Rodney Laws is an eCommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. He’s worked with the biggest platforms in the world, making him the perfect person to offer advice on which platforms to build your website with. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business.
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Since you’re reading this, you’re presumably the proud owner of a small business, allowing me to infer two major probabilities about you: you’re keenly entrepreneurial, and you’re facing some tough operational challenges.
What can you do to adapt during trying times? You can cut back on your spending, of course, and try to make your business model more economical. You can furlough or even fire some employees (though I certainly wouldn’t recommend that). You can even try crowdfunding support from your local community if you happen to have a local presence.
There’s another option you should consider, though, and that’s expanding the monetization of your business by creating an eCommerce store.
5 Easy Steps to Turn Your Business Into an eCommerce Website
If you’re already selling a physical product in a storefront, turning your business into an eCommerce store will be easier than you think. After all, you’ve already taken step one below.
If you do not sell products in-store, there are still ways to get your foot in the water and reach new customers online.
1. Figure out what you want to sell
You can’t exactly set up a worthwhile storefront if you have no idea what you’re going to sell, so that’s the first thing you need to figure out. What products would your customers be interested in? What does your area of expertise qualify you to rate? What will people listen to your opinions on? In the end, this should be reasonably simple to figure out: if you run an interior design business, for instance, you should aim to sell products like paints or rugs.
If you run a construction business, you should start selling nails, hammers, tape measures, etc. When someone sees a product you’re offering, they should trust your suggestion that it’s worth their money. This is why it’s a terrible idea to choose products at random or based on whatever’s trending: a particular item of jewelry might be selling in big numbers, but stocking it in a board-gaming store would be confusing and ineffective.
A great way to market your local (or online) business and future eCommerce store is to start a blog and write helpful tutorials on how to use the products you sell or DIY the services you offer.
2. Choose a convenient store platform
Before you can have a store, you need a CMS (content management system), and you shouldn’t just settle for the first one you see. The system you choose will determine various important things: how easy it is to update your store, how quickly it runs, what kind of information you can include, what additional features are available through modular extension, how it looks on mobile devices, and many other things besides.
Given that you have a business to run regardless, I suggest researching a platform and picking something that’s fast and intuitive.
The industry-standard these days is Shopify because it has a fast template-based builder and an exceptional support service that will come in handy for a novice merchant, but it isn’t perfect and might not be right for you — particularly if your site runs on WordPress, in which case you could add on the store component through a plugin like WooCommerce.
3. Pick the most suitable eCommerce model
If you’re not familiar with eCommerce, you might think it’s extremely straightforward, but there are actually various viable selling models. You can source products, stock them, and ship them out. You can list third-party products and sell them without stocking or shipping them (dropshipping). You can source generic products, brand them, and sell them as your own (white labeling). You can produce products on demand (typically items of clothing, but not always).
Each of the available models has strengths and weaknesses. Dropshipping minimizes risk and effort needed but also minimizes profitability and potential success. White-labelling lets you charge more while skipping R&D, but it also limits your creativity and won’t make you stand out. Think about the product types you’d like to sell, and figure out whether you’d like to source them, develop them, or simply curate them.
Related: Actionable eCommerce Tips For 2020
4. Promote your store through existing channels
As part of your business, you should already have various marketing channels, promoting your brand through avenues such as social media, emails, paid advertising campaigns, or influencer relationships. Once you have your store up and running, you should take advantage of those existing channels to promote it — but be careful with the implementation, because you don’t want to alienate your customers by pushing too hard.
Aim to work it in subtly as an optional consideration. If you write a piece of content into which you could reasonably put a product link, do so, but make it clear that it’s your product you’re suggesting. Talk openly about why you set up a store: how it seemed like a smart idea in challenging economic conditions, and how you hoped to offer more value to your customers and followers. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t treat it as something you need to conceal.
5. Optional: offer branded merchandise
I mention this as an optional extra because it isn’t going to work for some businesses but it can work very well for others. If you’ve built up an interesting brand with a solid identity (a clear logo, a slogan or set of slogans, a color scheme, etc.) then why not offer print-on-demand branded merchandise? You could sell hats, shirts, pens, and many other things.
If you’re already producing products on demand, then it’ll be a natural fit — and if you’re not, but you’ve chosen a modern CMS, then you should be able to use a service like Printify along with some branded graphics to easily add some suitable product configurations. In short, if you think people might actually buy your branded merchandise, why not sell some?
Starting an eCommerce Store is Simple
You don’t need to have an established line of products in your physical business in order to start an eCommerce website. Follow the steps above to find an option that melds with your existing business. And if you want to find a niche that is unrelated to your current business, it’s OK to start a new business! It’s a good time to harness the power of online marketing and step into the World Wide Web in order to make more money.