Selling online provides many benefits for businesses. You can reduce maintenance and operation costs significantly and even transcend location and time barriers. For example, if your shop is located in Dublin, and yet you’re selling online, you can still make an online sale in China at 3am. However, with all of the benefits that online selling brings, it also takes time and resources to manage your eCommerce platform effectively.
You’ll need to decide if it’s a good fit for your business. This week we’ll discuss the 4 factors you should consider before deciding whether to sell online.
1. What Online Store Model is Right For You?
First you will need to decide which online store model is right for you. If you are a freelance writer or programmer the great news is you can sell anywhere in the world. However, if you plan to sell products you’re going to have to consider what method you will use to acquire, store and distribute your goods.
You will need to consider your global shipping procedure and returns policy. You will also need to determine whether you plan on making your products yourself or having them manufactured. Does it make more sense to wholesale or dropsell? Let’s take a look at the various options to help you decide
Making means that you physically make (or craft) your products by hand. The making method is suitable for a soap maker or jewellery maker for example. This method allows you to have control over the quality of your products and can ensure you keep your costs relatively low. However, you will need to consider if this method of production is sustainable for an online business.
Manufacturing means that you find a manufacturer to produce the product for you. Are you going to source your manufacturer domestically or abroad? This option is a good idea for businesses who have a unique product idea. Bear in mind that outsourcing the manufacturing of your products can be a lengthy process and initial orders can prove costly.
Wholeselling means you’re buying your inventory from manufacturers at a discounted rate. You then resell these products at a higher price on your online store. This option is good if you want to sell a variety of options quickly. Orders are generally reasonably priced and brand names have already been established and tested with target markets.
Dropshipping means that you’re selling products that you don’t own. Instead, you take orders from your online business and forward them on to your supplier. You can make a profit by charging customers more for purchasing products online than your dropship partner charges you. The beauty of dropshipping is that you can offer a wide variety of goods to customers without having to manage the inventory.
2. Do You Want an Add-on or Standalone Store?
You will need to decide whether you’re going to build a stand-alone eCommerce store or whether you’d prefer to add eCommerce functionality to your existing website. Some of the best eCommerce add-on options include PayPal, ProductCart, CubeCart and Adobe Muse.
If you decide to create a standalone online store there are a variety of online eCommerce platforms you can choose from. Some of the best platforms include Shopify, Magento and Weebly. These standalone platforms allow you to choose a customisable theme and enable you to set up your online store rather efficiently. They also include helpful guides to help you set up your store and run it smoothly.
3. Resourcing: Who is Responsible & Who has Time?
Selling online is not a technical challenge as you can grab an eCommerce platform template that’s easy to adapt. It’s more of a resource and logistical issue. You will need to set aside resources for creating and running your online store. For example, you need to determine from the outset who will set up your platform and choose its relevant theme and functionality. A few decisions you will need to make include: Who’s going to be responsible for the operational side of your online store? Who’s going to write the copy for your products and take the images? Are your products going to change on a regular basis, and if so who is going to keep your product pages updated with fresh content?
4. Consider Your Returns Policy & Shipping Procedure
Other important elements to consider include your returns policy and shipping procedure. Define what your return policy is going to be and what you can afford to sustain before you decide to sell online. Are you going to offer free posting for people to return items or will customers need to pay for their own postal charges? How will your items be shipped to customers and how long will they have to wait for them to arrive? Make sure to clearly outline your return policy and shipping details to customers on the FAQ section of your online store.
Stay tuned for next week’s article, where I’ll talk you through how to set up and run an online store with ease.