Hello, everyone! Today the OctoStrategy team chose to discuss a very hot topic. Currently, the world is going through economically difficult times. Pandemics, conflicts between countries, natural disasters — all these affect the market.
Statistics show that about 80 percent of Europeans have switched to online shopping during the last two years. Consumers today prefer to shop online rather than visit actual stores for everything from basic necessities to clothing, electronics, and more.
While many businesses have already moved online, there are still others who are contemplating the move or in process.
To make things simpler, we have created an actionable guide to move your offline business online.
First of all you need to choose where you want to sell your goods or service on existing platforms or on your own website.
Every company has a base of operations, which is typically the primary store site or office building. It acts as a nerve center for your business. An online business needs something similar, a central location where customers can get information, contact you, and make purchases.
If you sell physical products, the easiest and fastest way to get up and running is to start selling on existing platforms. This includes places like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay as well as newer options like Facebook Marketplace or Walmart Marketplace.
The advantage to existing platforms is that much of the infrastructure is already in place when you sign up. If you have no experience selling online and/or you don’t already have a website, this might be the best way to get your feet wet.
Here are a few things you should be doing to choose the right platform:
Identify the needs of your business
Take note of the functionalities you’d like to offer to shoppers
Explore ecommerce platforms that offer those features
Create a comparison table between the shortlisted ecommerce platforms
Calculate the spend and the resources available to you
Take a free trial of the ecommerce platform before a full store setup
Another option is to build your own website. Your own website gives you total control over how you run your business, making it easier to align your online and offline businesses. It also offers better options for branding and online marketing. There is more of an up-front investment with building your own website, and there are a lot of factors to consider like ensuring it’s secure, responsive, and SEO-friendly. But in terms of long-term strategy, a custom business website gives you authority and professionalism that other options just can’t.
Below we described the persistent steps to establish your platform.
Ensure the domain name you choose for the eCommerce website is similar or the same as the name of your offline store. The idea is to keep it simple and easy to remember so that consumers know exactly where and how to find you online to make purchases.
Here are some tips to follow when choosing a domain name:
Keep your brand name the same online and offline
.com should be your first preference because it is widely used and a powerful domain extension
Eliminate the usage of numbers and hyphens
Avoid using trademarked domains as they can get you in trouble
You can check the invention's uniqueness using a variety of services. You may typically register a domain for $15 to $20 per year.
Before taking your offline business online, do a thorough audit of your product catalog. The next step is market research to see which of those products tend to get sold easily online - the idea is to understand what your target audience is actively buying online.
Here’s how you can identify products to sell online:
Take a look at your offline store sales and do a research on online sites selling the same/ similar products
Look into Google Trends to see what people are searching for online
Look at other businesses in the same industry and take note of what they sell
Identify the top-selling products in your offline store and tally with the above data
Once you've identified the products you want to sell online, the next step is inventory and inventory planning.
If these products are already being sold in your offline store, you'll need a smart inventory planner to keep track of sales made both online and offline. This will help you sync data and keep track of product availability.
If you're planning to outsource, manufacture or dropshipping products, you need to clearly define partnerships and inventory availability before you start selling online.
The fact that you conduct business online does not excuse you from following regular legal processes. In fact, you may have to fulfill a few more requirements depending on how you plan to run your operations.
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the legal needs and compliances for ecommerce businesses in your country before making a move online.
Before making a purchase, customers can browse, touch, feel, and sample things in a physical store. However, everything in internet sales is based on the visual presentation of your goods. That’s why the next step is for you to prepare the information you provide to online shoppers.
Make sure you have plenty of product pictures of the items you plan to sell online. This should include pictures of the product from all perspectives and in use, to help the consumer visualize what it looks like in real life.
Sometimes, product pictures don’t do justice to showcasing what the item has to offer. Product videos are more intuitive and help online shoppers visualize the product better by seeing it in motion or in use.
Product videos can be of different types - product in use, how-to, product features, etc., based on what you sell.
You must include thorough text to describe the product in addition to the visual component. On your product page, be sure to include all relevant details such as the contents, materials used, the sizing, the variations that are available, the product care instructions, and more. Depending on what you sell, the information you offer could change.
The next stage is to determine the key pages of your online store once you have everything above ready. This should be determined by the type of shopping experience you want to provide and the additional knowledge you want to give online shoppers before they make a purchase.
Make a list of the pages you need and the functionalities you require setting up on each of those pages. Also additionally, clearly define what information you will be providing on which page.
Think about how you have arranged products in your offline store. You categorize and place products based on a number of factors - things you want the consumer to notice instantly, items that are on sale, new arrivals and similar. The same planning must go into your website design as well!
As you start to work on your online store design, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Make sure you have a moodboard for how you want to present your brand.
Select a theme that offers easy customizations across all pages (for both current and future needs).
Make sure you evaluate both free and premium themes for functionalities and templates.
Content is crucial to moving your business online. Because people won’t be able to visit you in person, the only way to help them get an idea of your business is to write good content. Add content on the key pages of your website so that people can learn your story as well as get familiar with your products or services.
While you can create and add content on an unlimited number of pages, focus on your:
About Us page
Returns & Refunds page
Contact Us page
The next step is to look into how your target audience chooses to pay for the products they buy. Take a look into the payment modes used by your offline customers and check which ones you can enable online as well.
The more commonly used payment methods you offer, the more likely a consumer is to make a purchase.
When you sell offline, customers have the ability to make a purchase and take the product home at that very moment. But when you’re selling online, you need to figure out a way to deliver their purchases to them. This is where it becomes important to find a shipping partner who can ensure fast delivery to all the locations you sell to.
Moving your business online is one thing; getting people to notice it is another. One of the most challenging parts is to stand out from the crowd of competitors who have similar offerings. So, after you go online, do everything possible to spread the word about your business. Here are some channels you could leverage:
Email: Don’t go spamming everyone and violating rules, now. Send a simple email to your existing customers and those on your email list. Keep it informational as including a promotion may prevent the email from reaching their primary inbox.
Social media: Create an announcement post on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and any other platform your business has a social profile on. Include a link back to your website to get eyeballs on your new identity. Additionally, tailor content to each platform (like making a fun, casual announcement via an Instagram Story) so you can reach audiences far and wide.
Search engines: Though it takes time to establish a presence in search engines, you should start working on SEO as soon as you get your business online. The easiest way to do this is to research what keywords people use when searching for similar businesses. Insert these keywords throughout your site’s copy as well as in the “Alt” section of your images.
Influencers: When is the last time a customer came to your business because of someone else’s referral? When starting out, consider partnering with influencers to spread the word about your business. Work with smaller influencers than big names as they’re more effective at getting people to engage and act upon their recommendations.
While it has become easier to set up an online store, as a business, taking that decision is BIG.
Make sure you spend time doing your research, exploring the best available solutions to take your offline business online and then working through the above checklist to ensure you cover all ground before launching.