So… you want to make money online? Putting a few items on Ebay is one thing. But building a successful online store is another. Whether you’re selling products, services, or information, careful planning is essential for success.
Here are a few questions to consider before getting started:
- Do you have a brick-and-mortar store that will share products with your online store? If so, what would happen if you sold a product online and in the store at the same time? Would one of your customers have a bad experience?
- How will you track your inventory online? Some store owners use the web; some use Quickbooks and sync the store and the ecommerce site together. Whatever method you choose, create a process and follow it diligently.
- Is there existing ecommerce software system that you can use?
- If so, is it the best solution for your customers? Would they have a better experience with a website ecommerce design that was custom-built to their needs? A custom Magento solution, for example, might pay off in the long run if it makes the buying process easier for your customers.
- How will customers pay for your product or service? You’ll need to select a merchant account and gateway to get started.
- PayPal is an affordable option – but they aren’t a bank and don’t have to obey the same legalities that banks do.
- Authorize.net might work with your business banking account.
- Your bank might have a custom solution, or your inventory management system might have a built-in system.
- Will you offer free shipping? If so, how will that cost be built into your business model?
- What vendor will be most convenient and cost-effective: UPS, USPS, or Fedex?
- Are your products large enough to require freight shipping? Can your vendor handle that? What will the handling fee be?
- How will you market your website? Customers won’t find you automatically – you need a plan for getting their attention and moving them to your site.
- Are you familiar with the ins-and-outs of website marketing—from search engine optimization to analytics? Or would it save money in the long run to work with a trusted advisor to market your ecommerce site?
Figuring out the best ecommerce system for your products and your customers may take some time. Remember that time you spend upfront in planning will save headache down the line — and that custom development, if it helps convert interest to sales, can be worth its weight in gold.