These days more and more bricks-and-mortar retailers are realising that in order to survive well into the future, it is imperative to have an online store.
Moving online is an essential part of the sales funnel, it also increases brand exposure and allows even the smallest operator to punch above their weight, but with so many options out there – how does a small retailer decide what will work best for them, before investing thousands of dollars?
It pays to know the basics, such as the various pre-packaged options available
(Magento, PrestaShop, Zen cart, osCommerce, VirtueMart, OpenCart and many other e-commerce engines). You can either look at a full e-commerce solution, or simply add a shopping cart to your WordPress (or other content management system), existing web site or even your facebook page site.
Most offer a degree of customisation to suit you brand and your needs – not as much as a custom-made site, but enough that you don’t necessarily have to pay for a site that has been developed from scratch.
Check out other websites in your niche to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Often a bit of research will also uncover the platform they are using – some will be as obvious, such as the name of an e-commerce software supplier listed on the page, others may require more investigation.
Also, while on the sites, think about which ones you would visit as a customer and which you would steer clear of, and why.
It’s vital to find a URL (web address) that reflects your business and is available. Steer clear of generic names such as shoes.com or surfboard.com – you want visitors to know they have landed at your store, not some random competitor. Unfortunately, there may be a chance that the name of your business is already taken, so you might have to be creative.
Another thing to keep in mind is that online shops take up a fair bit of memory so it pays to stay clear of cheap hosting options as they are likely to run more slowly than premium hosting packages and thus drive away customers. Not to mention that you will need a pretty high level of reliability, plus 24/7 technical support.
You also need to think about what sort of payment options you might offer. The most common are PayPal, credit card and direct debit. You probably want at least two so that your customers can pick a choice that suits them.
Set up and monitor your analytics, so you can determine what parts of your conversion funnel are working, and can tweak when necessary.
Direct Sites Online specialises in helping bricks-and-mortar stores get online.