What you need to know to start your Online Store Business

Things you will to consider when setting up your business online store.

Business branding and registration
Business online store front (website)
Processing sales
Processing orders
Managing inventory
Closing the order
Processing returns and warranty claims

Business Branding and Business Registration

So you have an idea to sell something online. What do you call it? How do you know if someone else has done it before?

How to come up with a name…

Firstly spend some time thinking about the product or service. If its physical hold it and use it. See what feelings your get and list its purposes down in a list. A good place to start is what does it communicate to a consumer. Write a mission statement and get clear on purpose and the business focus.

Find someone close that believes in your dream and brainstorm ideas. Two heads are better than one. Don’t hold back in this stage, let anything and everything loose. Being creative in these instances is about allowing yourself freedoms and not prejudging your ideas before they come out. This is a process we use in our creative meetings very effectively so having permission to say anything at all is essential. Having a dedicated person to capture the ideas as they flow will keep the momentum. Short list your ideas and sit on the for a while. Its always best to rendezvous at a later date with a fresh brain.

When you have 5 or so solid ideas its time to start seeing whats available. In this day and age its more about finding a name that you can have more than finding the perfect name. (Though both is always best).

Developing Your Brand

Brand Development is a process that involves your creative, procedural and logical mental faculties. The development of a brand is not normally done by one person alone. We normally create a think tank and run as many scenarios as possible before we start on design. The more ideas we can have across the Creative Brief when we receive it the better.

What is Brand Identity

The definition of Brand Identity has gone through many phases over time. Today we generally recognise it as this.

  1. Physique physical aspect of the brand.
    The physique is the logo, the look and feel of the elements you instantly recognise when you see it.
  2. Personality is the character of the brand
    This is how the world sees the brand. It can be seen in a write style or a voice. It can be the owner’s or endorsers picture or photo. It can the colours they use or the way they use them together
  3. Culture is the environment created around the brand
    This is seen in the work environment. Its in the types of people they attract.
  4. Relationship is connection between people
    This is the relationship the brand foster between people. The people that use the product and the brand. Its also within the people that are attracted to work their, and the general community at large.
  5. Reflection refers to the customer or consumer of the brand
    This is the brands “perfect Customer”. Identifying the perfect customer is crucial in brand development as it acts as a guide in developing all other principles.
  6. Image refers to how the brand sees itself
    A brand has an identity, a self, and a position. Creating the brand image is about bringing everything together and harmoniously tying it all together.

Business online store front (website)

Building an online store is all about conversion. Converting your visitors into sales, How this is done is always directly related to the Brand Identity. If the brand is fast paced, pushy and direct, then so must be the conversion style. If the Brand Identity is caring, slow and calm so must be the conversion style. The brands perfect customers will, (knowingly or not) expect a certain style of treatment when they walk into your online store. It is expected and should always be adhered to. The colour scheme, the size of the photos, the voice the site is written in, always reflects the Brand Identity.

Sales Funnel

Every Online Store must have a strong sales funnel. This is the process your customers must travel through before purchasing. It is the same as in a bricks and mortar store. In a traditional store the sale assistant will drive a customer through a series of qualifiers and eventually close the sale with a closed question. This now must be done in an Online Store. We do this through strong calls to action, strong identifiers of direction, and clear communication with copy and pictures. Removing all barriers of sale is essential to driving traffic through the sales funnel and into the shopping cart. It is essential that your customers feel safe and secure through the entire funnel. The environment must always on brand at every touch point and every interaction must flow seamlessly. Being taken through a sales funnel is the equivalent process a sales assistant will take us through, only here its is online and we use brand personality instead of the sales assistants personality.

A Strong Marketing Strategy

Opening an online store is like opening a store in the middle of no where, with no one around as far as the eye can see. Once your store is open you need a flood of people coming to have a look and buy from you. This is the job of marketing. Marketing a business is not so much a difficult process, but it does require experience, a solid plan with multiple arms, constant revision and tenacity.

  1. Pre-launch Phase
    A pre-launch strategy should always start with building a list in mind. Capturing email addresses and names is vital for the next product launch. Having your customers organised in a categorised list is the single most powerful tool in your marketing tool box. A pre-launch is about coming up with ideas to raise interest in your products. Facebook, direct marketing, targeting advertising. Look for press opportunities, look for others who can support and help promote, Run a contest, run a promotion.
  2. The Launch
    Launching your site is an exciting time. This is the time you can gather your audience and direct them to your site. Remember to keep your lists up to date with whats going on. Driving interest and excitement through the launch is key.
  3. Campaigns
    Campaigns are organised plans to bring customers that have a start and finish date. Plan 12 months ahead and create a timeline so you know well in advance whats coming up. Running your business to a campaign driven timeline means you can plan your income, plan and manage your inventory and know where you are going to in the following year.
  4. Growth
    Growing your business is neccasary and so important. Plan your growth from the very start. Using campaigns alows you to grow at a planned rate and creates new opourtunities and possibilities.
  5. Long Term Strategy
    Plan your business with long term in mind. Playing the long game allows you to create something for the future. Having a destination in mind at all times means you will get where your going. You can always see the light when things get hard.

Processing Sales

Processing sales and orders quickly and accurately is key to having your customers return. It is now the expectation that orders arrive quickly and in excellent condition, every time. Products must be resented well and be very well wrapped.

There are many software solutions and we have tested pretty much all of them. We are very particular about who we partner with as the solutions we build must support our clients. Our main online store solutions are, wooCommerce, Neto, Shopify and Magneto. Contact us for more information and pricing tiers.

Managing Inventory

Inventory is your current stock you have on hand to ship. Managing this is a fine balance for an online store. If you hold to much stock you can tie up your cash. If you hold to little stock you wont be able to make the sales or list your products. Running your business with campaigns allows you to be able to accurately predict how much stock you will need to have on hand at any given time. You can scale up for busy times and even increase your warehousing needs and scale down reducing your costs during slower times.

Shipping and transporting Products

Partnering with the right freight company is critical to success in the online world. Its important to read carefully the terms and conditions of each freight company. Think about the products you are selling and find good rates for the delivery services. Products that are hard to ship are dangerous goods. Chemicals and some food items can even fall into this category. Aerosol cans are difficult. Even shipping to residential address can incur additional fees from some companies. All of these have an affect on your bottom line so make sure you spend the necessary time needed to get your costings correct.

Closing an Order

Working out when you consider an order closed can sometimes be difficult. Depending on the type of business your run may vary this. For instance do you close an order once its shipped or once its arrived. Do you consider the sale closed once the warranty period finished. In most cases you can consider a sale finished once you have created the consignment and the product has shipped. If however you have a traceable order service, closing the order should be once the item has been tracked and received onsite as delivered.

Processing Returns and Warranty Claims

Receiving an item back is never a good feeling. Its important to see this as a positive opportunity to learn about a potential problem within your business that can be fixed. Running an Online Store means dealing sometimes you may see more returns than a traditional bricks and mortar store. There are a lot of people who don’t like confrontation and in a traditional store the customer has to come back and face a real person to make the return. Most cases people just put the item in a draw or cupboard and just complain to their friends. This is an excellent opportunity that traditional store don’t often get. You can fix out what the issue is and do something about it. Good customer service at this stage is incredible important. By going the extra mile here can gain you a loyal customer. Write your returns policy when you first open your business and make sure you stick to it when an item is returned. Its a good idea to set tier levels for your returns policy. If a customer is mildly inconvenienced then you should do all you can to fix this issue quickly and apologies must be given. If a customer is inconvenienced a lot then your policy should also reflect that with credits plus a new product issued. Your policy may even contain a follow up email or phone call to check that everything is fixed. Negative reviews are very difficult to get rid of and bad words travel so much faster than good ones. Treat all your customers equally and fix issues fast. Not everything always goes to plan and many times its not our fault. Non of this matter in your customers eyes and nor should it. Be fast to fix mistakes, own up to any issues and always remember a negitive issue is a potential learning exercise.

Gathering Information

This is perhaps the most important stage in the whole life cycle. Arguably even if you got everything else wrong you may still be able to succeed by getting this stage right. After you have finished your orders its so important you have a system for collecting all the information and segmenting them into lists. These lists are the most valuable part of your business. You need to arrange them in such away that you can report against them. Some things you want to know are.

  1. what are your total sales for any period of time
  2. how many purchases were made in any period of time
  3. Customers by a geographical region
  4. Top selling items and bottom selling items
  5. Total number of customers, by date
  6. What was the customer feedback
  7. Profit per product
  8. Time that any product was out of stock

As you can see knowing this information at any time is the key to yours business. If you don’t know your numbers you don’t know your business. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS.

Armed with this information you can serve your customers, you can market to them in a helpful manner rather than spamming them. We all like to be sold to but ONLY if it done with our best interests at heart. No one like to be pushed but we all appreciate it when a business gives us just what we need at the right time for the right price. So be that business. Be the type of business that understands their customers and know there needs and wants. People buy whats in front of them so make sure you are in front of them at the right time and in the right way.

Gathering information about your customers is not freaky of stalking. Its about doing it for the right reasons, so that you can serve them better. They will appreciate it. Talk to them, include them in the design of new products and offerings and make them a true part of your business. With this information you can build the tribe of customers that are loyal and appreciate what you do and how you do it.

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