We’re currently facing extraordinary times with everyone practicing social-distancing and staying safe. Businesses are having to close their doors, and our economy is struggling. Everyone understands that returning to normal will take time, and we have to learn how to operate our businesses in a time of the pandemic, how to survive not only physically but also to keep our business going.
Businesses with developed digital channels for e-commerce, marketing, and customer service can adapt quickly and stay afloat.
On the opposite, companies who have virtual services and ecommerce can even grow their business. We may see examples around us when certain services or products that we did not think before are available online. Here are just a few examples of new offerings: hairstylists premix color, bartenders who premix drinks or BBQ dinner sets from restaurants.
It’s time to either create or upgrade your ecommerce store to serve the broadest segment of potential customers possible.
We outlined a plan for how a brick and mortar organization can implement commerce capabilities within two weeks.
It is crucial to set the right priorities for the first phase of your online operations. This step would help you make your first phase as short as possible to launch your eCommerce operation but you can extend it with more products and services during stages 2 or 3.
Here are three elements to consider:
- Determine your primary customer segment that provides the most substantial contribution to your revenues
- Select the most relevant products and services to target this customer group.
- Sketch your marketing and advertising strategy to match the target audience and products.
Selecting a Partner
The internet eCommerce started about quarter-century ago and now achieved high-level maturity and sophistication.
If you are new to ecommerce, then you may be easily overwhelmed by its complexity. Partnering with an ecommerce agency would help you avoid costly mistakes when you are trying to navigate through this challenging journey.
Choose an eCommerce Platform
Selecting an eCommerce platform first, then working on the strategy, is the common mistake that many merchants make.
There are many great eCommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Woocommerce, and Magento. Which one is the most suitable for you? And the most popular platform is not necessarily the best for every e-commerce operation.
Don’t rely on reviews that try to compare features and prices to recommend the best platform. Talk with your agency partner to understand which one works for your particular business. Only experts with experience working with different eCommerce platforms may provide you crucial insights to help you to make the right choice.
You may learn more about eCommerce Technology Platform Selection here.
Inventory Management. Online and Offline Integration Plan
You need a single view of your product inventory and your customers.
Having a common system to manage both online and offline operations is critical to keeping your cost low and your customers happy. Disconnected in-store and online retail services would create many frustrations for you and your customers. It will become a significant obstacle to growing your online sales. Customers expect to be able to have curb/in-store pickup, online delivery, or buying online with the ability to exchange in-store. You should have online-offline integration from the first day you start selling online.
If you have a POS system, check with your provider what ecommerce platforms does your POS may connect. If you have no Point of Sale (POS) and just use a cash register or have an outdated POS, it makes sense to get a new POS. Modern POSs such as LightSpeed, Square, Shopify Clover, or Predict Spring can work together with modern ecommerce platforms.
Online Store Domain Name
Check your domain name. If you don’t have a well-established website, you may need to choose a new domain name.
There are two strategies with your domain name:
- Choose a new domain name that is a catchy, online search-friendly name that will resonate with your customers.
- Use your current brand name.
In some cases, your brand names may be already taken by other businesses as their domain name. Consult with your agency partner about the optimal ecommerce brand name.
Search Engine Marketing
The successful ecommerce marketing is a result of the right mix of paid ads campaigns with organic search optimization efforts.
Many new to ecommerce retailers try to use “the do it yourself approach” (DIY) but often get very disappointing results. Engaging with an experienced ecommerce agency would help avoid wasting precious time and money on unprofitable campaigns. Remember to not go to another extreme and just hire an agency and forget about it.
First, review with your agency your gross margins, shipping cost, and profitability model to establish the target return on advertising investments.
The optimal approach is to follow weekly sales cycles for your search campaign optimization. You may schedule regular online or phone meetings with your agency to review the strategy.
Social media Marketing
If your business has already a social media presence, then you need to extend it with your online sales offers. Some of the ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce offer the capability to sell directly on your Facebook page, add products to shopping posts and shopping stories on Instagram.
Social media is not a one-time campaign tool.
Make sure you’re actively communicating about your new products, offers, and other changes to your business through social channels including your Google My Business profile.
You may read more about social media marketing and e-commerce:
- 3 Ways How Social Commerce May Help You to Grow Your Business, https://www.eradium.com/3-ways-social-commerce-may-help/
- Social Personalization, Social Media Personalization, https://www.eradium.com/glossary-definition/social-personalization/
- Social Commerce, https://www.eradium.com/glossary-definition/social-commerce/
Email marketing is an essential tool in converting shoppers to buyers and increasing repeat purchases from your store. It can do magic for you because of its ability to deliver relevant and timely content to your audience.
The average expected ROI is $42 for every $1 you spend on email marketing. 81% of small businesses rely on email as their primary customer acquisition channel and 80% for retention. (1)
Prepare a catalog of your first phase only inventory. Your online product catalog is a fundamental component of your eCommerce operations.
The online catalog provides all product information for your website, including titles, description, options, pricing, product discounts, and images. The product catalog must also store the information required to calculate your shipping and fulfillment costs.
Work closely with your agency consultants to ensure that you have sufficient and correct product catalog content to sell online. In most cases, the brick and mortar POS information is not adequate to sell products online, so you need to extend it and make it online friendly.
Here is the primary product data that you need to prepare for your catalog:
- Product identifiers: SKU, Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)
- Title or name – describes a single product with potentially multiple variants.
- Friendly description- it needs to have enough details for your customers to make a purchase decision.
- Product images must be of high quality that satisfies these minimum requirements:
- Minimum 800×800 pixels
- Accurately display the entire product
- Make sure your image shows all pieces included in the product
- Some products like Hardware, Vehicles, and Parts or Software may use generic images. Otherwise, you must have a real product image and not substitute for similar product images.
The ability to receive online payment is an essential capability of any ecommerce operation. While you may start with a credit card payment method (Paypal, Square, or Stripe) only, you will likely extend your payment options with more choices over time.
Most common other payment choices offered by online merchants:
- gift cards
- loyalty points
- mobile payment
- bank transfer
- prepaid card
- direct deposits
- blockchain currency like BitCoin.
The specified selection depends on your target audience and may start by researching your competition to understand potential customer expectations.
Shipping and Fulfillment
It is impossible to run sustainable ecommerce operations without well organized and correctly priced shipping.
You may consider options such as in-store packing and shipment to completely outsourced fulfillment services, or hybrid shipping and fulfillment by product line or location. Discuss with your team and consultants the right shipping strategy for your business.
Three most Important Ecommerce Shipping Considerations:
- What’s the difference in size and weight from the smallest SKUs to your largest, heaviest SKUs?
- Shipping destinations: Where are you shipping to — domestic or international?
- Shipping options: What are the best shipping services or carriers for your unique needs?
Your shipping method choices depend on both your product size and weight as well as shipping destinations.
Free in-store or curb-site pickup could be the primary shipping option for your local customers. Other options can include postal and courier services or Less Than Truckload (LTS) freight carriers if you’re shipping unusually big items or make a lot of large B2B shipments.
It may take some time to find your best combination of shipping options and rate structure to balance the convenience, conversion rate, and profitability. (2)
Legal and Policies
Your online store should have a minimum set of legal policies published on your site with visible links to those documents. Most of the ecommerce sites keep links in the website footer area.
The three most common ecommerce legal and policy pages are the following:
- Shipping and Returns Policy
- Terms and Conditions
It is strongly recommended to have these policies in place to inform your customers and protect yourself and your company. eCommerce platform sites may provide sample templates of the standard policies. However, you need to tailor those templated policies to reflect your specific needs. Contact your legal counsel to ensure that your policies are adequate for your local laws and target market.
The first thing you need to do is plan and set specific priorities for your phase one online store launch.
Next interview and select your ecommerce agency partner before choosing the ecommerce platform. Establishing trusted partnership relationships with a clear shared understanding of the project goals and the roadmap is the most important for success.
- 10 Email Marketing Stats You Need to Know in 2020 [Infographic], https://www.oberlo.ca/blog/email-marketing-statistics
- Ecommerce Shipping: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Shipping Profitability, https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-shipping/#ecommerce-shipping-best-practices