More and more companies are considering entering the online retail market and see new opportunities and possibilities in digitization. For many, however, the step into the digital world is associated with major hurdles. On the one hand, there is a lack of expertise, and on the other hand, there is a lack of suitable conditions and resources.
In order to keep up with the growing digital competition, businesses usually need external partners to provide advice on planning an online store.
They help with the professional implementation of an eCommerce strategy, which is associated with many stumbling blocks, but also with growth opportunities. The way in which the company operates remains basically the same, it is just that digitization needs to be advanced at a number of adjusting screws.
And that's where it hits question marks for many businesses. Restaurants and cafés in particular find themselves lost in the digital confusion.
To give you an overview of how to get started in the online world, we would like to provide you with the first important planning steps in this guide. In doing so, we will address the internal and external framework conditions, such as the implementation of initial automation processes (order processing) and the connection of various online tools for smooth online sales.
Online shopping is among the fastest growing segments we perceive as end consumers. With just a few clicks, we can order our clothing, our cell phone and our coffee online. There are few limits to the product portfolio that online retailers can offer. It doesn't matter when we place our orders, because online stores are open 24/7. Shipping alone can take a few days, but we've gotten used to that, too.
The online market is growing fast and taking on a bigger and bigger role in our lives and jobs. We almost can't do without it anymore. The advantages are clear per se: practical, easily accessible and usually cheaper than offline stores. No long queues, but simply ordered to your home with a click.
As a retailer, we have also recently followed the online trend and have been able to our coffee shop already achieve initial successes.
Customers from all over Germany and the EU enjoy our specialty coffee. A reach that we on site at the local cafe could not reach is now available 365 days a year.
Like almost all other smaller stores, we also started with social media. The first step into the online world. Over time, we have linked the channels with our online store and can now pick up customers at several platforms and serve them with fresh coffee beans.
It is therefore only a matter of time before the population goes completely digital (C*rona greets). As a competitive retailer, an online store is therefore a suitable solution.
CTA - Online Shop Checklist
You are welcome to download and print out the checklist immediately. Adapted to the food industry and easily explained.
Goals for an online store
Goals are important to give direction to efforts. Those who act aimlessly or proceed with poorly defined goals may never reach their destination.
So start the online project with so-called SMART goals. They are more tangible, measurable and motivating. SMART is an acronym and stands for the following essential aspects that every goal formulation must have:
So what could be goals for an online store? The generic answer is more turnover!
Better, however: A 20% increase in sales through a social media campaign with food bloggers sharing a story for us for 4 weeks.
Well, there are better target formulations that are more action-oriented. More sales as a goal is not completely wrong. It's just that this goal misses the aspects I just mentioned. The optimal starting point would be how to specifically reach the goal. In the context of an online store, this would be, for example:
- one would like to serve customers even after local opening hours
- one would like to serve customers worldwide
- the distribution should run automatically and not classically by phone or manually by e-mail / mail
- Be able to serve and handle 100 customers at the same time
- Growth Promotion
- Service improvement / contact options for customers
So generating more sales alone is not enough. Rather, the turnover should be combined with more sales, since the online store basically represents a larger reach for the potential buyers.
Once the right target group has been defined and the product development efforts have been geared to it, there is nothing to stop healthy growth - provided the marketing is right. Because customers don't just buy the product, they also attach importance to the brand promise and the people behind.
The product portfolio
Before a product enters the market, the distributor must follow a variety of legal regulations. With these laws, the state can ensure that no dangerous products - especially for end consumers - enter the circulation or, better, into the false inexperienced Hands come.
Each product has its own conditions and legal requirements. In the case of coffee, this starts with the food laws. Furthermore, the general Labeling obligations on the product packaging added. For example, the list of ingredients (interesting for allergy sufferers) and the instructions for use.
The online store should therefore meet the respective product requirements. The simpler the product, the faster the entry into (online) commerce and the fewer extras the online store must be able to offer. If, however, individualized products, products in different packages or quickly perishable products make it into the portfolio, the online store must be able to cope with these special circumstances. More about this in the next part.
So when developing the product portfolio, we recommend asking the following questions:
- What are the needs of our customers?
- How feasible is the distribution of the product? (ease of shipping, communication and service effort)
- Is it a simple product? Variable product? Or individual?
- What are the benefits of the product? (for example Coffee as a stimulant)
- What do the trends and sales data say?
- What price category(ies) does the portfolio have and what are the strategies for them?
In some cases, it happens that the products that were regularly sold offline do not find a place online, as they surprisingly perform weakly.
For the sake of completeness, we would like to remind you that in this planning phase it is easy to become infatuated with your own product. However, the focus should remain on the customer.
Pretty much every retailer has its certain requirements with the product portfolio. When setting up a store, it is therefore important to ensure that the planning meets the requirements profile. This is particularly about the technical possibilities, but also about the eCommerce relevant work processes.
This also includes offline action steps, such as order processing and warehouse logistics. In general, it can be said that eCommerce connects many departments with each other and promotes active cooperation among colleagues in the process.
An interface therefore belongs to the online store Must-haves.
Every company has different views and preferences. The technical and visual design of the online store can therefore be strongly influenced by them. The result is not always optimal.
The decision makers are mostly blinded by their personal preferences and do not think about the optimal online store setup. Too many features and no focus can make the store and the colleagues who work with it too busy.
Based on this, we recommend establishing a priority list according to the following scheme:
- must haves (features that the online store absolutely needs)
- should haves (features where work could be made easier)
- could haves (features that don't have to be, but would be nice)
- won't haves (features that do not fit the concept or should generally be omitted)
Our must haves are, for example, the connection to the payment service provider Paypal and the possibility of a coffee subscription model.
Must Haves for the Shop
If we, as representatives of the food industry (FMCG - (fast moving consumer goods)), were to build a store again, it would include the following must-have features as standard:
- Connection to common payment methods like Paypal, (Sofort) bank transfer, credit card
- Shipping service providers such as DHL or UPS, as well as shipment tracking
- Legal and technical conformities for the distance selling business
- Security and protection of data
- Individual store design options incl modern layouts
- Interface connections for clear management (for example, logistics, accounting)
- First simple automation processes, such as automatic shipping label and invoice creation
Anyone who starts an online store in an existing company has to change a lot of things internally in the company in addition to the technical challenges. After all, the topic of digitization and modernization is not always met with open arms and ears in the workplace. Many see their work role disturbed and fear that the online store could steal their jobs.
Furthermore, many refuse to acquire new digital skills and do not give the new working style a chance. "We've always done it this way" - they say. This behavior is mostly reserved for the older generation. The younger digital natives, on the other hand, expect nothing but digital tools at work. Routine work should be automated where possible.
At the beginning, it is not easy to get used to the new working methods and the technical conditions. A lot of things are confusing and not completely obvious at first glance.
eCommerce and also customer needs are fast moving. Fast and agile development, analysis and implementation is therefore of vital importance. Without fast action, you will quickly be overtaken by the competition in the online world.
Online Shop Budget
Many small businesses and solo self-employed people start with simple store systems like Wix or Jimdo. These store systems cover some of the points just mentioned. However, the individuality and professionalism that must be given for solid growth are missing from these systems. They are more price friendly and designed for the simplest store needs.
Some are private on ebay and have already gained experience there. Still others offer handmade products on platforms like Etsy. Here, too, the running costs are still manageable.
With both options, a store can be completed with one click, so to speak. From a purely technical point of view, this would also be ready immediately. From a design point of view, only a few changes need to be made.
Amazon, eBay & Co?
The biggest challenge for a marketplace-independent store is the potential reach. Who are you? And under which search terms can you be found? Customers generally feel safer on marketplaces like Amazon because they know that customer support is a top priority here. In addition, product searches are already more popular on Amazon. Google used to be the monopoly.
Opening your own store without the help of Amazon, Ebay and Co. therefore involves an increased marketing budget, unless the brand is already established and has its fans.
With a monthly fee under 50€ or a commission-based cost basis, you can reach millions of customers with the help of Amazon and Ebay. The usability is simple, fast and secure. Both are safe store partners and pave the way for solid growth.
The costs of IT specialists and web designers are partially eliminated with the marketplace selection. Running costs remain at a minimum here and can be invested in marketing.
Please note that the marketplaces keep a certain percentage (commission) for themselves per transaction.
Native store solutions
For companies with larger budgets or existing expertise, we also recommend implementing their own store. The advantages? - You have a larger margin, more control and design options.
One of the fastest growing store software providers is Shopify. With this platform you also have low maintenance costs, endless connections to third party software providers and a modern user interface. Monthly costs associated with transaction costs are unfortunately included, but in return you get a stable and long-term solution.
Within 1 week, with hard work - depending on the number of products - the store can already stand and run.
If you want less headaches and want to start directly, you are at Shopify future-proof.