It will be of no surprise to you to know that online shopping is the preferred choice for many. Retail stores are struggling on the high street, and this is thanks to sites such as Amazon and eBay which sell virtually anything a customer needs, online.
There are also thousands of independent sellers that sell to specific niches, some of whom could be capitalising on your potential customers. According to UK statistics, almost £1 in every £5 spent in retail is spent online, and this will largely be thanks to the rise of mobile phones and other smart devices that make shopping for products easier than ever.
Of course, there is no reason why your offline retail store can’t stay open for the long-term, as you can research ways to battle the online competition. Still, as the old saying goes, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, as it might make financial sense for you to expand into the ecommerce sector, whether you continue to keep your offline store open or not.
Benefits Of Expanding To Ecommerce
Why should you expand into ecommerce? Well, we have already alluded to this in the introduction, as you will be able to stand toe to toe with some of your competition if you do. There are other benefits too.
- According to retail news, 87% of shoppers now start a product search online, so if you have a website up and running, you will be in a prime position to make new customers.
- In offline retail, you are largely restricted to the people in your local community for sales. However, when your business is online, you will be able to reach more customers than ever before, nationally and even internationally. This is great news for you, as the potential to make more sales is huge.
- There are financial benefits to your business, as not only do you stand a chance of making a greater profit, but you will make savings too, as there are very few overheads to consider when operating online.
- You can encourage more sales with a website, as you will be able to give more detailed information about the products you sell. Through product descriptions, blog posts, and even tutorial videos, there is much you can do to encourage potential customers to buy from you.
- With an online retail store, you can be open 24/7. By setting up payment options, your customers will have the opportunity to use your business at a time that suits them. This means you can meet the needs of those people who struggle to shop due to work and family commitments.
These are just a few of the expected benefits, but there are more, as you will discover through research and experience after you have set yourself up online.
Challenges Of Expanding To Ecommerce
There are many benefits to setting yourself up online, but there are challenges too. Thankfully, these can be overcome.
- As with any store, you will face competition. The ecommerce market is huge, from online giants such as Amazon to those smaller online stores that could become your nearest rivals. However, it is easy to market yourself online, thanks to social media and email. And by hiring an SEO company to optimise your business for Google searches, you can rank higher than other businesses on search engines. As seen here, you can do a lot to make your ecommerce business stand out too, so it is possible to rise above your rivals.
- If you aren’t technically minded, you might have concerns about setting up a website, making it secure, and managing the payment side of your site. However, as we will discuss in our next point, it is relatively easy to get started online, and there is lots of help out there, including from ourselves, so you can outsource to others for assistance.
These are two of the major challenges you will face when setting yourself up online – however there may be others.
Getting Started Online
You can be up and running in no time at all, as you don’t need to be versed in HTML code to set up your own website. There are a number of ecommerce platforms online that can make setting up an online business relatively easy, and while you are free to shop around, we recommend WordPress. It’s inexpensive to use and is very customisable. We also recommend WooCommerce; a very useful and popular plugin that makes creating and managing an online store super simple.
You can find out everything you need to know to get started with a WordPress site at wordpress.org.
Before setting up your WordPress site, you need to purchase a suitable domain name for your business – there are loads of websites online that can offer this service – and you will need to choose good website hosting. In this latter regard, we are very proud of the services that we can offer you, as we have the technical know-how to host all WordPress sites. Click here to learn more.
When setting up your website, you need to create something that is good looking, easy to use, and packed with the functionalities that your customers will need. They will need a contact page, for example, as well as a FAQ page, product search option, terms and conditions section, and the appropriate links for easy navigation. Check out these ecommerce must-haves to find out more, and even take a look at other ecommerce websites online for more inspiration.
WordPress has a range of premium themes on offer for design purposes, and there are many widgets you can pick from their site to help you create something that is both practical and functional. However, to help you stand above the competition and achieve better results with your site, we have the ability to create something that will really push your business forward.
Follow this link to take a look at what we can offer you, and have a look on the linked page at some of the WordPress websites we have already created to support businesses like yours. With our help, you can have a great looking website with all of the functionalities you require. We can make sure it loads quickly too, and that it is fully optimised for mobile users.
WooCommerce is the popular choice for many, as it includes plenty of flexible features.
- It can accommodate over a hundred payment options, including Paypal, Stripe, and Worldpay.
- It allows for multiple shipping methods, with configurable shipping zones and shipping classes.
- It works with Google Analytics to help you see what is driving the most traffic to your website.
- It accommodates a range of security features, though you will need an SSL certificate (luckily for you, this is included in our care plan).
- It includes an advanced toolkit for placing in-store orders using a Point of Sales interface.
- And it has everything else you need to manage your online store, including an intuitive backend for order management, stock management, and refunds. Oh, and it’s also free to use, so that should give you extra incentive to consider WooCommerce.
Visit woocommerce.com to learn more.
When setting up your store, you will achieve greater success if you include:
- Full product listings on your website – you can do this through the WooCommerce plugin.
- Include professional photos of your product range to elevate your customers’ interest in what you have to offer. Again, this can be done easily with the photo options provided at WooCommerce.
- Write detailed descriptions for your products, so your customers get to fully appreciate the items you are selling.
- Include a testimonial page to encourage trust in new customers visiting your site. The WooCommerce plugin allows you to collect individual reviews for your products too.
Get in touch with us if you would like to know more about WordPress, WooCommerce, general website tips, and the services we can offer you.
Develop A Marketing Plan
Unsurprisingly, to ensure you receive a steady flow of customers to your business, you need to commit to marketing. Before and after your website launch, consider the ways in which you could market your ecommerce site online, and add them to your marketing plan.
As examples, you might want to consider the following.
- Start a blog. This is an excellent way to promote your products on your site, as you will be able to go into more detail about the things you are selling, and tailor stories around them that speak to the needs of your customers. A blog is also excellent for SEO purposes, as by including keywords about your product and business within your blog posts, you will start to rank higher on Google’s search pages. Within your marketing plan, you will need to come up with a content strategy for your blog, as this will maximise its potential for growing your business. The previous link contains some excellent information.
- Launch a newsletter. This will let your customers know more about your business and the products you are selling, and it can be your way of reminding past customers to return to your business. Integrate your newsletters on your website and email them to your customers at regular intervals.
- Post on social media. For starters, you should create business pages on the social networks your customers are likely to use. You can then encourage them to sign up to your pages as they will then be able to read your updates. Share regularly with new information, such as links to new products on your site, discounts you are offering, and exciting bits of news about your business.
- Use bloggers and influencers. Encourage bloggers to write about your business on their sites and ask them to create links to your pages. And ask your customers to become influencers too, as they could promote your business to their online and offline networks. Offer incentives to encourage them to share word about you, perhaps with a discount on your products, or even a free sample.
- Consider PPC (pay per click) advertising if you have the budget. This is essentially a way of buying people to use your site, as you will have to pay a small fee every time they click on one of your ads. Still, you will make a massive profit if they then decide to buy from you, so consult with our experts to learn more.
- Have a launch party. Who doesn’t love a party? This can be your way of introducing your offline customers to your new site, so have it up and running at your event, and perhaps offer discounts to your existing customers when they make their first online purchases.
Those were just a few ideas, but continue your research online for other ways to market your business.
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Useful Tools And Apps
There are hundreds of software tools and apps available for online business owners. Chances are, you might use some of them already when operating your business offline.
- Quickbooks – Quality accounting software to help you manage your accounts, sort your taxes, manage your expenses, and more. You can also integrate Quickbooks with WooCommerce using a connector to make your accounting management super easy!
- GSuite – Everything you need to securely store your important documents on Google Cloud, with email, calendar, spreadsheet, and sharing capabilities.
- ClickUp – A really useful task management tool to ensure you have everything you need to hand for maximum productivity.
- PageManager – An excellent way to manage your Facebook page and to stay in touch with the people who connect to you through the site.
- MailPoet – An easy way to create and manage newsletters and mailing lists on your WordPress website.
These are but a few examples, but check online for more, and read reviews online before paying for any paid options.
To really make your online business a success, you might want to outsource occasionally. This will free up your time to focus on other parts of your business, and it will ensure that quality is at a premium for the essential parts of your online business operations.
As examples, you might want to include the following types of service when outsourcing.
- Website Development – As we have already discussed, your website needs to look and feel the part. Something quickly thrown online just won’t do, so if you need help in this area, use our website design services to truly make your ecommerce website stand out.
- WordPress Maintenance – WordPress is an excellent platform, but there could still be occasions when your site isn’t working as you want it to. You might want to make the occasional change too, especially when something you have added doesn’t work correctly. This is where a WordPress professional can help you, and luckily for you, we provide a maintenance service in our WordPress care plans.
- Content Writing – When it comes to your blog, product descriptions, and other pieces of website text, you need content that captures the hearts and minds of your readers. A content writer can provide you with this service, and can also update your blog if you don’t have the time to do so yourself. Get in touch if you’d like some help with this.
- Graphics Design – For your business to stick in the minds of your visitors, you need an effective logo and other memorable graphic elements for your website. While you can create your own using the packages provided by Adobe, etc you might still decide to pay for the professional touch for something that truly looks the part.
- Marketing and SEO Consultancy – As you can appreciate, to be effective, marketing for your business needs to be done right. By outsourcing to a marketing professional, they will ensure word gets out to the right people about your business, and for those consultants with skills in SEO, they will work hard to make sure you are highly visible on Google. Feel free to check out our Enterprise care plan which includes SEO consultancy and optimisation services.
- Social Media Management – From Facebook to Instagram, you have a lot of social media sites at your disposal. To save you time and to ensure the right messages get out about your business, you could hire somebody to deal with this important aspect of your marketing for you.
- Photography Services – Sure, you could take stock photos of your product types from the internet, and you could use your personal photos. However, first impressions are everything, so to ensure your product photos truly stand out to your customers, hire a professional photographer.
- Legal Services – You will require legal help to help you create your Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, etc, so to avoid any legal problems and to make sure you remain compliant, hire legal services for advice and use online services such as Iubenda to generate your legal documents.
These are just a few examples, but consider the areas where you might need help, and look for the relevant people in your area.
You can hit new heights of success by expanding your business online, so consider the advice we have given you. And remember that we are here to help, as with our team of highly proficient and experienced professionals, we can help you develop, manage and maintain your WordPress site.
So, get in touch with us today if you would like to know more, and let us help you get your online expansion off the ground.