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How to sell worldwide and at all times

Some considerations before selling online

  • Key4Communications

Most experts agree that the future of commerce is to combine physical store sales with online sales. Until recently, having an online store was something that mostly online retailers (as Amazon or Ebay) or large companies were interested in. In fact, many independent retailers still hesitate about whether or not to enter a field that seems complicated and even strange.

There are quite a few advantages:

-Online sales increase exponentially the number of potential customers: the store no longer has only customers in the neighbourhood or in the city; it can sell all over the country or even the entire world, depending on shipping solutions and payment currency. In addition, the customer will never find the store closed.

-Stores can offer a wider catalogue. Moreover, if the store already has a web page and shows its catalogue, it’s missing the opportunity of selling to users who were searching the web for information, and decide to buy elsewhere.

-The investment is lower than that of opening another store: no rent and less personnel costs, if any; also, the risks are also lower.

This does not mean that opening an online store does not involve hard work. In fact, one must consider many things:

-The site. There are many solutions: designers can be hired to prepare them, for example, but there are also applications that enable users to customize and launch an online store relatively easily (like Magento, OpenCart, PrestaShop, Oscommerce, DigiStore ). Many of these platforms offer free services, and all allow customizing the look and of course integrating it with most payment platforms. Another option is to sell through Amazon, which offers the advantage that products appear in the searches done on this online retailer.

-Method of payment. Most stores offer at least the possibility of paying by credit card or bank transfer, which offers the security of these banks. Anyway, it is also a good idea to work with platforms as PayPal and Authorize. Many users still prefer cash on delivery, but not many shops offer it. In any case, it is essential to allow several payment options.

-Legal issues. It is important to meet all requirements about data protection and identification of the company, while also taking into account the rights of clients, including cancellations and refunds.

-Storage can seem an impossible task, especially if the store wants to offer a wide catalogue and also respond quickly to customer demands. Anyway, there are options such as drop-shipping, which allows selling products directly to consumers without buying them first.

-Shipping and return. It is desirable to offer a fast and safe delivery, as well as adequate for the volume of articles, the number of transactions, and the market where the store sells. Many courier companies offer the possibility to follow the shipment, and stores must also consider the option of providing this information directly. The shop should also offer options for refunds at least within what the law establishes.

-Marketing. It is not enough to publish the site and wait. One must carry out communication activities: publishing offers and promotions via social networks, as well as optimising search engine strategies. Concerning social networks, it is not a bad idea to consider opening a store on Facebook.

Besides these basics, we must also bear in mind that the same items are not sold in the physical store and in the online store. Usually, customers are just looking for product information or comparing ranges or brands. If we offer the option of buying online with favourable conditions, we encourage impulse buying. Consumers also tend to buy large products online, as anyway the store would have to send them home through a messenger, and therefore waiting time is not an issue. As another example, some also buy products they already know or do not need to have on hand to value, such as books, collectibles, affordable products and accessories that accompany a major purchase, in order to take advantage of shipping costs (batteries, for example).

It is also important to differentiate the store. For example, the shop can offer free shipping to increase confidence, or niche products. This also helps to retain buyers.

It is also essential to watch the market, which is relatively new (Ebay and Amazon were born in 1995) and changes every day. Social networks are increasing their presence and importance, geolocation can also become a consumer trend, and above all, more than likely consumers will increasingly use mobile phones and tablets to buy. It is important to make the site accessible to navigation from these systems. Also, is a good idea to take into account that mobile phones could be used as a payment method: even Google is developing a mobile payment system.

Online commerce is not just a fad or an emerging trend: 80% of the world has purchased online at least once, and 50% have done it twice or more. Turnover is also increasingly important: the consultant firm Forrester expects online retail sales to grow ten percent annually through 2015. In 2010, e-commerce turnover was of $176 billion in the US and $92 billion in Western Europe.

Also and for example, Toys 'R' Us expects online sales to double in 2016, and Inditex has already announced that it will take its brands to the Internet from September, after the success of the Zara virtual store.

There is no need to loose a business chance and to close the door to more potential clients every day.

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