Building and running a retail web store is more than just selling your products online. You have to consider your budget, your inventory count, the type of products you are selling, payment processing, customer service and the list goes on. But an e-commerce business doesn't have to be as complicated as it seems.
To help you build a successful retail web store with as little headache as possible, here are 10 things to look for when taking your retail business online.
The cost of launching a retail web store varies, depending on the features you require. Expect to pay anywhere from $10 per month up to $200 per or more for an e-commerce service, or a cut of your profit for a third-party marketplace. There are also some free options, but these have many limitations, such as the number of products you can sell and customization options.
Two of the easiest ways to start a retail web store are to use an e-commerce service or a third-party online marketplace. An e-commerce service lets you launch your own retail web store for a monthly fee. Options include full-service e-commerce software, such as Shopify, Volusion and BigCommerce, and shopping cart software and plug-ins such as WooCommerce that let you sell items on existing websites.
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The beauty of using an e-commerce services is that it gives you more control over your online store. You get your own website with your own domain name and customize your store’s design to fit your brand. E-commerce services also make it easy to get a store up and running — simply choose a template, add your products and pricing information and set up your payment processor to get started.
Typically, e-commerce software is hosted on the platform’s server, which means you don’t have to worry about maintenance and support. But enterprise services, such as Magento, are hosted on your server for full control. This option requires some tech skills to implement, so you’ll likely need to hire a web developer to get started.
Online marketplaces, such as Etsy, Amazon and eBay, let you launch your own online retail storefront for free, and then take a percentage of your profit. After listing your products, the service takes a percentage of your final sale price after each product sells. You typically can’t use your own domain or have much control over your store’s look and feel. The upside is that you can get started in seconds. You also don’t have to worry about the costs of maintaining your own website and infrastructure. Launching your retail web store on an online marketplace is also a great way to test drive running an online retail store to see if it’s right for you.
Retail web store services offer a plethora of features to help you start, launch and maintain your online retail business. Here are some key features to look for when choosing a retail web store.
- Easy to use — Choose an e-commerce service or marketplace that makes it easy to design your store and add, find and modify products. This generally comes down to having an intuitive dashboard with a simple navigation menu and search feature. Many services are free to sign up and demo, so take a look around to find one that works for you.
- Customization — Find an e-commerce service that lets you customize the look and feel of your store so it fits your brand. Some services limit customization options to colors and adding a logo, while others let you design your whole store, or gives you access to source code for full customization.
- Inventory — Choose a retail web store that can accommodate the type of products you sell and displays how many units are in stock. For instance, if you sell shoes, make sure you can add the range of sizes you plan to sell. If you sell t-shirts, you should be able to add all the style and color options.
- Mobile commerce — Make sure your online retail store is mobile-friendly to provide shoppers with a pleasant shopping experience. Also take advantage of mobile-specific features, such as mobile payment systems, to make it easier for shoppers to complete purchases.
- Merchant tools — Choose a service that helps you make the sale with marketing tools, social sharing capabilities and the ability to easily add discounts and promotions.
- Payment processing — Look for a retail web store with a payment processor that fits your business’s needs. Options include Stripe, authorize.net and PayPal. Some services also use their own payment processor to make it easier for retailers and their customers. If you’re using an online marketplace, you’ll likely be limited to PayPal or bank transfers.
- Automation — Choose a retail web store that runs itself. For instance, some services let you set up automatic discounts, schedule promotions ahead of time, sync with shipping services when sales are made and other automation features. This way, you can focus on customer satisfaction and growing your retail business, not micromanaging your store.
- Third-party integration — Make your life easier by choosing a retail web store that integrates with solutions you already use, such as your accounting software, CRM software and POS system. By integrating these solutions, all of your numbers, customer accounts and other data are synced in real time to save you hours of manpower.
- Security — Protect your customers’ and business’s sensitive data. Choose a retail web store with SSL encryption, secure payment gateways, regulation compliance and fraud protection tools.
- Support — Make sure customers can contact you via email, phone or live chat. Online marketplaces typically allow customers to contact you via email or have their own internal messaging system.
Choosing the right retail web store is the first step to taking your retail business online. Your options include launching your own retail website with your own domain or an online storefront on a third-party marketplace, such as Amazon and Etsy. They key is figuring out what features your business needs, while making the shopping experience a breeze for your customers.