Virtual marketplaces are continuing to grow, while brick and mortar retailers are also making the move into the online world. Selling goods and services via the Internet offers many benefits, such as flexibility and reduced costs.
However, getting the design and structure of your online shop right requires good planning with many strategic decisions. What are the first few steps on the road to opening your own online shop? What needs to be taken into account? Five tips for a successful start.
eCommerce is not only well established, but today simply indispensable for merchants and many shoppers. Indeed, the online market volume continues to rise every year. A forecast provided by the German Retail Association (HDE) indicates that the volume might already exceed the €80 billion mark in 2020.¹ Online trading comprises shopping processes and sales transactions that are completed via the Internet. A direct business relationship between providers and customers is established through transmission of data. However, eCommerce not only involves sales of products, but also other deliverables, for example in the field of customer service and online banking.
One of the key benefits associated with eCommerce via an online presence is the massive flexibility it offers. The respective website, as well as the sales and distribution channels are highly flexible. Lower costs in comparison with brick and mortar retail can, for example, also be achieved thanks to shorter order channels. Shopping processes can be completed without any delays. This is also very convenient for customers, who can then for example place an order while sitting on the sofa. Anyone keen to set up their own online shop as a company founder or shop operator has therefore chosen a strong growth market. Yet to be able to use this optimally, many of the following questions need to be answered in advance: What is the right shop system? Which payment method is the most suitable? How can customers even find the online shop?
The design and structure of a dedicated online shop requires a certain investment of both time and money – as operators are responsible for all associated processing. The very first step on the to-do list is to choose a shop system. Since this is a decision with long-term effects, great care should be exercised here. First of all, the requirements of the shop need to be clearly defined, answering questions such as: Should the online shop have an interface to the ERP system? Which payment processes do I want to offer? Are filter functions required for the products? As soon as the requirements have been defined, the various shop alternatives can be compared, keeping a close eye on the costs. There are various options here. If there is already a website in place and the online shop is just an additional option, a shop module can make sense. A system of this kind is quick to install and does not cost much. However, it also provides little in the way of flexibility and offers only limited functions. In addition to this, the website operator might also offer plug-ins to supplement an online shop, for example including a blog. Yet if the objective is to sell a large number of products and achieve high online revenue, it makes sense to use professional shop software. This can generally be fully customised – not only in terms of design and functions, but also payment processes. Depending on their online development knowledge and skills, shop owners can either operate the software themselves or have a specialist agency take care of the technical processing for them. Software solutions such as Magento, Shopware, Oxid eShop or Gambio are among the most popular here. Various offers can then be compared with respect to price and the scope of services provided. Unzer also supports quick and easy integration of payment modules and plug-ins into a shop system. Alongside a carefully selected shop system, anyone seeking to set up an online shop for the first time also requires a memorable Internet address. The most important rule here is that short domains are better than long ones.
Whether the shop is created by the owner or an agency, various settings need to be made. Even if an agency has been commissioned, a certain degree of expertise is very helpful to shop operators during this process. The online shop needs to be loaded and installed on the rented web server. The most important factors here include the design and presentation options, the layout of the website, its encryption, as well as integration of legally stipulated content, such as T&Cs, the Credits and Legal section and the Privacy Statement. It is definitely worth bringing a web designer on-board here, particularly for the design and to ensure user-friendliness. High-grade photos, unambiguous product names, a clear description, as well as a good price also represent key fundamentals for successful sales. Other important factors include stating the available delivery options and providing access details for the payment provider. In addition to this, attention should always be paid to cross-selling opportunities. For example, shoppers should also be able to make purchases using mobile devices. To this end, the website must also be user-friendly and suitable for use on smartphones or tablets.
The checkout process represents another part of the shop that also requires special attention. After all, issues here are often stated as the reason why customers choose not to complete their purchase. For example, if users see that their preferred payment method is not offered, they may simply abandon their purchase. Payment service providers offer various models for this. You can learn more about what Unzer has to offer at the website: www.unzer.com. Whenever a sales transaction is completed, a small percentage of the total must then generally be paid. In order to reach all target groups, as many payment methods as possible should be offered. For example, PayPal, purchase on account, direct debit and credit card are essential here. It is also important to check whether the dedicated shop system even offers an interface to the corresponding providers.
Alongside strategic preparations for an online shop, the legal framework conditions represent another important topic. Above all, these target data security for customers and include the following:
Going beyond the scope of requisite legal framework conditions for an online shop, it is also advisable to set out standard terms and conditions (T&Cs). Provisions relating to contract conclusion, payments and so on are all stipulated here. Active confirmation by the customer is also required for this.
Once everything has been specified for the online shop, focus should turn to marketing, so that the shop can also be found – particularly in sectors where there is a lot of competition. Good performance of the marketing measures is essential for successful sales. The most important measures include search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine advertising (SEA). However, other forms of advertising such as affiliate marketing can also be useful. Here, dedicated advertising material is, for example, displayed in an external blog in keeping with the overall feel of the shop. The affiliate partner then receives a commission that is based on the number of clicks and sales generated via the link. E-mail marketing in the form of a newsletter, which is sent out at regular intervals, can also be beneficial in terms of boosting the click rate and sales. Particular attention should be dedicated to social media marketing. Platforms such as Instagram offer a great opportunity to address a target group directly and make them aware of your products. Prospective clients can be offered genuine added value in profiles through related content. Alongside the specific profile, there are also many other opportunities here, such as posting social ads or direct communication with prospective customers via the news function. Once the initial campaign has been launched, its success can be measured using analytics software. It is possible to analyse every visitor and every user click, allowing conclusions to be drawn with regard to the efficiency of the advertising. Lessons learned can then be used to revise the present campaign or be incorporated in the next campaign. The key in online marketing is to make strategic use of the many opportunities and thereby increase the number of visitors to the online shop.
Source ¹: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/202905/umfrage/prognostiziertes-marktvolumen-des-deutschen-versandhandels/