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Once a brick-and-mortar business is generating enough income to stay afloat, the next step is usually e-commerce. The idea of unleashing your product upon the world is exciting, but it can also be intimidating—especially if you don’t have much experience doing business online. With help from a few local entrepreneurs who have built successful online storefronts, here are some things to remember when making your business virtual.
Pick a Platform
After making the decision to implement an online shopping cart into your business plan, it’s time to find a reliable e-commerce platform.
When Romina Rasmussen, chef and owner of Les Madeleines, wanted to ship her delicious (but perishable) pastries to other states, she started with FedEx. “FedEx was actually super helpful. They steered me in the direction of Nexternal,” she says.
Nexternal specializes in streamlining a business’s online shopping cart so orders can be placed and processed via FedEx or the Amazon Marketplace. Shopify is another popular platform among small businesses, such as Sheridan Mordue’s local boutique Hip & Humble. “Shopify lets you create an online shopping cart for a small price. We’ve been with them for years,” Mordue says.
Ask For Help When You Need It
While it’s important to have a clear vision of what your online presence will look like, the creation and maintenance of a virtual shopping cart is something best left to the professionals.
“Don’t waste your time trying to figure it out yourself—just pay someone to do it,” says Mordue. “If you’re paying someone to do it, you can focus on promotions, marketing and merchandising.”
Luckily, Utah is home to a wide range of web development firms that can help out in this area. “I hired Third Sun Productions, and they were able to integrate my Shopify site with my website,” Mordue says.
Treat it Like another Storefront
A common misconception is that once an online shopping cart has been set up, sales will come rolling in and the site will take care of itself. The truth is that creating an online storefront can be just as daunting as creating one out of brick and mortar.
“Online business is totally different,” Mordue says. “You’re not just expanding your store, you’re creating a whole new store. You double your workload because you’ve created a different business.”
Remember that establishing an online presence opens your business up to the entire world. While it typically takes a lot of hard work to properly market your product online, it’s important to be prepared for a sudden spike in demand. When Les Madeleine’s was featured on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, the store experienced a huge increase in both online and in-store sales. “I worked all weekend and we had about 200 orders waiting for us on Monday. Be prepared. Make sure you have the resources just in case it takes off,” Rasmussen says.
Put the Process to the Test
Customer service is just as important online as it is in person—but it tends to manifest itself differently when the internet is involved. After selecting your e-commerce platform of choice, it’s important to make sure the system works from start to finish. “Test it out by shipping something to yourself,” Rasmussen says, “Make sure it’s arriving the way you want it to.”
It’s also important to have a contingency plan for those occasions when your merchandise arrives damaged or doesn’t arrive at all. “It’s worth protecting your reputation to take care of those problems yourself—consider it an investment,” Rasmussen says.
Extend Your Online Presence
Now that things are running smoothly with your online storefront, the work isn’t over. Online businesses should take full advantage of social media to get the word out.
“My pitfall with our first website would have been ignoring it for so long and not really imparting the soul of my business to the world. We have a really fun and unique store, and a lot of people may have missed that experience,” Mordue says.