You’re probably here because you’ve launched your retail business and now thinking of the next move to grow your business. Expanding the physical store to an online business may be just what you need.
After all, 58% of people on the internet purchase products online. Going online with an eCommerce website can be a chance to reach out to plenty of potential customers. In this article, I will explain the steps to migrate a physical store to an online business. I will also use WordPress and WooCommerce as an example.
Benefits of Expanding Your Business Online
Below are several reasons why going online is excellent for a business:
- More freedom – an online business doesn’t require you to be in store when taking orders. As long as you have an internet connection, you can run the business from anywhere in the world.
- Open 24/7 – as most processes are automated in an online business, customers can purchase products anytime they want. Most of the time, you don’t have to be present for sales to happen.
- Unlimited market – with an online business, you can reach out to target markets all over the world. Ensure that your shipping provider can send overseas and you should be earning from different places in the world.
Now that you know why you should consider expanding your business online, I will explain how to do it step-by-step.
1. Choose a Web Hosting Platform
A fast hosting service that guarantees the most uptime is important for any online business. It would cause frustration to the customers if the website crashes or slows down during the transaction. Dealing with cut-off transactions may also cost a lot of time for business owners.
For an online store, it’s best to pass on shared hosting and opt for a VPS or cloud hosting. This hosting plan places a website together with several others on a server, so when one website crashes or slows, others in the same server may be affected.
A great hosting platform should offer you the most value for money. When choosing one, ensure that it offers other beneficial features in the package. These features usually include a free domain name registration and a free SSL certificate.
2. Register Your Domain Name
It is crucial to choose an appropriate domain name for your online business. A domain name is an address that visitors type in the browser’s URL bar to enter your site, and most likely will be the first thing they remember from your online store.
To do that, make sure to opt for a .com domain. After all, the .com TLD populates more than half of the websites over the internet. It is the easiest to remember and the most trustable compared to other generic TLDs.
In case you get stuck when brainstorming domain name ideas for your website, you can use a domain name generator. Enter one or two keywords related to the business and the tool will generate several ideas. You can use these options as-is or mix and match them for a more brandable name.
3. Secure Your Website With SSL
An online website must be secured with an SSL. When running an online business, there will be a lot of sensitive data exchanged during transactions, such as credit card numbers. Without an SSL certificate installed on the website, these data will not be encrypted during transfer.
If it’s unprotected, malicious third-parties may be able to read and harvest them. Not only that this is dangerous for the customers, but without an SSL certificate, the website’s credibility on search engines will be compromised.
An SSL certificate is usually offered together with a hosting package and should be active as soon as a website is connected with it. If not, you can buy an SSL certificate or get one free of charge from SSL For Free. Simply download the certificate, install it on the website, and you’re set.
4. Configure WordPress and Install WooCommerce
After installing an SSL certificate, get WordPress installed and properly working. This is useful to give ease when uploading necessary content and media for the website.
Usually, there will be a one-click installer that you can find in the hosting provider’s control panel. Upon clicking it, you will need to fill in the necessary information in the provided fields, then you will be able to install it.
After that, download the WooCommerce plugin that will help provide the necessary features for your online business. On your WordPress dashboard, find Plugins > Add New, and search for WooCommerce on the search bar. Click Install Now, and you’re set.
5. Select a Theme and Customize Your Site
Now that you have got the necessary components of your online store figured out, it’s time to get started with the website design.
Fortunately, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are eCommerce website themes that you can install and use as a customizable base for your online business. You can start with a free theme, or opt for paid themes that have more features.
When choosing from the many options available, make sure to pick one that is mobile responsive. A theme that works on mobile devices may help with boosting site ranking on search engines, which may bring more traffic to the store.
It’s also important to make shopping on your site a painless experience for the customers. Choose themes that have a simple colour scheme and keep the layout simple, as it may help the site look less cluttered and provide comfortable browsing for the customers.
6. Upload Products and Content
You have figured the theme and design for the website, now you can move on to uploading products and content.
When uploading products, ensure that the pictures are of great quality. 93% of consumers consider visual appearance as a key decision factor before buying a product, so it’s important to make the pictures look appealing and professional.
Begin with researching what competitor businesses are doing for their product photos. Take note of things that may help, like photo concepts, angles, background, and lighting. I recommend reading more about taking product photos for better understanding.
You can also upload content to help with website SEO. Start writing about information or frequently asked questions related to the business that people might be interested in. As they search for it, they might stumble upon your site, which may bring more sales leads. Use plugins like Yoast to help optimize page content for search engines, improving the chances of banking on SERPs.
7. Set Up Payment Gateways and Shipping
An online payment gateway is a must for online businesses. It allows you to accept online payments made by the customers as they shop on your website.
You can usually set up payment gateways from your eCommerce plugin. With WooCommerce, go to Settings and find Payment Gateways on the top tab. Upon clicking, you will see options of payment gateways supported by the plugin that can be set as default.
Then, set up features that can ease the shipping process on your online business. You can start with installing a shipping cost calculator for areas worldwide. You can also integrate the website with carriers such as FedEx or UPS to show delivery times and shipping progress on the customers’ purchases.
8. Publish and Promote!
Before publishing, I recommend running tests to ensure that the crucial features of the site are working. Start with checking if the cart is accessible, make sure that all products can be added to the cart, and check on the payment processes for a seamless checkout process.
After that, publish your website and promote it to reach out to a wider audience. You can create a social media account, post content related to your website, and reach out to potential customers by using hashtags.
Expanding your business online is a convenient and beneficial way to bring in more customers or sales leads. It’s also the best solution to reach out to customers during the pandemic. They can simply make an order online and get it safely delivered home without any social contact.
Now that I have explained how to expand your physical store to an online business, all there’s left to do is get started on your website. Good luck, if there are any questions, make sure to leave them in the comments section below.
About the Author
Juliet Jones is an Editor at PRable.org, all in one content marketing agency. She loves creating articles about technology, innovative product reviews, and technical writing to help scale up digital growth. She is a writer by day and a frustrated singer by night.