Back to News

Your guide to getting your shop online

As a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown, online sales have rocketed, with May Year-on-Year figures up by a staggering 32.7%. So it’s no surprise that many traditional bricks and mortar shops are now exploring ways to start selling their wares online, in order to capitalise on this surge and be better prepare for the future. If you are a business that has always sold your products via bricks and mortar, and are not sure where to start when it comes to going online, don’t worry. To help, we’ve put together a quick ‘how to’ guide, exploring the options available for any retail business wanting to get online.

Do your research

Before taking the plunge into the world of online retail, you need to do your research and be clear on your strategy and aims. Make sure you understand who you’re targeting and who your competitors are. These could be very different online, compared to those for your physical shop.

Be clear about your offer

Think about your Unique Selling Points (USPs); what is it that makes your products and services better than another online shop? In short, why should a customer choose you?

Work out what it is you’re going to be selling - you may need to adjust your traditional product offering to better suit the online market. For example, you may have products that are particularly fragile, or with a very short shelf-life, that just aren’t feasible to post to customers. Although, if you’re in this situation, then you may want to consider setting up a ‘Click and Collect’ system, whereby your customers can place their orders online and then collect from your store. 

Think ahead

While it isn’t possible to predict the future, and how well your shop is going to perform, it is important to think about your long-term ambitions for the site and your plans for growth. For example, do you anticipate adding further product ranges, or eventually to be able to sell your products internationally? It’s worth thinking about this right from the start, that way, you can take steps to future-proof your site so that it can grow with you. This is where working with a good digital agency can really help, as they’ll be able to make sure that your site has the capability to do everything you anticipate it needing to do.

Marketplace VS. your own store?

Not sure you’re ready to jump straight in to having your own e-commerce website? Then selling on a third-party marketplace website, such as Amazon, Ebay or Etsy, may be a good place to start. The main benefit of selling through one of these channels is that it’s pretty quick and easy to get setup and start selling. Marketplace sites also have the benefit of bigger marketing budgets to attract people to their platform, however, not necessarily to you and your products which are likely to end up sitting on a page alongside those of your competitors.

The main disadvantage of selling through a marketplace site are the fees they charge; many taking a percentage of each sale you make (and some even take a percentage of any shipping fees, too, which could potentially leave you out of pocket). You also have limited control over how your products are presented and marketed. And it’s also worth remembering that any negative PR surrounding the marketplace platform, could also reflect badly on you and your products, simply by association.

The most obvious benefit of having your own e-commerce website is that you’re in control. You can choose how it’s designed, how you market it, how your products are displayed and priced, and you don’t have to pay sales commission. Your own site can also grow and adapt with you, allowing you to expand your products as your customer-base grows.

The downsides of setting up your own online shop are the initial time and cost commitment required to get it up and running, but in the long run it can prove much more cost-effective. You’ll also be responsible for attracting potential customers to your site and your products yourself. Take a look at the ‘shout about it’ section below for more information on promoting your site.

But you don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other, you can do both. Whilst you’re building your own digital presence you can also sell through a marketplace. This will help you to start growing your online customer base, who you can then make aware of your own website by including your URL in your order confirmations emails and packing slips.

Setup yourself or call in the pros?

A quick Google will reveal various off-the-shelf ecommerce website packages that you can get to setup a site quickly at relatively low cost, such as Shopify or Wix. However, keep in mind these won’t be tailored to your business, and they rely on generic templates, which can lead to your site looking similar to many others. Using an experienced web design or digital agency will give you a more professional User-Experience focused site, with enhanced features and security that will give customers confidence and help boost sales.

It’s worth thinking of your website as your new ‘online branch’ – it deserves the same time, care and investment as you would give a new physical store. You need to be realistic about your budget – how much can you afford to spend now? But conversely, can you afford to skimp and choose a low-budget option that proves unsuitable or ineffective?

Security is key

Whichever way you decide to setup your shop, you need to make sure it’s safe and secure. Your customers need to feel safe using your shop and confident that you’ll keep their details protected. You will need to make sure your site has a valid SSL certificate and that you’re using a secure payment gateway, such as PayPal or Stripe.

You also need to carefully monitor your site, ensuring that any plug-ins are kept up to date to prevent the functionality of your site breaking. With an e-commerce website, it’s worth considering an on-going maintenance support package, which will make sure your site is monitored and updated regularly. Then if anything does go wrong it means you can quickly call on the experts to get it sorted for you.

Shout about it

Once you’ve got your online shop setup, you need to make sure your customers can find it.

Making sure your website content is fully optimised for search engines is a really important start. We’d recommend partnering with an expert Digital Marketing agency to optimise your site and help you craft an effective digital marketing strategy to target prospective customers and draw them to your site.


Need help getting your shop set up online?

Our team of developers and digital marketeers are experts when it comes to creating successful e-commerce websites. Speak to us today.

Get in touch