Home E-commerce E-Commerce in the Time of COVID: 5 Steps to Set Up Your Online Store

E-Commerce in the Time of COVID: 5 Steps to Set Up Your Online Store

by Dean Burgess

With retail stores closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have flocked to online shopping. Since the pandemic began, e-commerce has seen a 40 percent spike in new customers, 16 percent digital traffic growth, and up to a 200 percent spending increase in certain product categories compared to the same time last year.

Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer looking to go digital or an entrepreneur in search of opportunity, there’s never been a better time to invest in e-commerce. But where do you start? If you’re new to e-commerce, these are five steps you need to take to get your online store open.

5 Steps to Start an Online Store

1. Choose your e-commerce platform

For most small businesses, an off-the-shelf e-commerce platform is more practical than a custom content management system and website. Not only are off-the-shelf solutions far cheaper, but they can be operational quickly.

Businesses have two options for e-commerce platforms: a fully-equipped SaaS solution like Shopify or a plug-in like WooCommerce on a WordPress site. Your decision will likely be based on whether you already have a website or if you need an all-in-one package.

2. Decide on a product selection

Next, consider what you’ll sell. Not all product categories are performing well during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs will be the ones who hone in on what customers want most.

While essentials such as cleaning products and pantry goods saw a spike early in the pandemic, sales growth in these categories has slowed. The following categories, on the other hand, continue to perform well:

  • Sporting goods
  • Pet supplies
  • Home office equipment
  • Cookware
  • Gardening supplies
  • Haircare
  • Games and puzzles
  • Hobby supplies

3. Weigh in-house vs. 3PL fulfillment

Merchants also need to decide whether they’ll fulfill orders in-house or outsource to a third-party logistics provider. While shifting staff to order fulfillment could be a good way to keep employees on your payroll, putting inexperienced employees in a warehouse may cause problems.

Fulfillment decisions also depend on whether you already possess warehouse space and the technology to manage it. If not, a 3PL provider is likely to be a more efficient solution.

4. Organize your inventory

If fulfilling orders in-house, you need a simple way of tracking inventory. Manual inventory logging is labor-intensive and error-prone, but by tagging stock, you can scan inventory and automatically update data in your warehouse management system. That allows for real-time inventory tracking, on-demand counts, and end-to-end visibility throughout your supply chain.

5. Choose the right packaging

Without the ability to surprise and delight customers face-to-face, it’s more important than ever for businesses to pay attention to the small details. One of the simplest ways to do that is by investing in high-quality, on-brand packaging. By creating a memorable unboxing experience, you can keep online shoppers coming back for more.

Branded boxes, customized labels and tapes, and package inserts are just a few ways that small businesses can exceed expectations in packaging. Not only does great packaging encourage customer loyalty, but buyers are also more likely to share their experience when a product’s packaging is unique.

Starting an Online Store During COVID-19

While the shift to online shopping presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs, there are also risks involved in starting a business during a pandemic. While consumers are spending more in some categories, shopping in other categories has ground to a halt.

Anyone starting a business right now should account for COVID-19 in their business planning. That includes planning for several scenarios depending on how the pandemic progresses, catering product selection around what’s in demand, and understanding how to market to customers in a crisis. It’s equally important to carefully manage your revenue and cash flow to ensure your business can survive if things take a turn for the worse.

As businesses look for ways to pivot during the coronavirus pandemic, few opportunities are as promising as e-commerce. By quickly setting up an online store, you can reach shoppers exactly where they are: at home. Instead of letting the pandemic’s many challenges overwhelm you, take hold of this opportunity and start building your new e-commerce business.

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