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How to get your business online

Web-based sales translate into higher revenues, direct communication with customers and easier-to-access global markets

4-minute read

Getting your business to operate online is essential for almost every company these days.

If you haven’t already done it, there are many platform options to move your business online. However, there are also a number of things to consider before you start selling online, says Tyler Lockyer, Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services.

“Moving your business online can be done quickly and efficiently with some planning.”

Here are the six things to do that Lockyer says are crucial for any business owner that wants to become a web-based seller:

1. Build your product catalogue

Your products need to move from the store shelf to a digital catalogue, Lockyer says. You need to show customers what your products are and what they look like. That means you need an image, description and product attributes, such as colours and sizes, he says. All of this information will live as a product database for your store.

“Start building your product catalogue immediately. You will need web-ready images of your products, as well as accurate descriptions and available variations.”

2. Make sure your picking, packing and delivery is in place

When a customer buys something online, there has to be someone to pick the purchased product off the shelf and put it in a package with a shipping label.

Lockyer lists several questions that need to be addressed for prospective online shipping:

  • Do you have a shipping supplier?
  • Can you print shipping labels?
  • How are you going to manage the delivery of your products?
  • Can your retail staff be re-deployed to online sales fulfillment to help get your products shipped?
  • Have you designed a fulfillment process tailored to the needs of your new e-commerce business?

Keep in mind that at certain times of the year Canada Post and other shipping services can be overwhelmed with deliveries. It may be challenging to find a service to deliver your product if you don’t already have a good partner lined up.

Drop-shipping, (where you don’t have to rely on keeping inventory in stock) and warehouse and fulfillment partners, or third-party logistics (3PL), are growing alternatives to owning and managing both the fulfillment and last-mile delivery of products.

“It goes without saying, but if you can’t send the product, then you don’t really have an online business.”

3. Set up a proper way to receive payment

If you’re going to be selling online, how are you going to accept payments?

“What’s your plan to manage the sales transaction?” he asks. “How is the payment going to link to your bank account?”

Although there are several options to receive payment online, and many platform solutions that make it easy, some of these options come with higher transaction fees than others. Also, some require connectivity to a business bank account.

If you can’t send the product, then you don’t really have an online business.

4. Work out all fees, pricing and policies

Lockyer says you will need to consider how your new business expenses, such as online transaction fees or unrecoverable fulfillment costs, could affect your product pricing.

“Now is also a good time to complete an online competitive audit to see what pricing has been set in the marketplace.”

You will need to review (and possibly) revise your product pricing strategy as you enter the world of online sales.

Do you want to provide free delivery to attract customers? Do you need to do any price adjustments, given the situation? Do your existing store policies consider these situations?

5. Build up your customer service resources

Lockyer says you may have entirely new questions from your customers that you aren’t used to responding to, and in a new format. Someone will need to monitor questions that come from your online store.

“You’ll be responding to people in a different way. Be prepared to be responsive to online shopping questions.”

In addition, most e-commerce platforms will include a level of email automation. Be sure to set the right kinds of expectations with your customers in your automated emails (order confirmation, shipping notice, etc.).

6. Take advantage of the technology

If you’re already online, you need to make sure that your website is transactional, Lockyer says. To sell online, you’ll find several options available, each requiring varying amounts of technical support.

Setting up your online store can be straightforward. Free and low-cost e-commerce software solutions can help you set it up.

If you want a turnkey solution, you can use a software solution as a starting point.

Next step

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