as the salesperson your customer will first meet. Your e-commerce site should be friendly, efficient, empathetic and able to securely process transactions.
- Have informative product pages and great product photos. Even though your customers can’t touch or try out a product, give them as close to that experience as possible. Think about the questions a customer might have about your products and answer them preemptively.
- Paying you should be as easy as possible. If your customers have iPhones, offer Apple Pay. If your product requires accessories, offer them as a bundle.
- Make it clear how long shipping will take and what your returns policies are, giving customers a level of comfort to make a purchase.
- The more your site can do to provide a superior shopping experience, the less customer support you need to do, especially in times when you may be struggling for manpower in other areas.
Ultimately, aim to provide an online experience as seamless as possible to both the end customer and the people operating the shop, so that when this pandemic is over, your e-commerce channel keeps growing strong without becoming a burden to the day-to-day operation of the business.
Mark Lewis is the CEO of Netalico Commerce, a specialized e-commerce development and design firm for Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce e-commerce development.