There are a number of reasons why people start or expand their business online. Among some of the most common would include: seeking to increase their brand exposure or market share, as a means of reducing overheads, or the perception that an online business with make their life easier.
In our dealings with many a business, we have found one of the most difficult things for business owners to reconcile when taking their online, is how to deal with the detail of customer interaction… you know, the stuff that would usually get sorted out during the back and forth of a face-to-face interaction, phone call, or over a series of emails. This is the kind of vagary that can be difficult to translate into an online shop, and result in a system where you are spending just as much time on the phone that before you went online…. wasn’t part of the objective of going online to make your life easier?
There are two factors that can markedly impact on the success of your transition online: 1. your product / services offering, and 2. your existing business systems and procedures.
So, to this end, here are a couple of tips on how you can make your transitions online easier.
Ensure that your product or service offering is tightly defined. This does not mean that there is no room for variables (or even multiples of) but it is necessary (generally speaking) to ensure that every possible variable can be covered by a yes/no answer or the ability to select a check box.
If you offer custom products, beware, in many cases there is no getting around the essential back and forth to iron out the details.
As a bottom line an online shop does not instantly make your life easier, though it can with the right planning and subsequent communication with customers through your online shop.
Along the same vein, an online shop is not the solution to all the problems in your business. This is why you need to….
2. Ensure you have your business systems down!
If you are looking to take your business online and you are already having problems with stock management, order fulfilment and logistics, an online shop is not going to fix this, but rather has the potential to complicate the matter further. What’s more a poorly run online business can hurt your business reputation, as many a keyboard warrior may feel further empowered in this faceless online environment to perhaps even overly harshly negatively review your business for all the world to see.
One final note on taking your business online… it does not automatically mean more exposure (i.e. sales) for your business.
It is important to think of an online shop as the most unremarkable shop on the most out of the way street (the same goes for websites in general). No one is going to pass your shop without a few signs telling them the way, or even bother heeding them without some incentive to visit, which could be as simple a communication a saying what you do or sell. Otherwise it would be a bit like this
“Turn left in 500m to visit the red shop”
Unless “red shop” is enough to peak the consumers interest, then chances are the sign is doing nothing… “Turn left in 500m to visit the red shop – the home of the sweetest, juciest gourmet tomatoes on the coast!”…. Yay… incentive!
I hope we have sufficiently illustrated the need for marketing your online shop!
If you are setting up an online shop in conjunction with a pre-existing “real” shop, then you have the opportunity to market to your existing customers in the hopes that they will increase their frequency of purchase and tell their friends.
If you don’t have a pre-existing customer base, then you will need to look at other ways of getting your business out there, be it through networking, print advertising, Google Adwords, social media marketing, or SEO.
If your are looking to take your business online, we can help you plan and execute this – see more on our Consulting page.
If you have already set up an online shop then we can help you market it – see more on our SEO page.