How ecommerce can help businesses thrive in 2020 and beyond
2020 has been a struggle for business owners across all industries. More than 80,000 businesses permanently closed between March and July according to Yelp, so many consumers have less discretionary income. Brick-and-mortar stores hanging on across the country are struggling to find ways to comply with local health requirements while still being accessible to their communities.
But this doesn’t mean your business is doomed. Many ecommerce businesses are moving their products, retaining employees, and even adding new hires. If you’re interested in expanding your ecommerce business, this article is a must-read.
Start an ecommerce business in today’s economy
Whether you’re new to ecommerce or an experienced online seller, you could potentially shift your entire business online. So, what do you need to consider as you grow your ecommerce business in the time of COVID-19?
Find the right website platform
If you’re building a new website, the first thing you need to do is choose the platform that best suits your needs. The platform will help you create a website and run your ecommerce business.
Popular ecommerce platforms offer automation tools to help you process orders, create promotions, schedule newsletters, and track your site performance. You should also pick a platform that appeals to your business's aesthetic and is easy for your customers to use.
Add products to your website
One of the most important things to consider as you set up your website is product display. High-quality images of your products from different angles help your customers clearly see what they intend to buy.
Compelling copy should accompany the images — text that accurately describes each item and why consumers need it. Since you aren't able to answer your customers' questions in person, you’ll be reliant on the written word.
If you decide to DIY your website, be sure to select a platform that will walk you through the processes of uploading products, creating content, and tracking sales. If you decide to have a professional build your website, be clear about your needs. No matter who creates it, test it thoroughly before releasing it to the public.
Ecommerce is dependent on shipping, so you need to have a clear understanding of shipping processes. To streamline shipping:
Identify and monitor the weight of your products: The heavier the product, the more expensive it will be to ship.
Use flat rates and regional shipping: Flat rates and regional shipping are the least expensive shipping options.
Utilize shipping software: Print your own postage and shipping labels to save time and money.
Choose packaging that represents your brand: Use packaging that’s unique to your business to create brand recognition.
Balance shipping costs: Monitor shipping costs over time to develop a pricing strategy that accounts for returns, large or heavy items, and miscalculations.
Get sales tax right
Most states now require online sellers to register then collect and remit sales tax, even if they don’t have a physical presence in the state. But most states also provide an exception for small sellers. If you’re new to ecommerce, you’ll need to track your sales into each state to determine if and when you develop a collection obligation. This sales tax risk assessment tool can help.
Your ecommerce store needs to be able to assign the proper tax rate to each taxable transaction. To do that, it needs to know which transactions are taxable in which states, and which rate should be charged. If you make exempt sales, you’ll need to collect a valid exemption or resale certificate or you could be held liable for the uncollected tax.
Each month (or quarter or year, depending on your filing frequency), you’ll need to remit the collected tax and file returns. The most effective way to calculate and remit sales tax, manage exempt sales, and file returns is to use sales tax compliance software like Avalara.
Set up payment methods
Online sellers can choose from a variety of secure payment options, including:
- Square: Usually used with in-person transactions, Square can be updated to work for websites. There’s no monthly subscription fee, but it takes 2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction.
Stripe: With one of the most versatile payment options on the market, Stripe is a great choice for ecommerce businesses. It charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction and an additional 1% charge for international sales.
PayPal: One of the most popular payment methods, PayPal has a reputation that speaks for itself. It charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, plus significant international fees of 4.4% per transaction.
Apple Pay: Ideal for customers using the iOS digital wallet, Apple Pay doesn’t charge any additional fees for ecommerce platforms.
Google Pay: Another great digital wallet option, Google Pay easily integrates with other payment methods. It doesn’t charge transaction fees and is user friendly for consumers with Google Pay accounts.
Market your ecommerce business
Brick-and-mortar businesses transitioning to ecommerce can hit the ground running with help from current customers. Encourage them to visit your website, maybe by offering a discount for their first purchase.
There are many ways to market your business online. If you already have social media accounts for your business, use them to share your new website. If you already have regular newsletters, update them to advertise your new business ventures. Take advantage of the fact that ecommerce stores are not bound by geography and advertise to potential customers across the U.S. and abroad.
Starting a new ecommerce business doesn't have to be daunting. These 10 tips can help you fine-tune your vision so you can get back to business.
Explore different ecommerce business models.
Check out competitors.
Research your ecommerce niche.
Identify your target market.
Expand or refine your product offering.
Register your business and brand name.
Finalize your ecommerce business plan.
Automate sales tax compliance.
Create your online store, photograph products, upload listings, and write compelling web copy.
Invite customers to your website and entice them to buy.
Different types of ecommerce businesses will need different objectives, but this outline will put you on the path toward a thriving online business.
While staying in business during a pandemic isn’t easy, it isn’t impossible with the right approach. You’ve created a brand, chosen your products, and come up with a business plan. Now, it’s time to focus on your website.
Ecommerce businesses are prospering right now because they offer consumers a safe shopping experience. The more comfort and reassurance you can give customers when they visit your website, the more likely they are to shop with you again.
For more information about sales tax compliance and ensure your business is covered, check out Avalara’s tax compliance solutions.
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