The importance of setting up an online store has been something at the forefront of most business operators minds for some years now, but never more so than during this year of 2020 as we were faced with enforced trading restrictions.
Commonly when this topic arises, it comes from the view that as a business, they need to have it as an option in order to compete in the growing trend of online shopping, and that having an online store allows them to reach these potential customers. Or, it is something the business needs to avoid losing customers to their competition.
But there is much more to an online store than just being able to sell your products via the internet, as there are many other impacts to consider before the setup should begin. Things that do require thought include how does your online store link in with your in-store system? How do you manage inventory for your online store to ensure that customers can only purchase items that are available? How do you manage orders, and what delivery terms are you offering? And how do you get people to actually visit it and make a purchase?
These can just be some of the considerations required, even before you work out how you are even going to find the time to load all your products onto your store. But they are all important ones, as the online store needs to be seen as an extension of your current business, and not just an add-on, particularly if you have a physical store. You do not want the administration and processes involved to become so burdensome or difficult that you no longer see it as a benefit. Because for businesses, the benefits are more than just the dollars that are generated by sales through the stores. And understanding that there is more value in it can be difficult if the system is not synchronised with your whole business strategy.
As for the benefits. Well the obvious one that most people start with is the ability to generate additional sales for their business, especially when the store is closed by providing a way for customers to shop anywhere and at any time. But consumers are using online stores also as their place of research. They are visiting the stores online to find out where something is available, gather information on the details and potential suitability, and also to understand the costs. All of which are required for a customer to complete a purchase, whether online or instore.
And the reassuring thing for those with physical businesses is that there is still a large portion of the population who prefer to buy the products physically from a store. Quite often people have already done their research online and come to the decision that they need to purchase the item and determined where they can get it, making the conversion process even easier once they walk in the door.
The other benefit is the data and information that can come from your online store. Whether this be details on your customers to add to a database for future promotions, or data on what items are selling well or how many customers have become repeat purchasers, the information available from an online store can provide valuable insights that can often be difficult to track and record from an in person purchase in the store.
Combining this information with data from your website about traffic that is visiting, where they are viewing from, where they are being referred from, and how directly successful online advertising or email campaigns have been, all provides operators with a deeper understanding of their customers that can have a great unreportable dollar value.
So if you are thinking about creating or setting up an online store, definitely ensure you take the time to have a full business approach to your decision, and understand that the benefits can be significantly more than just from creating extra sales online.