If you have a business, you probably have a website to make it easier for customers to find you. But your online presence can do so much more: It can, in fact, become a lucrative new sales channel. Whether you’re expanding a bricks-and-mortar store or launching an eCommerce business from scratch, it’s surprisingly easy to set up shop online–as long as you lay the proper groundwork.
Here are four topics to keep in mind when launching an eCommerce effort:
Gather information. For each product you plan to sell online, you’ll need a photograph, description, and information such as shipping weight and physical dimensions. “Most bricks-and-mortar businesses don’t have to consider these issues,” says John McDaniel of WSI Integrated Web Solutions, a marketing consultancy based in St. James, New York. “They tend to operate more on a one-off basis, but that doesn’t work in an online environment when customers expect to complete a sale entirely on their own.”
Know your customers. Learn as much as possible about how your customers prefer to shop online. How will you attract their attention? What information will they be looking for?
“You need a much deeper understanding of your customers’ wants and needs because on a website there’s no instantaneous feedback like when you’re dealing with a customer on the phone,” McDaniel cautions.
Determine your needs and capabilities. Consider what resources you have to service this new sales channel. Are you prepared to dedicate additional time to customer service and fulfillment for online purchasers? How will you enter information you receive from your online store? Can your current credit-card processor handle online processing, or will you need a new one?
Find a platform. Once you’ve addressed the above look for a suitable eCommerce solution. These can vary widely, from add-ons that bring shopping-cart capabilities to an existing site to full-fledged platforms offering inventory management, marketing tools, fulfillment services, and more. Included with Business Optimum 60 and 100 internet service, you get 12 GB of storage space, easy-to-use tools, and eCommerce capabilities, everything you need to get started
In it’s important to remember that eCommerce is just one of the possible sales channels for your business. You’ll discover that some of your customers require a high-touch sales process, while others find online shopping more convenient. But providing your customers multiple ways to buy from you, you’ve given your business a path to greater growth.
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