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5 important questions to consider before going online

You could be missing out on another stream of potential revenue if you have not taken your business online yet.  U.S. online retail sales grew 12.6 percent to $176.2 billion in 2010, and they’re expected to reach near 300 billion by 2016.

Beginning an online store can be challenging for small businesses, which are often short on time, budget and staff. But ecommerce vendors can help you make designing and maintaining an online store relatively simple and affordable.

Here are 5 important questions to consider before going online:

1. How do I start building my online store?
If you can’t afford to hire someone to build a custom online store, don’t worry. There are plenty of ecommerce vendors that can help you create one quickly and professionally.

Companies as Shopify, Bigcommerce and Volusion let you design the overall look, feel and functionality of your online store. They also let you do things such as upload your product catalog, set up customer shopping carts, securely accept payments and handle order fulfillment. These services securely host your online store on their own servers. You can link to your online store from your company’s main website.

Ecommerce services such as these usually require some basic initial set-up work on your part. For instance, with Shopify, you choose a storefront layout from a set of templates and customize your fonts, overall color scheme and product image sizes. Shopify users can also upload their own custom brand logos and backgrounds.

Monthly prices for such services range from about $10 to $700 a month, and they depend largely on the number of products you sell and the amount and types of services provided.

2. How should I determine shipping costs?
This is a really common question and it is one that needs to be addressed but not worried about. That is because most website hosting companies like Shopify provide you with shipping options that will give you top shipping rates to help you and the customer save.

3. How do I create the best product images and descriptions?
Making the best possible product images and descriptions you can is the largest element in growing and online store. Your images are you store, the customers have to feel them and breath them if you will. Investing in a DSLR camera would be the best place to start. With 700 dollars you can purchase a very nice camera that will enable you to have professional standard images in no time.

4. How will attract shoppers?
This is easy for some and difficult for others. If you already maintain a brick and mortar store then you will simply want to advertise with your current client base and begin reaching more people through them via social media and hosted events at your store. If you don’t have any avenues like a store yet then you have to look at social media as your strongest resource for attracting shoppers.  Additionally you can create some great content and posts and attempt to use Facebook’s paid marketing to find some shoppers.

5. How should I handle returns?
Every store has to deal with returned items, that is a fact. Double-check that your ecommerce vendor provides built-in tools that let you quickly and easily replace merchandise or refund purchase prices, restock your inventory and send emails to customers about the status of their return.




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