Forrester predicts US online retail sales to reach $414 billion in sales by 2018.
That’s billion . . . with a B.
No wonder so many brick-and-mortar retailers are scrambling to get an online store up and running. There’s a ton of opportunity in the online space, and with that new opportunity comes a whole new set of challenges.
Below are 3 common challenges retailers face when launching an online store and how you can overcome them.
1) Not Knowing Where To Start
On top of all the day-to-day responsibilities for retailers, launching an online store can be a huge undertaking. When there’s so much to do and so many decisions to make, it can be hard to even know where to start.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to do it alone.
Not having the manpower to code and host your own website isn’t a deal-breaker. You don’t even need to know every little detail of creating and maintaining an online store to get started.
There are plenty of vendors like Bigcommerce, Shopify, Goodsie, Jumpseller, and Volusion that can help you with everything from designing your store to setting up shopping carts to uploading product.
These types of vendors take care of all the little things and make the idea of launching an online store a lot less daunting.
2) Developing A Customer Relationship Model
Online retail is a whole different ballgame than selling in-store, and it takes a solid customer relationship model (CRM) to be able to collect, analyze, and apply the necessary data to improve your interaction with customers and grow more online sales.
It’s all about the data in the online space.
With a little training, you can set up a good CRM on your own with free analytics software like Google Analytics. You can evaluate your online store’s performance by setting goals, tracking conversions, and analyzing user experience.
You can also get help from CRM systems like Salesforce.com, SAP, and Oracle that will collect, control, protect, maintain, organize, and analyze online consumer data for you.
Whichever way you decide to go, it’s important to have a CRM in place so you can make improvements to your online store after its initial launch.
3) Developing Efficient Order Fulfillment Methods
This is one of the biggest hurdles brick-and-mortar retailers face when trying to launch an online store. The logistics of fulfilling orders can be a nightmare if you don’t partner with the right vendors.
There’s a heck of a lot to consider when developing an order fulfillment strategy. Things like . . .
• How/where do I store my inventory?
• How do I prepare my inventory for shipment?
• How do I manage inventory without being able to forecast online sales?
• What do I do about returns?
The list goes on.
If you don’t have the infrastructure built out to be able to handle order fulfillment, I suggest working with someone who does.
Outsourcing fulfillment services to a third party logistics (3PL) provider has a number of benefits. 3PLs save you time, money, and plenty of migraines. You have access to their extensive knowledge, established infrastructure, and even the newest order fulfillment technology.
You also have the advantage of avoiding the rookie mistakes that many businesses make when trying to launch their first online store. You’re sure to face plenty of other challenges as you build and launch your first online store, but the effort will be with it. Grabbing just 1% of that $414 billion pie makes it worth it.