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Your guide to offering online sales

4th November 2020

If you run a shop or offer sales over the telephone, making the switch to become an eCommerce business is arguably more important than ever. 

The past year has been full of uncertainties, and it seems as though there are a few more hurdles yet to come. Without knowing how the future looks, and how it will affect custom, the most sensible approach is to allow your business to function online if that is feasible. It could be what it takes to weather the storm.

It’s no exaggeration that moving sales online can save your business.

Earlier this year, we offered for a limited time only a free eCommerce website, in order to help support local businesses during testing times. 

As you can imagine, we had a fair amount of uptake. The Cuppie Hut, based in Norwich got in touch to take us up on the offer. They are a small, but very successful enterprise selling the MOST delicious baked goods from a stall in Norwich Market (trust us, we have sampled our fair share). 

The owners Kim and Mel, had a great following on social media, but had not ventured into online sales. We designed them a simple but effective online shop to help them gain sales quickly, while they were forced to shut their stall. This online shop allowed them to offer a delivery service and manage their orders. Collecting all order requests in one streamlined manner, preventing them getting overwhelmed with requests from different avenues such as social media messaging and telephone calls. Orders can also be turned on and off to suit current trends and government advice.

Happily the team at Cuppie Hut have given us a glowing review too:

We needed a new way to carry our business forward to keep our customers happy and to keep us afloat too during such a difficult time. Nu Image came to our rescue!

Providing a modern, easy to use website to give our customers the ease to choose our products from the comfort of their home and to have them delivered to their doorstep.

The team at Nu image were so great to work with, adapting the website to our ideas and ease of use in one smooth operation. 

We were so impressed we have kept the website to move forward in the future running both our everyday cake business and online orders together. 

We can’t thank them enough for helping us through a difficult time and actually giving us a great way to run our business in an alternative way, which proved very fruitful ! 

We highly recommend Nu Image to anyone thinking of setting up a website. They are fantastic!

Needing to get started in the world of online sales? 

If you have only ever known bricks and mortar, it’s completely natural that taking the step to transfer your sales online may feel daunting. 

Therefore, we have collated the most FAQs we hear from businesses, large and small alike, to help you to navigate and understand the process and the options available for you to sell online. 

What is an eCommerce business? 

Simply put, an Ecommece business is an online shop that allows the purchase of items or services. It is a platform on the internet that allows sales to be carried out. Customers buy and pay for items online, and they are then delivered or are able to arrange collection. 

It is also known as E-commerce, eCommerce, electronic commerce or internet commerce.  

Why should I move my sales online? 

If you have a product or a service that can be sold online, then an eCommerce shop can allow you to reach a larger audience or continue trading when it is not otherwise possible. 

I only want to sell to a local audience, so why would I need an online shop? 

If managed, and marketed correctly an online shop will support sales to a local audience, not detract from them. Google Ads can be targeted to connect with customers within a certain geographical area and in store offers can be prompted alongside online sales to encourage visitors to the store if this is desired. You are also able to only offer click and collect online should you prefer. If you have an existing local audience, it is important to keep your website design on brand in relation to your physical presence. 

I can’t post my goods, can I still sell online? 

Yes of course. If you wish to only offer local deliveries your online shop can include a postcode checker, allowing you to only accept orders for delivery within a certain radius. Alternatively, as mentioned above you can set your shop to only allow click and collect orders. 

Is it difficult to sell products online? 

Hmm, that really depends on several factors. Of course selling products or services anywhere can be tricky if you are not reaching the right audiences or have a product that nobody actually wants. Assuming you have a saleable product that is priced competitively, then selling online is relatively straightforward. 

Combined with a product that people actually want, you need to make sure that your online store is secure, user friendly and works smoothly and then sales will begin to happen. The first challenge however, is getting traffic to your shop. We have covered that below, so don’t go anywhere! 

What are my alternative options for selling products or services online? 

Aside from creating an online store, there are a few other well known ways to sell your products. Online sales platforms such as Amazon, Ebay and Etsy offer a way to showcase and sell products. Of course, this comes alongside plenty of competition which can drive your prices down. In addition, you will be sending a percentage of your profits to the hosting website for every sale you make. 

There is also Shopify, a well known template based eCommerce store. This can be a good starting place, despite its limitations with regards to styling. That said, be mindful that there are quite a few charges associated with Shopify, so as your sales grow, so will your fees. Also, generally with Shopify and other sites such as Wix, you never truly own the rights to the site so if you are looking to transfer the site to another hosting company you may need to navigate some hurdles.  

Creating a bespoke eCommerce website will allow you the flexibility to create a web design that reflects your brand, the ability to promote it via SEO and PPC without limitations and most importantly will maximise your profit margins. 

Is an eCommerce website easy to use? 

All of our bespoke eCommerce websites are built with both users and you in mind. This means that we look at the clearest paths for people to find what they are looking for on your site, but we also do the same for you when it comes to the backend of your website. We always offer training once a website has been built to show you how to use your new website, including how to add content and products. So there’s no need to worry about finding your new eCommerce site overwhelming, as we will be there to help guide you through and answer any questions you may have. 

If I have an online store does that mean I should close my shop? 

Absolutely not. Having a website that offers sales online does not need to replace a physical presence of a shop. Rather, if you wish to continue serving clients on a face to face basis, your eCommerce shop should support your store. You can offer Click and Collect options to encourage footfall and you can showcase products that are only available in store, should you not wish to sell everything online. 

I am only a small retailer, do I need an online shop? 

Having a bespoke online shop can be a really cost effective way to sell your products to a wider audience. If it is your sole source of sales it can be much cheaper to run than a physical store and can be easier to manage, with less staff in place. 

Can I add eCommerce to my existing website? 

In many cases the way in which we build and design websites does allow us to add an online shop to your existing site as a ‘bolt on’, although sometimes this can compromise the overall look and feel of the website, so a rebuild would be the best route. The best thing to do is to get in contact with our team, to allow us to have a look at your existing site and perform a quick onsite audit (free of charge of course). We can recommend the best way forward to converting your existing site to accept sales.

Can you sell anything online? 

Pretty much, yes. Generally if it is a tangible item or a service, you will be able to sell it online should you wish to. Providing it is legal we are certainly happy to give it a go!

How will people find my new eCommerce site? 

This is a great question… if we do say so ourselves. New websites do not get pushed live and immediately get found when people search for you in Google. Although they are there should you head directly for them by typing the URL (website address) into the search bar, it takes time (and often a lot of effort) for them to establish their place in the rankings. Where you are placed will depend on several factors, from the foundations of your web-build through to how stiff your competition is.

If you have a strong social media following then this can be a great way to get people to your site quickly, and in most cases sales too.

Fundamentally though, when a site is launched it is vital that you have some digital marketing strategy ready to get it underway. The quickest route to sales will be Google Ads, although in many cases SEO offers the best longer term, and more cost effective option.  

Do I need a stock control system? 

Most eCommerce websites have built in stock control, however how you use this depends on your individual requirements. Some will stop allowing orders after a certain number are fulfilled, others will allow backorders to be taken, should you know you are able to reach new stock easily. The stock control systems provided by, for example, WooCommerce allows flexibility to suit your needs and also has the capability to integrate into shopside systems such as Epos Now should you already have an existing stock management system. This means that stock sold in store will also be accounted for against your online sales. 

Our responsibility to local businesses. 

The surge in online sales over the past year and the requirement of eCommerce developments cannot be ignored. It falls to the marketing and development industry, including us, to provide local businesses with the tools that they are so desperately in need of at this moment in time. 

Where some businesses will have already found that converting to eCommerce has kept them afloat, others will feel as though this technology is out of their grasp or that it has simply passed them by.

We are here to support our local businesses and to lend a helping hand, providing eCommerce solutions that fill the gap in face-to-face sales and to do so in a way that is as easy and painless as possible. 

With the right tools and the combined use of our expertise and a guiding hand now, then we can continue to champion local businesses through the winter, whatever it may bring. 

If you need help adapting to the world of online sales, give us a call. We would love to help.  

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