How to Start an Online Shop from Scratch – Plan Smartly, 2017

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You must have decided to start an Online Shop because you may have heard it is very easy to “Sell Anything Online” whether a Physical or Digital Product and or Service.
Wait a Minute…
Obviously you can make an online shop yourself or by hiring a developer spending a few bucks and start uploading your Product details. But did you ever imagined where you can find your Buyers and how easily you can manage the complete selling process?

There are lots of Planning and Homework before starting an online Shop. Do you know all these nitty gritty details properly? I guess No! and that’s why you came here. Read on the real game is starting.

Whenever you think of an Online Shop the first name comes in your mind is Amazon. Right?

Every entrepreneur dreams of to become Amazon on day. If you dig into the history of Amazon, you will find they first started selling hardcopy books only; later they included all essential things for daily needs one by one.

Web Hosting

So, start concentrating on what you have to sell and how.

Table of Contents

Different Online Selling Models:

  • You have some Handmade or Manufactured Physical Products to Sell
  • You want to be Online Retailer to Sell other’s products
  • You Sell Services Online e.g. any booking or Subscription service
  • You want to Sell some Digital or Virtual Products like Books, Courses etc.
  • You want to become “Drop shipper” to Sell other’s products.
  • You want to build a Marketplace to gather other Sellers to sell their stuffs.

In this following topic I am going to cover the first option. All other options I stated above is somehow similar with it but has some additional customisation and tips. I shall discuss them later. Here I guess, you are a craftsman and made some unique physical product which you want to sell online.

What are the Physical Products?

Physical Products means Products which can be touched or tangible, solid, dust or liquid state in a container, build with some materials, has a height, weight and dimension and can be shipped to customer after sale physically. These are not similar with other Digital or Virtual Products, which can be used, downloaded or subscribed immediately after purchase and payment.

How to Sell Physical Products Online?

Let’s say, you are an Artist who crafts some designer Jewellery or some decorative items. You want to Sell them online to potential buyers who appreciates arts and crafts.
In this scenario you have two options available. Either Partner with or become Seller/Vendor at some Marketplace websites like EBay, Etsy, Amazon and so on or Launch your own online Shop.

There are Pros and Cons of both options available. I shall discuss them here first.

Pros and Cons of becoming a Seller/Vendor on Marketplace Websites

9 Advantages when Selling at Marketplaces:

  1. Already established market, so no need to create Demand.
  2. Instantly recognisable by Buyers
  3. Start Selling Fast as soon as uploading your first product.
  4. No need to worry about IT and Infrastructure.
  5. Some Marketplaces even handles your Inventory (e.g. Amazon Prime/FBA)
  6. Already established 24*7 Customer support by Marketplace
  7. Buyers Pay with confidence
  8. Easy Product Shipping and delivery management
  9. Test your Product’s acceptability among Buyers

13 Disadvantages when Selling at Marketplaces:

  1. Lower Profit Margin even greater Sales
  2. Buyers are Not your Customers
  3. Higher competition inside Marketplace between same type Sellers
  4. Lower Brand Visibility
  5. Product focused not Seller Focused
  6. Not SEO friendly Brand or Products
  7. Missing detail customer analysis and CRM
  8. Higher requirement levels like Tax and Legal papers
  9. Delayed pay-out duration
  10. No Customer Loyalty
  11. No direct communication between Buyer and Seller
  12. Many products are Prohibited at Marketplaces
  13. No Seller’s Store customisation available.

Pros and Cons of having Own Online Shop

12 Advantages of having Standalone or Own Online Store:

  1. Near full profit margin except Gateway fees
  2. Your Product, Your Data, Your Customers
  3. Full Brand building possible
  4. No competition inside your store with other sellers or other’s products
  5. More control over Store design, User experience, looks and feels
  6. Internal and external SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) possible
  7. Direct interaction with Buyers via Live chat or Support channels
  8. Loyal and repeat Customer base
  9. Re-targeting, Up-selling and Cross-selling to sell more
  10. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Analytics to behaviour analyse of Buyers possible
  11. Instant Payment in your Bank account
  12. You choose what to Sell and what not

5 Disadvantages of Standalone or Own Online Store:

  1. You have to be Technically sound to manage all or hire someone
  2. High Investment to build your Online Shop and associated services
  3. Less focus to Product building and Selling
  4. Marketing and acquiring and retaining Buyers cost more compared to marketplaces
  5. Global competition by other similar category Brands and Sites also by other marketplaces

So, if you choose not to sell at marketplace websites as a seller/vendor, rather need your own online shop, carry on reading.
Many people still think, just build a website and upload products (means Product Images and description from elsewhere). Buyers will automatically come, see their products and eventually Buy from them.

Simply this is NOT true. Lots of planning and hard work is involved in between.

When you start any form of Physical shop anywhere in this World, you must have some pre-requisites. Similarly, an Online shop has some. We can relate requirements and expenses online vs offline to similar manner to remember easily.

 

Online Shop and Offline Physical Shop Similarity

CriteriaPhysical ShopOnline Shop
MarketLocal MarketAnywhere in the World
LandBuy or Rent PropertyBuy Hosting and IT Infrastructure
NameStore Name/ Brand NameDomain Name
Furniture and DecorationBuy all or Hire CarpentersWebsite Developer & Designers
ProductsBuy/Make Physical Products in BulkBuy/Make One Physical Product and get Images and proper description
Selling StuffEmploy ShopkeepersHire SEO Services
AdvertisementBanner, Hoarding, Paper, A/V AdsOnline Marketing, SMO, Email Newsletter
Payment SystemCash, Cheque, POSOnline Gateways, COD, Bank Transfer
Product ShippingIn StoreBy Mail and Currier Services
Return & Fault ManagementIn Store or via Service CentresBy Mail and Currier Services or via Service Centres

I shall discuss now every criterion mentioned above step by step and how to get most out of them in terms of lower expense, availability, strategic planning and greater profitability.

Grab some coffee to understand every point clearly.

Planning Framework for your Own Online Shop:

Take some paper and pen to answer these 10 questions yourself first:

  1. What I am going to Sell?

    Hint: Product Categories, Specific Products etc.

  2. What is my Buyer’s Persona?

    Hint: Male/Female, Age group, Education, Literacy Level, Nationality, Mother Tongue or Language, Income level, spending habits, Most gathering places, hobbies and Technology awareness level. (This step is very important to depict your possible buyer group!)

  3. How my Product/s best fit to them?

    Hint: Product Usability + Competitive Advantages over other same type products.

  4. Have you set your Product Price yet?

    Hint: Set your Profit Margin minimum over 6% than purchase or production cost + Additional 10% for Shipping and Delivery + 2-3% for Gateway fees + Approximate 12-15% for overall Marketing. Or in total over ~35% on total product cost!

  5. Have you fixed some budget investment for building your shop?

    Hint: Plan minimum for 2 years before seeing any profit and add 30% buffer (means extra cash in hand) over your total budget. Remember not any big business grew overnight!

  6. How you will deliver products to the buyers?

    Hint: Think about where you want to serve and find currier and postal services which are available to the area; compare rates and contact them. If COD (Cash on delivery) supported or not

  7. How you will replace or give service to faulty and damaged products?

    Hint: Product Insurance by Currier, Service centres /home service staff or return policy.

  8. What are some competitors’ websites and why you like them?

    Hint: Search your product category online and take close looks to some websites. You can get an idea which are selling better and why. Write what thing you like in which website and why.

  9. How you planned to develop your website?

    Hint: Hire Developers and Designers or DIY (Do It Yourself). YES, it is possible to DIY in very low cost and technical complexity. I shall show you how later.

  10. What are your plans on Marketing?

    Hint: SEO, SEM, Online Advertising, Lead capture and Email Marketing. Don’t worry if you can’t answer these now; I shall help later on these all.

 

If you have completed answers for all the above questions, Congrats! you have done your Basic Business Plan. If you stuck on any question you can freely ask me anytime at comment section of this post.

Now I shall go back to the Requirement Table section above and discuss them one by one.

Market

As you relate with Physical Shop in a proper local Market or Bazaar, Your online shop is not bound to a specific location and only to serve a handful of customers. Anyone can open any online store anywhere in this World but you need to consider some hurdles and obstacles when selling online as follows:

  • Delivery of Product: You have to rely on Currier services to deliver your product. So, make sure which one you are going to partner with. Are they will Pick-up the product from your location and deliver anywhere in this world? Or they only serve some local market? Consider charges and fees also.
  • Product Restriction: There are restricted products in some Country and Culture. Check before selling with your target country administration.
    Currency Conversion: Is the currency of your targeted country is convertible to your local currency? If yes, then proceed otherwise don’t.
  • Language: Check whether the country speaks the same language as you or other. If not same, then you have to use Translation service and your website or shop needs to support Multi language. Also your Customer care service needs the same language speaking staff to communicate with buyers.

 

Land

For Online Shop, you don’t need to buy or rent a large, costly place in market area. You can start from your home also. Before starting your online shop get permission or business licence from your local Government authority to avoid legality questions afterwards.

I have mentioned your IT (Information Technology) setup similar to “Land” to remember easily. Here comes the most complicated requirement Hosting and IT Infrastructure where most people freak out in fear of heavy investment.

Please don’t freak out! I know how difficult it is to invest a large amount on something as a Start-up. I shall show you all the ways from least to the most expensive setups and why and when you need them. Stay with me.

Our main goal for this blog post to know how you can start an online shop. There are various ways to do this as follows:

1. Least Expensive, only Simple Basic Features, Basic Technical Knowledge required. Not much Upgrade-able.

Most of the well-known website hosting providers gives you access to “Easy to Edit” website Templates. You can use this templates to build a website yourself and add some product pages with images and description text. Then you can add “Pay with PayPal” button beneath the product description or beside the image. PayPal only needs your email address linked with your bank account to receive payments for your products.

This is the most basic and cheapest option to build your e-shop. It is suggested when you have only 1-3 types of product in your inventory to sell and have extremely tight budget. Later when you save enough money to move on you can go for other options like below.

Here are some Hosting providers who provides Free Website Templates:

 

2. Initially Less Expensive, Simple features, Very Low Technical Knowledge required, Up-gradation costs Money.

There are some Drag and Drop website builders which can be used to build simple online shop with some basic features like shopping cart, payment gateways, product and order management features. These are very easy to use and little technical knowledge required. But it provides stunning looks and better user experience.

Integration with other Software and Web-Apps are possible but requires extra money to use them. These are some Online Website builders as follows:

  • Wix
  • Weebly
  • SiteBuilder
  • Simbla

 

3. Moderate Expensive, More Features, Medium Technical Knowledge required, Up-gradation costs Money.

Now we will learn about some online e-commerce shop builders. These are user-friendly and easy to use. They are focused to small and medium sized sellers to build and manage their online shop themselves.

These Online Shop Builders are recommended if you want to build your Brand image yourself and give your customers a nice and professional shopping experience.

Many times other Marketing tools like Email Newsletter, Blog, SEO and other promotional and analytical tools are included in packages and available as Add-on services. Following are some Best Online Shop Builders available in market.

  • BigCommerce
  • Volusion
  • Shopify
  • Lemonstand
  • 3dCart
  • Sparkpay
  • Jumpseller
  • Freewebstore

 

4. Highly Customisable, Most Features, Moderate Technical knowledge required, Upgradation requires Skill and Money.

Many people will say Open Source E-commerce software’s are free to start but to be true they are Not. Because you need moderate technical skills to modify and customize these scripts according to your needs and if not possible you have to hire Developers and Designers to do so. Also integration with other software’s and services requires much skilled programmers if plugins and add-ons are not available for free.

These are most common Open Source ecommerce scripts available:

  • WooCommerce on WordPress
  • OpenCart
  • PrestaShop
  • Hikashop on Joomla
  • Magento

 

5. Most Expensive, Suitable for higher level Enterprise, requires more Resources and Manpower. Highly upgrade-able and customisable.

Custom build highly configurable e-commerce systems to run on enterprise scale which needs to manage a large user base.
Example: Oracle Commerce Cloud, Magento Enterprise Edition, Demandware, Hybris, IBM Websphere, Intershop and other custom solutions.

These are for Enterprise level sellers who has stable team of different customer serving employees and huge customer base and already established their brand image in online marketplace.

Name

As your offline business or shop needs a name, same applies for Online Stores. This is called Domain Name. Previously there was limited choice of domain extensions like .com, .net, .org, .biz etc. available but currently you can choose from a large new generation variety of names like .store, .online, .shop and generic country code level domain extensions like .co.uk, .in, .it, .dk etc. if you like to have as per your market location.

5 Useful Tips to choose a Domain Name for your Online Shop as follows:

  • Make it recognisable and Brand-able: When someone hears the name first time, there must be some uniqueness in your name. Because if you use www.best**some-category**.com or similar it would be not recognisable from other similar product sites.
  • Make it short and correctly Pronounceable: Name must be easily pronounceable for any language speaking people where you are going to expand your market. If you can’t find any short name then you may add some typo or suitable preposition like best, top, etc. or addition like global, local, country or location name afterwards.
  • Avoid Numbers, Hyphens: If your Domain Name contains any numbers or hyphens it will be likely forgettable by users because usually we don’t remember such little things.
  • Research beforehand to avoid using other’s Brand name: You must research online enough before choosing your domain name. If already any company uses this name with different extension, it is better to avoid that name because later it might create some legal problem and if not then SEO or Ranking your Brand online must be competitive and tougher.
  • Protect Your Brand: If financially possible register other common extensions of your desired domain name also. It will help you to protect someone stealing your Brand identity later and as some advance SEO technique you can make some different “Landing Pages” for that domains which points to the main domain of your Brand or product.

 

Furniture and Decoration

You need furniture and decorations for your shop. Similarly, your online shop needs some furniture means User Interface (UI/UX) and decorations means “Design Flow”. Here comes the crucial part. As I have suggested earlier you can make your online shop with 5 different options. If you know some basic technical skills, then you can try yourself otherwise you have to hire some developers and designers from freelancing sites like Freelancer, Elance, Upwork etc.

18 Important and Essential Tips to remember when Designing your Online Shop:

The first and foremost criteria you need to remember that Usability options for your Buyers is must. This means your site must be clear and easily navigate-able to different useful options for your buyers and visitors.

  1. Your site must have a personality like your Buyers! – It may be for Cheap (Only Discounted products) or Premium (High Value), For Youth or Old-ages, For Kids only or for Mature or can be General for all purpose things.
  2. Brand-able – It must reflect a unique Brand image through Logo, Colours, Fonts, Graphic Styling and so on.
  3. Search Box – If you have less than 5 products then you can include them in your home page and inside main navigation menu but if you have more than five, then it is suggested to have a “Search Box” clearly viewable and accessible from any page of your shop site.
  4. About, Contact and Help – It is suggested to have these 3 pages in your main menu because visitors loves to check whom they are buying from. Contact page gives clear information on your identity and how to contact you in case of any question and feedback. Help page is there to train your first time visitors how to navigate, purchase and securely checkout from your shop and other valuable information which can help buyers.
  5. Disclaimer, Privacy Policy and Guarantee / Warranty (if any) – These are Legal pages which are mandatory when you are opening your online shop. Disclaimer page says about things you are responsible for. Privacy Policy concerns about the data you collect from your visitors or buyers, how you are going to use them and if you provide any Guarantee or Warranty, then you must clearly state that in a different page.
  6. Product Filters and Options – If you are planning to sell multiple products in different categories you have to include product filters on different products and their variations like colour, price range, different size and options. It helps buyers to refine their actual needs and requirements.
  7. Stunning and Actual Image – You must include actual product images in your specific products page. It is better to include the product image with its actual usage. If possible, include more than 1 image per product from different angle and zooming option.
  8. Product Current Status and Variations – If your product is currently out of stock, please mention it on that product page or if possible mention how much quantity is in your stock or available for sale. If same product has some different variation based on colour, size or other attributes, please mention them because it clears any confusion among buyers before they order the product.
  9. Mention Final Cost – If there is any delivery charges and extra Taxes over the selling price of the products, then you must mention them in your product page clearly. Because many times buyers avoid orders when they see any additional hidden cost in time of checkout or payment.
  10. COD (Cash On Delivery) – If you provide cash on delivery please mention delivery charges and pin/zip code search box to check if COD is possible or not in your buyer’s location and if possible how much extra charges are applicable or not.
  11. Product Video? – If possible include a real video of usability of your product in a real environment inside product description area. People loves to view the actual usage of your product in real environment before purchase.
  12. Product Review – It is a nice feature to have on individual product page. You can invite your existing buyers to review their purchased product on the product page itself. It helps new visitors to gain trust and prefer your product. Also many buyers are there who solely relies on user opinions before making any purchase.
  13. CTA (Call to Action) – Your ultimate goal is to sell the product and this happens after clicking the “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button. These buttons are called CTA or Call to Action button. Set these buttons in such a location where it is clearly visible, colourful and large enough to catch buyer’s attention. Preferred location is near the main product image and at last of the description.
  14. Shopping Cart – If you have more than one product in your shop then you consider keeping a Cart link and Page in a clearly visible area where Buyers can add more different products. It helps you in two ways. First your buyers get an option to discover more products in your shop to buy and Secondly they can increase item quantity or add coupons to avail discount on Cart page before checking out or placing the final order.
  15. Social Share Links and Favourite Icon – If your visitors like any product, they can share and recommend it to their friends and followers at various social networks. So, keep sharing buttons available on product pages. There are some users who likes an item but have some difficulty (mainly financial) to buy the product now. If you add an “Add to Favourite button or similar” feature, it helps them to save/mark the desired item and buy later.
  16. Simplified Checkout Process – If possible keep the minimum required fields on checkout page. Because people are too lazy to fill forms. Consider keeping social login and registration systems by Facebook/Twitter/Google+ to get most information from these verified profiles and use them in checkout page. One-page checkout is always welcome rather than step by step or multipage checkout system.
  17. Responsive Website – Your visitor may come from any internet enabled device like Mobile Phones, Tablets and/or Desktops, Laptops etc. So, you must make your shop site responsive to fit any device screen resolution nicely.
  18. Payment Gateways – You must put one or more third party payment gateways to collect payments online. Having more than one gateway has an added advantage. It works as a fall back or backup payment processor if primary gateway is down for some reason. Also you may keep COD, Cheque or Draft like offline payment modules if required and suits your business model.

 

Products

This is the main ingredient which earns you everything. Maybe Money, Fame, Reputation and so on. Back in 2014 InsiderMonkey released a comprehensive study report on “The 10 Best Selling Products Online” . Now a days everything can be sold online and people are struggling to find the best “Niche” or Category of products which can possibly make a lot of money online. But wait we are talking about creating your own online shop so, you must have finalised which products you want to sell. Keep this below tips in mind when choosing and finalising your product niche.

10 Tips while choosing a Better Physical Product to Sell Online

  1. Sell Unique: This is the fundamental and best idea to success in online selling. You must choose some products which are not easily available everywhere when starting your shop.
  2. Value-Addition: Best fit for your product category would be the products which adds value. This means say, you have handmade a “Flower Vass” but if you use it reversely it can also be used as “Pen holder”. So, this alternate usage can be used to show off as value addition with the main use of that product.
  3. Less Competitive Category: If your chosen category has too many competitors, you have to spend lot more on online advertisement and SEO and your pricing will be high, ultimately you may have many visitors but a few handful loyal buyers.
  4. Avoid Fragile Products: It is better to avid products which are made of Glass, Clay and other fragile materials. Because in time of transit from your warehouse to customer, things can break and you have to replace them and have some unhappy customers.
  5. Avoid Electronic or Serviceable Products: These type of products are easily available and has high competition rates worldwide. Also, you have to provide Guarantees / Warranties to gain Customer trust and these costs money to setup service centers.
  6. Choose Long Lasting Products: Choose the products which have a long life span and build on durable materials.
  7. Restricted Products: There are some products which are restricted by Governments in different countries. Like you can’t sell Gun, Drugs, Alcohol, Tobaccos etc. in many countries. Also there are some restricted materials like Animal Skin, some Chemicals which are used to make some products worldwide.
  8. Avoid Products which occupies large Inventories: Some products like Home/Office Furniture, Electronic appliances like Refrigerator, Washing Machine and Other various huge machinery requires very large storage space, high investments, and higher delivery charges with lots of manpower to maintain. Avoid them if you don’t have necessary resources.
  9. Avoid Seasonal products: These products are sold in particular Holiday or Occasional times. These are not suitable for regular basis selling. E.g. Fireworks, X-mass cakes, Eid special foods etc.
  10. Expandable and Personalised Products: Expandable Product categories allows you to add more similar type products to sell in your inventory. Which helps to analyse and experiment which products are selling better than others and which are losing you money. Personalise products are customised or modified products which perfectly matches with your buyer’s choices. These type of products sells good but requires more experience and understanding of your customers.

 

Selling Staffs

As you know in Physical Stores you have to employ Shopkeepers and Sales person to interact, guide and convince visitors to buy any product from your shop, similarly online shops require the same but in a different strategical way. This is done by Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. Let’s be clear in that. We all use search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, Baidu etc. everyday whenever we want to find anything online. So, whenever anyone find any product it must show in search engine results page. This results are not simply shows up. Although it is the job of search engines to show the results but every search engine works on different algorithms which determines whom to show and whom to not. Our job is to help search engines to meet their algorithm requirements to show our website in different search results.

This is Not an easy job and can’t be handled by one himself. Because only Google checks over nearly 200+ criteria and value different websites differently. These algorithms are not known publicly and changes frequently. However online marketers worldwide guessed and found many secret logic of these constantly changing algorithms by different experiments which are combined called SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

Basically SEO rules are divided in two broad categories as: On-Page-SEO and Off-Site-SEO. I shall talk about some basic techniques here because it is a tremendous area to discuss about and it is recommended to handle by professional hands if you seriously concern about SEO. Remember SEO is a continuous process and you have to invest large amount and time to acquire better position in Search Engine results Page (SERP).

Check this Article to know about On-Site SEO and Off-Site SEO.

As you promote your physical shop by various tools and techniques like Hoarding, Banner, TV Ads, Handbills etc. There are strategies to follow to promote your online shop. When you launch your first online shop, then nobody knows about it and they won’t buy anything from you. You have to follow SEO strategies discussed above also at first I suggest you to start some paid promotion or advertising because SEO takes time to show the results but Paid Promotions works faster.

Know more about SEM or Search Engine Marketing Techniques here.

Take a Time Travel and get back to the planning framework, where you have answered 10 questions yourself. These questions will help you to decide what strategies you are going to take from below.

Payment System

As you know retail physical shops take payment by cash, cheque, or via Debit Card/ Credit Card by Point Of Sales terminals but in case of Online Shop you need to integrate Payment Gateways. Payment Gateways are two types like Global and Local gateways. PayPal, Skrill, WorldPay, Payoneer, Authorize.net, Payza, 2Checkout etc. are leading Global Payment Gateways which allows to accept payment from almost any International Banks. Local Payment Gateways are Country Specific. Like in India there are PayU, CCAvenue, PayTm, Citrus etc. in UK SagePay, CardStream, in Russia WebMoney, in China AliPay etc. are examples of Local Payment Gateways. Also you can use BitPay as a payment gateway for BitCoin which is a Virtual Currency accepted Worldwide if you prefer.


12 Questions to Ask before integrating your preferred Payment Gateways.

  1. Whether your targeted Market Supported or Not?
  2. Are they accepts all Cards (Debit & Credit) issued by all banks in your target area?
  3. Is there any Monthly/Yearly Fees or Setup Fees if any?
  4. How much charges they actually take for every transaction?
  5. What are the related Govt. Tax rates added on Transaction charges?
  6. How many days it takes to Transfer the Money to your Bank account?
  7. Are there any charges when you Refund any transaction?
  8. What are the Currency Conversion rates compared to actual exchange rates?
  9. Is any easy integration option available with your online shop or not? If yes who will integrate it?
  10. If the Gateway service provider agrees to integrate then, are there any additional charges or not?
  11. What legal documents you have to provide while applying for the Gateway service?
  12. Other queries like Self Hosted or Brand-able? What about PCI DSS Security level? Fraud Protection etc.

 

Product Shipping

You have learned enough basics for your online shop. Now it’s time to think about Product Shipping. There are two works you have to do here. One is Packaging and Labelling and another is handing over the package to some mail or Currier service.

Remember while packaging, the cost depends on Size, Weight, Dimension, Insurance (if any), Pickup Location and Destination location of the Package. So, carefully you need to pack the product to avoid damage and frequent replacement. Plan on packaging material beforehand and calculate charges considering above attributes to finalise the Currier charges.

You need some accounting software to process billing or you may have the accounting, billing and inventory management system build-in your online shop. So, make ready a printer to print invoices and shipping labels to fix on your product packaging.

For Product Shipping you have 3 options available to implement in your online shop.

  1. Free Shipping: This is the best option when you have already calculated your shipping charges and added with your product price. A lot of buyers get confused and abandons the purchase if they find it difficult to calculate the shipping cost.
  2. Flat Rate Shipping: This option is hassle free when you have calculated the maximum shipping charge and you have clearly mentioned and add it with your product price. Any buyer from any location have to pay the same rate as shipping fee.
  3. Variable Shipping: This is done real-time contacting with your shipping partners with some API integration provided by your preferred currier service. In this case the shipping charges are calculated as per the provided address of the buyer. Here customers from different locations can get different shipping rates.

You must update the status of the Product shipment to notify customers about where is the product now. You can do this by email or SMS or some tracking system inside your shop or via Currier websites.

Return & Fault Management

This is a very important step. Many new online shop owners do not plan it when they launch their shop. They think it will be managed when scenario occurs.
This is a big mistake!

You must plan your product return and fault management system even before calculating your profit.

The most annoying thing happens when customers buy any product online, they are not able to physically check them before deciding to purchase. They only decide seeing the image or video if provided and reading the customer reviews and testimonials. So, many times customers are not happy with the product after the purchase and wants to return the product. If they return either you have to replace the item or product (if there is any fault) or fully refund the customer unless otherwise declared in your “Return Policy”. In both case you have to consider some loss. The worst thing can happen if you don’t wish to replace the product or don’t want to refund the money. The angry and unsatisfied customers can write negative comments elsewhere throughout the internet and can file complain on you at various consumer forums. Which will ultimately ruin your business completely.

So, plan your return and fault management policy beforehand and show it openly in a page at your online shop. Here are some important tips to remember when you make your return policy as follows:

8 Important Tips to efficiently manage Product Return and Fault Management

  1. Don’t get confuse what to write in Return Policy. Read what other popular shops have written in your same business category. Then modify it according to your need and planning. You can take help from Business Lawyers to consult about these.
  2. Obey regional consumer laws. Such as in USA you must take return of your products if any problem found within 7 days of delivery.
  3. You must accept returns if your delivered product and ordered product are not same or identical. If there are variations, then you must specify it on your product page. So that customers can acknowledge if the exact product is not delivered, it’s not your fault.
  4. You have to accept faulty products because you did not check if everything is OK or not before packaging.
  5. If any product gets damaged in transition from your place to customer’s place, then you must accept the return and replace that with a good one.
  6. Many times buyers will want to return the product and get the refund because they simply did not like it. It is a complex situation and you have to handle it carefully. If you offer full return, you have to accept the monetary loss due to packaging and delivery charges. But you can request the buyer to ship the product to you as it was in time of purchase with Currier charges paid by him/her. After receiving it you can check is everything alright. If yes then you can issue him full refund, if not then partial refund; deducting the shipping and delivery charges. Remember in this scenario you have to be always polite with the buyer.
  7. When your business grows it is always preferred to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to easily manage these situations.
  8. Always remember happy customers spread less positives but angry and unsatisfied customers spread more negative. So, be cautious always to watch out and monitor your online reputation and Brand image.

 

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