For many independent pet retailers, ecommerce is a constant burden. Whether its losing customers to Chewy or the headache of trying to build their own ecommerce business, almost all pet store owners have had an unfavorable experience when it comes to ecommerce. However, with the right plan, starting your own online sales channel can be manageable and effective.
For most pet stores, the first step involves setting up online ordering for store pickup. This involves making your catalog available online, setting up your website to process credit card payments and training your sales associates to handle online orders. After that, it’s a much shorter trajectory to building options like local delivery, national shipping and deploying your products to platforms like eBay or Amazon.
Let’s explore how to get started in four steps.
Step 1- Select a platform
To build an online catalog for ecommerce you’ll first need to license an ecommerce platform. Shopify, Lightspeed and Woocommerce are some examples of ecommerce platforms. Work with your web developer to select the platform that is right for your business.
Step 2- Build your online catalog
Quality product information is essential to selling online. As a brick and mortar store owner, you spend hours on your planograms and product displays because these details affect your customer’s buying decisions. These principles apply to your online catalog as well.
To drive online sales, you will need clear images and detailed product descriptions. The images used should be from sources that will grant your business permission to use their images. Contact your distributors or manufacturers for access to their library of product information. Do not use images from sources like Google Images as these images are usually copyright protected.
Once you’ve loaded your product information you will need to ensure that your customers can easily navigate your online catalog. Pet stores are successful when their product categories are organized by animal type and brand. For instance, online shoppers should be able to search your online catalog by categories like Cat or Dog as well as by brands like Blue Buffalo or Nature’s Variety.
Step 3- Online transactions
Depending on your ecommerce platform, you’ll need to set up your online catalog to capture credit card information and payments from customers. Working with your current credit card provider can be advantageous, however many ecommerce platforms require you to use their own merchant services. No matter what type of platform or merchant services platform you use, you’ll need to establish a secure website using a SSL certificate.
Recent changes in laws have made the retailer responsible for credit card fraud from online transactions. Therefore, it is essential that you use the most secure payment processing gateways available on a website with a security certificate installed. Installing a SSL certificate on your website is a necessity when collecting payment and personally identifying information online.
Step 4- Train your staff
Once you’ve launched your new website, your store will begin the process of managing online orders. Start by designating staff members to who are specifically responsible for online orders. Be sure that your designated staff checks for online orders regularly. A consistent process should be established for packing, labeling and storing online orders in a designated pick up area.
Additionally, it will be important to establish a process for handling refunds and returns for online orders. These processes will be unique to your business, but establishing these in advance will help ensure that your first steps into ecommerce go smoothly for your staff and your customers.
The key to successful ecommerce is building it in small manageable steps. Remember, the Amazon we know today isn’t the Amazon that began as a website selling books in 1994. Begin with the essentials and over time, the possibilities are endless.