When many people find the words “online” and “money” in a sentence that pertains to their funds, their heart bumps a little. And for obvious reasons. The number of internet fraud stories we’ve all heard is enough to scare even the greatest risk taker alive.

But as a business owner, these sorts of risks are what you've got to take because there’s really no moving forward in this digital age without dealing on the internet.

Nowadays, having a local store where your goods are sold, or your services are offered, is no longer enough to keep up with the demands of consumers. You need both a local presence and an online presence. Today's consumers want to patronize your business from the comfort of their homes.

Yes, in the not too distant past, people were satisfied with walking down to your store and picking up things they need. These days, however, the demands of consumers have gone digital, and any business that is not able to meet this new form of digitalized demand is either brushed aside or left to make-do with the little sales happening offline.

So in order not to leave your business in a position where it’s made to pick up the crumbs of the market, you need to find a way to build an online presence for it too.

And guess what?

That’s not so hard to do.

But before we go into the details of how that’s done. Let’s first take a look at a few statistics backing up the importance of having a business online. Let’s go, shall we?

What the stats say about online businesses

According to various studies, it has been established that between 70-80% of consumers research a company or business online before visiting their local store or making a purchase. Another study also revealed that 97% of consumers go online to find a local business or local services.

Now, taking a closer look at these numbers, it is clearly evident that the act of taking a business online is non-negotiable. You just have to do it, and here's HOW!

Step 1: Choose an online channel

First and foremost, you need to decide on the online channel you want to use. That is, where do you want to be found in the digital landscape? Typically, there are three options available to you, but the choice you make will depend on the nature of your business.

For starters, you can opt for a full-fledged Ecommerce site, start selling on an online marketplace, or create a business profile on social media.

Here is a little bit of information on what each option offers you

Full-fledged Ecommerce site

If you want to go through this route, then you'll need to create a store account with an Ecommerce platform. Here in this online store is where you sell and interact with both your potential and existing customers. Alternatively, if you already have a business website, you can incorporate a store with it by using tools like Ecwid. Just copy and paste your Ecwid’s integration code into your site’s source code and bang, your store is live on your website.

Pros

Easily customizable store

Direct access to customers

Opportunities to offer better customer experience

Cons

It can be tedious and time-consuming

You’ll still be responsible for drawing traffic to these stores, which means more marketing and advert costs

Online marketplace

If you're the type that doesn't have a business website and you also don't fancy the idea of having to draw traffic to your store all by yourself, then you might want to consider selling on an online marketplace. These platforms already have the audience and user base; you just need to feed off them.

Pros

Store set-up and maintenance is pretty straightforward

Ability to tap into a wide, existing customer base

Some online marketplaces market your products for you by placing them on their front page, using them as platform adverts, and for other promo services.

Cons

You cannot really control how your store looks because online marketplaces already have a pre-determined design and feature layouts for sellers.

You're under another person's rules, and sometimes, some of these rules might appear too strict to you.

You may not have direct access to customer information.

Some of the most common online marketplaces include Etsy, Amazon, and eBay.

Create a business profile and sell on social media

If you’re a social media person and you know your way around getting followers, friends, and building communities on social media, then this may be a great option for you.

Pros

It is relatively easy to set up. You just need to create a textual, pictorial, or visual content illustrating what you sell or offer

You can have direct access to customers. That is, you can access relevant customer details – such as age, contact details, history, etc.

Cons

Most social networks don’t have direct shopping tools, which means customers have to leave your page to go to your store, website, or visit your local store.

Step 2: Design your online store

Once you've chosen where you want to be found in the digital landscape, the next thing is to design the place. But please bear in mind that the way in which you choose to design your online store should match the tone, feel, and look of your offline store. The reason why this is important is to give existing customers a feel-at-home kind of vibe so that they don't feel completely out of place when they visit your store.

For starters, you can choose a store theme that matches the color of your offline shop, how you arrange products on your online store catalog can be made to reflect you’re the style of your shop.

Ecommerce site

You can either choose from the available inventory of designs or create your own designs.

Online marketplaces

Although you can only choose from the available design options, there are so many design and personalization options to choose from.

Social Media

There’s a limit to how you can customize your social media shops. But if you would still like to customize your social media account to reflect the tone of your business, you can speak with your social commerce solution provider to discuss how they can be of help.

Step 3: Optimize your product pages

Of all the steps we've mentioned so far, this is the most important one because the product page is where consumers will decide whether or not to follow through with a purchase. Remember, back in your store, consumers have the opportunity to see firsthand what they want to buy, and as such, can decide whether or not it's cool enough. But in an online store, all they have are photos, descriptions, and reviews from past customers, so you have got to make sure that all of these are top-notch.

Product photos

  • Snap enough photos of products at different angles, using proper lighting, alternating between plain and rich-environment background, and using the best product titles.

Product description

  • Don’t bore consumers with too much text. Instead, just go straight to the point of what your product or service does and use the best fonts that match the tone of a particular product or service. Depending on the SEO of the platform you’re on, you should be cautious of your choice of keywords when creating your product descriptions.

Customers’ reviews

  • Try to get every customer that buys from your store to leave a review or comment, as in the case of social media. You can also encourage consumers to leave reviews about your services on major review sites like Yelp, Manta, Yellowpages, Facebook, Angies List, Foursquare.

Step 4: Create a mix between your brick-and-mortar store and your online store

Now that your store is good to go, the next line of action is getting the two stores to work hand-in-hand. Although today’s consumers love to shop online, many of them still fancy the old style of walking into stores and picking up their goods.

A perfect example of this integration is when you allow consumers to shop online and still offer them the option to come to your store to see firsthand what they want to buy before going ahead with the purchase.

Although they’ve gone to your online store for a given product, the chances are that they might fall in love with your other products when they finally visit your local store. That way, you’ll also be drawing more traffic to your brick-and-mortar store.

In a similar vein, you can encourage your local store visitors to buy from your online stores so that they can save themselves the stress and time of walking to your shop.

Step 5: Determine your store performance

Voila, your store is up and running! But that’s not the end of the road. After successfully moving your brick-and-mortar store online, it is important for you to measure how your store is doing. How are sales coming up? Is the store attracting enough traffic? Are people visiting the store at all? How many of the visitors get converted? All of these and a host of other metrics are what you should consistently measure on your store to see how far your online store has come.

For starters, you can use Google Analytics or other digital tech tools to get a host of metrics to determine how your store is faring. But please note that Google Analytics is only available to those stores on Ecommerce sites. For sellers on online marketplaces, you might have to make do with whatever metrics the marketplace provider is allowing you to see. For social media shop owners, you can use some major social media tools – such as Kissmetrics, Customer Lifetime value calculator, RJ Metrics’ Cloud BI, Cyfe, etc. – to determine a whole lot of information about your store.

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