Q: I am trying to grow my business, but with limited results. Expanding is an expensive undertaking, and one that seems unaffordable. The costs for building out a new store, labor, inventory, and other overhead make the risk almost not worth it. Is there an easier or less expensive way to expand my business?
A. There is. Consider: While retail sales only rose by 3.6% from 2016 to 2017, a different sales
What is that part of the economy?
And it’s not just last year. E-commerce sales have shown double digit growth every year for the past decade.
Advantages of e-commerce include, but are not limited to:
- The ability to acquire new customers faster, and cheaper
- Higher average sales than physical retail
- More average monthly orders
- Loyal customers
Those are some compelling reasons to invest in building out e-commerce as part of your existing business. And let me add one final selling point: The cost of entry is pretty darn low.
If you are already on the e-commerce bandwagon, way to go. But if you are like most small business people and are not really engaging in selling your products online in a big way, you are missing out on a great opportunity. This is the easiest, most efficient, and most affordable way to grow your business.
So, how do you do it, you ask? There are essentially two ways. First, you can create your own e-store and website, and that is what we will discuss here. The other, to be discussed on a different day, is to sell via online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.
There are basically three steps to creating your own e-commerce store:
1. Decide what you are going to sell.
If you already sell some products from your physical store, you are ahead of the game. Figure out which would be best to sell online. Are they unique? Is there a large market? Can you sell them inexpensively? What would it cost to ship? These questions, and more, must be considered when deciding what you are going to sell online.
After that, you will need to photograph all of your products so they can be displayed digitally. You will also need to write up attention-grabbing headlines and product descriptions.
If you don’t have products to sell yet, you will need to find some. The secret here is deceptively simple. Buy low, sell high.
I had a pal once who was a great retailer. He would always tell me, “It’s all in the buying.” Johnny knew that if he was able to buy product at the right price, selling it would be the easy part. Your job is the same: find something people will want to buy online, and then purchase it at the right wholesale price. A simple Google search will help you locate scores of online wholesalers.
2. Create your e-commerce store:
There are a lot of e-commerce hosting sites out there that offer online merchants everything needed to set up an e-store. (This can either be a standalone site or part of your regular website.)
The host will guide you through a point-and-click site creation process that allows you to get selling online. The software helps you upload and display your products, prices, and descriptions using pre-made templates. It will also allow people to buy from you via a shopping cart and checkout system.
If you search for “e-commerce hosting” you will find many options. What you want is to find a trusted turn-key e-commerce web-hosting solution. Any good hosting provider should offer inventory control options, live customer support, security, and an easy to use dashboard.
Suggested Reading: E-Commerce 101: What You Need to Know About Amazon Marketplace
3. Get a merchant solution:
You obviously need to be able to take online payments. You can use PayPal, Apple Pay, take credit cards, or find some other online solution.
Making the transition from solely brick and mortar to the e-commerce world can feel like a huge step. But with more money to be made while keeping a budget, it begs the question -- what are you waiting for?
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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