Online shopping

As e-commerce continues to grow, an increasing number of retailers are making the leap to the online marketplace. However, in such a vast, competitive environment, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Any business can make the leap to digital, but it takes preparation.

Know your assets

If you’re a retailer, you first need to ask yourself what kind of physical assets or reputation you can translate into online success. Even if you’ve never owned actual premises, online may be the right platform for you.

The first step for retailers is to work on your online store. You’ll need a domain – but you’ll also need software that is able to display your products, handle customer details, accept orders and receive payments.

You’ll also need software to administer dispatch, shipping and tracking processes. There are a number of models available that accomplish this, one of the more popular ones is StoreSprite, which is fairly easy to configure and setup. Once you’ve got your domain and your store set up, you’ll need to think about how to generate funds.

Here you’ll have to get a system that handles online payments. There are two key requirements for this: a payment gateway and a merchant bank. Payments are handled by the payment gateway, an intermediary company who sit between you and your Merchant Bank.

Ensure the payment methods you select offer optimal security to protect the safety of your customers and business. You should ensure compliance between your payment provider and your ecommerce administration software too, to avoid any hiccups along the way. Don’t forget to compare the services of multiple payment providers, as this will help you get the best deal.

Once you’ve got the foundations in place, you can start putting your e-business in motion. The next step is a logistical one, choosing a suitable delivery method. As a retailer, it’s your duty to keep delivery costs down for both yourself and your customers. High shipping charges can discourage many customers from buying, so it’s in your best interest to keep costs to a minimum. Do your research and choose the best company for your products and shipping area.

The fourth and most important element is attracting customers to the site. It would be naïve to assume instant success as soon as your website launches; in the early stages, your website is a seed that is yet to sprout.

Exposure is the one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site. As well as organic rankings in Google and online advertisements, getting your brand in front of the right audiences is crucial. You’ll need to start with a marketing strategy that pulls in customers and gets them talking about your brand.

With that in mind, you should look to set up effective social media accounts and joining the conversation online through blogs and other media outlets can help you quickly drum up interest. Grassroots businesses have flourished online from their social media efforts. Success online is all about building solid foundations that is expanded by reputations and relationships.

By Craig Whittaker, Pure Beauty