Entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the rapid growth of the e-commerce industry. The proof? One article published in Forbes says that there are 102,728 e-commerce retailers in the US that are making at least $12,000 per year. These figures were determined using various sources by ReferralCandy, a company that automates and customizes referral programs for online stores.
There are many reasons why majority of businesses, regardless of size, have decided to go online. The first reason is for survival. It is a reality that a people are turning to online shopping, and even the most successful brand names in the retail industry have suffered great losses due to their e-commerce competition.
Consumers are getting into the habit of shopping for their needs and wants online. An article published in MarketingProfs reveal that at least 62% of US consumers with internet access now shop online at least once a month. Only 1% said they never shopped online. This data was taken from a report by Walker Sands, a US-based PR-agency.
The transition of consumers to online shopping was accelerated by the growth of the mobile technology. Digital retail is expected to continue rising along with unstoppable development of mobile devices and applications. From electronics to office supplies, consumers are foreseen to make online shopping the norm as internet access becomes readily available for everyone and as PCs and mobile devices invade the local markets.
Next to survival, companies have decided to build their online stores because of the benefits of e-commerce. One, there are no closing hours. There’s always an opportunity to earn no matter what time of day. Location and boundaries are no longer an obstacle as long as you have a reliable courier or team to deliver the goods and services. You don’t need to pay for rent or to hire people to manage your store. One person can efficiently run small to medium size online shops given the right set of tools.
Eight Must-Haves for Online Store Owners
To be able to run your online retail store as easily and as seamlessly as possible, you need to equip yourself with the essential e-commerce tools used by successful online shops. This article lists eight essential tools every online store owner must have for an efficient and effective business management.
1. Products or Services
You can’t start an online business without products or services to sell. The first thing you need to have is the products or services that you are going to offer. After deciding on your product offerings, check out your competition. Think of how you can differentiate your business from your competitors. Find your niche and consider how you can make your store stand out from the rest.
Create a business plan that specifies your goals and strategies. A business plan will serve as your guide and will help you stick to your budget.
2. Your website
Your website is the online version of the brick and mortar store. Like what you do for a physical store, you need to have a name for your business. The name should be catchy and easy to remember. It should also reflect what your brand is all about. After deciding on the business name, you need to register a domain name. You also need a reliable hosting service that will make your website accessible to your customers.
It is better to hire web designers and writers who can design your website and make it look appealing and professional than relying on pre-set website themes. A web designer can help you customize your site based on your goals and brand requirements.
3. Point of Sale Equipment
If you decide to keep your offline store, you can manage both your online and offline sales through an efficient point of sale system, and a system from a vendor like Shopify may be your answer. The hardware includes cash drawers, printers, barcode scanners, card reader and other hardware. Having point of sale equipment can help you provide a better customer experience. Barcode scanners in particular can make checkout times quick and hassle-free.
In addition to the POS hardware, you need to invest in your PCs, laptops, and other mobile devices. An online store runs 24/7 and you must be able to attend to inquiries and process their orders promptly. Along with the hardware, every online store owner must have access to a stable internet connection.
4. Accounting system
If you can’t afford to hire your own accountant yet, download an app that will help you manage your business finances. With an accounting app, you can better handle your expenses, invoice, budget, resources, and other financial matters.
5. Social Media Management System
Online business owners acknowledge the power of social media to influence a customer’s decision to buy and patronize a product. Social media can be a powerful public relations, advertising, and marketing tool. Through social media, you can also track what customers are saying about you and your products online. It is not possible to track all social media channels without a management system. Consider subscribing to a social media management system so you can be efficient at updating and tracking your pages.
6. File Storage
A file storage is needed to backup your data. This also makes it easy for the owner to share files with his team.
7. Payment gateway
Your online store should have a merchant account and payment gateways to accept credit card and debit card payments. Payments should be hassle-free and secure for you and your clients. Online payment facilities like Paypal are also a popular payment option among online stores.
8. Secure your site
For added protection, your website must have an SSL certificate. This helps protect sensitive data coming from your customers. Part of providing great customer service is giving them peace of mind when shopping online.