Chapter 1 – Are You Ready to Get Online?
Ecommerce is exploding right now worldwide. The numbers prove it. Most Americans now prefer to shop online. 95% of Americans will shop online at least once in the next year. And ecommerce is expected to grow 23% year-over-year.
This can be concerning for traditional retailers. How can you keep up with the convenience and diversity of products available to online shoppers?
The simple answer is just as concerning: in most cases, you can’t.
Don’t get me wrong. Traditional retail has some advantages over online shopping.
- Customers get to interact with the product before buying.
- Shoppers feel as if they are supporting small business and their local community.
- There’s no waiting around to get your product.
- You’ve got a direct sales person to assist in decision making.
But with all those benefits, it’s still becoming a tougher sale for traditional retail businesses to maintain their profits against online sellers. This is because:
- The amount of competition in ecommerce has driven prices down across industries.
- The lack of overhead for online sellers allows them to price themselves lower than traditional retailers.
- Showrooming allows shoppers to find lower prices online while still getting the benefits of physical retail.
So, where does that leave you?
Should Your Store Start Selling Online?
Before you spend one dollar, you need to firmly establish that a move online is what is best for your business. Entering the online space can require a significant investment in time and money. To ensure that you don’t end up getting burned there are a few questions you should answer.
Does the Market Exist?
Not everything sells well online. If you run a custom ice cream shop, it’s going to be a little harder to find customers, since ice cream isn’t something people are typically clamoring to buy online.
Before you get too deep into launching your store, use Google Trends to determine if there is significant interest online for your product. You can also use Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list to see what’s popular on Amazon right now. These two metrics will help you decide if you’d get enough interest to justify your move into the online space.
Is Your Process Scalable?
You need to realize online markets are unpredictable. Unlike in your retail store, you can’t see when you’re about to get slammed with many orders. The moment your online store goes live, you are at the mercy of a market that could very well demand way more than you’re able to keep up with.
“But that’s a good problem, right?” Wrong.
Overselling is when you sell more than you currently have in stock. It makes your customers mad, backlogs your entire business, and can even get your store suspended from Amazon. If your current business model is a labor of love that takes time to process, you might be better off avoiding entering the online space until you have a process that’s scalable.
Can you fulfill orders just as fast at 10 orders a month as you can at 100? What about 1000? If you can’t confidently answer yes, slow down and make your business scalable first.
Do You Have the Time?
Remember those rotisserie oven infomercials from the 90’s that boasted anyone could roast an entire chicken? All they had to do was Set It and Forget It!
That’s how a lot of people expect ecommerce to work. The internet is full of clickbait articles boasting that if you just pay Joe Schmoe $500 for his exclusive seminar, you can make six figures without breaking a sweat.
The old adage proves true here: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no turnkey method for success in ecommerce. You need to put in the time and have patience. Advanced research (like you’re doing right now), comparison shopping, marketing, and refining your strategy can add up to be time-consuming, but you can’t strike gold without doing a little digging. Starting an ecommerce store takes dedication and commitment.
If you think that time would be better spent in your current retail store, delay your ecommerce expansion for now.
Are You Tech Savvy?
We’re going to teach you a lot over the next few pages, but we don’t have time to go over everything you’d need to be considered tech savvy. For people who aren’t digital natives, it can be tough to bridge the gap between total cluelessness about the internet and ecommerce rock star.
Before expanding your store onto the web, you should be reasonably comfortable using a computer, paying for things online, typing, and interacting with user interfaces. You don’t have to be a total whiz kid, but you shouldn’t be starting from scratch either.