Internet storefront startup checklist

Internet storefront startup checklist

Do you have some products that you want to sell on the Internet? This checklist will give you an overview of what you need to start a successful online storefront. Your location and the amount of office space is not relevant to getting started. Having the products that customers want at a good price with good customer service is the recipe for a successful business. If you have that, consider selling your products online. The retail industry is shifting from physical retail space to the Internet. E-commerce sales growth has been growing rapidly, even during the recession.

1. Select a shopping cart solution
Sounds simple enough. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shopping cart solutions on the market. Pick one.

Selecting the right shopping cart software is critical. The features of the shopping cart need to match your requirements. Some carts are simple. Some offer a wide range of features. Some will handle a large number of products, others may integrate well with a back-office system that you have. You should compile a list of cart features you must have and those that you want. Then prioritize the list and start shopping for a cart.

2. Develop detailed product content
If your products do not have good images and informative product descriptions they will not sell. It is that simple. No one will buy a product from the product description provided by most manufacturers. In order to entice a prospective customer, you will need to provide a good description of the product. The product description should reflect your personal knowledge of the product. You need to speak to the customer through the product description, as if you were having a conversation with the prospective buyer. Why this product? Why is it better than the others? What are its features?

A good shopping cart will support over 100 product attributes per item. Investing your time in product descriptions is necessary for any Internet store to have a chance at being successful.

3. Set up phone and email
Your customers are going to want to communicate with you. Phone and email are a minimum requirement. Instant messaging from the website is a growing trend. Sales volume will dictate the number of phone lines and customer service staff you will need. Plan for growth.

Use email accounts such as; don’t use Don’t use your cell phone as your business line; do setup an 800 number. Get a phone headset for customer service staff. Be responsive to customer service requests. Poor response will generate negative reviews. Positive reviews will help you succeed in this marketplace.

4. Select a payment method
Your retail store should offer multiple payment methods. The cost of merchant gateways varies widely. Some charge by the transaction, others charge a monthly fee and a transaction fee. The fees can vary considerably depending on the products being sold. PayPal is one of the simplest, but it also is a good indication of a low-cost website. Before you sign up for a merchant account, make sure it will work with your cart. Typically, some integration work is needed.

5. Review your shipping options
Your options for retail shipping carriers are limited, so you may think deciding how you ship should not take much time.   Shipping cost is a key factor for an online store. Carriers have standard shipping rates and negotiated shipping rates based on shipping volume and contracts. To provide accurate shipping rates at the time of the sale, you need to know the weights and dimensions of every product. Shipping costs are likely the most overlooked area for new online businesses.

6. Managing product inventory
Should a product be available for sale on the website if you don’t have the inventory? The answer typically is not a simple yes or no. Can you drop-ship the product? Do you have alternate sources for the product? How long is your lead time for delivery? It is not uncommon to use a mix of inventory management methods. Different products, manufacturers and geographical considerations should be considered when planning product inventory methods.

7. Managing orders
Once your Internet store becomes successful, managing orders will become a priority. How you manage orders as your sales volume grows will determine if you continue to grow. If you already have an order fulfillment system, consider how it will provide updates back to the website. Will it send shipment confirmation emails with tracking numbers? How will customer service manage order changes? There are many options and a wide range of software solutions.

8. Don’t do it alone
This list is a basic guide. Don’t underestimate the amount of effort required. It is likely that you have skills and experience with some of the items on this list but not all of them. To be successful you need to have a good team with diverse skills to bring the project together. Inspire Technologies has the business and technical skills to help your online business be successful. Give us a call. Let’s discuss your ideas and determine if it would be mutually beneficial for us to work together.