Starting an online store for an existing business is a serious undertaking, not a lark to be thrown together on a Sunday afternoon when you have nothing better to do. An owner of a business that is already successful is wise to create a website, and equally wise to plan and execute it as if he or she was starting an entirely new business from scratch. An online store could allow you to reach an international audience and enjoy unimaginable success. It could also become a time and money suck that is your worst entrepreneurial nightmare. Pay attention to the following tips in order to make it the former rather than the latter.
Do You Need a Business Plan?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! This is not to say you must physically create an entirely separate business plan. You should already have one laying around from when you opened your brick-and-mortar store. It’s perfectly acceptable to add a new section for your online store. Just like with the physical store, you need a budget, marketing, and lots of planning. Will you immediately make all your products available to be purchased online? It might be more sane to start with a few and expand as you are able.
Don’t Get Hung Up on Perfection
One of the big time killers of entrepreneurial plans is a psychological need for perfection. Get that out of your head now. Perfection doesn’t exist. While planning is a major component of an online store, it’s okay if your ecommerce venture doesn’t give Amazon a run for its money right out of the gate. There’s a concept floating around, popularized by copywriter Michael Masterson, called Ready, Fire, Aim! Get it? Do an appropriate amount of planning, then pull the trigger and create a website. Often it’s impossible to tell what needs to be tweaked or changed until you do it wrong a few times. It’s faster to learn from a mistake than to try and anticipate everything that can possibly go wrong.
It’s All in the Domain
Hopefully, you had the foresight to secure a domain matching the name of your physical business before even opening. If not, don’t give up on the idea of an online store. There are two ways you can go. Even though .com and .net suffixes are still by far the most popular, consider branching out into others like .us or .club. There has been a spate of new top-level domains added in recent years. Expect more on the horizon. There may come a day when .com isn’t all the rage. Your other option is to tag an additional word onto the beginning or end of the domain. Say your store is called Fantastic Widgets but FantasticWidgets.com is taken. Try expanding the domain to FantasticWidgetsStore.com or FantasticWidgetsWorld.com. You get the idea.
Pick an Ecommerce Site
It’s not our job to guide you to a particular ecommerce website builder. A short Internet search will yield more than you ever imagined. The bottom line here is that technology has been a great boon for business owners wishing to go online in recent years. You no longer need to fork over thousands of dollars to a website designer. For a quite modest monthly subscription fee, you can have a professional looking website with integrated shopping cart ready to go with an afternoon of dedicated work.
Stock the Shelves
Depending upon what your business or service involves, figuratively “stocking” the shelves of your online store could be easy or hard. The thing to keep in mind, as we’ve alluded to before, is you don’t have to make everything available immediately. With products, you need to take good pictures of each item, provide an attractive description, and upload it onto your website. These things take time. With a service, similar rules apply. Use quality photos and supply enough educational information to get those phones ringing. Speaking of phones, make it super obvious how potential customers can get in touch with you.
Put on Your Marketing Hat
Getting your new store online and ready to sell is only half the battle. Now you have to let people know you are there. Despite the plot line in the movie Field of Dreams, just because you build it doesn’t mean they will immediately come. In fact, unless you do some serious marketing, they probably won’t. But this doesn’t mean you need to have logged a decade in a Madison Avenue ad agency in order to figure out what to do. Solid marketing information is all over the Internet, much of it at little to no cost.
Familiarize yourself with the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and AdWords. Also internalize the idea that today’s Google search results LOVE to reward websites that release fresh, targeted content. Are you a writer? Do you know one? Plan to write and release articles that would be interesting and valuable to your customers several times a week. Have an easy sign up form and send out a weekly newsletter. In the Internet Age, email addresses are gold nuggets. Treat them accordingly.
The preceding tips should give you a good grounding on how to create a website quickly. As to whether or not you should do it, in almost every case the answer is yes. Pay attention around the holiday season. Online shopping is growing exponentially. You can bet your bottom dollar that trend will continue. Most physical stores are limited by a certain geographical area. To the business owner who thinks bigger than that, the world is definitely your oyster. Now go crack it open and savor the flavor within.