Grow your business with an online shop
One effect of the current economic crisis is that small high street shops are going out of business left, right and centre. Not only are they affected by the slump in finance, but they are experiencing more and more competition from the supermarket giants and out-of-town shopping centres. Many small high street shops cater to a niche market which doesn’t bring in much in the way of passing trade. Whereas years ago, people would have driven from far and wide to buy in small specialist shops, being able to buy online allows people to buy niche products from the comfort of their own home and have them delivered to their door.
A combination of all of the above factors has seen more and more small business owners, especially those who offer a specialised service or products, struggling to meet their overheads and stay in business while catering to a rapidly declining customer base.
OPENING UP ONLINE
If you’re a small business owner and this is beginning to resonate with you, then why not join the growing trend for opening an online shop front. It would be like opening a second branch of your business, but without the costs involved and without any extra overheads to worry about. There are many advantages to doing so and it could breathe new life into your business and start the money rolling in again. BusinessLink, the government’s online resource for businesses in the UK, has published an online guide on creating an online shop.
One major advantage of using this method of expanding your business is that you can operate from your current premises so it wouldn’t add to the overall costs. If you already have employees and business is not brisk, you may find that there are times when it can be hard to find something for them to do. Running an online shop from your premises means that you can engage their services and keep them fully occupied while they’re in work. Getting your staff involved with this and listening to any ideas they may have about this new project will probably improve morale, especially if trade has been slow and they’ve been worried that they may be laid off as a result. If you do need extra space for storage, then it should be possible to rearrange the stockroom slightly. Offering products by mail order doesn’t need to take up a lot of extra space. Very often packaging goods ready for dispatch can be done on an average size table. Of course, you will need a computer and a good broadband connection in order to do this, but the cost of these will probably be negligible compared with the extra business your new website will produce.
CALL IN THE PROFESSIONALS
The most important part of running an online shop/service is to have a great website. Even though you may have been using computers for years and consider yourself to be totally tech-savvy – don’t make the mistake of trying to save on costs by building your own website. There are professional services that specialise in building websites for small businesses and using one of these will ensure that your website is professional, user-friendly and is tailored to meet your individual needs. Most website providers will offer a free initial consultation and you will be pleasantly surprised at the professional-looking websites that they will have on offer. They will know all the necessary tricks that will enable your website to rise to the top of the search rankings and reach the widest audience possible.
Obviously you will need to offer your online customers a means of ordering your products via a basket/shopping cart – this will be provided by your website designer. Once the customer have clicked on the Buy button and put goods into their basket, they will then need to complete the checkout process. This means a method of paying for the goods online – such as Paypal or card payment. If you want to accept card payments, then you will need an e-commerce package from your website designer, and you will need to offer Secure Socket Layer technology when collecting the card details. It’s also well worth considering adding Paypal as a method of payment as this is the preferred method of payment for so many people who shop online. In fact, Paypal total payment volume in 2010 was a hefty 18% of global e-commerce, with more than 5 million transactions a day!
HARNESS THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Selling online is not limited to having a website and hoping that people find it. You will also need to publicise your website using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google +. Social media is a powerful tool for enterprise and if you need any persuading about just how important it is, this recent Nielsen Report contains some facts and figures that should convince you. Social media is the tool that will allow you to enhance your brand and get a whole new image for your products. Again if you don’t have expertise in this area, then it’s worth asking your website provider if they offer consultancy services on this. Although many website providers will also offer to manage the social media side of the business for you, it’s actually much better if you can complete some training in order to do this yourself. Using social media to engage with customer (both actual and prospective) is much more effective when done by the people who have the expertise and the knowhow on the products you’re selling – that’s you and your employees.
If the social media side of the business is not for you, then you could offer the role of Social Media management to one of your employees and arrange for that person to receive the relevant training. If you’re wondering where people go to learn how to use Google+, Twitter, Facebook and many other platforms for promoting business and products, then drop me an email or phone me and arrange a free consultation.
STAND AND DELIVER
You will have to offer a delivery service for your products and it’s vitally important to choose a provider who is reliable and will deliver quickly. The extra sales that your website brings in may allow you to offer your products with free delivery as an added incentive to online customers.
SELL TO THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
Opening an online shop will expand your customer base beyond your local geographic catchment area. In fact, you will be visible to potential customers all over the world and you might want to look into offering your products/services overseas. By using a reliable delivery service to take care of the shipping, you could be sending goods to all four corners of the globe!
Selling online and using the power of social media to reach out to a wider audience is the selling of the future. By opening up an online store with a powerful brand image, you might just be expanding your business in a way that you would never have dreamed possible in the past.
Have you opened an online shop recently, what are your experiences? Are you a high street retailer looking to expand? For more information on web design and development services or Social Media Training Conact Jonny Ross Consultancy today for a free consultation.