Ok, so you’ve decided you want to leverage the power of the internet to take your product out of your 8am-7pm brick and mortar store and have it offered, marketed and sold 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Or, maybe you’ve got a new product but don’t have a way to sell it yet.
Welcome to the world of eCommerce!
If you’ve searched the web for information on this topic, you’ve probably found some good sources…however, there are a few things you might not have considered yet:
1. Inventory Level Controls
One of the things that most people don’t really think about when they are planning or running an eCommerce site is inventory levels. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when an item I want is out of stock. However, what I like even less is when I’ve paid for an item only to be told after I’ve spent the money that it’s out of stock!
Most eCommerce platforms have the ability to input your inventory quantity into the system, thus preventing unfortunate situations like the one I mentioned, but those only work if the inventory on your website matches the inventory you have on hand.
If you are selling a product strictly online, it’s not that hard to manage your inventory level. However, if you’re using an eCommerce solution along with your brick and mortar business, you’re going to either have to train your employees to update your inventory or you’re going to have to automate your inventory tracking. If neither of those are an option, you can always set aside some of your inventory to be online only. This is a good middle ground between automation and manually updating your inventory. The draw back is that you have inventory that’s tied up and may not turn over as quickly as you’d like.
2. How Frequently Inventory Changes
For some eCommerce sites, their inventory rarely changes. If you’ve using your site to market a specific product, or if you’re an author using the site to sell your books, your inventory is going to be pretty easy to manage.
Most stores, however, will need to have a rotating inventory feature. For example, you might have seasonal inventory that you want to promote during the winter or summer, or during specific holidays and festivals.
Knowing what you want to promote and feature ahead of time, and knowing the limitations of your eCommerce Platform, can save you hours of headaches as you approach this. Some eCommerce solutions have built-in abilities to create featured categories while others require custom templates or categories in order to push the hottest items to the front.
Attention to this detail could make the difference between a couple of sales and a sales explosion.
3. Specials and Coupons
Most eCommerce solutions allow you to apply discounts directly to items in your store front or to have special coupon codes which can be entered by your customers during checkout to give them discounts or special shipping options. Use them!
However, discounts and coupons are only as good as the marketing used to promote them. Get the discount information to potential customers before they get to your site and use them as a . method to drawing people to your website. Once they are there, you can use suggestive selling techniques to sell them even more.
Coupon codes are a great thing to include in your emails and newsletters. You can include a newsletter signup form on your checkout page or in the sidebar of your website.
4. Customer Support
One of the advantages to many customers in using an online store is the lack of a sales person to make them feel pressured or awkward. This advantage can quickly turn into a lost sale, however, if the customer has trouble finding what they want or if something goes wrong on your site.
The best way to overcome this is to make the shopping experience as simple and intuitive as possible. However, sometimes people will need help…this is where customer service comes in to play. Your phone number should be right there in front of the customer at all times, in plain sight and easy to find. That’s half the battle…the other half is the person on the other end of that number! Your customer service agent needs to be not only knowledgeable about your products, but also about the eCommerce site itself. Nothing will lose a sale faster than hearing someone say they don’t know how their own site works!
You can even hire your own 24 hour 7 day a week support for your business through companies like Provide Support, often at relatively minimal cost.
5. DIY vs. Professional
Finally, it comes down to money. How much money is it going to cost you to design, develop, implement, and then maintain your eCommerce website? If you have a very simple store with only a few items and no need for special programming, and you have a head for html, css, php and other groups of letters that people say when they want you to think they know about web development, then you can save yourself some out of pocket expense by building the site yourself.
However, if you have a complex store with over a thousand items, or if you have little to no experience with web development, you probably want to turn to a professional to help you out.
Look at it this way: Anyone can build an amazing looking and functioning eCommerce website: All you need is time. How much is your time worth? On average it takes anywhere from 40-120 hours of work for a professional to build a moderate sized eCommerce website from scratch. That’s a professional that knows what they are doing. If this is your first eCommerce website you can easily spend weeks just learning about the technology before you are even ready to touch the code. That doesn’t take into account graphic design, web layout, mockups, template design, etc.
You can easily find yourself investing 1000s of man hours into the project, and if you consider your time valuable…say you’re worth $20/hr, you’re looking at a perceived cost of $20,000…when you could have just paid a couple of grand and avoided the headache of trying to do it yourself.
It all comes down to how much your time (and sanity) is worth.