Creating an online store for your offline business
If you’re considering moving your storefront online, let us be the first to congratulate you. This is a big step! You might feel like you’re joining late, or you should already know everything there is to know about e-commerce. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s always something new to learn with any new venture, and even the experts are constantly learning new things, so be patient with yourself, and take everything you read in stride. Navigating the world of digital-anything is overwhelming for a lot of individuals, but you can learn the basics of moving your offline store online and become successful at it. Here are our recommendations for the most important components of moving your brick-and-mortar store online.
1. Buy your domain
Much like your physical address, your domain will act as your digital address. It will be where you direct traffic to when you run ads, promotions, or social media posts.
Whatever your store is called offline, you’ll want to buy a similar domain. You can use any number of domain name providers. We at Caffeinated Media Solutions are fans of Go Daddy. But, you can also use Dreamhost, BlueHost, Google Domains, or any other domain provider you find.
Most likely, as you go to purchase your domain, you’ll see that it’s not available. Here’s what you can do instead of getting an exact domain. For the purpose of demonstrating, let’s pretend your shop is called Nice Jeans.
Add your city or country prefix as a prefix. Eg nicejeansyvr.com, or nicejeanscan.com
Add “we are” to the domain. Eg: wearenicejeans.com
Use a different TLD. Eg: nicejeans.ca or nicejeans.store
Alter the name slightly.
As you come up with alternative domain names, we suggest that you also cross-reference what’s available on social media (if you haven’t already registered with Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or whichever platforms you would like to use). Just like with your domain, if you haven’t already reserved your handles, you might notice that your exact business name is already taken, so you’ll want to use an alternative – preferably one that’s a close match to your domain.
2. Decide on a platform
There are a number of options for e-commerce platforms that you can choose from. You might use Shopify, Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix. This is the site of your online store. It’s like the physical building that showcases your products. You want to use something that looks and works well for your customer and is easy enough for you or your team to maintain.
Shopify is the leader in e-commerce, but that’s not why we recommend that you consider using Shopify. What we love about Shopify is that it’s highly customizable, SEO supported, has great email marketing templates, integrates with Facebook, HubSpot, Mailchimp, Amazon, and more; it’s also robust enough for large e-commerce businesses while being simple enough for mom & pop shops, and it’s a trusted and secure platform.
There are two options or tiers to choose from, and both will serve your needs as a small business. They offer a 14-day free trial, so you can always try it before you commit.
3. Select your products
Depending on the size of your store, you might choose a selection of them to start selling online as you become accustomed to this new channel.
We recommend that you choose your in-store bestsellers. Get professional photos taken of your products and packaging, and write the product descriptions that will sit alongside the photos in your online shop.
4. Select your supplier
If you work with a trusted supplier who’s able to scale with you, this is great. If not, you may begin looking at new options for suppliers a few months (we recommend at least 4 months) of your online store’s launch.
As you search for a new supplier, take into consideration cost, quality, social responsibility, and volume.
5. Sort out the shipping details
We’ll be honest – determining how and where you’ll ship is one of the most consuming decisions you’ll make as you build your online store. Consumers have come to expect quick and inexpensive shipping, yet shipping rates for small business owners can eat into your margins, so you’ll want to find the right balance.
Our suggestion, like many e-commerce stores, is to offer free shipping after a certain price point – whether that be $50, $100, or $150 is up to you and needs to work with your profit margin.
Finding the right shipping provider is a matter of deciding if you’ll deliver to all of North America, and if so, finding the right partner to offer cross-border shipping. If you’re planning to stick within your country, this is logistically easier but also reduces your ability to reach new customers. You might start within your country, and then once you’re more comfortable with running your brick-and-mortar store online, you can expand into new regions.
6. Create your online store
Once you have all the details sorted, including your domain, photographs and product descriptions, and shipping rates, you’ll want to create your online store. You might work with a designer and developer to do this, or you could aim to do it on your own. In this post, we talk about the pros and cons of working with a Shopify partner.
Whatever you decide, make sure you use text that’s easy to read, high-quality images, and a clean and consistent design. What do we mean by that? A clean design includes a fair amount of white space between images, text, buttons, and headlines, and doesn’t use too many colours or fonts throughout the site. It’s best to err on the side of simplicity if you’re unfamiliar with design.
6. Promote your online store
Of course, as you move your business online, you’ll want to reach new customers. This is where a social media, advertising, and SEO strategy come into play. These tools will allow you to be in front of the people looking for your products.
There’s a lot to learn when it comes to promoting and advertising an online business, so sometimes it helps to learn as you work with a digital marketing partner. The right digital marketing partner will be transparent with you about what they’re doing and why and guide you as they go.
The first step, though, will be to promote your online store to your real-world fans and customers. You might consider creating an in-store promotion to gain new followers on your social channels as you build your online store, or you can offer discounts to the first x-number of customers who purchase online. If this is still a bit overwhelming, talk to us, we’d be happy to help you come up with a launch strategy.
Building your online store is a learning experience. No matter where you are in the process, we believe that shops with great quality products who do business with integrity deserve to succeed. If you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, we hope this post has given you a starting point for launching your offline store, online. If you still need more help, let’s have a virtual coffee chat. We can’t wait to hear from you.