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You may have heard through the last twenty years that e-commerce is the future. But in 2020, it’s undeniable: e-commerce is very much the present. The heavy hitters in retail rely on online sales, and even small businesses have successfully moved online—a drive past your nearest empty strip mall will bear that out. Whether you’re running a complete business from your home or just getting into the game as a side hustle, there’s more to establishing your online presence than posting a few marketplace ads. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to open an online store.
In the absence of a brick-and-mortar location, your Internet presence is your store. And just as organization, ambiance, and cleanliness are integral to real-world retail, a clean and clear online destination is important in e-commerce. You may choose to do business through popular marketplace sites such as Etsy or eBay, or you may wish to strike out on your own. Either way, your site will need concise copy, ample photographs of your inventory, and an intuitive layout.
If you’re transitioning from brick and mortar to e-commerce, you’ve probably already incorporated your business. But if this is a new venture altogether, be sure to separate yourself from your business—on paper, that is. Incorporating your company protects you from personal liabilities associated with your business. It’s a necessary bit of paperwork, whether you’re a sole proprietor or you have employees.
Many small or upstart e-commerce retailers prefer to outsource their order fulfillment through drop-shipping, where your supplier sends a purchase directly to the customer. This means you have no control over the fulfillment process, and any complications that lie out of your hands could be critical blows to your business. Our recommendation is that, at least to begin with, you handle your fulfillment in house. Once you’ve secured space for your inventory, make sure you have the necessary shipping materials to get your orders to buyers in ideal condition. Safe and prompt shipping is key to building loyalty with your new customers.
The old truism is that word of mouth is the best form of marketing. Unfortunately, word of mouth doesn’t do much good for online start-ups. High on the list of what you need to open an online store is marketing—as well as the budget to afford it. Get out the word about your new business by pursuing affordable but effective marketing strategies. Social media and search engine optimization are the leading approaches for online marketing, and your ability to harness them could be instrumental in getting your new business off the ground.