As an established business owner, you’ve already proven successful in many of the areas you need to thrive in ecommerce. With your inventory and supply chain already established, moving online isn’t as difficult as it might sound.
I’ve taken multiple offline businesses online so I’m familiar with all the steps and considerations you need to do things right. Follow my 9 simple steps to form a solid plan that will take your brand to online success.
The Benefits of Moving Your Business Online
One of the biggest benefits of moving your business online is increasing your customer base. With the ability to ship products across the world, you can expand internationally and reach whole new demographics.
You can potentially reduce overhead costs by switching to a purely ecommerce business. This shift eliminates the need for retail premises and staff, so you can use the savings to grow your marketing campaign or improve your website.
Additionally, online sales generate data you can use to discern patterns and view actionable insights. You can improve your marketing and customer experience strategies to increase sales.
The Challenges of Moving Your Business Online
Unlike with your physical store, potential customers can’t just walk down the street and notice your online storefront. You need to invest in online marketing, advertising, and SEO best practices to get your name out there.
Security is another common worry. Without a secure payment system, you risk fraud and data breaches. Customers could lose money, which is costly for your business and your reputation.
While moving your business online is a smart financial move, it’s not guaranteed to go according to plan. Upfront costs and ROI are legitimate concerns as you prepare to open your web store, so it’s best to ensure you have a solid financial plan in place.
Creating a website is often the main upfront cost of moving a business online. Online storefronts can be designed with a website builder for an affordable subscription fee or commissioned from professional web developers for a higher price. Researching the available options will help you choose a solution that fits your means and needs.
To make sure you get a return on your investment, it’s best to do the math before committing to an online store. Consider your product costs, shipping, and packaging to make sure your profit margins are comfortable.
9 Steps to Move Your Business From Offline to Online
1. Re-evaluate Your Business Goals
Switching to an online business structure means different things to different companies. You may use your webstore to complement your physical store or you might replace your original store entirely.
It makes sense to add an online shop if you have ideas for new products and services that suit ecommerce. For example, bakeries that move online often add baking kits since shipping delicate cupcakes, pies, and sweets can be a challenge. These kits work well since customers can make fresh baked goods at home, which creates a new stream of revenue.
Before you start planning the details of your new webstore, consider how exactly this move will work for your company. Talk things through with your staff members and research your competition for information and ideas.
2. Find an Ecommerce Platform
You can sell online goods through two main types of ecommerce platforms:
- SaaS-based ecommerce platforms: These services offer everything you need to make a website and set up a payment system without technical experience. They also have marketing, shipping, and other features.
- Open-source ecommerce platforms: This option requires technical knowledge as you’ll use code to implement ecommerce features into your website. It’s generally cheaper and more customizable than SaaS options.
You can also use existing online marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy if you want to start small and gauge the popularity of your products before setting up your own shop.
If you’re building your own website, Pay.com lets your ecommerce business accept multiple payment methods, from credit cards to mobile wallets. This is a great way to appeal to more customers and expand your reach.
3. Partner with Delivery Couriers
If your ecommerce platform doesn’t include shipping solutions, you’ll need to choose your own shipping services. You should choose couriers based on the shipping options you want to offer and how much ground you want to cover.
For instance, a well-known brand like DHL can take care of worldwide delivery, while local options can provide cheaper services for deliveries closer to home. You can also look into sustainable delivery options for customers who prefer to keep their online shopping as carbon-neutral as possible.
4. Plan Your Product Inventory
There aren’t really any set rules when it comes to ecommerce inventory. If your physical store has a relatively small set of products, you don’t necessarily need to add more to your online store.
However, you may want to remove items that won’t ship well from the ecommerce shop. Trying to send fragile products can reduce your customer satisfaction rate as you risk damaging the goods in transit. It will also cost more for packaging materials.
Many delivery couriers sell you packaging materials, but you can also source them from companies that offer services like recyclable packaging or logo printing.
5. Write Your Product Descriptions
When you sell to customers in-store, they can look at and hold the products. They can also ask you any questions they might have. To help online customers get to know your products and what they can do, writing quality descriptions is key.
Product descriptions can cover many areas depending on the type of products you sell, but should include these basic elements:
- Size and dimensions
- Care instructions
- Repair and warranty information
- Contents (what’s in the box)
- Ingredients for food products
It’s also good to describe the purpose of each product along with its best features and limitations. If you’re selling products you created yourself, you can also share details about the process.
While it’s important to write a description that can sell your product and get customers excited to buy, you should take care to avoid misleading your audience. If you accidentally promise things you can't deliver or let a vague description set false expectations, you risk damaging your business reputation.
6. Set Up a Payment System
Your customers expect a smooth, convenient, and secure checkout experience. Pages that load slowly or seem buggy make people think twice about completing their purchase. It’s also important to comply with industry-standard security measures to prevent identity theft and other forms of fraud.
When you partner with Pay.com, you benefit from smooth checkout pages, top-level security compliance, and much more. You can go beyond accepting credit cards by offering your customers a variety of payment methods, like mobile wallets and payment apps.
7. Decide On a Customer Service Strategy
To make the move online, you may have to update your customer service strategy. A mixture of chatbot and email customer service is one of the most common approaches in ecommerce right now.
AI chatbots can answer simple queries and point customers in the direction of the information they need without human intervention. When a customer comes to the bot with a problem outside of its abilities, they can escalate the query to a member of your team.
Unless you have a substantial team of people working in customer service, it’s best to focus on emails rather than encouraging your customers to call.
Whatever method you choose, the most important thing is to have people ready to accept queries, because you’ll definitely receive them. Shipping and delivery problems happen all the time, and customers often change their minds about a product after they receive it.
8. Create Social Media Accounts
Social media provides a platform where you and your customers can communicate directly. You can use this channel for both marketing and customer service.
As an established retail business, you may already be on social media and simply need to update your profiles with your new ecommerce store. However, you should also be ready to use and invest in social media to a greater extent once you’re online.
Marketing campaigns on social media can get very creative. You can try out integrated features like messaging, sales, giveaways, partnerships, and more. Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok advertising provide affordable, effective advertising solutions.
9. Advertise Your Move to Online
When you’re ready to sell and ship products, you need to get the word out. You can launch your online marketing campaign on social media and possibly invest in other advertising channels.
Not all your advertising has to happen online. You can put up posters in-store, hand out leaflets, or even give away small tokens to celebrate your new website. Most importantly, make sure to let your regular customers know about the new site — they may want to recommend you to friends and family in other areas.
The Best Way to Accept Payments Online
With Pay.com, you can create a smooth checkout experience for your customers that gives them everything they need. You can accept payment methods like mobile wallets and ACH transfers along with credit and debit cards.
Onboarding is straightforward and quick, so you can start accepting payments as soon as possible. You can create a checkout page with our fast no-code solutions or integrate our payment service into an existing site with our developer-friendly APIs.
Our infrastructure has level 1 PCI DSS compliance, and you can display the security logos on your site so your customers know your site is trustworthy. Our 3DS2 authentication protects your business from fraudulent purchases.
The Bottom Line
Moving your business online is a great way to reach new audiences and expand your brand, and it’s usually worth the investment. Depending on your budget and your confidence, you can go all in or start gradually and expand over time.