According to Business Insider, 86% of Indians have adopted online shopping during the pandemic. From day to day groceries to apparel, electronics and more, consumers seek to make purchases digitally instead of having to walk into physical stores today.
While many businesses have already moved online during the pandemic, there are still others who are contemplating the move or in process.
To make things simpler, we have created an actionable and comprehensive guide to move your offline business online.
In the following sections, we’re going to walk you through a series of steps that you need to take to take your business online. We’re also linking you to helpful resources that can help you complete those steps with a better understanding.
1. Find the right ecommerce platform
When transitioning from an offline store to an online one, you need a system in place that helps you execute all the online functions—a full-fledged content management system.
Pick a platform that will make the entire process of taking your products online, smoother—setting up the website, integrating the payment gateways, managing the front and the back end, enabling performance and security.
Here are a few things you should be doing to choose the right platform:
- Identify the needs of your business
- Take note of the functionalities you’d like to offer to shoppers
- Explore ecommerce platforms that offer those features
- Create a comparison table between the shortlisted ecommerce platforms
- Calculate the spend and the resources available to you
- Take a free trial of the ecommerce platform before a full store setup
2. Choose a domain name for your business
Once you have decided on an ecommerce platform, the next step is to get yourself a domain name.
Ensure the domain name you choose for the eCommerce website is similar or the same as the name of your offline store. The idea is to keep it simple and easy to remember so that consumers know exactly where and how to find you online to make purchases.
Here are some tips to follow when choosing a domain name:
- Keep your brand name the same online and offline
- .com should be your first preference because it is widely used and a powerful domain extension
- Eliminate the usage of numbers and hyphens
- .in is a local extension and works well for local businesses (if you only sell in India)
- Avoid using trademarked domains as they can get you in trouble
3. Identify the products you want to sell online
Before taking your offline business online, do a thorough audit of your product catalog. Then do a market research to see which of those products tend to get sold easily online – the idea is to understand what your target audience is actively buying online.
Here’s how you can identify products to sell online:
- Take a look at your offline store sales and do a research on online sites selling the same/ similar products
- Look into Google Trends to see what people are searching for online
- Look at other businesses in the same industry and take note of what they sell
- Identify the top-selling products in your offline store and tally with the above data
4. Take stock of products and plan product inventory
Once you have identified the products you want to sell online, the next step is to take stock and plan your inventory.
If these are products already available in your offline store, you need a smart inventory planner to keep track of the sales made both online and offline. This will help you keep your data synced and stay on top of availability of products.
If you are planning to outsource, manufacture or dropship products, you need to clearly define the partnerships and availability of inventory before you start selling online.
Here are some important steps to keep in mind:
- Create a centralized record of all the products that you want to sell and list down the details of each product. Ideally, your product should contain: product name, stock-keeping unit, brand name, size, price, product category, lot number, expiry date (if any), minimum quantity per unit, economic order quantity, inventory on hand, and reorder lead time. Add product images and product descriptions. When the details of a product upgrade like the cost, update it.
- Keep a check on the inventory if you have it in multiple locations. You need to know where your product inventory is! Is it present in the warehouse, distribution centers, transit, stockrooms, or store shelves? Find it using radio frequency identification tags, barcodes, and labels that contain category and department codes. It helps you map the product inventory and keeps you out of stress when tracking the inventory.
- Count your inventory regularly and check for shrinked, damaged, and defective products. Experts recommend counting the inventory once a year or once a quarter. However, you can scale it based on your business’s complexity.
- Invest in an inventory management system. As you start to explore more marketing and sales channels, you will need to take stock of your inventory frequently. Manual inventory management is prone to errors; invest in an inventory management system that automatically syncs your online and offline data across all sales channels.
- Schedule time to review the sales data and analyze which products need to be restocked or reordered. Set up stock levels for single products that trigger alerts for reorder. The levels at which you set these triggers could include buffer time to continue the sales at an average level. When creating a purchase system, prioritize the products based on the product’s profit, popularity, and lead time.
5. Get your online business legalities sorted
Taking your business online also requires you to be aware of the business legalities. Before making your move online, make sure you educate yourself and complete these legal requirements and compliances for ecommerce businesses in India:
- Company or LLP Registration
- GST Registration
- Bank account
- Payment gateway
- Legal documents
Additional reads to help you with the same:
6. Get your product information ready
In an offline store, people can browse through, touch, feel and try products before making a purchase. But when you sell online, everything is dependent on how you present your products visually. That’s why the next step is for you to prepare the information you provide to online shoppers.
Make sure you have plenty of product pictures of the items you plan to sell online. This should include pictures of the product from all perspectives and in use, to help the consumer visualize what it looks like in real life.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Sometimes, product pictures don’t do justice to showcasing what the item has to offer. Product videos are more intuitive and help online shoppers visualize the product better by seeing it in motion or in use.
Product videos can be of different types – product in use, how-to, product features, etc., based on what you sell.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Apart from the visual element, you also need to provide detailed text to describe the product. Make sure you include all the information like ingredients, materials used, sizing, variants available, product care instructions and more on your product page. The information you provide may vary based on what you sell.
Here are some resources to help you with product descriptions:
7. Plan out your website
Once you have all the above ready, the next step is to identify the core pages of your online store. This should be based on the shopping experience you want to offer and at the same time, the additional information you’d like to equip online shoppers with before making the purchase.
Make a list of the pages you need and the functionalities you require setting up on each of those pages. Also additionally, clearly define what information you will be providing on which page.
This should serve as a well-defined blueprint when you start working on your store design and adding content.
8. Work on your website design
Think about how you have arranged products in your offline store. You categorize and place products based on a number of factors – things you want the consumer to notice instantly, items that are on sale, new arrivals and similar. The same planning must go into your website design as well!
As you start to work on your online store design, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you have a moodboard for how you want to present your brand (read more here)
- Select a theme that offers easy customizations across all pages (for both current and future needs)
- Make sure you evaluate both free and premium themes for functionalities and templates
9. Add content to your website
Once you have your site plan and design in place, the next step is to add content to your website. Some of the must-have pages on an online store include the homepage, about us page, product page, return/ refund/ exchange page, contact us page.
But the pages you set up, may again vary based on what you sell online.
Your homepage is like the first impression on your customers. That’s where you need to give your customers a quick overview of who you are, what products you sell, and why they should buy from you.
About us page
People buy from people they can find a connection with. Use your about us page to share the story behind your business, a sneak peek into who you are and why you started. Remember to keep it real!
Remember all the product information you prepared in the beginning? Now it’s time for you to add it to your website.
The only thing you need to make sure is that your product page content is crisp, clear and informative. It should help the online shopper make an informed purchase decision.
Contact us page
Even as an online store, you need to let your customers know how to reach you. This is a page that should either have a form that lets them submit their queries or offers information like your phone number, social profiles and email address that can be used instead.
If you’re not sure what information you should be sharing, here’s an article to give you more direction: How to build a contact us page for your online store.
As an online store, you need to set up a few policy pages for your customers to maintain transparency and foolproof the sales you make. This includes the following:
- Refund policy
- Exchange policy
- Return policy
- Shipping policy
- Terms of service
- Legal notice
Remember, your policy pages need to be clearly visible on your online store. If they’re not added to the main navigation menu, you can add them in the footer.
10. Set up your payment methods
The next step is to look into how your target audience chooses to pay for the products they buy. Take a look into the payment modes used by your offline customers and check which ones you can enable online as well.
The more commonly used payment methods you offer, the more likely a consumer is to make a purchase.
11. Find the right shipping partners
When you sell offline, customers have the ability to make a purchase and take the product home at that very moment. But when you’re selling online, you need to figure out a way to deliver their purchases to them. This is where it becomes important to find a shipping partner who can ensure fast delivery to all the locations you sell to.
12. Announce your move to online
Once you launch your online store with everything in place, it’s time to announce your move to the online world.
Don’t leave it upto your customers to figure out when your offline store moved online.
Here are some ways to promote your new online store:
- Notify your store walk-ins – Let customers who walk into your physical store know about your online presence with a small but noticeable banner. You can also make it a point to let them know at the point of purchase, during billing.
- Social media – Announce your online store launch on all the social media channels you’re present on; continue to promote the link with every post to easy recall.
- Email – If you have collected email addresses of your existing customers, make sure you send out a message to let them know about your online store.
- SMS – Similar to email, use text marketing to reach out to your existing customers and announce your online store launch.
- WhatsApp – Since India has the second largest user base on this messaging app, make sure you run some promotions on it as well.
While it has become easier to set up an online store, as a business, taking that decision is BIG.
Make sure you spend time doing your research, exploring the best available solutions to take your offline business online and then working through the above checklist to ensure you cover all ground before launching.
Want to see how different brands took their offline business online? Here are some stories that will inspire you:
Ready to take your offline business online?
Frequently asked questions about moving from offline to online commerce
What is the ecommerce market size in India?
Growing at an exponential rate, the market value of the ecommerce industry in India is estimated to reach 200 billion U.S. dollars by 2027. Owing to the pandemic, consumers prefer to shop online more than ever, giving businesses an opportunity to to take to digital as well.
How can I take my brand online?
To take your brand online, you need to explore the market for it on digital platforms. Identify your target audience, the products they tend to purchase online, the brands they’re currently buying from and what you can offer better. You can then explore either outsourcing, dropshipping or manufacturing the products and then setting up an online store using platforms like Shopify to take your brand online.
How to build an online store?
To set up an online store for your business, you will need to choose a content management system that comes with all the ecommerce functionalities. This includes the ability to set up product pages, checkout, online payments and more. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify are a popular choice for brands taking their offline business online.
Which product is more in demand in India?
You can sell anything online, but the most common and in-demand products include fashion and apparel, consumer electronics, footwear, food and health supplements, beauty products, kitchen and home furnishings, books, toys, handmade goods and similar products. It’s a good idea to keep a tab on trending products using Google Trends and marketplace research.