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Get Paid Online | The Ultimate Guide to Online Stores

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Miranda Russell | January 22, 2021

“Adding an online store to your sales channels is now more important than ever. An online store gives you an easy way to reach more customers”
8 min read

Ecommerce tools have surged in popularity over the past nine months as businesses adjust to a changing economy and new consumer demands. Adding omnichannel retail and payment solutions makes your business more adaptable and resilient. In this series, we'll share the payment tools you need to get paid online.

At the beginning of 2020, Statista predicted that global ecommerce sales would reach $4.2 trillion and makeup 16% of total retail sales by the end of 2020.

What they couldn't have predicted was the COVID-19 global pandemic that kept people confined in their homes and in front of their computers for most of the year.

As consumers looked to limit contact with both people and places, they turned to online shopping in droves. Some industry experts are citing that ecommerce has moved forward by ten years in just a few short months. It's a safe bet that wherever we end up at the end of the year for retail sales, the 16% that was originally predicted by Statista could easily be double that amount or more.

Adding an online store to your existing sales channels is now more important than ever. Setting up an online store gives you an easy way to reach more customers and secure more sales. It also makes your business more resilient by providing alternate ways for you to get paid if you experience a disruption to your traditional in-person payment experience.

Here is why we believe online stores are crucial to helping small businesses succeed, the features you should look for when comparing your options, and how to get started.

Why an Online Store is Important

Easy, low-cost way to reach more customers:

The last thing you need when your business is already trying to weather challenging operating conditions, such as those caused by COVID-19, is an expensive and time-consuming solution. Luckily, online stores are easy to set up, and many payment processors will include access to a free online store with your existing account. If this is the case, getting started can be as easy as clicking the "Feature Online" button in your product listing. Having an online store included as part of your merchant account makes it easy to keep all your transaction data in one place, set up your store faster, and reach more customers, all without costing your business extra time and money.

Offers contactless payments and ordering:

Consumers have been clear about their new expectations. They want the ability to shop at businesses that are serious about social distancing and that provide contactless options for payments. Retail stores have traditionally been high traffic areas with a lot of people moving through the business and touching items throughout the day. Having alternate options for customers who want to avoid coming in contact with people and surfaces like a terminal helps you protect your sales while meeting customer needs. An online store makes it easy for customers to order and receive products without having to leave their homes. Even if you're not offering delivery quite yet, customers are embracing placing online orders that allow for contactless pickup at the business location.

Convenient 24/7 shopping for customers:

One of the best parts of having an online store is that it keeps working even when you're not. Customers can submit orders at any time of day, so you can easily find yourself waking up with an inbox full of orders "“ something that can't happen with traditional brick and mortar stores. Adding detailed pickup, shipping, or delivery instructions to your checkout page helps set customer expectations upfront and gives you the time you need to get their orders ready once received.

Diversifies your income streams:

The word pivot might be one of the official slogans of 2020. Small business owners everywhere have demonstrated their creativity, resilience, and ability to adapt time and time again as they adjust to constantly changing regulations, health guidelines, new bylaws, and customer demands. Adding digital tools to your business toolbox helps businesses become more resilient by removing the reliance on just in-person payments as an income stream. Having an online store created and ready to go makes it easy to redirect customers if you do have to pause your in-person operations temporarily.

It's easier for customers to support your business:

One of the advantages that small businesses have over their larger counterparts is the personal connection and relationship that they build with their customers. Your customers truly believe in your business and want to help support you, particularly when they know it has been a tough year. Sharing your business journey and being transparent with your customers means a lot more than when you're a big box store. Most customers will be happy to support you and order through your online store, especially when you let them know why you set it up and how much their orders mean to you.

What About Service-Based Businesses?

Don't overlook the importance of having an online store if you're a service-based business, there are still plenty of benefits that can apply to your business. Here are a few different ways your service-based business might utilize an online store:

  • Offer gift cards for purchase
  • Highlight merchandise or products you do sell, for example, a spa might offer lotions or aromatherapy items for purchase
  • Let customers register for memberships or subscription package to your services
  • Give customers the option to book and pay for services before they visit your business

Features to Consider

Ultimately, what works for you will depend on your business, the products or services you sell, and how you want to interact with your customers. If this is your first time looking at the available online store options, you might find the different choices overwhelming, but as long as the online store is easy for you to use and helps you accept payments, you're in good shape.

Here are the features that we think are great to look for in an online store:

Fully-hosted so you don't have to worry about paying for web domain hosting or a server and can start selling faster.

  • Integrated payments and shopping carts to avoid the need for third-party integrations and trying to get multiple pieces of software to work together.
  • Customization options allow you to design a store that looks and feels like your business so you can maintain a consistent brand whether customers are shopping with you in-person or online.
  • Shipping integrations that make it easy to create and track orders as they are submitted. If you want to ship products to customers, integrations can make it a lot easier to manage these orders.
  • Tax calculations to ensure you charge customers accurately every time they place an order with your store.
  • Discount codes and promotions to reward your top customers and incentivize more sales.
  • Ability to add custom content and messaging to your online store, including an about us page, blog posts, and custom thank you pages. Taking the time to add extra content and details to your website helps your existing customers stay connected to your brand and lets new customers get to know you better when they first discover your online store.

These features will help you get started in offering an online shopping experience for your customers. As you adjust to online sales, you can continue to add more features and integrations to reach more customers and improve their shopping and checkout experience.

How to Get Started

Now that you have a solid understanding of how online stores can help your business, why an online store is beneficial, and some of the core features you should look for when selecting your online store provider, you're ready to get started.

Today's technology is easier than ever to set up and launch, so you don't need to worry about hiring a developer or bringing on extra help when you're just getting started. Here are some things to keep in mind when you're first setting up your online store.

It's okay to start small:

Don't feel like you have to add all of your products or service offerings online right away. It's okay if your online store is not a replica of your in-person store. You can always add new products over time as you adjust to selling online. You can also choose to use your online store specifically for seasonal or temporary promotions, for example, a holiday collection, special gift packs, or pre-orders for hard to get products.

Learn as you go:

The best way to learn how to sell products online is to get started. Once you launch your online store and start getting offers, you will see what products customers are most interested in and what sells the best. From here, you can adjust your product descriptions, images, and how you promote your store to increase your sales.

Take great photos:

Having beautiful images that accurately represent your products is a great way to encourage sales and help customers feel confident in their purchases. Even if you're not a professional photographer, you can add a mix of customer photos, supplier images, or your photos to highlight your products. Try and include multiple images for each product to give customers a good sense of each item.

Organize your products:

Sorting products into categories, collections, and brands can make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for and for you to highlight specific items for sales or promotions. Using the available organizational tools in your online store helps keep your store easy to navigate.

Add your business details:

Having clear merchant policies on your shipping, return, and warranty policies is an important part of operating your online store. Once you have these policies covered, we also recommend including a brief About Us page so customers can begin to build a relationship with your brand. Adding blog content and articles is another way to regularly connect with your customers and drive traffic to your online store.

Let people know:

Once you have set up your online store, it's time to let people know about it. Include a link to your store in your social media profiles and regularly encourage customers to visit your online store to check out new products in your social posts. Ensuring that you mention your online store in all your advertising materials lets more customers know they can connect with you online and in-person.

Ready to Create Your Online Store?

Every Helcim account includes access to a fully hosted online store that you can set up in minutes so you can reach customers anywhere. Online orders automatically sync with your account, so all your payment information is available in one place, and you can get paid faster. Learn more about the Helcim Online Store.

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