September 3, 2018
June 30, 2020
Ecommerce, Small Business, Website Planning
Building an ecommerce website is very much the item right now for small businesses.
Unfortunately, it’s because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, but even before the virus upended everything, the appeal of online shopping with small businesses had been growing.
According to Oberlo, 13.7 percent of all retail sales in 2019 were conducted online. And they expected that number to grow to at least 15 percent. Given the current circumstances, that number is going to be higher.
And while the pandemic is forcing more and more businesses to pivot to online, it might not necessarily be for everyone. While the benefits are well documented, there are pitfalls that can really cause you headaches.
So let’s go through those benefits and problems and walk through how you can make a decision about whether or not building an ecommerce website is right for you or not.
Benefits of an ecommerce website
So obviously there are a lot of benefits when it comes to building an ecommerce website and selling online. The biggest advantage is that you can sell your products online and ship them without them having to come into your store. They can shop your business from their own home and get their purchase shortly thereafter. And with today’s pandemic, that’s a massive plus for everyone.
Because of that, you can theoretically sell to anyone anywhere in the world. And that opens up your potential customer base. It doesn’t matter if they live five minutes away or five hours away. You can sell to them all the same.
Plus, because your products are online (and assuming you have your website set up correctly), those products can be indexed by Google and show up in search results. That means people can find your store and products from simple Google searches and don’t even have to actively seek out your business.
And if you take care of the digital marketing aspect, have a high quality working website, you can really start to grow your business in ways you might not have thought about before.
Problems that you might encounter with an ecommerce website
But an ecommerce website isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. While the benefits look really nice (and they absolutely are), sometimes that can blind you to the issues and pitfalls that line the path to success.
First off, you’re going to need a website and, maybe more importantly, website hosting that can handle the traffic if you do take off. Next, you need a website that can allow people to add items to their cart and checkout.
Then there’s the logistical problems. You’re going to have to have someone running point on the ecommerce website, taking in the orders and fulfilling them. Then you’re going to need to find an efficient way to ship the orders.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of issues such as taxes, customer service and so on that could very easily trip you up along the way.
I don’t tell you this to scare you off from , especially if you’re struggling to navigate through the pandemic right now. But I want you to be aware of these problems so that you can plan for them ahead of time so that you don’t stumble when you come across them.
Learn More About Building a Website For Your Business
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Questions to ask yourself
To get to the bottom of whether or not you should build an ecommerce website, you’re going to need to ask you and/or your business partners some questions.
There are really only two requirements for this part: that you ask these questions about your business and that you answer them honestly. There is no shame in realizing that you can’t do it right now. And it’s better to figure that out while you’re still in this planning stage.
And you don’t have to only answer these questions. If one question sparks a different one you have, answer that one as well and keep going down that rabbit hole. That way you know for sure at the end whether this is really something for you or not.
Can I afford to build an online store?
Creating an ecommerce website isn’t the same as building a normal website. You can’t just create an HTML file, put it on your web hosting and call it a day. There is a lot more that has to go into it.
You need a way to add products and display them on your website easily. You also need to build a way for customers to check out with a credit card, and all of the risk that now puts on you. Plus, you need to be on top-quality web hosting so that your site is always up. And that’s just barely touching the surface.
Now, you could go the Shopify route to save some money, and that’s a perfectly fine option. The best pricing for your money looks to be the $79 a month option.
But if you want the most control over your website and your store, you’re likely going to need a custom website using a content management system like WordPress and a plugin like WooCommerce. And then you’re going to need a theme to display your products. Whether it’s pre-built or a custom design from someone you hire, that’s going to cost you money as well. Plus there are other add-ons like payment processors and shipping labels.
That’s a lot of costs that you might not be thinking about right now. And it can sneak up on you if you don’t plan for it. So before you go any further, sit down and figure out the costs. Determine what hosting you need and how much it’s going to cost you. And then figure out how much other items, like plugins and themes are going to cost. Then figure out if you can really afford it.
It’s okay if you can’t right now. It’s better to figure that out now than when you’ve already sunk so much time and effort into it.
Do I know how to create an ecommerce website?
Also, how much do you know about creating and running an ecommerce website? Do you know how to build an ecommerce website, even if it’s just through something like Shopify or WordPress? Do you know how to present your products so that people will want to purchase them? Can you maintain inventory counts and keep things running?
And I’m not just talking about the website itself. Do you know if you need to tax certain purchases or not? Do you know the tax rate? Is there a shipper you have in mind? All of these things should be figured out before you start.
And it’s okay not to know everything right this second. We all do a lot of learning, and it’s not too difficult to learn about how to build and run an ecommerce website. We all start from somewhere.
But the question is to get you to figure out if you know enough to get started right now or to learn some things first and then start creating it later. It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable with your knowledge about ecommerce now and need to put it off until you know more. That’s better than starting and then realizing you’re way in over your head with this.
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Do I have the ability to process and ship the orders?
Also, you need to think about whether or not you have the internal infrastructure to handle the orders that come in and process and ship them out. How are you going to get notified of a new order? Who’s going to be the point person for taking the orders and fulfilling them? Can you handle a sudden influx of orders?
Next, do you know how to ship them out? Do you have a deal with someone like Fedex or UPS to take your orders and ship them to the customers?
And then what happens if a customer has a problem with the order? Who’s going to handle that and do you have the capability to handle that problem?
You need to think through all of these things. Sometimes when a small business thinks about creating an online store, these issues can fall through the cracks. Everyone wants the fancy new thing, but your foundational issues need to be figured out first.
So figure out these things first to figure out if you can even support an ecommerce website.
Is it going to be worth it?
Finally, this really all boils down to whether or not setting up and managing an ecommerce website is worth it for you and your business. I hope you’ve figured out by now that this is no small task. It really does take a lot to successfully pull this off.
So at the end of the day, you need to sit down with yourself and/or your business partners and really think about creating an ecommerce website. Run through all of these questions, plus any other ones that you might have. Then tally everything up and figure out if it’s truly worth it or not.
If it’s not going to be worth the time, effort and money, then it’s perfectly fine to wait until you are ready. Again, it’s better to figure that out now than when you’ve already sunk too much time and money into the project.
And if you do determine that it’s worth it and that you’re ready, then great. It’s time to get to work and make it a reality.
But just know that building and running an ecommerce website isn’t as simple as it looks. And that there are a lot of factors that you need to consider before you start down that path. And no matter which way you fall, your business will be better for it.
To build an ecommerce website … or not to