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How to run an online store?

The e-commerce market is growing rapidly, especially in the time of a pandemic. Lockdown convinced many people that buying online is convenient and “not biting”. Therefore, sales via electronic channels is increasing, and the potential of digital product distribution is huge. Maybe you have started to think about how to run an online store? Here’s what you should know!

Did you know that as many as 73% of Internet users in the world shop online? This result is 11 percentage points higher than in 2019. This is largely due to the pandemic, which in a way forced consumers to use online channels. Many of them, once tried, stayed longer. There is no wonder – online shopping is becoming more convenient and safer than visiting crowded shopping malls.

That’s why now is the best time to start your online store, especially since the e-commerce market is not saturated yet. However, in order for everything to function as expected, you need to know how to handle it in practice. Calmly. Although it may seem like a challenge at first – especially if you haven’t had much contact with the digital world – all you need is a bit of determination and an open mind to learn the basics and … learn how to run an online store.

How to set up an e-shop?

Before you start running an e-shop, you have to … set it up. What do you need to start? These are the elements that must be taken care of.

A. Business plan
The concept is absolutely fundamental. You need to know what you want to sell, to whom and in what model. For example, the e-shop, which is an extension of the stationary activity, will look different, and the dropshipping model will function differently (when the e-shop does not deal with the physical distribution of goods, and after completing the transaction, it transfers the order to the warehouse that is responsible for sending it to the customer).

At this stage, it is also worth developing:
– brand name – and check if it is already taken in the domain registry. Remember: short domains are the catchy ones. So it’s worth taking this into account when planning your store name. It must be easy for customers to remember;
– visual identification system – and therefore the logotype, fonts and colors to be associated with the brand. This information will come in handy when creating the landing page layout.

Of course, you should also define the budget that can be allocated to start an e-shop. It is worth being aware that the greater the number of products distributed and the more customers you plan to serve, the more advanced (and more expensive) technological solutions will become justified and needed.

B. Logistics
Before an online store starts to appear, it is necessary to specify exactly what the purchasing process will look like. Take care of:

– adequate stocks of products to be distributed,
– a place for their storage (you may need to rent a warehouse),
– completing business formalities (if necessary, setting up a business and a bank account to which payments from customers will flow),
– agreeing on the rules of cooperation with contractors,
– selecting payment methods made available to customers,
– selecting delivery methods.

At the beginning, you may be able to handle the e-shop on your own – especially since the first months will be a time of investment, and the time for profits is yet to come.

C. Technical facilities
These are all issues related to setting up an e-shop from the “digital” side. In this area, tasks such as:

– buying a domain, and therefore the address of an online store – it is also worth investing in related addresses to redirect from them to your e-store,
– selection of an e-commerce platform – you can choose from open-source WooCommerce platforms and a convenient (especially at the beginning) SaaS model, in which you buy a service package that suits your needs,
– choosing a hosting server (when the store is based on an open source platform, not on the SaaS model),
– ordering the design and implementation of an e-shop – so that its appearance is unique for the brand and legible for the customer, and the mechanics are intuitive and helpful to the buyer and you as the seller. It is best to entrust the task of preparing the layout and implementation to specialists who will make sure that everything works as expected.

D. Preparation of products
When your e-shop is ready, it’s time to fill it with products. So you will need:

– content – both on the website’s home page and category pages, as well as product descriptions,
– good product photos.

Do you sell goods from external producers? If so, you probably received promotional material from them. And while the use of product photos will be a good idea, when it comes to content … it is worth thinking about introducing unique ones as soon as possible. Why? Because copies from the manufacturer’s website can potentially reduce the SEO value of your website. And this will translate into poorer visibility and poorer positioning results.

Finally, you should also take care of legal issues – it will be necessary to draw up the store regulations. The e-shop will process customer data, therefore a safe management procedure must be developed. At this stage, it is worth consulting a lawyer or using the help of an e-shop operator. If you choose an e-commerce platform in the SaaS model, you can usually count on support and a rich package of tips in this regard.

Ready? Then you can start your shop.

How to run an e-shop?

Running an online store after fulfilling the basic obligations described above requires constant work to provide customers with the most comfortable shopping conditions. Remember that along with the demand for e-commerce services, their supply also grows. Therefore, to beat the competition, you simply have to be better than it.

What will influence the quality of customer service and the popularity of the website? There are also many elements to take care of.

A. Efficient current customer service
It is important that orders are sent to him at the agreed time, and the flow of information about the status of each of them – transparent. And in this regard, it is worth supporting yourself with appropriate software. It will largely automate the process of handling each order and, as a result, avoid mistakes and delays.

Efficient customer service also means quick response to incoming inquiries. This process can also be partially automated, e.g. with a chabot that will answer frequently asked questions.

B. Treating Customers Fairly
Reliability and honesty are features that are extremely appreciated by modern consumers. What to do to be seen in a positive light? First of all, it is very important to inform customers about the features of the offered products and their properties – promising stars from heaven will result in disappointing the buyer and a negative review.

Secondly, the way you deal with customer objections, complaints and returns is important. If there is any mistake on your part in the handling process, do not hesitate to apologize personally and offer the buyer, for example, a discount on subsequent purchases or a shopping voucher. This will erase any negative impression and build the image of the e-store.

C. Joining the Opinion Network
When looking for information about a given e-shop, customers very often refer to portals with opinions. Positive reviews in such a place strengthen the credibility of a given website and serve as “social proof” – the more there are, the greater the trust of new customers.

That is why it is worth encouraging customers to leave reviews on review portals – this can be done through mailing. For issuing a short review, it is worth offering the client an additional bonus, e.g. a discount code to be used during the next visit.

D. Brand
Remember that customers are more and more often prompted to buy not so much by the product itself as by what it communicates or what values are behind a given brand. You can shape it freely.

Marketing is important, that is, get noticed!

Good customer service that leads to more and more positive reviews is just one side of the coin. The second is the promotion of the website on the Web. Remember: your online store is not the only one on the web, but one of many. Therefore, you need to increase its visibility. Necessarily as part of a coherent marketing strategy, but implemented through several channels. What can you do to strengthen its position in search results on the one hand and increase conversion on the other?

Website optimization for SEO

Optimization and positioning of the website is the first important issue that should be taken care of. If you think about your business in long-term terms, then this issue is definitely worth looking at. In this aspect, elements such as:

– optimization of the website code and mechanisms of its operation – so that the website opens quickly, works without delays and barriers,
– content optimization and meta-content – again, let’s remind you about the unique content of products, but above all about the content on the category and subcategory pages, written in accordance with the SEO principles (including headings, keywords, bullets, and above all substantively!),
– website responsiveness – and therefore the possibility of using it also on mobile devices,
– good User Experience, i.e. a convenient store service mechanism that guides the customer through the entire purchasing process and … will make the user stay longer on the website,
– URL optimization – so that they contain keywords adequate to each of the categories and subcategories.

You have a very wide range of advertising tools to choose from. What to use? The most popular solutions are:

– Google Ads- including sponsored links that will appear in shopping suggestions after the user enters specific queries or product ads – that is, those mini photos with products and prices that you sometimes see next to or above the search results,
– remarketing advertising – banners displayed to recipients on various websites (both on the Google advertising network and, for example, on Facebook), referring to the products they saw during the previous visit to your store,
– advertising in social media – you can use, for example, various forms of promotion available on Facebook.

Also, do not forget about acquiring leads for the newsletter – it can become a good tool that will allow you to be in constant contact with customers and make them come back to your store from time to time. To subscribe to the newsletter, it is worth giving a benefit in the form of a discount code or free shipping at the entrance.

Image-building activities

It is good for your online store to have a fan page on Facebook and profiles on other social media relevant to your target group. For example, a shop with beauty or fashion products may appear on Instagram, and a shop operating on the B2B market, e.g. with spare parts for professional gastronomic devices – on LinkedIn.

Articles published on valuable external websites with linking to the e-shop can also be a good idea about the image and SEO potential. Larger online stores also increasingly cooperate with influencers. It’s also a good way to increase interest.

A lot of everything? On the one hand, yes, but on the other … in many cases you can use the help of experts. Professional support will allow you to automate many processes, including marketing ones, and thus – leave a lot of time for the development of your business.

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