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The Small Business Guide to eCommerce

small business ecommerce

According to the Pew Research Center, 8 out of 10 Americans are online shoppers. It’s more important than ever for small businesses to have an online presence. Even if you already have a website, it may be in your best interest to consider creating an eCommerce platform to complement your site and further expand your customer base.

Making the transition from brick-and-mortar to eCommerce is actually much easier than you may think. You already have a business and a physical store, so you are already halfway there! Many activities that you carry out in your store will also become part of your eCommerce site—but in a digital format.

In this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide so you can determine if you’re ready to move your business to eCommerce.

Benefits of eCommerce

Get the best of both worlds

There are a variety of benefits of having an eCommerce presence to complement your physical store. It gives you the best of both worlds, allowing customers to find you both online as well as in your physical store location. You can provide your local customers with a traditional brick‑and‑mortar experience while reaching a global audience that will give you a competitive edge.

Provide customers with an omnichannel experience

Consumers today look for multichannel experiences. This means that they want a seamless and consistent experience across multiple channels and devices. They want to be able to shop in physical stores as well as on online platforms across devices, including phones, tablets and laptops.

By having both a physical store and an eCommerce platform, you’re providing your customers with the seamless omnichannel experience that they’re looking for. Starbucks is a great example of a company that has mastered the art of providing an omnichannel experience. Through their online app, customers can place orders using their phones and pay for them. When they pass the physical store location, they can skip the line, grab their coffee and be on their way, all while accumulating loyalty points.

Reach new customers

By launching an eCommerce platform, you’ll not only give your existing customers an omnichannel experience, but you’ll also be able to reach a whole new set of customers that may not have access to your physical store. An eCommerce store allows your business to be open 24/7/365, and your reach is global, as well as local.

Steps to Take Your Small Business Online

Create a plan

The first step to launching your small business’ eCommerce platform is to develop a plan. You need to determine what tools and resources you will need and assess the overall investment it will require to transition your physical store to an online eCommerce environment. Shopify’s blog post, Why Your eCommerce Store Needs a Business Plan, provides some more valuable information on how to develop an eCommerce business plan.

Choose a platform

The next important step to launching an eCommerce site is to determine what platform will work best for you. This may seem overwhelming as there are many different platforms to choose from, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to approach this is to develop a list of important features. Also, think through which items are critical for today and which will be important in the future so you can choose a platform that will be scalable.

Create a budget

Like any other business project, you’ll need to put together a budget to determine what you are willing to spend to not only set up and develop your online store, but also maintain your eCommerce store. Practical Ecommerce provides a great resource for understanding the costs associated with starting a Web store.

Product selection

The next step you’ll need to take is determining which products you will sell on your eCommerce platforms. While some businesses sell all of their products in their online stores, others select only certain products to sell online. For instance, if you run a clothing boutique that focuses on selling clothing and accessories but you also sell beverages for customers to enjoy while shopping, you would likely only sell your clothing and accessories online as these are your primary business.

Supplier selections and order fulfillment

Since you already have a physical store location, you likely have relationships with one or many vendors who you consistently order from. To get your eCommerce site ready to go, you’ll need to set up your fulfillment process. Fulfillment is the actual process of fulfilling or servicing the orders that your customers make online. You can package and ship the orders yourself, or you can take advantage of a third-party service who would warehouse and ship online orders directly to your customers. Take some time to consider what volume of sales you will have online to determine what type of fulfillment process will work best for your business.

Develop your marketing strategy

The final important step to consider when launching an eCommerce site is to develop a marketing strategy. Because this portion of your business will be online, it’s important to consider online channels when developing this strategy, such as email and social media. You could add an email subscription form to the home page of your site or post content about your new eCommerce store on Facebook or Instagram. However, you can also promote the eCommerce side of your business in your store by letting customers who visit your store know that they can also purchase your products online.

With these steps, you’ll be on your way to having a successful eCommerce business. Don’t feel that you need to launch everything at once—test out a small eCommerce presence and expand from there based on its performance.

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