If you are a small business owner with an existing brick and mortar store/stores, and still haven’t extended your visibility with an online store, now may be the perfect time. E-commerce in the UK has been booming in recent years, with e-commerce projected to increase by 11.5% in 2013, with profits from e-commerce increasing to 87 billion pounds ($138.0 billion) compared to last year’s 78 billion pounds ($123.7 billion). 

The major lure for any business owner who hasn’t yet taken the online plunge is that your online store is “open all hours”, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 etc. You really can sell your products in your sleep.

In taking the next step toward growing your business, there are a variety of options to choose in order to transition from your purely physical store/stores to online. Learning how to set up your e-commerce store before you make your first online sale can be very daunting, but doesn’t need to be. These 4 tips aim to help make the transition online as smooth as possible.

Prepare to Describe Your Products

Since products available online are not tangible like they would be in stores, providing the right product information is essential. When designing a store for e-commerce, you must have a checklist of the following for every product: a written product description, list of specifications or features and photographs or video showing or demonstrating the product.

You must prepare unique product information descriptions and photo’s (not from the manufacturers!) for each product in your ecommerce store. This fully informs any buying decisions the potential customer is going to make. You could even write a 50-word unique product description that names the benefits and value of purchasing a particular product. 

Install Inventory and Accounting Management

Since you operate a physical store, you may want to use your current inventory management system and accounting software. When selling online, your inventory and accounting management needs might be different so consider changing your point-of-sale (POS) solutions or accounting suites. Many e-commerce store owners prefer cloud-based POS software. Whichever software you choose, make sure it functions properly for both your physical and online stores, such as when a shopper in your physical store buys an item, the online store then knows the item is unavailable for sale.

Choose an E-commerce Platform

In order to better operate both your brick and mortar and online stores, many web hosting services offer e-commerce services and platforms built into the site including shopping carts, payment and transaction options and more. Your e-commerce platform serves not only to display and sell products online, but have the ability to count your online inventory and used to transfer payments.

Research e-commerce platforms thoroughly and choose the platform that has essential features your online store needs, not add on luxuries as there us usual a plug-in/widget/extension to increase the functionality of your site. Before your site has even been built you must consider your site being mobile optimised.  Usability and ease of use is essential for shoppers using Mobile. Having a mobile friendly site usually looks completely different to viewing your site on a desktop/tablet. The key here is to think “responsive” design and your site “responding”/ showing differently based on the device being used.

Fulfill Orders

While physical stores are no doubt familiar with shipping and delivery companies, online shipping operates differently. You must prepare to ship a variety of different products using various packing materials, boxes in different sizes and using the appropriate tape and labels. You also have to choose your shipping options, calculating differing shipping rates, the distance to ship, and the wait and delivery times. Delivery options can also include free shipping to further incentivise online purchases. If you choose to do this, make this visible all over your site as this can be a key differentiator between you and your competition!

These 4 tips can give the business owners clarity and give a clear strategy to “what to do”. If you have another point that you feel is crucial when contemplating starting an online store, or have made the move online and felt there was another key ingredient that contributed to your success, please begin the discussion below…