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How to build an online store from scratch, according to the experts

In a retail landscape marked by unexpected and sudden closures, businesses that might not have considered going online at all have had to make the leap to an online store very suddenly.

Urgently shifting to an online presence amid COVID-19 has forced a lot of retailers into choppy water, however, in the longer term, taking your business online has major sales, financial and growth advantages.

For the best success, building an online business from scratch needs to be done carefully. You need to use the right technology, draw on expert assistance, and market your brand smartly. Here’s how. 

Let the tech experts do the heavy lifting 

Moving online comes with new processes, complications, and unknown risks. But this doesn’t mean only experienced and tech-savvy business owners can successfully leverage online retail. In the last few years, building an eCommerce business has become simpler and more accessible. Local book stores and fashion retailers are serving customers across Australia and internationally, all from their own homes. And most often, these business owners aren’t coding experts or tech-heads. 

The trick is that most of these entrepreneurs outsource the tech-think to those better equipped, while themselves focusing on what they’re best at: getting to know their customers, and growing their business. Often, platforms like Shopify, Squarespace and BigCommerce exist behind the scenes and underpin businesses’ online activity. These platforms are affordable, accessible, fast, and easy-to-use for retailers with any range of technology experience. Most importantly, services like this offer customers the absolutely necessary high-quality shopping experiences they’re used to from larger internet retailers. Using speciality tech platforms, designed to improve your online business, is key to gaining that competitive advantage when selling online. 

This extends to your online cash register, too. Drawing on e-commerce platforms with built-in payments capabilities like Stripe will make taking payments simple, and boost the security and reliability of handling multiple transactions from different customers and sources. Eliminating friction from consumer payment experiences is crucial to securing a transaction, let alone whether a customer shops on your site again. In fact, in 2018 a Usabilla survey found that the top complaint for online shoppers was ‘taking too long’ to complete a purchase, and online checkout friction. Getting on top of checkout infrastructure problems and loading times, and making things more convenient for online shoppers (like allowing automatic language conversion or different payment forms), can significantly bolster your consumer base, and ensure customers actually complete their purchases. 

Payments technology that underpins transactions can do this for you. It can also enable different types of payment models, particularly useful as more and more businesses turn to subscription-based relationships with their customers. 

Delivering goods 

Delivering goods is an important part of the online customer experience, and retailers trading online need to get it right. Akin to the technology underpinning online business operations and payments, Australian startup Sendle is helping small businesses quickly and affordably deliver products as customer demand rises. Getting swift and strong deliveries into shape early on will truly prepare you for scaling, and scaling fast, as your customer base grows. Otherwise, you risk losing hours of time and becoming overwhelmed sending packages and processing returns at the post office. 



Marketing smart, not hard 

Smart marketing for your first online business shouldn’t require a team. Use the internet to your advantage, win new and loyal customers with clever use of social media and online tools. 

Firstly, your existing customers can support you online by circulating social media content and sharing your website with their own contacts. With consent, you can approach existing customers via email or text to introduce them to your online store, and let them know you’d like to stay connected. Start using social media to develop a community and a place to share products and updates. 

And, establishing important relationships with your new customers can lead to useful opportunities for feedback and learnings. Share online feedback forms with your customers to learn more about their shopping experiences on the website. Getting to know what customers liked and didn’t like about the website, how products were delivered, or how they interact with your brand will not only help you market yourself better, it’ll also let you improve user experiences and ensure customers come back time and time again.

Today, there is a suite of companies waiting to help retailers go online in the smartest, quickest and most effective way possible. It’s important brick-and-mortar retailers establishing online stores are ready to scale and communicate with customers, as much as they’re ready to make the right technology decisions and provide the best online services to their customers. With tech experts managing online payments, logistics and the underlying eCommerce architecture, entrepreneurs can spend more time on building their business and fully reap the rewards of trading in the internet economy. 

Mac Wang is Head of ANZ at Stripe.

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