Online stores offer customers a break from the standard shopping mall, where they've got to fight for parking, for products and for their position in the checkout line. Of course, online stores have plenty to offer retailers, too. Internet stores, for example, present companies with round-the-clock online business opportunities. So while retail outlets might only stay open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., online stores are open 24/7. And the best part? You don't have to hire someone to man the registers.
For folks who are starting an online business, online stores are key. That's because whether you have a brick-and-mortar business or a presence that's entirely virtual, online stores can help you reach new customers both near and far. Consider some of their biggest benefits:
1. Online stores give local businesses a global reach.
2. Internet stores often drive physical traffic to retail locations.
3. Online stores make inventory management easy.
4. Internet stores make it possible to sell a wider variety of products.
5. Online stores offer continuous marketing and customer service opportunities.
Research the competition's online stores
It's important to study your competition. Find out what other online stores are selling, therefore, as well as how much they're selling and to whom.
Register your online store's domain name
Every website starts with a good name and web address; online stores are no different.
Find a web host that specializes in online stores
It's important to host online stores with reliable companies who have other clients that operate Internet stores.
Hire a web designer who's built an online store
While you could design your own website, it's best to recruit a professional web designer who understands the aesthetics and functionality that make online stores successful.
Consider pre-built online stores
Of course, you don't have to hire a designer and build your website from scratch. There are scores of prefabricated online stores available that offer complete and yet customizable templates for Internet stores' sites.
Choose shopping cart software
Critical to e-commerce, shopping cart software is what turns static websites into interactive online stores. Look for solutions that are easy to install and maintain on your end, and easy to use on the consumer's end.
Open a merchant account that's designed for online stores
Online stores must have merchant accounts in order to accept credit card payments from their customers. Look for accounts that were created especially for online stores.
Ensure your online store's security
While all online business opportunities come with risks, online stores must be especially mindful of those that might compromise their customers' privacy or security. Look for solutions that will fight both viruses and identity theft.
Keep your online store's fulfillment promises
Online stores don't just accept orders; they must also fulfill them. Before you open your virtual shop, therefore, be sure you have reliable, comprehensive shipping solutions in place.
- Images are essential within online stores. Consider hiring a professional to photograph your products for the Web. This isn't the place for amateur snapshots.
- To get the most out of online stores, look for shopping cart software with special time-saving features such as automatic tax or shipping calculators, which make starting an online business that much easier.
- Don't forget to include a search function on your website; searchable online stores are successful online stores.
- Before starting an online business, make sure you'll be able to keep up with the tremendous demand that online stores can generate; that means having enough inventory and enough resources to fulfill all your orders.
- Like any venture, when you're starting an online business, a business plan is key. Build your online store's requirements, including financial needs, into your plan in order to accommodate it from day one.
- If you're considering pre-built online stores, keep their cost top of mind. While most online stores charge less than $50 per month, many online stores levy additional charges on extra inventory. Some even collect commissions on your transactions.
- If you're starting an online business, you should know that some cities and states require you to obtain a seller's permit in order to sell merchandise-even from online stores. Check with your local chamber of commerce.
- If you're engaged in e-commerce, shopping cart software isn't all you'll need. Online stores also need customer service mechanisms so that shoppers can communicate with you via e-mail, instant message or web chat. Look for online stores with built-in customer contact features, or consider purchasing a separate customer contact center solution.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential for online stores. Be sure you submit your website to all the major search engines, therefore, and make sure you rank high in relevant searches; many shopping cart software solutions include SEO features.