Thinking about selling online?
5th January 2019
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Who will your customers be? 

It’s easier to sell to specific people rather than having a scattergun approach. So before you get stuck in, have a think about who you want your customers to be and how they think. Are they young parents, the elderly, are they into motorsports or even doll’s houses? Where do they expect to find stuff on a website? For example older people may need a bigger font to read, calls to action like Add to basket buttons may need to be more obvious, if you make these too obvious or large it might look clumsy for the younger generation. Look and feel depends on how your customers are used to accessing information. 

Are there specific sizes or specifications for your products? Will they need a filter system for colours, sizes, shapes. If you do, you'll need to think about what layout works best for your website. 

Research

If you’re on social media and have a decent following, or are on Facebook you can ask questions about how people who buy your product prefer to shop, what websites they like. You can even create a Survey Monkey form and ask people to fill it out. 

Try not to make assumptions, you will almost certainly be surprised at what you find out.

Put mobile first!

Most people will be using your website on a mobile phone, slightly less on a tablet and even less commonly on a laptop or desktop computer. It should work well on all devices, especially smartphones. 

What are your competitors up to?

Once you’ve found out who they are you can have a look at what they do. Of course you don’t want to copy them, but you can learn from them. Have a look at their websites, what do you like or not like about what they do. It helps hone how you want your website to be.

Who will your sellers be?

You may be the only seller or selling products you’ve bought in, if so skip this section. 

if you are selling arts and crafts by other artists then you'll need to work out a few things: Where your stock will be and who will be fulfilling orders (who will be shipping the products), how that affects shipping and stock control. So DO have an agreement in writing with your sellers so that there can be no confusion.

How much will your customers expect to spend?

You don't want to charge too much for your products as this may put people off, likewise don't undercharge. Undercharging won't just mean you'll make a loss, it can undervalue your products, a website visitor might think it’s too good to be true or your products might be lower quality. Establishing what to charge should be something you have an idea of after doing some research of your competitors and what your future customers expect to pay.

How will they like their products to be shipped and packaged? 

For example, gifts and luxury items will want to be luxuriously packed with soft wrappings and a pleasantly tactile box, whereas customers buying power tools online will want robust sturdy packages. In all cases, the packaging needs to be easy to get into and responsibly sourced.

If you're going to be a reseller buying in goods to sell then the products you're buying will be prepackaged, although you might still want to check this packaging is good enough for each product and check the goods are intact inside.

Make sure your products will survive the courier or postal service you use to ship your products. Excessive packaging can be annoying, so it’s a fine balance, not too much or too little. 

Stock control

Will you have to worry about stock control? Well, you won't want to upset people by selling items you don't have via your website, but if you’re selling digital downloads like images or music then you won’t have to worry. 

You can easily set stock levels in Wordpress and Drupal, so if you have a set amount of each item you can decide weather to show the product with an Out of stock label, or ‘Only 2 left’ or you can decide to hide the product from the site if it’s out of stock.  

If your items are not one-offs then having a feature that allows a customer to be notified when their favourite product is back in stock will help you sell more more of this product and keep your customers happy.

If you know your stock can be replenished quickly and you're not selling in a real-life shop then stock control may not be an issue. 

Have a shop in real life?

If you have a high street shop you might want to integrate stock management, so that if you have a run on pyjamas via your online shop, you won't oversell and disappoint your visiting customers of vice-versa. To make this seamless, having a well supported EPoS system is imperative. It can be costly and complex to integrate stock so that when you sell an item online it comes off your in shop stock levels, so research the best solution for you. 

Shipping and logistics

Make it simple for your customers to understand. No-one likes getting to the checkout only to see a huge shipping fee, or trying to work out how it was calculated. 

You can have different shipping options - standard, next day etc.

Make the postage visible in the basket as well as at checkout, you may need the customers address before this can be calculated. This is a feature of Woocommerce (shipping cart plugin) for WordPress and Commerce for Drupal.

Have a page all about shipping with a list of rates, to make it easy for customers to find out what sort of prices to expect.

Which courier?

The size, quantity and type of your products will affect how you deliver them. If you're selling lots of low-value items something simple like Royal Mail might be best. If you're selling precious products like fine jewellery, or works of art, then your customers will expect to pay more in shipping and so a private courier might be a better option. In such cases, have a look at insurance options too so that if your product is lost or damaged both parties are protected.

Check what local couriers are around, there are lots of options and you don’t have to go with one of the big companies. 

Click and collect is a great option if you have a real-life shop. A customer can reserve an item via your website, pay for it online, then pick it up from the shop. This means a bought product free of shipping, which is convenient for both the customer and you. If you don’t have a real-life shop this probably isn’t a wise option, having strangers picking items up from your home (especially if you have children) comes with risks attached! 

Where will you ship to? 

It's fairly straightforward if you're shipping within the UK. However, If you’re using a private courier they will have different prices depending on where they’re going to so there may be a big difference in price delivering to Scotland as opposed to Cornwall. So working out what will be fair and make sense to the customer on checkout, whilst making sure you don't lose money is a fine balancing act that is worth taking time over. You might just want to make it flat rate within the UK and take a hit on some sales and make a small loss on others and rely on it evening out.

 

Don't make it complicated or too expensive for your customers to get their products shipped, it may put them off and abandon their baskets on checkout. 

 

Pricing shipping: by weight, size or flat rate

This is often a sticking point for people, it can get very complex if you’re trying to price everything separately. In some cases it’s best to keep it simple for you and for customers to understand.

How will your customers pay?

You will need a payment merchant. These are companies that deal with the transactions online for you. 

Two things to consider here: what will make your customers feel safe, and what payment merchant will work best with your platform and be the most affordable. 

 

For example PayPal charges (at the time of ŵriting this article) 2.9% per transaction to the seller (that would be you) whereas Stripe charges 1% per transaction and can be easier to integrate with Wordpress and Drupal. 

Make sure before you go for a cheap merchant that it can be integrated into your chosen platform, especially before you've signed any contracts with a supplier and get locked into a contract. If in doubt ask an expert you trust, we’re happy to advise, just email.

How many products?

A solution for 1-10 products will be very different than an online shop selling hundreds or even thousands of products with categories and subcategories. You will want to make the navigation really easy especially if selling thousands of products.. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for. Think how easy Amazon is to use and remember just how much stuff they’re selling...

 

Search

People sometimes want to skip browsing when they know exactly what they want. If you’re selling printer cartridges for example, remember to put the serial number not only of the cartridge, but also of the printer and the make. People won’t always remember the serial number of the cartridge but might just type in the big number on their printer. So when entering each product put as much information about it as possible to enable visiting customers to find it when searching your website as well as Google. If you’re website is properly set up for Google and Bing then each of your products should show up in a search, so don’t skimp on detail!

Product videos

If your products are technical ones then having a video of how to install or use it will help your customers out no end. Video takes up an awful lot of website space so set yourself up a YouTube channel (click here to do so) and upload your videos there. YouTube is owned by Google so your videos will be more likely found there as well as YouTube independently of your website, helping you cast your net wide in terms of getting people aware of what you’re selling.

You can add your videos to your website taking up no room on your website hosting. This is very easy with WordPress see our How To guide here on how to do this.

You can also create videos that show off your product, if it’s jewellery you could have a hand model showing off a ring, or if it’s high quality suitcases you could have someone showing how secure the fastenings are and opening the case to show the inside. 

If you have someone speaking on the video, then ensure that the sound quality is good enough, especially if it’s an instructional video. 

Do some research on the best equipment to use, your phone might be good enough or you might find you need to invest in a decent video camera.

Hosting

According to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force in May 2018, you need to make sure your website conforms to EU and UK data protection laws. 

You need to be careful how you store your customer’s data and that they are aware of how you are storing it. For more information visit: 

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr 

Bandwidth

This is how many people can access your website at any one time. Before your website goes live, check what bandwidth is available. If too many visitors access your website and your bandwidth limit is consequently exceeded, then your website could go down. If that happens you won’t just be disappointing and possibly putting people off, you’ll be losing out on sales too. Keep a check on this throughout the lifetime of your website to prevent disappointment. 

Speed

Make sure your website is fast enough! People will go elsewhere if they are waiting too long for a page to load. Large images can affect this so to can too many plugins or your website running too many operations at once, the quicker the site the happier the customer, and Google likes a fast website too. 

Pages to help your customers

Delivery and returns policy

Delivery: so your customers know when to expect their deliveries and cover yourself if there is an issue. 

Returns: if you’re selling consumables like eliquids, food or something affected by hygiene like underwear you’ll need to state in what condition these can be returned in and that, if faulty, customers can get a replacement or a refund.

Privacy policy. 

That bit at the bottom on people’s websites you always ignore.

Don’t be tempted to copy someone else's but do have a look at what similar businesses have to get an idea. Get an expert to write this for you if you’re not sure.

Terms and conditions

The above can be put into this page but you might want to keep it separate if you’re selling services as well as products. 

How can we help?

We’ve built lots of online shops for very small start ups to established larger companies.

If you’re thinking of getting a new website we want to talk to you.

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About the Author

Abbie T

Member since: 31st July 2014

Graphic designer and website developer since 2000.
Specialist in WordPress and Drupal.

www.polyspiral.com

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