Creation of an online store. Part 1
Today, online stores are very popular, they are considered both as a platform for increasing sales and for creating a business from scratch. At the same time, it’s almost impossible to find really useful information about what an online store is, why it is needed, what it consists of, how to organize its work and many other important nuances.
Here is a paradox: on the one hand, a huge number of articles have been written about online stores, and on the other, there is very, very little really useful information in them. I'm not talking about technical texts designed for professionals, here, just, there is a lot of information. And the questions asked by future owners of online stores, mainly remain unanswered.
By the nature of my business, I also often come across online stores. A lot of questions are asked to me by clients, managers of small and medium businesses, who are trying to understand whether they should open an online store, and if so, how best to do it. Also, acquaintances quite often turn to me for tips on how to open an online store, what is needed for this, etc.
In this article, I decided to explain in the simplest and most understandable language what an online store is, why it is needed and even why it may not be needed, as well as how to create it and how to organize work.
The article is intended for a wide range of readers, there will not be complex terms and any technical nuances interesting to experienced specialists. Here I will talk about the basic concepts related to the operation of the online store, and also consider the basic principles of its operation. This text will be interesting to those who are thinking about creating an online store or are simply trying to understand what it is and how it works.
Online store: do you need it?
When people ask me what needs to be done to open a store, I try to first find out if these people really need an online store?
The fact is that today an online store is a fashionable concept, the same as, for example, a startup. Everyone heard that it is very necessary and very beneficial, but what it is, to whom and why it is needed, most do not even think about it.
As a result, it often turns out that this person actually doesn’t need an online store; in his case, an ordinary business card site that has been functioning for a long time will do just fine.
Even worse, if the decision to open an online store is made from scratch, simply as an investment: without a commodity base, without market knowledge, without the ability to sell. In this case, a similar project from the first day is doomed to failure.
I’ll try to systematize the most common situations in which the creation of an online store is a waste of money and time.
You do not need to open an online store if:
1. You are a good consumer of goods, but not a seller.
I have observed such situations many times. For example, parents with many children decide to open a children's clothing store simply on the grounds that they understand clothes well for children. Yes, they know where to buy good clothes for their children. They communicate with the same parents, and see that the demand in this area is quite high. But all this is not enough to achieve a result in sales. It is necessary, at least, to know this market from the point of view of the seller, to understand pricing, to know your competitors, to have a reliable and profitable channel for the supply of goods.
The stories when people tried to start trading on the Internet from scratch without any experience and knowledge, I know quite a lot. And they usually end sadly. Therefore, in such cases, I always dissuade from unnecessary costs. I believe that free funds can be spent more profitably.
There are several exceptions to this rule:
- You are a specialist in a certain field, you know how to trade, and sell a product that you are good at. For example, quite good examples of “online stores from scratch” among electronics sellers. They know where to buy quality goods, often as regular customers they have good discounts from sellers, more or less they know the market of their region.
- You know the goods well, have your own supply channel, and at the same time, you have found a niche that is still unfilled or minimally filled. For example, I have a friend who has been keen on cheerleading for years. He collected recordings from performances of support groups, watched programs, etc. And then he decided to start selling goods for athletes. He had a good supply chain from the USA, he was very well versed in the product. As a result, his business is booming.
And therefore: if you are not just a consumer, but a specialist, if you know the goods at a professional level, you have an entrepreneurial spirit, open yourself boldly!
2. No need to open an online store just as an investment of available funds.
E-commerce is just one type of regular trade. Yes, Internet sales have their own specifics, some peculiarities. But the online store as such has not been a competitive advantage for a long time.
The competitive advantages may include:
- Best price
- Unique item
- Convenient delivery
- Any other unique selling proposition
And the online store itself is nothing more than a trading platform. Therefore, it is very important to understand in advance that you will be selling, why this product will be bought from you, and not from any of your competitors, how you will attract and retain your customers, etc.
Therefore, I believe that just as an investment in an online store is pointless. You need to invest where there will be real profit.
And, since we are talking about investments, I want to clarify one point. Hereinafter, I do not plan to raise the topic of startups at all. Just because I worked a little. And therefore, I am not going to write about them.
On the other hand, an online store would be a good solution if:
- You have your own offline trading - stores, wholesale, etc. In this case, the online store will be another sales channel for you. Merchants often themselves compare the creation of an online store with the opening of a branch, which is simply located on the Internet. Everything is quite simple here: there is a product, there is a delivery or the ability to organize it. The online store with the right approach will be successful.
- You know a product that you are going to work with at a specialist level, you know how to trade, have a channel for the supply of this product, have developed a unique selling proposition, and have the opportunity to arrange delivery. In this case, the online store will be a convenient trading platform for you. The success of the business will depend only on you, in the same way as in the case of opening any trading company from scratch.
Creating a store: where to start?
So, you have weighed the pros and cons, and came to the conclusion that the online store is what you need. What to do next?
Here I will talk about creating an online store from scratch, it is this option that is most often found in my work with small and medium-sized businesses. In addition, this approach will allow you to consider all the necessary concepts, all stages and actions. It is possible that you already have some experience, and some steps for you are a passed stage. In this case, just skip what is no longer relevant to you.
From the point of view of the organization of work, any online store can be divided into two parts:
- Front office. This is the site of the online store, mail and SMS mailing, calls to customers. In general, this is all that your customer is faced with.
- Back office . This is the work of the delivery service, pricing, supply, integration of various systems. In general, this is the part of the work that remains “behind the scenes” for the buyer, but is also very important for smooth and reliable operation.
You can create a beautiful website for an online store, but this will not be enough for work. Any online store is a site plus people, goods, and much more.
Here I want to make another remark. I am a business consultant, not a programmer. In addition, from the very beginning I promised to write in simple language for a wide range of readers. Therefore, so many technical nuances in my article will not be considered. Specialists will find the necessary information without my help. In my article, it will be the basic concepts, the main stages, the organization of work. And on issues of technical nuances, you can always get advice from programmers.
First steps and fundamental decisions
So, before you start creating an online store, you need to:
- Choose the product that you will sell over the Internet. This is necessary even if you have been successfully trading offline for a long time. Is it worth it to upload the entire range to the online store? Will this or that product be sold on the Internet? These questions are best answered in advance.
- Decide on pricing. Many even experienced businessmen do not know anything about pricing on the Internet. Therefore, this issue is also worth exploring.
On pricing, I can give advice based on practical experience. If you don’t know what price to indicate for a particular product, it makes sense for the first time to set exactly the same prices as in your regular store. The main thing is to present the goods to the buyer, people should see that this position is in your store. And then, when the site is already working, the price can always be adjusted. Moreover, statistics on customer behavior in your online store will help you with this. You will be able to see what the conversion is for a particular product (conversion is an indicator that tells you how many visitors to your site or even a particular page have become buyers, and how many have left without a purchase). And already with real numbers in hand, it will be possible to revise the price, if necessary.
In addition, it is very important to collect quality content for your store. Content is:
- The products themselves: descriptions, photos, specifications.
- Information about you: how you position yourself on the Internet, what advantages you have.
- Payment and shipping information.
- Articles, useful tips and other information that will help attract visitors.
It is very convenient if you already have most of this information, for example, in the 1C program in product cards. This is much more convenient than creating from scratch the entire catalog of products based on paper prices and other similar sources of information. But even in this case, be sure to pay attention to the quality of the information. On the Internet, you cannot show the buyer real goods, nor will he have a persistent sales assistant, who will explain why this position is good and why it is better than others. The buyer will receive all the information on the page where there should be high-quality photos and an understandable maximum description.
How to trade goods that are not in stock?
This question is often asked by businessmen who open an online store. On the one hand, I want to show the whole possible range, on the other - it is not very clear what to do if an order for a product that is not currently in stock arrives.
- Do not show the buyer goods that are not on the balance. I do not recommend this solution, since to “hide” the goods is to lose a potential buyer.
- Show goods that are not on balances marked "out of stock".
I believe that it is better to receive a request for a product that is not currently available than to lose a buyer in principle. If you (your employees) know your assortment well, you can always offer an alternative, often even at the best price. In some cases, buyers agree to wait for delivery of the desired item. In any case, losing a potential customer is undesirable.
Also in this case, the question of payment arises, since it is necessary to prevent the buyer from paying for the missing product item. And there are also different solutions here:
- Refuse fully automatic payment. Those. Buyers will be able to pay for goods upon receipt (by courier or cash on delivery) or by bank transfer, but after the final approval of the order with the manager.
- Make a programmatic check of balances before payment. Those. after the formation of the order, but before opening the payment service for the buyer, a check should be made on the availability of the necessary goods on the balances. If they are, the form of payment opens, if something is not there, information appears with an apology and an explanation that the product is no longer in stock, and suggesting some solutions to the problem.
Both of these options are quite convenient, here the choice depends mainly on the technical and organizational nuances of the implementation of the online store. The main thing is to get the buyer’s contacts and his needs, as well as try to treat his requests as correctly as possible. It is clear that some buyers may be offended in this case, but practice shows that there are only a few of them, and the opportunity to offer an alternative and still get a sale is worth a lot.
Create a front office
So, we have sorted out the basic fundamental issues a bit, we are moving on to creating a front office.
What the front office consists of:
I already wrote about pricing above, and therefore I will not repeat myself. Also, the issues of choosing the range and content I opened a little earlier. And here I just want to remind you that:
- The quality of the content on the product page determines whether a potential buyer will be interested in this product.
- The level of trust of a potential buyer to the store as a whole depends on the quality of the content on the information pages.
But the feedback is worth talking in more detail. Today, this concept includes without fail:
- Telephone. It is best if you use a separate number or a separate extension number for the online store. At the same time, it is worthwhile to allocate an individual to communicate with customers of the online store. You will receive most of the requests from your customers by telephone, since this communication channel is convenient for many people and makes it possible to get the very lively communication with a consultant that is so in demand in any stores.
- Email Moreover, you need to upload your address in a form convenient for the buyer. Various pictures and copy-protected text fragments annoy customers. Therefore, it is better to create a special mailbox for the store and put up with a certain amount of spam than to lose potential customers who prefer this particular communication method.
- Feedback form on the page "Contacts". A convenient alternative to Email. At the same time, there is a form on the site page in which the user can enter their contact details (email, phone), the subject of the question, the message itself. And after clicking the “Send” button, this message will go to the site administrator’s mail.
- Online chat. This service is designed so that the buyer can promptly ask a question and get an answer in text form. Online chat services usually look like a pop-up window “ask a question”, they are very convenient and become more popular every day. They are provided most often on a monthly payment basis, and the programmer will help you choose and connect such a service.
Today, this list is considered a necessary minimum, which should be on the website of the online store. In addition, it is possible to post additional information: physical and legal addresses, some documents, certificates, if necessary, etc.
Choosing and connecting a CRM system
I recommend always connecting a phone that is dedicated to work with clients to the CRM system. In general, for the online store to work effectively, it is necessary to use one or another CRM system, especially if you plan to have a sufficiently large number of sales. So far, this scheme of work is not used actively enough, many companies do not keep records of sales and control the quality of work with clients, but I believe that this way is a dead end, and the real increase in the performance of my clients after the introduction of the CRM system demonstrates my correctness. In detail about what CRM systems are, how to select and implement them, I wrote in the article What are CRM systems and how to choose them correctly?
And here I’ll just briefly list some of the advantages of using CRM for an online store:
- All the contacts of your customers will be collected in one place in a convenient way.
- You will not have “lost” requests or missed and “forgotten” calls. A well-established CRM system helps compensate for the human factor.
- You can record all conversations with customers and monitor the effectiveness of the manager.
- Even in the event of an unexpected change of employee (illness, dismissal), you will not lose a single contact, and you can always figure out at what stage of cooperation the absent manager stopped.
- You can set and check the quality and timeliness of execution even for tasks not directly related to working with clients (updating content, reporting, etc.)
Email and SMS
And another very important method of interacting with customers is SMS-mailing. Today it is considered good form to notify the buyer via SMS of the sending of his goods, of delivery to the post office or to the address, etc. To do this, when making a purchase, they usually offer to leave also a phone number. In the future, you can use the database of these phone numbers to solve marketing issues: for example, notify customers about promotions and discounts, the appearance of new products, etc.
I warn you: SMS mailings should be used very carefully so as not to fall under the law on the prohibition of SMS spam. In fact, the likelihood that you will have any troubles due to SMS mailings is extremely low. But it’s better to study the law and create mailings correctly.
Also a very important marketing tool can be a database of email addresses of your customers. It is also considered good practice to notify the buyer of receipt of payment, of sending the order by e-mail. In the letter you can indicate the parcel number or approximate time of courier delivery, other necessary details. And in the future, you can also use these email addresses to create a mailing list.
Email newsletters will help you:
- In a beautiful form, notify customers about the appearance of new products, promotions, discounts and other interesting news.
- Monitor how your products are of interest to customers. All developed mailing systems allow tracking: whether the recipient opened the letter, clicked on the link (if yes, then which one), etc.
- An implicit but also important plus: you can control the quality of the email database itself, since the mailing system will also inform you that some of the addresses contain errors. In some cases, clients accidentally put spaces or allow a typo in the name of the mail service, and then you can correct this address yourself and calmly send notifications there. Sometimes there are errors that can only be corrected by the buyer, in which case a phone call will help. In many cases, timely notifications to customers are just as important as you.
And to close the topic of marketing tools and feedback, I’ll tell you about another interesting option for interacting with customers - this is SMM (work through social networks). The method of communicating with customers on social networks is not yet very common, although it is very effective. Some stores build almost all their work with customers on the use of social networks. They create VKontakte and Odnoklassniki groups, less often - on Facebook. They hold promotions, post entertaining and advertising content, answer questions and even carry out part of the sales directly in the group. This technique is very effective. True, I personally do not recommend my customers from the very beginning to use SMM, but the only reason is that it is not realistic to cover everything at once, and in the future, when the store is already working reliably,
Many of the experienced users and specialists now most likely have also recalled various options for advertising the site, including the use of contextual advertising or other methods of promotion. Therefore, I decided to immediately clarify: these methods are more likely to attract new customers, rather than working with existing ones. And I plan to talk about them separately in future articles.
Choosing a CMS
After you decide for yourself all of the above issues, the time will come to move on to the next step - to choose a CMS.
It is very important to understand that CMS (engine), design and content are different components of an online store. Why am I focusing on this? Many people are confused in terms, and believe that design is the online store or that CMS is the whole site from and to. Let's not confuse the concept.
- Content is the foundation, this is what your site will be filled with. In fact, the buyer is not at all interested in what engine your site is running on, your designer refinements are not too interesting to him, the main thing is the availability of the right product, attractive price, clear information about payment and delivery.
- Design is the design of your site. Moreover, the photo of the product, for example, is not included in the design, the photo is the content. And the design is a “site header”, colors, fonts, all kinds of menus and buttons, etc.
- CMS (content management system) is the software part, the same “engine” or platform on which the whole system works.
And here the content is the most important, although the remaining components need to be given sufficient attention. But you should not spend too much time on the technical part. Your buyer will not appreciate it anyway.
I have come across in practice projects that have been preparing for release for years. The design was perfected, the software part was worked out, many additional features were added: calculators, comparison services, etc. As a result, sales either did not increase at all, or increased slightly.
Because, I repeat, this is not important for the buyer. Of course, it’s nice to be on a beautiful site, it’s nice to use additional features. But if you don’t have the right product, if the buyer wasn’t satisfied with the price, or if the product’s description doesn’t have parameters important for the person, he will turn around and leave the beautiful site without a purchase.
But still you need to choose CMS. What will your site work on?
The choice of CMS is a wide enough topic; today a lot of different content management systems have been invented. Over time, I plan to devote a separate article to the topic of comparing and choosing CMS. In the meantime, it will suffice to say that the principle of choosing CMS is not much different from the methods for choosing CRM systems. I wrote about this in detail in the article What are CRM-systems and how to choose them correctly?
Those. just about everything as well. There are Stand-Alone solutions, there are Saas solutions. Each of the options has its own characteristics, which are based on the principle itself: use your own copy of the software product or work in the “clouds” with a monthly payment for using the system.
But for the success of the online store, in fact, the type of CMS is not so important. I personally saw successfully working solutions on proprietary engines, as well as very poorly working systems on widely advertised CMS. Those. here, almost everything depends on the specialist or the company that serves you.
But still I want to give you some recommendations on choosing a CMS for an online store:
- Do not think that free CMS is worse than paid. In fact, many free engines work just as well as expensive paid systems. In addition, you may just not need all the features that paid CMS offer.
- Limit your desires. I often came across the fact that from the very beginning my clients began to ask for everything at once: communication with 1C, connection of various payment systems, complex CRM, callback, and integration with social services. networks, and an automatic calculator of some kind and much more. In fact, at the beginning of the work you do not need all this. At first, you just need to imagine what you have. Show on the Internet your product. Try to do some work. And then, based on the results of work for a certain period, you will be able to understand what exactly you need, what to add to the site, what features to connect, and which ones will be superfluous.
- Russian localization. Choose only those systems that have Russian localization. Practice shows that no matter how good you know English, no matter how good the system itself is, but if it does not have Russian localization, then you will constantly have some problems in your work, and as a result, you yourself decide to abandon such an inconvenient system. The reasons are simple: you can know English well, and your staff? And how much time will it take to train everyone? And how many improvements will be required on the site itself, because here and there English words will appear that are used there “by default”. In general, it is better to immediately focus on the presence of Russian localization. It is much more convenient.
Integration with 1C
When creating an online store, many of my customers immediately raised the issue of integrating this resource with their 1C software product. I believe that such integration right away means extra time and money, as a result of which the opening of an online store is postponed for a rather long time, integration work requires the involvement of additional specialists, including 1C programmers, and as a result it often turns out that solutions that have been partially or even completely implemented do not meet the needs of the Internet trade of a particular business or require significant improvement.
I believe that at the first stage of the online store, integration with 1C may not be necessary at all. Especially when it comes to downloading orders from the site, which is rather difficult to implement, but many online store owners nevertheless seek to receive it.
How does integration with 1C work?
- This is the uploading to the website of information about goods, about customers, if any.
- Downloading information from the site, usually this is information about orders.
Many try to get this data exchange right away, at the stage of creating an online store. But at the same time, for any integration to start working without failures, you need to solve a lot of problems, including problems in the system in which you work, it can be 1C or any other system. So, in 1C it will be necessary to finalize the product card, solve issues with access rights, etc. etc. And at the first stage it does not always make sense to do this.
So, if you have 100-200 products in the assortment, you can put them out manually, so, in fact, the issue of initial filling of the online store is often solved.
On the other hand, somehow it is necessary to take orders from the site. At the first stage of the work of the store orders, in fact, there are always very few, literally, units. And you can also pick them up manually. Then, when you work for a while, you will understand in what form it is most convenient for you to take orders, and what kind of integration do you really need.
Scheme of an online store
Thus, when choosing a CMS, the ability to integrate with 1C is far from the most important thing, this issue can be resolved later.
Online Store Design
When the question arises of choosing a design, the first thing to do is install a ready-made template design or develop your own design from scratch. I recommend, if the means allow, immediately order a specialist to develop a unique design. But if deadlines or finances do not allow to carry out a full-fledged work on creating a design, there is nothing to worry about choosing and downloading a suitable finished design.
Pros and cons of these solutions:
Pros of the template:
- Quick solution (can be installed immediately after purchase or download)
- It is tested, as a rule, the template already has several versions, some improvements have already been made, bugs have been fixed.
- Cheap. You can either buy the template for a minimal, practically, symbolic amount, or you can even download it for free on the Internet.
Cons of the template:
- Сложность кода и сложность доработки. А потому если вы захотите поменять в шаблоне что-то, что вам не нравится, потребуется достаточно серьезная работа и обязательное участие специалиста.
- Привязка к определенной платформе. Когда вы покупаете шаблон, на сайте продавца указано, к какой платформе он подходит, это также немаловажно. Например, если вы купите очень красивый шаблон для Wordpress, вам придется работать именно с этой CMS. Как известно, Wordpress не очень хорошо подходит для интернет-магазинов, а потому вы будете постоянно сталкиваться с ограничениями этой системы.
Плюсы дизайна с нуля:
- Отсутствие ограничений, которые накладывает шаблон, так как ваш дизайн разрабатывается под ваши потребности, после чего верстается под ту CMS, которую вы выберете.
- Отсутствие лишнего кода, как следствие, легкость, простота доработок в будущем.
Минусы дизайна с нуля:
- Высокая стоимость. Работа дизайнера обойдется вам в разы дороже шаблонных решений.
- Сроки. Работа над дизайном будет длиться от нескольких дней до недель.
A very convenient solution is simply to take the design of some online store you like and copy it with the modifications you need, without violating copywriting.
If you just use the idea, and during the implementation you will use a different color scheme, slightly different buttons, your logo, then outwardly your store will look different, and no complaints from the owner of the store you like will appear. Creating a design similar to one or another online store is much easier and faster than coming up with everything from scratch. Thus, you will get the design that suits you perfectly in the shortest time.
In principle, when launching an online store, design as such does not play the most important role. Functionality and accuracy are very important, and the design can, in principle, be anything.
So, I tried to tell you what you need to pay attention to in order to make a decision: do you need an online store, said what you need to prepare before you start directly working on a software solution.
I also tried to tell you as simple and detailed as possible about work on the front office. Let me remind you that when working on the front office, the most important thing is the functionality and neat, attractive and quite informative content, and the design plays a supporting role. The choice of CMS is not much different from the choice of software for other needs, and here you can use the information from my past articles, for example, from the article Selecting a software product for a client. Requirements collection
Also, for the successful implementation of the online store it is very important that your contractors work efficiently, so that you understand each other with them. In order to avoid mistakes, I recommend reading my article Intermediaries or why in Russia the contractor is always “to blame” on the example of an IT project .
In the next article I will talk in detail about the organization of work of the back office, about how to organize the work of employees, and what is needed for the online store to work really effectively.
Also, in separate articles, I plan to consider in detail the promotion of the online store, attracting new customers, including through the use of Yandex.Direct contextual advertising.