September 29, 2022

Step by step guide: How to take your business online

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Why bring your business online?

If you’re not convinced about getting your business online, here are a few reasons that will give you the confidence that this is the right move.

Expand your customer base
Online stores eliminate operational limitations and deadlines. Your store may be based in Pune and a customer can place an order from Indore. An online store multiplies your customer base and caters to countless interested customers that you may not be aware of. In no time, you can grow your local business into a global one. So dream big!

Business operations anytime, anywhere
An online store reduces or eliminates the need for a physical presence in every business transaction. Help your prospects learn about your products and place orders anytime, day or night, both during normal business hours and on holidays. An online shop for an offline business helps generate leads and inquiries even when it’s closed. So you can follow your potential customers once opened. This is equivalent to keeping your business 4 times longer.

Improve your corporate image
Most customers today check the online presence of any business. Even if it’s simply the location of your physical store address. But that’s not all they are looking for. They try to make judgments about your product or service based on your website, user reviews, and more. In fact, the lack of an online presence affects the trustworthiness of your business.

Therefore, having an online presence would simply make sense, if only to ease your customers’ trust in you. So why not use that credibility to influence purchasing decisions and conversions?

Increase in a convenient way
When you get your business online, you’re at least adding a profitable sales channel at minimal cost. Additionally, this opens up a world of opportunities in business automation, targeted marketing, automated accounting, efficient inventory management, and much more. Plus, all online business data is captured in one place, allowing you to gather insights into your business as you grow. All of these benefits combined allow your business to scale while keeping your marginal costs disproportionately low.

Ready to take the plunge?

How to get your business online?
Getting your business online may seem like a monumental transition at first glance. So, let’s break this down into a step-by-step process.

1.Research and preparation
2.Build your online store
3.Make your store ready for ecommerce
4.Make your business discoverable online
5.Get more customers
6.Evaluate and grow

  1. Research and preparation
    Since you already have an offline business, the basics of research and preparation described below may seem simple. And I really am. However, taking your business online changes your business in some significant ways. Therefore, some of the steps you may have already taken when starting your business will need to be retraced keeping in mind the new realities of online selling. Let’s go through each of the steps mentioned below:

1.1. Evaluate the viability of your online business
1.2. Learn about inventory management
1.3. Determine your pricing strategy
1.4. Draw up a new business plan
1.1. Evaluate the viability of your online business
If your business is primarily or exclusively offline, consider whether it makes sense to move it online. This part of the process requires you to consider the following factors.

Market feasibility
To get your business online, you need to know if the online marketplace as it is today has room for you. You can evaluate the market profitability of your business using:

Market size: Does the market have room for new sellers? Can it grow?

Competition: Can your company compete with existing online businesses in your category in the same market?

Target audience: Is your customer buying online? What are their shopping habits?

Additional resource:

Free Competitor Analysis Template: Find out about your customers and competitors.
Product feasibility
This step determines the potential of the product market, i.e. how will moving your product online affect consumer interest? You can evaluate the feasibility of the product using:

Question: Is there sufficient demand for the product online?

Profit Margin: Can your online business bring you the expected margins with similar products and services available online?

Additional Resources:

Market Demand Calculation: How to Find Product Ideas Your Customers Want?
Technically, your online business should be viable by both market and product, in order to cover your losses, prevent dead stock in your inventory, and save marketing efforts.

1.2. Learn about inventory management
When you take your offline business online, a huge opportunity for scalability opens up. This also becomes an inventory management challenge. While traditional inventory management methods with spreadsheets may have been enough to meet your offline demand, maintaining the same methods could clog your scalability potential in the following ways:

Increased Storage Fees: A larger inventory of orders from suppliers and manufacturers may need to be stocked to meet the new online demand.

Increased Risk Exposure: Your business will be more susceptible to demand shocks and market fluctuations that could lead to overstocking or overselling without enough stock to fulfill your orders.

Increased Operational Complexity: As demand for products increases, so does the complexity of inventory management. Moving your business online without preparing for this complexity ahead of time can cause you to find immediate solutions to the challenges, and you may end up with a host of inventory management solutions that don’t work together.

Therefore, it is imperative to take a new look at inventory management. See if dropshipping is a model you can explore to minimize all of the above threats. Plus, taking your business online opens up a gold mine of data from which you can gather insights into how your inventory and market demand change over time, as well as use more robust methods to predict inventory flow.

You may also want to consider implementing and improving existing inventory management techniques such as Just In Time, First In First Out, and Six Sigma to streamline your inventory management processes.

By simplifying actual operations, ecommerce platforms like Shopify offer a built-in inventory dashboard that automatically tracks existing inventory, as well as incoming and outgoing orders. Plus, you can further optimize by choosing from a number of inventory management plugins available to integrate with your store. Overall, it helps reduce spills, storage costs, idle inventory and ultimately improve cash flow.

1.3. Determine your pricing strategy
In all likelihood, you already have a pricing strategy in place for your offline store or business. As you are now opening up a new market for your products, consider whether you should change your pricing strategy based on the new opportunities and risks that come with getting your business online.

For example, if you had a premium pricing approach that worked for your offline business, will it stay the same when selling online? You may find that the competitive landscape for your product is very different online, and you may need to consider a competitor-based approach, where you offer a lower price than your competitors.

In a different scenario, you may find that taking your business online gives you access to a completely different consumer segment, where you may have the opportunity to earn more fully with a value-based pricing approach.

To learn more about pricing strategies for an online business, check out 10 ways to find the perfect price for your products.

1.4. Draw up a new business plan
Your business plan defines the blueprint and roadmap for your operations and growth. Bringing your business online means that some of the assumptions you had made in your existing business plan would now have changed. Based on all the information you’ve gathered above, you should now be able to carefully review your business plan, in case you already have one. If not, it’s the best time to draft one now using this business plan template.

Once the research and preparation phase is complete, you are ready to build your online store.

  1. Build your online store
    The obvious next step in the process of taking your business to the next level is creating its internet headquarters – your online store. This is a fairly simple process involving the clear steps described below:

2.1. Choose the right e-commerce platform
2.2. Select your domain name and host
2.3. Design your website
2.4. Showcase your products and services
2.1. Choose the right e-commerce platform

Almost all of the Amazon, Flipkart, eBay, and Etsy ecommerce marketplaces provide great additional channels for getting your business online. However, starting your own online store gives you invaluable control over your customer journey, helping you translate your offline experience into an online property.

Many online businesses today are opting for an ecommerce platform like Shopify to build their ecommerce stores. In fact, you can even integrate your Shopify store with ecommerce marketplaces and other sales channels. With the variety of platforms to choose from, it becomes imperative for you to select one that best suits your needs.

To compare the best ecommerce platforms available today, the following resource would be a good place to start:

The 8 Best Ecommerce Platforms in India Comprehensive Comparison Guide
2.2. Select your domain name and host
A domain name acts as a differentiator for your business. The right domain name represents your brand and informs the customer’s first impression of your store.

Since you presumably already have customers, leverage your brand memory and increase it online by keeping it similar to your brand name, if not exactly the same. Also, keep in mind that in the new online competitive landscape there may be brands with similar names that already exist. Think about how to differentiate your domain name from similar names. But it’s good to remember the basics: avoid unfamiliar, incorrect, complex words and hyphens and keep it short.

The next thing to consider is a web host or a domain host, which provides the servers for running and storing the content of a website. In addition to providing your website with adequate storage, speed, and reliability, a good domain host will support the platforms or tools you may need, such as online payments integration. For some website builders like WordPress, a third party domain hosting provider is required. While Shopify is fully hosted, which means each subscription plan includes domain hosting, with additional domain fees applicable if you wish to have a custom domain name.

Additional Resources:

How to choose the best domain name: tips and tools (2021)
The 7 best domain name registrars for beginners (2021)
Buy a domain through Shopify
2.3. Design your website
Your website is your showcase on the Internet. Let the fundamentals of your existing brand design guide you in the choices you make. However, also keep your consumer’s tastes and preferences in mind.

Shopify has a number of themes and templates to choose from, and it’s pretty easy to apply them to your store right out of the box. Alternatively, you can choose to hire a professional web designer or talk to Shopify experts to help you build your website right.

Additional Resources:

50 outstanding online stores built on Shopify
Over 100 beautiful and creative ecommerce website designs
Shopify theme customization: use of images, colors and fonts
2.4. Showcase your products and services
Just like a physical store has products arranged in aisles and shelves specifically to influence customers’ purchasing decisions, your product page is its digital counterpart. Except there is no store representative to guide them with additional information on pricing, variants, discounts and offers. The entire burden is on how your products are presented.

Here is a basic checklist and resources to help you create your product pages.

Product Images: Use high-quality images with a zoom option. Make sure all images are the same size and resolution for all of your products.

Product Descriptions: Avoid complex jargon, clichés and long sentences. Highlight the advantages over features.

Product categories: Add filters, provide accurate pricing details and any other information your customer may need (manufacture date, expiration, EDD).

Additional Resources:

11 expert-recommended tips for optimizing product pages.
How to write descriptions of products they sell?
The ultimate do-it-yourself guide to product photography.
Essential tips for optimizing your images.
Once you’ve created your online store, the next step is to get it ready for ecommerce.

  1. Prepare your store for e-commerce
    The goal of getting your business online is to be able to conduct business on it. This means that your customers should be able to pay you and you should be able to fulfill their orders. In fact, in addition to these two, setting up an ecommerce store offers the opportunity to integrate your operations directly into your store.

Let’s take a look at each of these steps, one by one.

3.1. Set up payments
3.2. Integrate business processes with your store
3.3. Manage shipping and fulfillment
3.1. Set up payments

Today’s consumers have a variety of payment preferences ranging from UPIs, wallets to traditional credit and debit cards as well as cash payments. To enable these transactions on your online store, you need to set up a payment gateway. A full-package ecommerce website builder makes this easy so you can get started right away with multiple payment options in your store.

Different payment methods on Shopify and how to set them up?
3.2. Integrate business processes with your store
Now you can look for options to integrate your online store with the backend accounting, marketing, manufacturing, sales, logistics, inventory management, ERP and more of your physical business. Additionally, there are a number of automation apps you can check out to figure out which ones can be integrated into your business. This combines many of the workflows and processes required into one system to make the overall operation smooth and functional.

Additional Resources:

What is inventory management? How to manage and improve the flow of stocks?
The best accounting software for your e-commerce business
7 bots to automate your business (and do more, faster)
Automation app on Shopify
3.3. Manage shipping and fulfillment
Expanding the geographic reach of your business requires you to be able to manage the logistics of delivering your products to the final consumer. This could mean delivering the last mine to your location or shipping between states and countries. Wherever the new scope of your business is, it means you need to work out a shipping and fulfillment policy. Additionally, there are a number of useful third-party apps and plug-ins to handle hassle-free shipping and fulfillment.

Additional Resources:

The beginner’s guide to e-commerce shipping and fulfillment
How to Create a Shipping Policy (Free Template + Examples) (2021)
A brief guide to Shopify’s shipping services
App shipments to India
Shopify Plus | Shipping solution for local and international customers
Now that your store is ready for ecommerce, flip the welcome sign.

  1. Make your business discoverable online
    In the huge networked jungle of the Internet, how does it find you a potential customer? Obviously, creating an ecommerce store is not enough. Your online business presence must be easily identifiable to have any chance of success online. The following steps will help you get there.

4.1. The search engine optimizes your shop
4.2. Set up your Google My Business page
4.3. Sell ​​where your customers are likely to buy online
4.1. The search engine optimizes your shop

Once your website is set up, you need the attention of search engine bots. Implementing search engine optimization best practices will help rank your store in Google search results. And then drive traffic to your store.

To understand how SEO works and how to apply it to your store, take a look at the resources below:

The Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO
Improve your on-page SEO with our new website checklist
Keyword research for ecommerce from scratch
Yoast SEO website
Source: Yoast

Again, there are a number of apps like Yoast SEO available as simple plugins on Shopify, to make it simple.

4.2. Set up your Google My Business page
This is what your existing customers will discover if they Google your business name. Setting up a Google My Business page is important for leveraging existing customer relationships to further strengthen your online presence. Also, take the opportunity to connect to your online store.

However, this is not where the benefits end. It will also allow other stakeholders such as potential employees, investors and the media to discover you.

Here’s how you should present yourself in your Google business profile.

Be clear and clear about what your business does.
Highlight your uniqueness that stands out from your competitors.
Add a brief history of your company to make your business enjoyable.
The search engine optimizes the content of your company profile.
Google company profile

Source: Google
The Machan’s Google My Business profile description in the image above captures all the necessary details along with a clear descriptive copy.

4.3. Sell ​​where your customers are likely to buy online
Where do your potential customers usually shop online? Perhaps, e-commerce markets such as Amazon, Flipkart, eBay, and Etsy. Or maybe from social media.

The market study carried out in the research and preparation phase should give you a clear idea of ​​the preferences and behaviors of your potential customers.

For starters, it’s always a good idea to be where your customers are likely to make purchasing decisions. And why waste an opportunity to increase sales right there?

Although your products can be independently listed on the ecommerce markets, now that you have your own online store, you can manage all your sales across different channels on a single dashboard. For example, the Amazon Integration Plus app on Shopify helps you seamlessly sell your products on Amazon, right from your store.

If your customers are likely to be on social media, such as Instagram for jewelry products, you can open an Instagram jewelry store seamlessly with the Facebook sales channel app on your Shopify store.

Additional Resources:

How to sell your products on Amazon?
How does a jewelry business generate 76.8% of the orders they sell on Amazon?
How to sell more with Instagram shopping?
By setting up these sales channels, you can leverage the algorithms of those social media markets and platforms to improve the discoverability of your online business. Always make sure to reconnect to your store. This way, you can minimize the payment of commissions and additional costs to other platforms.

  1. Get more customers
    “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

This centuries-old quote attributed to John Wanamaker, a retail magnate, has become an advertising cliché. Long before the options available today, advertising was a hit. You can only advertise in widely used media. And for most products, it wasn’t feasible to pay attention to a large audience, most of whom wouldn’t be the target consumer. While this truth still holds true today to some extent, digital marketing has ensured that your message targeting can be refined to a noticeable degree.

After all efforts to make your store discoverable, a launch day with no active visitors in Google Analytics is every business owner’s worst nightmare. If you want your store to become a virtual hotspot, you need to market your products and your online store. There are many marketing channels and marketing strategies to help your business acquire customers. Let’s discuss some of them here and leave you with additional resources to get into the weeds of the vast world of digital marketing.

5.1. Understanding the ways of digital marketing
5.2. Learn digital marketing strategies
5.3. Define your target audience
5.4. Define your marketing goals
5.5. Make a marketing plan
5.6. Leverage marketing automation tools
5.7. Improve customer service and loyalty
5.1. Understanding the ways of digital marketing

The Internet is a vast intertwined tapestry of marketing possibilities. Your prospects are not only using digital media to buy things, but also to function in their daily lives, from Google searches to emails, social media and more. Each of these offers you unique opportunities to market your business. Below is a list of resources to guide you in understanding your online marketing avenues:

Social media
How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy: A Beginner’s Guide
Email and SMS marketing
Email Marketing 101: How to Build Your List, Send Effective Campaigns, and Track Results
Retail SMS Marketing: Benefits, Best Practices & Examples | Shopify (2022)
Google Ads
The ultimate guide to Shopping ads on Google in 2021
13 Types of Google Advertising Campaigns: How to Use Them Effectively | Shopify
How to start a YouTube channel for your business
4 Ecommerce Blog Post Templates to Build Traffic for Your Store
The internet, however, is an ever-changing landscape. So these resources are enough to update you, but they are by no means exhaustive. There will be more to discover and learn as your business grows online.

5.2. Learn digital marketing strategies
There is a diverse rate of well-researched and time-tested digital marketing strategies that have proven to work for ecommerce. The resources listed below will give you a clear idea of ​​some of these.

Influencer marketing
Find the Best Solution: Your Beginner’s Guide to Influencer Marketing
Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate Marketing: How to Turn Product Recommendations into Passive Income
Reference campaigns
Referral Marketing 101: 7 Tactics To Launch Your Referral Campaign Retail Referral Marketing: 10 Ways To Leverage Your Existing Customers For Growth – Marketing
Conversion rate optimization
The beginner’s guide to conversion rate optimization
Personalized campaigns
The hidden potential of on-site customization (and 3 ways to get started)
Organic marketing methods
How to go viral: tips for creating online buzz for your retail products
Guerrilla marketing
What is Guerrilla Marketing – Shopify Italia
A healthy digital marketing exercise would include a well thought-out mix of some of these strategies. However, don’t be limited by these. Always leave room for innovation in your marketing brainstorms for that revolutionary idea that creatively tackles your marketing challenges.

5.3. Define your target audience
The key to starting any marketing business is to understand your audience. Who is your target customer? What will their preferences be? What are their shopping habits like? All of this information will inform your customer persona and further determine how to market them online, especially with the great personalization opportunities offered by online marketing. The full blog below will help you break this down.

How to define and reach your target audience (2021)
5.4. Define your marketing goals
Some measurable end goals must define each marketing exercise you undertake. The essential end goal, of course, is to drive sales. But when setting your marketing goals, you should be more specific than that.

marketing goals

Where exactly is the problem in your marketing funnel? Is it a lack of awareness or a lack of conversion? Define your marketing goals as specifically as possible to address the issue head-on with the finest marketing strategy.

5.5. Make a marketing plan
Once you’ve determined your target audience and defined your marketing goals, you have enough information to start building a marketing plan. While writing a marketing plan, you will need to make some critical decisions, from budgeting to creating your marketing message. The resource below will help you with this.

How to build a marketing plan that really works
5.6. Leverage marketing automation tools
The real power of your digitally transformed business is the reduction of human intervention, not only for humble and repetitive tasks in business operations, but also for marketing. There are a number of marketing automation tools on the market today to choose from and implement. If you make your store Shopify, there are several marketing automation tools available as plugins and seamless apps, both for creating digital assets for marketing and for processes like automated emailing and publishing. That way, much of your marketing can be left on autopilot, day or night. Check out the resources below:

7 automated email campaigns that win customers over and keep them coming back
5 social media automation tools to grow your business
5.7. Improve customer service and loyalty
The goal of getting more customers isn’t just served by marketing. Once you get your business online, customer service expectations change significantly. This means that your customer must be able to contact support, ask questions, fulfill their online inquiries, etc. easily. Additionally, an online business has the ability to predict some of the problems customers face, which creates the expectation that they will prevent them.

For example, answers to frequently asked questions should be readily available to customers. Likewise, troubleshooting guides, user manuals, and such self-service mechanisms should be just a couple of clicks away. For example, many customer service questions can be consolidated and handled via a chatbot in your store.

Here are some general tips to help you get the right customer service:

Have a shorter response time to close requests, resolve issues, and receive feedback
Take the initiative to close concerns within 24 hours to 48 hours
Communicate with customers through their favorite channels (email, calls and social media platforms)
Use live chat to optimize your online store
Simplify and automate customer service through chatbots
Personalize every support interaction
Actively listen to customers for valuable insights into business operations
Additional Resources:

The Ultimate Guide to Enhancing Your Post Shopping Experience with Email (2022)
What you can learn from cart abandonment and sales recovery (2022)
7 bots to automate your business (and do more, faster)
Increase ecommerce sales with live chat without being trapped at your desk
Customer loyalty strategies to increase repeat sales and profits

  1. Evaluate and grow
    You can’t measure how many people see your outdoor hoarding. But you can measure how many people respond to your Google ad to visit your online store.

When you take your business online you will discover a sea change in what you can measure, beyond what you have already done for your offline business. The sheer amount of data your online business can capture needs to be put to work for you.

So how do you do it?

6.1. Identify your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
6.2. Measure your metrics
6.3. Learn, iterate, optimize, grow
6.1. Identify your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

What are the parameters you measure to evaluate the performance of your offline business, i.e. your KPIs? For example, the performance of a physical retail store can be assessed using the following indicators:

Sales per square meter
Sales per employee
Sales per month
Walk into the store
Conversion rate
Stock turnover rate
Average value of the transaction
Gross and net profit

Some of these KPIs for an online store mirror those for a physical store. For example, store visits can be mirrored by website traffic. Likewise, conversion and average transaction value remain important but are measured differently for an online store. However, because granular metrics can be measured at each stage of the marketing and sales funnel, there is an excellent opportunity to add many more, such as:

Organic Acquisition Traffic
Cart abandonment rate
Click-through rate of the email

And this to name just a few. The thing to keep in mind is that since there is a metric for everything, you need to define the ones that are critical to the performance of your business. So choose the most important metrics to evaluate your business and not just the vain ones.

For example, your website traffic metrics could be great. However, your conversion rate is critical as the ultimate goal is to increase sales. So choose the most valuable KPIs to optimize instead of vanity ones.

Find out more:

What are the basic ecommerce metrics I need to focus on first?
67 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for e-commerce
Next, how do you measure these metrics?

6.2. Measure your metrics
Google Analytics is a robust framework. You can also use Google Tag Manager to measure custom KPIs for ecommerce, which can be very helpful in analyzing your position in the market. Most of the data collection can be set up conveniently without having to tinker with the website code or log into the online store.

Over time, you will know which strategies work and which don’t. Use the identified KPIs and analytics tools to gain valuable insights. While business goals remain the same, measuring metrics will help you tweak your action plan and implement new strategies whenever needed.

10 unique tools retailers can use to measure in-store metrics
Google Analytics for Ecommerce: A Beginner’s Guide
How to track your marketing campaigns in Google Analytics
6.3. Learn, iterate, optimize, grow
With all the information you have extracted from the data available online, you can use the various levers of your online business to iterate. With each iteration, you measure and gain new information. This process repeated over countless cycles is how you optimize to grow your online business. This is what growth essentially looks like.

Over time, you will learn, unlearn, relearn, take on challenges, discover new opportunities and expand your business sustainably in the future.