Is your business ready to reap some of those online sales? Launching an online store can be challenging for small businesses, which are often short on time, budget and staff. But ecommerce vendors can help you make designing and maintaining an online store relatively simple and affordable.
Here are important questions to ask when creating your company’s first online store:
- How do I start building my online store?
If you can’t afford to hire someone to build a custom online store, don’t worry. There are plenty of ecommerce vendors that can help you create one quickly.
Such companies as Shopify can help you start an online clothing store. These platforms let you design the overall look, feel and functionality of your online store. They also let you do things such as upload your product catalog, set up customer shopping carts, securely accept payments and handle order fulfillment. These services securely host your online clothing store on their own servers.
- How will I handle customer service?
To respond to customers’ concerns efficiently, you may want to choose an ecommerce vendor that gives you access to a reliable customer relationship management (CRM) tool. Most of the major ecommerce vendors offer CRM options, sometimes for an added fee ranging between about $25 and $75 per month.
CRM tools document, streamline and structure the many ways merchants interact with customers in one central place, including customer contact information, recent purchases, complaints and pending orders. We suggest getting a toll-free phone number specifically dedicated to customer service. Another option is to set up a live chat in your online store, she says, but only if you can operate it 24/7, which online shoppers have come to expect.
- How should I determine shipping costs?
It’s often easier and more accurate to leave exact shipping-cost calculations — both to you and your customer — to the carrier you use. The major carriers will calculate shipping costs for you for free, and most major ecommerce vendors allow you to integrate those costs into your store’s checkout section.
On the other hand, you may want to consider offering free shipping, at least for orders over a certain amount. If your direct competitors provide free shipping, Peterson suggests that you consider it, too, if you can afford it.
- How do I create the best product images and descriptions?
“Online shoppers don’t get to see, touch, feel or smell your product,” says Barkat, so the next best thing is a crisp, clear product image. While he says you shouldn’t entirely cut corners on photography, you don’t have to hire a professional to get high-quality images. But you should use “a 16-megapixel DSLR camera, decent lighting and a light box,” he advises.
Peterson says written product descriptions should be short, yet rich with enough interesting details to pique customer interest. “Try to use compelling adjectives and phrases that evoke an emotion when someone reads your description,” she says, “without getting too carried away or taking up too much space.” In addition to noting the price, you may want to include product uses, dimensions and other defining characteristics.
- How will I start to attract shoppers?
After your store is up and running, spread the word both online and off. Placing links to your store’s web address on your company’s main website and in your email newsletter campaigns would be a good start. Peterson also recommends creating Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube accounts representing your online store. Updating your company’s social media sites a few times a day can drive traffic to your store by drawing attention to daily deals and other promotions.
It’s also advisable to choose an ecommerce vendor that automatically uses search engine optimization (SEO) for your store’s content. SEO tactics can give your store a higher ranking in search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo.