Clicks vs. Bricks

Get ahead of your competition by selling your products online.

Congratulations! Your employees are happy, your customers seem satisfied and your business turns a profit—all in all, you’re well on your way to achieving small business success. However, if you aren’t selling retail on your website, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Luckily, setting up your business for online retail can be relatively easy and cost-effective.

Online Advantage



Whether you personally do most of your shopping in stores or from your computer, the reality is that more and more Americans are opting for online shopping. Jupiter Research predicts that by 2009, a full 41 percent of all U.S. retail purchases will be made either on the Internet or at least be influenced by online experiences. Not convinced? ComScore, a company that tracks digital trends, found that consumers spent $733 million online on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2007—a day known as “Cyber Monday,” since millions of people start their online holiday shopping that day, usually while at work. Even more importantly, that figure was a 21 percent jump from the same day in 2006.

All in all, online shopping offers convenience that’s hard to beat. What’s more, with the cost of fuel constantly increasing, customers appreciate being able to save gas and money by shopping online. So what’s the best way to set up your business for online retail?

Setting up Shop



First, you’ll obviously need to have a website for your business. If you don’t have one yet, a great resource is myABCspace.com. For only $10 a month, you’ll be able to create and maintain a user-friendly, professional website, and have access to unlimited live customer support from the team at ABC.

Once you have a website, you’ll need to implement a system for tracking your products that get sold online. Office software like Zoho (zoho.com) offers programs for databases, reports, inventory management and more to streamline your online retail business. Another option is Lite Commerce (litecommerce.com), offering inventory management, credit card processing, search engine optimization tools and more. If you’re anticipating selling a substantial amount of online retail, a good investment is NetSuite (netsuite.com). This program not only provides web store creation tools, inventory management and order fulfillment, but also includes options for product returns, seamless order fulfillment and integrated FedEx Shipping and UPS Online Tools.

Closing the Sale



However you set up your online store, make sure it is user-friendly. According to a Harris Interactive survey about online retail shopping habits, 44 percent of respondents have abandoned a virtual shopping cart mid-purchase because they got frustrated or couldn’t get a question answered. In the same survey, 56 percent of respondents said that having the ability to search for answers during the checkout process—without having to lose the information they’ve already keyed in—would be helpful when shopping online.

It’s also a good idea to involve an outside party to set up secure electronic payment. One of the most popular options is PayPal (paypal.com), which offers easy registration and access for you, while providing safe credit and debit card transactions for your customers. PayPal charges a small fee for each purchase made through your website, but you won’t have to face any monthly fees, set-up fees or the like.

When customers buy products online, you can provide them with the opportunity to pick them up. However, the vast majority will want you to ship their purchases directly to them. While this is an added expense, you can always charge for shipping and handling—customers will pay for the convenience. Plus, ABC members can take advantage of exclusive discounts on shipping via UPS. Member benefits include saving up to 28 percent on overnight shipping and up to 65 percent on freight.

Don’t forget the importance of following up with your online customers after they’ve purchased from your website—this can help convince a one-time shopper to become a repeat customer. In fact, 73 percent of respondents from the Harris Interactive survey said they would appreciate any kind of post-purchase follow-up, and 41 percent specifically said they wanted a follow-up call or e-mail.

No Products? No Problem



If your business provides services rather than products you can pack and ship, there are still a number of ways you can maximize your website and allow your clients to buy from you online:

  • Gift certificates, tickets or coupons that customers can print out from your website.
  • Online booking for appointments or services. If you have a pre-payment option, that’s even better.
  • Ordering online for food pick-up or delivery—this works well for nearly any restaurant that offers takeout, and printed orders have less room for error than those taken over the phone.


Regardless of the option you choose, make it a goal to set up your website for retail as soon as you can—the potential for your client base to expand is limitless.

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Reader Comments


Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 3:08 PM
Product Order Fulfillment says:
Existing and new online sellers, consider whether you want to spend your days packing and shipping orders. It is a lot of work and very time consuming. There are services like http://www.shipwire.com that are available. Shipwire provides on-demand e-commerce order fulfillment (storage and shipping) out of warehouses in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

It is simple, easy to use and we integrate with all the e-commerce tools listed here (LiteCommerce/X-cart, PayPal, Netsuite + about 30 other shopping carts).

If you are interested we offer a Free Trial of our services that will allow you to get set-up, integrate your cart and send us some inventory to test ship for you. All without taking your credit card out of your wallet. http://www.shipwire.com/trial

As you consider going from Bricks to Clicks ... we hope we can help you overcome some of the additional hassles of storage and shipping.

If you ship yourself, our free trial also includes USPS internet postage printing with no monthly fee. http://www.shipwire.com/usps

Cheers and good luck,

Nate

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