Opening an online store extends your market, it’s a chance to connect with customers and build your brand. Now more than ever, it is crucial to diversify and look beyond the brick and mortar format.

Having an online presence can provide a range of new opportunities and benefits for your business. E-commerce can allow your business to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it can enable your customers to access your products or services anywhere, any time, and it can increase customer engagement.

Retail NZ, Consumer Protection and a Kiwi business owner shared tips for selling products and services online with the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Why open online?

Customers now expect to buy in-store and on the internet. They want to interact with retailers in a way that suits them and are increasingly used to having their needs met 24/7.

Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford says it’s important for retailers to have at least some digital presence. “This might be as simple as a listing on GoogleMaps so customers can find you, or selling on social media. If you’re more serious, a fully-fledged e-commerce website that lets customers interact with you and buy might be a good option.”

With the country on lockdown, a digital presence is now vital. Even if you can’t sell your product online under the Level 4 restrictions, it is important to continue to be a presence in your customers’ lives. Share your lockdown story with them and keep customers engaged.

Getting started

Entrepreneur Rachel Lewis is the founder of She Owns It, an online community for Kiwi women in business. To be successful selling online, Lewis says you have to be prepared to put in the groundwork. She offers these tips for those wanting to give it a go:

  • Research, test and test again: Ask customers what they want, eg which offerings they’d most like to see online. Experiment and ask them if they like what you’re doing. If they don’t, move on quickly. Pivot and test again.
  • Keep it simple: Don’t feel you have to do everything other businesses are doing. Prioritise tasks you know make you money.
  • Tell your story: Use it to connect with customers and become recognisable and likeable online.
  • Regularly reach out: Connect with people personally. Explore using blog and social media posts, videos and podcasts, or email marketing to serve them in some way, eg tips, tricks, events, customer stories. Don’t just show up when you want to make a sale.
  • Be original: Do what others aren’t and you’re more likely to succeed.

Delivery and Returns

Customers expect speedy, efficient service. Make sure you can always fulfil orders.

If you sell services online:

  • carefully manage your diary
  • plan how and when to deploy staff.

If you sell products online:

  • carefully manage stock levels
  • build solid processes so you can deliver quickly, wherever customers are in the world.

Make your returns policy and delivery charges clear on your website. Tell customers:

  • Product prices and delivery costs, or fees if you sell services.
  • Who will pay postage on returns, you or the customer.
  • If the parcel will be tracked, and how to track it.
  • How long shipping should take, eg three to five days.
  • How to get in touch if there is a problem.

Keep in mind that under the Consumer Guarantees Act, customers can raise a problem within a reasonable timeframe. So you can’t set a specific timing around raising issues.

Check your shipping company or courier’s terms and conditions. Find out who is responsible for covering costs if goods are damaged in transit. Think about whether you’ll need insurance. Consumer Protection has information on what to do if your supplier causes customer problems, including delivery issues.

Again, you may not be able to currently sell your goods or services online due to Covid-19 restrictions. Consider selling vouchers that customers can pay for now and spend with you later.

Secure Payments and Data

Safeguard customer data and protect it from hacking. Talk to your bank about a 3D secured payments site, and make sure cyber security, eg password strength, is robust. Never pass on anyone’s personal information without their permission.

Only refund customers to the same card they paid with to avoid supporting credit card fraud.

For Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment Covid-19 information, click here.

For more news from the foodservice industry, click here.

Article courtesy of Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment