These days, many of our customers are interested in setting up online shops to sell their goods. I say, great! Online shopping is easier than ever before. This means customers may be more likely to place orders from your site—and it also means that they’ll show up with plenty of expectations of what their shopping experiences should be like. You need to be ready to deliver.

Here are five questions I ask clients before they set up an online store:

Have you defined your products in detail? Customers want to know exactly what they’re getting. That means taking great pictures—lots of them; writing good descriptions, including item sizes, colors, and features; creating SKU numbers; and clearly listing shipping options. The more detail, the better; this gives customers confidence in you—and your stuff.

Is your product subject to sales tax? This varies from product to product and state to state. Typically, you are responsible for collecting tax for states you have a presence in. For example, if your headquarters are in Ohio, but you have a warehouse in Indiana, you’ll need to collect tax on orders shipped to both states. (Read more here.)

How will you fulfill your orders? Depending on what (and how much) you’re selling, you may be able to pull inventory, pack boxes, and ship orders on your own. If that’s not an option, check into fulfillment services from companies like Amazon, or consider drop shipping from your suppliers, if they’re willing.

Do you know how you’ll handle payments? This is more complicated than you might think. Accepting credit cards online requires an SSL certificate, plus a gateway and merchant account to process transactions and deposit money into your bank account. (I recommend If you don’t want your own SSL certificate, PayPal gets the job done.

What happens when a customer has a problem? What will you do if customers receive defective products, or if they just change their minds? Do you have a set of terms and conditions customers should agree to before they buy? The cozy anonymity of the Web doesn’t mean you get to skimp on customer service. Lay out worst-case scenarios on paper beforehand to discover all the liabilities and service expectations your customers are sure to have.

If you can answer all of these questions confidently, you’re on the right track. The next step? Stock your inventory, set up shop, and watch your sales climb.

Think of building an online store of your own? Contact Atomic for more expert advice. While you’re at it, check out our swag for sale.

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