Starting an online retail business can be a tricky proposition, and there are some essentials you will need right away when you get started. A retail business is different than a service one in that although your location is online and that is where you do business, you will still have to deal with inventory, shipping, and other items a service business can do without.
When you are setting up your online retail business, here are seven essentials you must have as you get started.
1. A Business Plan
When you start any business, you need to have a business plan. This needs to include a plan for production or acquisition, distribution, and marketing. All of these should be thoroughly researched and outlined.
Even before you are ready to begin, you need to know your suppliers or understand your production process so you can keep up with demand. You need to have a plan for how to get your goods to the customer (more on that in a moment), and you need to have a marketing and advertising plan.
The online retail world is extremely competitive, and you need to have things that set your business apart from the rest. If you don’t, you are much more likely to fail.
2. A Website
While this may sound obvious, you need a specific type of website. Not just any site will do. There are specific templates for retail sites, anywhere from Shopify and BigCommerce to WordPress platforms coupled with Woo Commerce.
You should choose your platform and your hosting based on the traffic you are expecting with some room for growth. This also affects your hosting, and for most retail stores, a dedicated host as opposed to shared hosting is the best choice.
3. A Blog
Many online retailers discount the value of a blog, but in most cases, it is an extremely valuable tool. The reason is that a well-constructed blog that is relevant and updated often brings traffic to your site. All of that traffic consists of potential buyers.
The more organic traffic you have, the higher your Google rankings will be as well, as long as you are writing about the right, relevant topics with the right keywords. This means customers are more likely to find you through internet search, a huge source of new contacts.
4. A Customer Relationship Management Program
As you gain more customers, you will need a way to manage them, and putting a customer relationship management system (CRM) in place sooner rather than later means you will be ready for growth when it comes. When you are in the thick of things and really need it, you will not have time to try out different systems to see which one is the best and works well for you.
This can mean a hasty decision and poor performance. Set up your CRM ahead of time, and your future self will thank you.
5. A Phone System
Customers will have questions, concerns, complaints, and other reasons to contact you, and not everything can be done through online chat, social media, and email. A phone system, even a simple one is the answer. You don’t need to spend a ton of money, but you do need to have a good system in place.
Like a CRM, setting this up before you really need it and planning for growth will save you both time and money in the long run. For many online retail stores, VoIP phone service for small business is the answer. Other systems are also viable, but can be cost prohibitive. A good VoIP can leave you poised for growth.
6. Shipping Accounts
How are you going to get your goods to your customers? You are going to ship them of course, and you will probably use one of the big shipping services, or perhaps more than one. It is highly recommended that initially that you set up accounts with FedEx, UPS, and the post office.
To be effective, you will need scales, label printers, and packing supplies to go with these accounts. Some will offer free boxes and discounts on other supplies if you use them regularly. There are also other, smaller shipping and courier services who may operate in your area, and who you may want to partner with as well.
7. Integrated Inventory Management
You’re going to have inventory, and you are going to need to keep track of it. The more integrated that system is with your shipping system and sales system, the easier keeping track of your inventory will be. This means that you need to make sure that your CRM and your shipping systems also communicate.
Keeping track of what you have and what you need to either produce or order is vital to your online store’s success. Inventory will be the key to being profitable, so choose this system carefully.
You will need a lot of things when you first open your online store. If you start with these seven essentials, you will be on the right track, and can add more as you grow and mature as a business.
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