Making the transition from a physical business to an online store is not always as easy as people believe. Websites won't build themselves, and getting attention amongst all of the other stores online is much more difficult than it is in the real world. Transitioning from the physical store you are used to will require an entirely different mindset, and need new skills in order to manage correctly.
You must always keep in mind that running your online store will be an entirely different experience than you are used to from your physical business. Regardless of what service you provide or what items you sell, the online version of your business will have a dramatically different tone.
Everything that your online shop offers will be moderated by a single person. This person, the webmaster, will be in charge of keeping your orders straight and seeing that they get filled. Whereas your physical business depends on multiple people working together to make sure everything gets done correctly, the online version of your shop will depend on that one person making sure that all goes smoothly.
This means that your webmaster will need to pull your physical shop employees on occasion in order to prepare the services or goods that have been purchased in your online shop. By the same token, your regular employees must also be free to handle the everyday business of the physical store. As your orders begin to come in, you will naturally develop a rhythm for making everything work out.
Building Your Online Store
One of the largest misconceptions about taking your business online is that your website is simple to set up. There are different options that you have available to you, all of which will produce different results.
You can go with the websites that proudly brag about needing a few clicks and your website will be up and running in a flash. These websites often come with very little customization options. Yes, you can change the colors and put in your own pictures. You can even drag things around so that they take on a professional appearance.
But, at the heart of the website, you will be limited by what the template is designed to do. This means that if the website template you chose is incapable of selling multiple items on a single page, or offering an intelligent search bar for your website, you will be forever limited by that design.
On the other hand, hiring someone who knows how to design exactly what you are wanting in your web page can become quite expensive. Having your site built exactly as you want it requires first finding a company that you can order the site build from, and then going through the trial and error process until everything is perfect. This will take some time to get set up according to plan.
Attracting Online Customers
Once the site is operational, you will need to attract customers to it. This is another big misconception in the business world. For your physical location, you tossed an open sign on the doors, ran a couple of ads on television, and people started coming in to buy what you were selling. With the Internet, attracting customers isn't so simple.
Your local customers will know that your store exists, and may be happy to find it online. However, getting your online store noticed amid the millions of others out there is no easy task. You will have to take out advertisements through some of the larger advertising dealers online, but even that will only get you so far.
In order to bring attention to your online store, you need to have writing in place about it. The giants of industry are immune to this strategy, simply because they are the everyday names that people search for out of instinct. But for your business, you will need to construct blog posts, guest blog posts, and online magazine articles.
These writings will need to be stuffed with keywords and plugged all around the Internet. This creation and plugging needs to be repeated on a monthly basis, in order to construct a wide source of information about your business, with links that draw customers in to your page. Between this strategy and advertisements, you will start to see customers in a matter of weeks.
Balancing Both Aspects
Once you have a successful Internet launch of your business, you need to always keep in mind that your business's success will depend on both portions receiving the proper amount of attention from you and your employees. You don't want to start putting more work into the online faction of your business, because the physical business will begin to suffer from it.
As your physical business goes overlooked, the regular customers that your entrepreneurial foundation was built on will begin to notice the neglect, and take their business elsewhere. Within a few months, your sales will drop off significantly and your online presence will crumble as well, once the physical version does.
However, you can't just perfect your website, buy a few ads, seed a few links around the Internet, and forget about the site. Websites need to be constantly looked after and updated on a regular basis. The blog alone will tell people that you take the time to care about your site and not just leave it to run on its own.
A website that is ignored will become outdated quickly. You won't notice if links become bad, or if code breaks down somewhere along the way unless you are keeping an eye on the site. Having a website that is frustrating to order from or that requires customers to repeatedly click refresh will only serve to drive the physical business that you have away from your doors. Once you step into the online world, the two parts of the business are forever linked, and will depend upon each other for their continued existence.