You are finally ready. You’ve decided to move ahead and build a professional e-commerce website for your business. There’re a lot of things to consider – from choosing the right e-commerce platform to figuring out what best online marketing tools to use to bring traffic to your new website.
As prepared as you might be, here are a few common myths about running your first e-commerce website:
1. Once I build it they will come.
This is a common website development myth, not just e-commerce. Surprisingly, many business owners still oversee the part of how people will actually find the new website. The good news is, if you build your website on a solid e-commerce platform like WordPress + WooCommerce or Magento, and your website development agency kept search engine optimization in mind when they were building the site, you should be half way there. An e-commerce website is usually a good source of content for search engines like Google, especially if you add new inventory often. However, having an SEO-friendly and optimized website is key (as well as active social media platforms like Facebook or Pinterest that will help you reach your target audience).
Keep your arm on the pulse of search engines and your Google Analytics – you want to see your incoming traffic growing month over month.
2. Great. Now, I am going to finally work from the beach.
4-hour workweek is where we all want to end up with, but running a [new] e-commerce website will present a myriad of things to take care of before you reach for that sombrero.
- Customer service. Your business is going to become as transparent as ever. With social media and online forums, customers will be talking about your online store, and you want to stay on top of that conversation 100%. Not only will you want to ensure you have your customer service, orders and returns shipped on time, but you want to be proactive when it comes to ensuring your customers are happy with your services. Plan for reinforcement, or an extra few hours a day to cover this part of the business.
- Inventory management. If you already have a brick and mortar store, you may want to consider integrating your POS and online store’s inventory to feed into your QuickBooks directly. Have a bird’s eye view on your inventory, to ensure once your customers order something online, you’ve got your products in stock, otherwise go back to the previous point.
3. Once the site is live, the hardest part will be over.
Yes, it takes time to build an effective e-commerce website and it’s a lot of work. But what comes next cannot be underestimated either. If you had it in your budget and your web development agency is taking care of your data entry, you are half way there. But if you choose to enter your inventory yourself, be sure to set aside a good chunk of time to do so. With proper planning your learning curve will not take long, but do not underestimate the time it will take to add all the photos and product descriptions, to ensure your customers have a great deal of understanding and convincing that it’s worth to buy from your website, and not your competitors’. If your store has more than 50 SKUs – speak to your web developer before you make your final decision on the e-commerce platform you decide to go with. You want to have an intuitive platform that will allow for a smooth and fast inventory entry in the future.
4. Online retail is just like brick and mortar.
Yes and no. While the fundamentals of retail remain the same, having an e-commerce website in addition to your brick and mortar store will add a few shifts into how you run your business. Consider how you will manage your inventory. Will your customers be able to buy online and then pick up an item at your brick and mortar store or will you have online exclusive products, or both?
- Shipping costs (keep your shipping costs in mind when considering what products get sold online or which ones you will keep as your brick and mortar only options)
- Merchandising (if you sell clothing, it will be much easier to sell something that is a well known fit/brand, rather than something that is clearly a great piece only when you put it on. How you merchandize your product online and offline will be different and it will make a difference.)
- Commodity product vs. nice to have (up-selling customers at the checkout or at the entrance in your seasonal section is much more straight forward rather than up-selling an online shopper. Online shoppers visit your store often with something specific in mind, and when you suggest other popular items they may like, you want to have the balance of keeping your website user-friendly and while not cluttered at the same time. Put some extra thought into this.)
5 . There’s no overhead for an e-commerce business.
Running a fast, responsive website will cost you a good hosting package, as well as technical support. As your business grows, eventually you will want to have a dedicated server and a tech admin person who monitors your site constantly. Something will definitely go wrong and you want to make sure your back ups going at all times, as well as the ability to respond quickly if your website goes down. Which it will. Besides, you still need to have inventory, a warehouse and you have shipping costs (especially if you are in Canada).
As Warren Buffet noted: “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – know what you want out of your e-commerce website first and do your homework. The more prepared you are, the more effective and profitable your online store will be.