According to research conducted by Forrester, Canadians will spend $39 billion online annually by 2019—the equivalent of nearly 10 percent of all retail purchases made in Canada.
As business owners consider whether to take their company online, they must consider multiple facets.
- Who are the primary clients or customers and what are their wants and needs?
- Will e-commerce meet these requirements?
- Where will the business operate – internationally or within a specific country?
- How will the online transactions be managed and by whom?
For some, bringing a business online may sound like a complicated task. It is, however, a lot easier than many would expect. Here are four basic steps to launch an e-commerce site and begin selling online.
- Organize shipping and fulfillment
One of the biggest considerations for a small e-commerce business is logistics—how to get products out to customers efficiently and in the most cost-effective way. When it comes to managing warehousing, shipping, and fulfillment, there are three options:
- Partner with a third-party logistics company to take over warehousing and fulfillment;
- Manage every order in-house, on your own or with support staff;
- Work with a drop shipper—a wholesale supplier that stocks its own inventory and ships orders for you.
If the business is small and costs need to be kept low, it may be better for the company to begin by handling order fulfillment on its own. As the business grows, however, consider the option to outsource warehousing and shipping to a third party. This would enable the business to focus on profit-generating activities like new product sourcing, marketing, and sales.
- Add an e-commerce website
To facilitate online transactions, the business’ current website will need to be converted into an online store, or alternatively, a brand new e-commerce site will need to be set up. Here’s what to do to get started:
- Register the domain name and company email address;
- Find a web-hosting provider;
- Look into e-commerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce to create a secure, professional, and customizable shopping experience; and,
- Set up a shopping cart using secure hosted software.
- Set up a payment gateway
Before launching the new online store, businesses will need to be ready to accept secure online payments. There are a number of reputable software options to choose from, including Sage Payment Solutions. Ideally, the e-commerce platform will sync with an accounting solution so all financial transaction information is captured and stored consistently with minimal data entry.
- Get the word out
There are several options to spread the word about the new online store, including updates on the company blog, social media accounts, monthly newsletters or even paid social media ads. Begin testing these outreach methods to discover which tactics work best with customers and prospects. Once the most effective channels are discovered, marketing efforts can be streamlined to attract and convert more leads.
The key to success when marketing an e-commerce site is to know your audience. Understand who they are, the type of information they are seeking, which social media platforms they prefer, and when they tend to be online. Once this has been established, ensure your website performance, page loading times, and purchase path to cart are optimized and measure the impact (positive and negative) any changes may have on the way your web traffic converts to sales. Taking a business online is not insurmountable. That said, careful consideration needs to be given to growing and maintaining customer relationships, developing sustainable and consistent marketing strategies and ensuring the products or services being offered can be effectively handled within the current parameters of the business.
In an age where consumers regularly search for product and service information online while engaging in forums and review sites, moving a business online is more important than ever to cultivating customers’ trust and loyalty.
Kimberly Creamore is Director of Country Product Marketing, Sage Canada
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