Considering Launching a Retail Website? Before Diving In, Follow This Advice

While e-commerce platforms come in various shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common – they allow entrepreneurs to sell their goods directly to consumers without the need for a physical retail location.

The truth of the matter, though, is that the online stores I have seen that have succeeded have done so because they followed one of the two following principles:

1. The website sells a single product or a very limited number of different products, but the site is recognized as a leader (or seller) for that specific product.

2. The website is an online storefront for existing brick-and-mortar locations.

When you’re creating an online store, the actual store and inventory only reflect a small aspect of the important considerations and decisions you will reach about your online store.

It’s important you treat your online store the same way you treat any new business. This includes addressing the following questions:

  • What is your business plan?
  • What product(s) will you sell?
  • Why would someone buy from your store versus Amazon or other online stores?
  • Can you compete on price?
  • Can you compete on logistics?
  • Can you compete on customization level?
  • What is your marketing plan?
  • How will you make your first sale?

Do you plan on doing a launch event or a soft launch to gauge what works and what doesn’t as you go? Note: Each method has its own advantages. A traditional launch helps you ascertain quickly if your store/product is ready for market. The drawback is that if it fails, it can cost you a pretty penny, potentially limiting your ability to use funds for inventory or operations.

Soft launches can help you tweak your offering, but they can also make it difficult to determine whether you have an ideal solution/product or not. Compared to the typical promoted launch, a soft launch is a less risky and less-rewarding approach.

After you launch your online store, always think of ways of how you can improve it. Don’t be afraid to look at what other stores are doing (and this could be in different industries altogether). Consumers expect perfection. If something goes wrong during checkout or if they receive an erroneous order, they likely will never purchase from your store again.

In summary, creating an online store should be treated like running a regular business. Do your research, determine which solution is right for you, but don’t believe for a second that your product will “sell itself” simply because it’s listed online.

Creating a retail website might be the right choice for your business model, but depending on your level of experience marketing new products or brands, it might be easier to leverage existing websites or platforms that have visitors already. This strategy can make it easier to get a foothold online by allowing you to focus on the product or brand you want to create.

Let’s consider using Amazon for instance. The basic fees for a business selling on Amazon are either $39.99 per month or $1.00 per item sold. This means if you sell more than 40 items in any given month, it becomes advantageous to sign up for their $39.99/month plan. The other fees associated with sales come in the form of referral fees. These are fees that Amazon charges you for bringing customers to your product. These fees range from 5 to 20 percent.

For medium-size or large businesses, the $39.99/month fee becomes negligible. The affiliate fee, on the other hand, is significant, but it does come with some “promotional value.” Think of how often you’ve received emails from Amazon-recommended products after you searched for similar products online. How awesome would it be if perfect strangers received emails from Amazon about your product after searching for products similar to the ones you sell? This is the power of Amazon and what it brings to the table. Besides Amazon, there are other platforms, such as Etsy, or even marketplaces launched by Best Buy or Walmart that allow third-party sellers to list their products on their site.

Now that you have a few different options to think about, do your research and figure out which path is the right one for your business!

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