Essential considerations when setting up an online retail venture

You have your brilliant idea for selling products, you’ll have done your research into competitors or found you’ve got a real niche market that very few others are in. Now you need to decide whether you are going to combine a shop that people can come into, mix it with an online store, or simply go for the online option only.

online shop

Running a shop

Shops can be great, especially if you’re in a place that has a whole range of different shops selling interesting things that draw people to that area. However, you have to take into account the start-up costs and ongoing aspects such as paying rent (unless you can afford your own premises, and that’s not usually likely when you’re starting out), your utilities outgoings and any maintenance needed, not to mention the fixtures and fittings you’ll need to display your wares and take in the cash. You’ll be paying debit and credit card companies as well for the pleasure of them allowing you to take payments by plastic.

That will add up to a lot of money. Fine if you have the backing or can borrow sensibly, but it may not be the best way for you to operate.

Offline and online

There are benefits if you get a physical presence up and running and integrate it with a strong online presence as well. The difficulty can again be with your set-up costs to do both. Certainly an online presence will assist your main store, but you may find that you are diluting your reach because you have to keep on top of both selling to people who come into your shop and dealing with a range of online orders.

Online only?

If you get it right, and your products are well-suited to being sent by post or courier, this is a great option, provided you get it right from the start.

When you’re looking into retailing online you must have at the forefront of your mind the fact that you have to give customers what they want and provide top quality service. If you don’t do these first two things they will quickly go somewhere else.

If you are a small business then the internet now provides you with the perfect launch pad for retailing because you don’t have those financial barriers for getting physical premises up and running. Yes, you will have to spend money on setting up your website and making it work well – and unless you are a programming genius you’ll need a web designer to help you – but you can make it very cost-effective, especially if your business plan has taken all the financial aspects for start-up into account.

Setting up online

Customers need to know they can trust you. They also need to know that transactions they make over the internet are secure. You’ll know how many scams there are out there, so make sure people who access your website can be certain you will deliver what you say.

Here are a few tips:

  • If you’re online only, make sure people can contact you by phone or email. If you have a physical address then give it. People are more likely to trust a business that is transparent about its contact details – and make sure the phone and emails are answered.
  • Make ordering simple, your pricing transparent and your postage and packaging costs clear. Be realistic but don’t try to make extra money when you send things – customers are not stupid.
  • If you’re running a small business you shouldn’t let your guard down in terms of the security of your financial transactions. You’ll know that hackers can and will attack anywhere, though it’s usually the high profile cases, such as Sony, that come to general knowledge.

Click here for more information about getting caught up in an online scam and how to avoid it.

Protecting your business online

You may have a range of safeguards in place or being planned to ensure your transactions with customers are as secure as possible. You could look to open ssl, a toolkit that is developing ways to encrypt information and assure the security of many small businesses that can’t necessarily afford commercial solutions from major providers at this stage.

In the end, it’s up to you. Online business can be very lucrative if you set it up right, but always be aware of the security implications and be ahead of the curve.

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