The Importance of Starting an Online Store
Customers have embraced online shopping, an assertion supported by retail eCommerce sales data. By the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, retail eCommerce sales topped $130 billion (adjusted for seasonal variation), which accounted for nearly 10% of total sales. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted that eCommerce would continue to grow in 2019. It’s safe to say, starting an online store is going to be increasingly important for a business’s success.
If you’re looking to capitalize on this trend, keep reading to learn details on important aspects of starting the online arm of a retail store, service-based business, or restaurant.
What is eCommerce?
The term eCommerce refers to the process of buying and selling goods and services online, though in recent years the shopping experience has extended beyond that. For example, retailers that have a physical location can incorporate eCommerce by allowing customers to browse online and pick up in-store.
In addition to allowing retailers to better serve existing customers by making shopping easier for them, an online store can allow businesses to find totally new audiences — ones that may never enter their physical location. Independent retailers, small businesses, and large corporations can all benefit from incorporating eCommerce into their business strategy.
Like any digital technology, eCommerce has continued to advance rapidly. Starting in the 1990s, eCommerce began to target a consumer market and online retailers started popping up. Now, almost any business owner or entrepreneur can create an online store in minutes.
Benefits of eCommerce
With the eCommerce industry expanding every year — the NRF expects that online retail will grow by as much as 4.4% in 2019 and continue to become more popular with consumers — merchants have nothing to lose and everything to gain by selling online.
Here are a few benefits of running an eCommerce store:
- 24/7 shopping: Many eCommerce websites allow shoppers to peruse products and make buying decisions at any time, day or night. This makes shopping easier for customers, and that kind of accessibility is a huge competitive advantage. Plus, integration with social media allows businesses to take advantage of even more channels to engage with customers.
- Widened scope: A physical store is limited to selling to customers who are in the area. Many eCommerce websites extend businesses to people all over the country or around the world, vastly expanding its customer base and potential revenue. Selling online also offers the ability to broaden or increase inventory — the number of items a business can sell online doesn’t need to be limited in the same way as a physical store, which might be a consideration to increase cash flow.
- Purchase-funnel clarity: Currently, it’s nearly impossible to track how often a single customer comes to a physical store to browse before making a purchasing decision. However, an online store can track a customer’s every click, providing valuable insights into the purchasing process and paving the way for marketing opportunities (such as abandoned cart emails) to nudge customers who may be on the fence about purchasing.
Online store vs. brick and mortar
The retail apocalypse of 2017 pitted brick-and-mortar stores against eCommerce, making businesses feel like they needed to choose one channel over the other. Omnichannel has the potential to bring these channels together, creating a seamless experience for customers by giving them choices in how they choose to interact with a retailer.
Having both options satisfies the needs of a broader customer base. Most retailers have customers who would prefer to order everything online. Others prefer to see something in person before they buy. Then there are some customers who don’t have a preference. Even so, they want both options so they can shop according to their own schedule.
Providing multiple options is more likely to create repeat customers, which means more revenue in the long run.
Considerations for starting an online store
To get started selling online, you’ll need to create an eCommerce website or shop for your business, list products, set up payments, and set up your online business operations (such as order fulfilment, shipping, sales tax, and more).
- Taking secure payments: Accept payments online and in-person right away with Square credit card processing. Accept all major cards and get transfers as fast as the next business day, with eCommerce processing fees of 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction or lower.
- Keeping inventory in sync: Square Online Store works together with Square Point of Sale and Square Dashboard to automatically sync online and in-person orders, items, and inventory. Keep from overselling inventory between multiple locations, and easily track fulfilment and shipping.
- Running an eCommerce business: Choose from plans that come with increasingly high-level features, like a real-time shipping rate calculator, integrated shipping labels with discounted rates, abandoned cart and shipping confirmation emails for customers, a custom domain, analytics and insights, and more. As your business grows and has more needs, there are more robust plans to meet those new demands.
- Customizing a website: The online store builder offers flexible designs to create the ideal layout for your business. You can choose colours, fonts, and layout elements that make the most sense for retail, restaurants, and services. The designs have also been optimized for mobile viewing since a lot of online shopping is conducted on consumers’ phones.
- Shifting strategy to include all sales channels: Having an omnichannel strategy for a business creates a seamless shopping experience for customers, whether that’s on their mobile device, computer, or in person. Creating an online store can also open up omnichannel marketing opportunities, giving you more ways to promote your business across multiple channels, and giving shoppers more ways to find you and buy from you.