You could write long books about how much the rise of the internet has affected the way we live. In fact, those books could probably fill an entire library without any repetition. One of the major ways the internet has changed society through connectivity is how much easier it is now to start a business. There are an incredible amount of options now.
Take retail, as an example. In the past, you needed a physical location to host your customers, preferably somewhere easy for them to reach. Then you needed space in that location to display your wares. Then you also needed space to store extra inventory to rotate through.
This is simply not the situation anymore. Now, you don’t even need a store. You can sell your products out of the comfort of your own home. But what about the inventory, you might ask? You will still have to store it somewhere, but you can rent warehouse space for much cheaper than retail space used to cost. Plus, there are an endless amount of software solutions and platforms to help you manage your inventory and track your sales. The possibilities are endless. Here then, is the ultimate guide to starting an online retail business.
Find Something Great to Sell
The first thing you need to do is come up with something you think will be great to sell. However, it’s not enough to just decide you are going to sell something. It needs to be different than what’s out there already. That doesn’t mean that you can’t sell t-shirts, for example. You still can, but if there is nothing unique about them, such as the design, materials, or even the branding, then that may not be enough.
Make sure that you do some market research as well. You might think that you have an amazing and original idea, but it might already be out there, and you don’t realize it. The last thing you want is to get near your launch date and realize that there is another established product out there, just the same as yours. Always make sure that there is a place in the market for what you want to do.
Figure Out Production
Once you have a product that you think will sell, you need to figure out how you will produce it and get it into your customers’ hands. Are you going to make the product yourself? Do you need to source materials? Or, perhaps it will be manufactured by a third party, and you will market and sell it. Make sure that you enter into solid contracts with any other parties involved after testing out what they can do for you.
Shipping is also an important aspect of your business. You need to ensure that you have a logistics pipeline that will get your products to your customers as efficiently as possible. You will need a reliable warehousing option that you can either control yourself or have an employee manage for you. Issues with storage and shipping will give you a bad reputation and affect your sales over time.
Check Out the Competition
One of the best ways to learn about running an online retail business is by seeing what your potential competition is doing. Who is successful, and what strategies have they used to get to that point? You can look at their website and their social media to see what types of marketing they use to find success. This will also help you figure out how you can make your business stand out from them to find your own place in the market.
Get Your Insurance In Place
Insurance is an important component of any business. You can get retail insurance online that will provide all of the coverages that a retail business needs, whether it is brick-and-mortar or an online business. With an online retail business, you will need to make sure that your inventory is always covered, even when it is in transit and stored. If you are delivering your product yourself, you will need commercial auto insurance even if you use your personal vehicle. Make sure that if you have employees you also have workers’ compensation coverage, or you might run afoul of state regulations. All of these should be covered in your retail insurance package.
Choose Your Brand’s Personality
Before you can start marketing or think about launching your product, you will need to figure out your brand’s personality. What you want your brand to represent to the public will inform every branding choice you make from there, including your business name and the design of your logo. An ideal name is catchy and memorable while also giving off a sense of what your business is about. Take your time choosing it, because unlike logos and other branding materials, it can be very hard to change your name.
Get Started on SEO
You can’t start your search engine optimization (SEO) process when you launch. You have to get started well before that. Good SEO involves having authoritative and informative content on your website that is well-indexed by search engines. You can’t do this when you launch because it takes time to move up the rankings. If you start early, you will be in a much better position at launch with your website already paying dividends. If you play it right, you can have enticing content on your landing pages so that if someone comes across your website before you are ready to sell, they will still be intrigued by what’s to come.
Find a Good Platform for Selling
One of the most important aspects of running an online business is making sure that the purchase process is as simple and user-friendly as possible for your customers. Lucky for you there are many different options from which you can choose. Ecommerce sites like Shopify make it simple to have a sales platform that also helps with inventory. Many online shoppers already use these platforms so familiarity will add a level of comfort and trustworthiness. They also offer customizations that keep your branding consistent no matter what platform you use.
Key Performance Indicators
Before you start on your road to success, you will need to define what success is for you. That varies depending on the business owner. You don’t just want to have “sales” as a metric. You should also include things like traffic to your website, your conversion rates, the average sale, and how many returning customers you get. All of these can be mixed together to give you targets to shoot for and signs of whether you keep on the same path or if you need to pivot.
When you’ve gone through these steps, it’s time to launch. Your SEO should already be doing some work for you, so send out some splashy marketing right off the bat. Use social media to get the word out, and spend some money on targeted ads to capture your key demographics. Once your brand is out there in front of eyeballs, it’s time for you to do the real work of making sales, fostering relationships, and watch your revenue grow.