Running online retail stores
If you are running online retail stores then you are operating in an era of hyper-competitive ecommerce in which competing retailers have the same or similar products, prices, websites, and enjoy the same flexible supply chains. The online space is saturated with online marketplaces one of the best examples of which is EBay – an online auction website.
Online retail stores are difficult to differentiate from each other. They all look the same on a computer screen unless great care is taken. In some cases this is due to deliberate and wrongful copying and/or adaptation of their competitors brand and products, in other cases it’s just a coincidence due to so many standard website generic template providers. The online marketplace is full of common place, unimaginative websites all copying each other. There isn’t much differentiating one retailer from another particularly if they are pure online-only retailers.
As far as today’s consumer are concerned, increased Internet savvy including – social, mobile and price comparison websites has resulted in a very highly competitive online marketplace. The modern shopper is more empowered than ever, bringing an added level of complexity to the competitiveness online retail store.
So whether you are an established online retail store or an online start-up retailer you will need to be aware of a whole bunch of never-ending issues in understanding your market but here are a few fundamentals.
1. Postage Issues – Once you have sold the item you need to get it to the customer. An e-tailer that can make a next day delivery has the edge on one that will take 5 days to deliver the same item. There are a number of ways you can do this including by Royal Mail Online Postage and Parcel2Go. You can send small, medium and large post through Royal Mail Online Postage Label. You create an account through PayPal. Parcel2Go allows for worldwide pallet delivery. Couriers come and pick up the item from your front door. Make sure your terms and conditions are specific about delivery times and try to stick to them. If you don’t deliver when you promise to consider offering the customer some of their money back.
2. Website Design – We kind of touched on this in the introduction to this article. Anyone who knows anything about retail is aware that there are a lot of copycats in the industry whether online or offline. It is very important that you try to come up with an original brand and design to differentiate yourselves from a saturated market of the conventional and boring, particularly if you are a pure online-only retailer. You then need to protect that branding very early on so that if competitors copy you to take your market share you can do something about it.
3. Good web design – It might seem obvious but you must have good web design and if affordable original web design. The pages that you create listing your items must attract the visitor so that they chose you over the plethora of lookalike websites. An unoriginal badly designed website and logo will drive your potential customers to the website of competitors. Make sure your images, logo and website design and development is done by professionals. Ensure that you have a website development agreement in place with your website developer and designer, and that copyright is assigned to you when the work is complete. You might need several different assignments if there is continual work being done on the website at the end of every stage of development. You cannot protect the works in your website if you don’t own them. Make sure your site is also built for mobile and consider building an app.
4. Going Global – The ability to sell your items worldwide is obviously a great benefit in the online retail industry as you do not have the very significant logistical or financial constraints of a physical store in multiple parts of the world. Certain things are trending in different parts of the world at different times. Your product could do better in the USA at different times of the year than it does in the UK. You therefore want to be able to monitor the sales of certain items in different parts of the world. EBay for example allows different region specific listings. There is Ebay.com; Ebay.co.uk; or Ebay.ie for example. However EBay is a giant multinational website with huge legal resources. Just because the Internet enables you to market worldwide does not mean you can just do so. There are different laws to comply with in these different parts of the world. To do this properly, you should have region specific domains like EBay does, and comply with the relevant laws in the different countries in which you are trading.
5. Currency – Remember also that there is different currency in different parts of the world. What revenue you will receive in US$ or Turkish lira or the Brazilian Real will not be the same value as in pounds. There are also tax implications for trading in different parts of the world. Just because EBay allows worldwide listings does not mean you can set up your own business through your website tomorrow and start trading worldwide with a shoelace budget investment.
There are an unlimited number of issues to address before setting online retail stores that are a potentially disastrous waiting to happen for unwary owners of online retail stores including -item returns and replacements which I have not discussed. But this article was just to give you a flavour of some of the secrets of successful online marketplaces like EBay. EBay did not become hugely successful because they avoided all the above issues but they made it despite all the matters listed above by overcoming them.
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