Taking Your Retail Business Online: 3 Steps
There has never been a better time to get your retail business online. It’s no secret that 2020 has made running a brick-and-mortar store difficult. Slowing store traffic, growing safety considerations and, in some cases, shrinking sales have become harsh realities as a result of the global pandemic. To combat these challenges, many retail businesses are shifting their business online. And it’s easy to see why.
Getting your retail business online circumvents many of the challenges 2020 has posed for in-person stores.
eCommerce is also ripe with opportunity. In Q2 alone, eCommerce sales grew by 44.4%. This exponential growth is even more striking when you consider it happened in the same quarter the United States GDP contracted 33%, the worst decline in U.S. history.
If you’re thinking about taking your business online, the timing could not be better. And the availability of technology has made it easier than ever to get started. Here’s everything you need to know about taking your business online.
#1 Create a Website
Building a website is an indispensable part of bringing your business online. A website is the backbone of your new online presence that supports eCommerce, lead generation, email marketing, advertising and more.
If you’re reading this post, your website likely falls into one of two categories:
- You’ve never had a website and need to build one from scratch
- You have a website, but it needs a refresh
Either way, the process for launching a website follows the same process.
To launch your website, you’ll need a domain name – it’s the address users enter into their browser to find you. It should be memorable and accurately describe your business. You need at least one domain, but it’s often worthwhile to buy several related ones so your competitors don’t get them first. There are a number of websites where you can buy a domain, but some of the most common ones are Google Domains, Domains.com and GoDaddy.
A content management system is software that helps you create and edit content on your website. It’s an essential tool for managing your eCommerce store.
When selecting a CMS, there are a number of options out there. Many new and small businesses just getting online turn to Shopify for its easy of use. Other alternatives include Magento, BigCommerce, Squarespace Commerce, WooCommerce via WordPress and Wix.
It’s also worth mentioning that the biggest eCommerce channels – such as Shopify and Magento—are partially storefronts. They’re really ways to manage inventory to get it into Amazon and Walmart. So, if you’re interested in selling through marketplace facilitators, it’s worth considering how the platform you build your store on will accommodate your efforts.
While building your eCommerce site, you’ll have to select a design. Many eCommerce channels offer both free or paid themes that you can set up in just a few minutes. From there, you can customize the theme and build out your website. While designing an online store can seem like a daunting task, the available technology has made it incredibly fast and painless to get started.
In addition to establishing your website theme, you’ll also need to create content for your website. Content is the stuff you create –writing and imagery – that is essential to selling products online. The key is to create clear, concise and effective product images and descriptions that convince viewers to buy your product. While many websites overlook this, content is the secret sauce that turns shoppers into buyers. If you want to sell your products online, you can’t afford to overlook this.
Data Privacy Pages
Most websites are required to have website pages stipulating use of user data.
Businesses impacted by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) also should have a “Do No Sell My Data” page and a terms of service. CCPA is landmark law that provides new privacy rights for California consumers and, as you take your business online, will likely impact your business.
There are number of thresholds that determine whether you’re required to comply with CCPA. The one most likely to impact your new eCommerce store requires compliance if “the business annually buys, receives, sells, or shares the personal information of 50,000 or more California residents.”
This 50k threshold may seem very high. But an action as simple as placing a cookie on a computer counts as collecting data under CCPA. An eCommerce store—even a new one—can easily hit this annual threshold with just 100-200 visitors per day. Because of this, it’s worth playing it safe and adding these CCPA compliance pages to your site.
These pages won’t be the most exciting on your site, but they’ll keep legal trouble away from your business.
#2 Set Up Your eCommerce Store
Now that you’ve built your website, you’re ready to set up your store for consumers to buy from. You’ll need to sort out three key elements to get started:
First, you’ll need to determine what products you’d like to sell. Some new eCommerce sellers will make their entire inventory available online, while others will offer a limited selection to get started.
Inventory management is one of the biggest challenges of running an online store. To avoid expensive mistakes, such as overstocking and overselling, you’ll need visibility into your inventory. Your CMS will likely offer analytics and inventory management capabilities, but you can also use inventory management software if you need more comprehensive capabilities.
Next, you need to set up payment options. To do this, you’ll need to set up a payment gateway.
Payment gateways connect payment methods and credit card payments to your store to securely transfer bunds between buyer and seller. To get started, you’ll need to set up an account with a provider, then setup your store’s gateways. (There are a number of payment gateways to choose from, each with varying capabilities and costs.
Once you have products and payments in place, you’ll have to establish a way to deliver your products to customers. Shipping is one of the most challenging parts of eCommerce. The responsibility will fall on you, the seller, to manage shipping, either through self-fulfillment, third-party logistics or other alternatives.
Fortunately, there are plugins that work with the eCommerce platforms to help with this. Whichever route you choose, you’ll need to determine shipping options, the regions you’ll ship to, and the services you’ll use to fulfill orders (think USPS, UPS, FedEx).
#3 Start Verifying Identity
Despite the many benefits of eCommerce, there are some risks to selling products online that you’ll need to protect yourself from.
A significant percentage of online sales are fraud. And, as eCommerce sales continue to surge, eCommerce fraud is growing twice as fast. Indeed, fraud is a costly and expanding issue that could cost your online store thousands of dollars. Attacks such as chargebacks and account takeovers pose significant financial threats to businesses.
Similarly, if you sell age-restricted products, preventing underaged access is extremely important for avoiding legal liability.
If you sell age-restricted or high value products through your new online store, you’ll need a reliable and cost-effective way to prevent underage or unauthorized access to your products. For most eCommerce sellers, age & identity verification is the most-efficient way to handle this problem.
Most identity verification providers are able to integrate directly into your eCommerce store, protecting your business while providing a seamless user experience. They do this by using identity data, identity documents and other methods to ensure your customers are who they say they are. Identity verification enables you to authenticate customer identity and protect yourself from compliance liability and fraud.
Getting your business online presents a number of opportunities for retail businesses. But while it can be intimidating at first, any retail business can get online by following these steps.