Opening an online store takes time, money, and a lot of work! It’s common for small business owners to start by selling their products online without an e-commerce site in order to grow a customer base, test the popularity of their product, and turn a profit before they commit. If you want to learn more about how to sell online without an online store, take a look at this blog post.
An online store of your very own is an exciting prospect! You will be able to not only take more orders and make more sales but also customise your store to reflect your brand, and add additional options like newsletter subscriptions.
Here are our tips for how to know if you ARE ready to start an online store.
Opening an online store? Here's a readiness checklist.
1. Has the admin of manual social media sales become a bit overwhelming?
There are some definite pros to selling online without a proper e-commerce site. Chief among them being that it is convenient and cheaper to use social media and simplified payment options like Yoco Payment Request, instant EFT, or cash.
This is the way that many South African businesses start. A Facebook page or Instagram profile, and a lot of DMs or emails. It’s simple. It’s effective. It’s cheap. But at a certain point as you grow, it will become unmanageable.
If you find yourself losing sales because you can’t keep up with the manual processing of orders, it’s time to consider an online store. Your TIME is valuable and can be better spent than generating individual invoices manually and tracking payments one by one.
2. Are your sales flatlining?
Businesses scale when they have they have the means to go after a bigger market. If your sales are flatlining, one of the possible reasons could be that you need to widen your addressable market.
Online shopping should be seamless and people online have come to expect that level of service from any business operating online. Even though it seems low effort to enquire about a product and make a payment manually, it might be a turn off for customers. It only takes a couple of seconds for a potential customer to decide that a product isn’t worth the effort.
An online store reduces the level of interaction between you and your customers but it makes the sale quick and seamless. Your customers can shop at their leisure and check out in a matter of minutes.
If they happen to leave your site without completing an order, there are plenty of ways to remarket to them including social media advertising or follow-up emails if they have signed in.
3. Has your product or service line up become more complex or diverse?
The more you offer, the more sophisticated your online business model needs to be to sell online.
For example, if you make and sell jewellery, you might only have 4 or 5 pieces to begin with that you make to order. Over time, your collection might grow to many more pieces that each have their own options for sizing, colours, or styles. You might even begin to pre-make pieces so that customers don’t have to wait as long.
The more diverse your products and services, the more sense it makes for you to have a proper e-commerce site. Opening an online store will simplify keeping track of orders and give you a paper trail to follow should anything go wrong.
An online store will also give you the means to collect valuable customer information which will become extremely important as your volume goes up which in turn will help sales and customer retention.
4. Are your customers looking for diverse payment options?
One of the great aspects of having an online store is offering your customers a diverse range of ways to pay. It’s a proven way to ensure that your customers go from ‘window shopping’ to completed check out.
If you are operating without an online store, you might find it very difficult to not only diversify payments but consolidate them once they come in.
Once you have set up e-commerce site, you can integrate a full range of online payment options from credit or debit card to instant EFT, QR code, and even options like PayFlex or MobiCred. The more options you support, the better chance you have of having a method preferable to your customer.
5. Are you ready for your next big challenge?
Once you’ve cut your teeth selling online without a store, you might feel like you’ve stagnated as an entrepreneur. An e-commerce site is a brilliant way to upskill and connect with other small business owners.
If you have the budget, you can find professionals to build your site for you but if not, your online store will be a DIY project and it’s going to be a challenge.
But don’t let that hold you back! There are tutorials, resources, and forums aplenty online to help you learn and Yoco’s team are always ready to take the plunge with you. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
Opening an online store is a really important milestone for your business. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for coming this far!
As a first step, take a look at the Insaka E-Commerce Facebook group. Here you’ll find a community of business owners just like you who are ready to support and guide you.
The group was created by Warrick Kernes who is one of South Africa’s foremost e-commerce experts. He runs an online academy and has a number of podcasts and blog posts for you to start learning from.