As COVID-19 keeps so many of us inside “social distancing,” more and more small business owners who’ve always relied on their brick-and-mortar stores are suddenly needing to launch online businesses. Are you a business owner who currently has a website that you’ve always used as a sort of brochure, but now you need it to start working for you and selling products?
A great website that fully displays all your products in an attractive and organized way certainly takes time — but right now, you don’t have time. You need to launch something immediately to start bringing in revenue and let your customers know you’re still around.
Getting the ecommerce website of your dreams launched in a few days isn’t realistic, but the good news is, you don’t have to do that. Websites can and should grow and change all the time, and that means you can start with just a few products, launch your site, and add products as you go. If you need to get started quickly, here’s what we recommend:
Determine What’s Essential
What does your website absolutely need? Adding products and even pages later in the process is usually easy, but reorganizing sometimes isn’t. The key to getting started quickly without making a mess of things is to start with a very small number of products and pages — we’d recommend five to 10 products within five or fewer product categories and less than five pages.
Adding products to your site will take much longer than you probably think, especially if you don’t have photography yet. You’ll have to photograph each product, write product names and product descriptions, add weights (if that impacts your shipping) and add categorizations for every product (for example, one sweater might come in five colors and six sizes, and you’ll need to add all that information). It’s best to start with a small sampling of your bestselling products and add more after you launch the site.
If you’re lucky, you already have product photos that you’ve used on your current website or on social media. You might even have images available that you haven’t thought about — sometimes manufacturers offer images for customer use, so contact your suppliers if you think they have images you can use.
If you don’t have images, you’ll need some. Availability of images can help determine which products you’ll launch your store with — accessories and housewares are usually easier for amateurs to photograph than clothing, for example.
If you need to take your own product photos just to get your site launched, taking them outside and using natural light might be your best bet. But even during this COVID-19 crisis, you can most likely safely work with a photographer as long as you maintain proper distance between each other. It might be worth hiring a professional to get started — if you’re interested in going that direction, Infomedia can set you up with the best photographer for your need and budget.
Pick a Platform
There are many ecommerce solutions out there, and it’s important to choose one that’s trusted. At Infomedia, we work primarily with Big Commerce, Shopify and WooCommerce, and those are all good options. If you can find an ecommerce platform that interfaces with your Point of Sale, that might be the best choice since it will make tracking inventory and even adding products much easier. You can set these up yourself, or you can hire a web development company like Infomedia to set them up for you — if you’re busy handling the rest of your business, give us a call and we’ll walk you through the process.
Decide If Ecommerce Will Live on Your Current Site or Offsite
It’s best to integrate your ecommerce within your current website, but if you’re moving quickly, that may not be possible. If you have to start a separate ecommerce site, be sure that you can add a Call to Action from your existing site to go to your ecommerce site, and include the ecommerce site in the main menu navigation of your current site. You’ll also want to use your social media and newsletters to “teach” your clients how to find your ecommerce site.
If you start a separate site, but you’re hoping to later integrate the products into your current site, be sure to keep track of all the credentials and passwords you’re using so that you can make that process easier for yourself later.
Set up Payment Processing and Test It
Payment processing can be a time consuming step, and it’s one that you can’t control, because you’re at the mercy of an outside company for approval. Set this up as soon as you can so you’re not finished with everything else and waiting only on payments. Be sure to test your payments as well to be sure that essential piece is working correctly.
Calculate Shipping and Taxes
If you’re shipping from your shop, you probably already have shipping rates, but if you’re not, you’ll need to know the weights of your products and decide how you want to ship them. One way to get through this step quickly is to add a flat shipping rate or to provide free shipping, but if you choose those options, realize that you will cut into the profit you would have made from in-store purchases dramatically — be sure that’s really the right move before making shipping free.
You’ll save yourself a lot of future headaches if you setup your tax correctly from the beginning as well. The correct tax varies based on location, so it’s best to check with your business accountant to determine what is correct for your business. You’ll have to pay the correct tax regardless, so if this isn’t set up right in the first place, it can eat into your profit.
Have Someone Test Your Site
This is a step that’s easy to skip, but it’s essential — have someone try to use your site. Ask them to try to shop for something. Can they find what they’re looking for? Could they add something to their cart? Did the process make sense? Is there anything that you should change? Some of those things can wait until after launch, but some should be fixed immediately. Testing doesn’t have to be expensive; you can have a friend or family member test your site to see if it makes sense to a customer.
Another option? We’ll take a look at your site for free and let you know what’s working, what can be done better and how to take your site to the next level. Because so many businesses are struggling to add ecommerce quickly in the wake of COVID-19, we want to help. If you had to switch to an online business really quickly and you’re wondering if you got everything right, set up a free 20-minute review of your ecommerce site with one of our staff members — we’ll give you ideas on how to make your online business be the best it can be.