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Key Questions to Consider Before Opening Your Online Shop

Opening an online store is a great way to bring in extra income or expand your existing customer base. Whether you have an inventory you’ve already been sold on location, or whether you’re considering venturing into the world of sales, digital technology makes it easy to market your products to a broad audience, with greater autonomy and flexibility than selling on-site typically allows. You can be your own boss, choose your own brand, and even set your own hours, with an e-commerce model. 

Before you start setting up your online store, Creative Studio shares six questions you need to ask.

What kind of products are you thinking of selling?

If you are selling customized products, you’re probably looking at a smaller inventory, but also more time creating the products. With customized goods, you will want a brand that highlights quality and individuality. You will be able to set higher prices, but remember that much of that profit may be eaten away by time spent. If you opt to sell items you’ve acquired from a manufacturer or distributor, you may need more storage space.

Is Your Payroll to set Up?

If you hire staff, or even for simplicity in paying yourself, you’ll need to address payroll. Compliance with state and federal regulations makes payroll one of your most important administrative tasks. When diving deeper into what is payroll, you’ll need to learn what it means to process payroll, from the concepts to actually managing schedules and paying yourself and your employees on time. To make it all simpler, consider setting up a popular automated payroll system like QuickBooks Payroll, which, among other benefits, will make required tax payments in a timely fashion, averting costly mistakes like missing tax payment and filing deadlines.

Who is your target audience, and how can you reach them?

While the internet theoretically places the world at your doorstep, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work to attract prospective customers. Identify which demographics would be most likely to have a demand for what you’re supplying and strategies to reach them where they “hang out” in the digital world. Data management platforms such as Salesforce DMP and Lotame can help you access information from social media, apps, email, and digital campaigns. Use Google analytics to get a visual of site traffic, optimum times, geographical reach, and more.

Do you have a marketing plan for your business?

It’s not enough just to think, “Well, I’ll post on social media.” A good marketing strategy involves careful planning and money, so be sure this is part of your budget. You may want to hire a marketing expert or branding consultant to attract your target audience, or at least tap into a social media scheduling tool like Buffer or SocialPilot. Be aware of the different types of ad campaigns you can use to extend your reach. Some options include display advertisement, product listing ads, and influencer marketing.

Do you have a plan for storage, packaging, and shipping?

One of the trickiest parts of making an online store successful is the actual physical work involved. You need to have adequate and secure storage if you anticipate having much product in bulk. Research different shipping costs to make sure you are charging enough to cover this expense and settle on specific shipping methods — carriers, packaging, and so forth — so you have one streamlined system that can be carried out swiftly. Be wary about under-charging on shipping and losing money on transactions.

How will you set up your website?

While it’s easy and cheap to set up an e-commerce shop using a hosted site, there are several benefits to taking the time and investing the money in creating your own site. You will have greater freedom to build your brand and establish customer relationships. With your own site, you will more easily collect data on your customers. This enables you to pursue repeat purchases, which are key to success. 

If you have any questions about this process, you’d do well to consult with an e-commerce service professional. You can find freelance e-commerce specialists through online job boards and then review their experience and rates to choose the best fit for your business.   

The great thing about e-commerce is you can start small and see if it will work for you before you take the next step. If you enjoy it and there’s a market for what you offer, you may be looking forward to a sustainable and lucrative project that could grow over time.

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