Have you sold only in a physical store so far? Learn how to start selling online.
The current situation is a major challenge for the entire business world. It requires unconventional thinking, new ideas, a revision of existing business models.
Undoubtedly, one of the key directions in which market developments will take place will be the development of the e-commerce sector. What should I think about when taking the first steps in online sales? How to get started or how to grow your online channel business efficiently to achieve success nationally and internationally? What to look for when choosing a logistics partner and what is its role in the entire purchasing process?
Similar questions are often asked by entrepreneurs, for whom, especially in the current situation, online sales are an opportunity to maintain their business and develop their business. As an e-commerce expert, we want to share knowledge about online sales in the educational materials cycle. Inspiring, expert materials will easily bring you closer to the opportunities and directions of development in the online channel in a new business reality. We publish them regularly on the page below.
We encourage you to read and watch.
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In this section we will periodically publish the statements of our experts on the e-commerce market
In the e-commerce industry, it is difficult to talk about borders between countries. Thanks to increasing digitization, the boundaries of the network have completely lost their relevance. Access to sales in other outlets has become as fast and simple as ever.
According to parp research, the average European spends more than EUR 1,500 per year on online shopping, which is not a small amount.
On the other hand, according to quantitative data, less than 8% of owners of Polish online stores choose to sell cross-border. The remaining 92% therefore misses a great opportunity to grow their business. It's time to change that. How to reach with your offer outside of Poland, arouse interest in the products sold, build trust and properly plan your foreign sales strategy?
In building a foreign sales strategy, it is important to take a close look at what competitive e-shops look like with the same or similar assortment as we offer in the domestic market. At this stage, it is worth identifying what differentiators our competitors use for the customer, let's check the price of the offered products, delivery methods and e-payments in the shopping cart. It is worth being inspired by the good practices of our competitors to avoid fundamental mistakes.
When it comes to selling to foreign markets, we must take into account that it will not be the same as the domestic market. This is due, inter alia, to cultural differences, the wealth of society, demographics, the availability of goods, lifestyle or geographical location. Let's never translate a sales strategy in the home market 1 to 1 into other countries. There will always be issues that differ from the foreign market and those that we identify as common. An example would be running a clothing store. If we want to enter the UK market, let's look at the climate on the islands. It is cooler, rainier, so let's consider whether the clothing we sell will be suitable for islanders or whether we need to slightly modify it. The common denominator that we can use in our foreign sales strategy can be high quality customer service and ease in ensuring consumer returns.
Developing our business in cross-border sales is a great challenge, especially in terms of checking the competition and comparing the products it offers with our offer, as well as gaining knowledge about the markets and purchasing preferences of residents of other countries. However, a sales strategy conducted in a thoughtful way can translate into high profits for our business.
Another important point in building a foreign sales strategy will be choosing the right logistics service for our e-shop. Logistics is an important success factor in foreign e-commerce sales. It is the backbone of e-commerce. Before starting a new sales channel, it is worth taking a look at logistics companies that offer services for exporting goods abroad, compare what delivery options they offer, or what the cost of a package is with the declared delivery time.
When deciding on our logistics partner, it is worth asking some basic questions that should make it easier for us to choose. So let's verify the following:
- the cost of delivery of consignments,
- what is the delivery time for parcels to EU and non-EU countries (this is so important that some carriers have harmonised delivery times to EU countries and completely different for other countries),
- additional services and their cost (parcel insurance and download service - note - it is not always available for supply to certain countries),
- tracking system for our foreign customers (whether it is possible to send an SMS message to the recipient, online tracking of the shipment along with the statuses, notification of the package mail) - it is very important for us and our customers, let's also pay attention to whether the shipment number will not change when crossing the border, which will make it easier for us to track the package much later and inform the recipients what happens to it ,
- maximum dimensions and weight of shipments (especially important when estimating shipping costs and determining the process of packing and shipping packages abroad, proper packaging will allow us to avoid higher costs associated with the surcharge on a non-standard package),
- what return system is offered by the carrier for international shipments,
- the process of handling foreign complaints (here let's focus on the aspect of how much time the carrier needs to process the complaint, after which we can make complaints, what documents are needed to make a complaint),
- additional delivery/forwarding options (let us bear this in mind, as alternative collection methods are gaining popularity, the foreign network of collection points offered by the logistics partner will be an asset for customers),
- number of attempts to deliver the package (an important aspect when communicating to the buyer how many times the courier "knocks" door),
- next day delivery offer (to meet premium customers, let's check if the carrier offers delivery the next day. Surely this will represent our unique selling point against other e-shops. This is a more expensive delivery method, but it will ensure that we reach more demanding consumers. Next day service is carried out by air between Poland and the destination country.
The answers to the above questions will help us choose the right partner to handle logistics processes in our online store and prepare to handle shipments abroad. Proper handling of this process will also benefit the aspect of minimizing costs associated with foreign packages.
In optimizing the costs associated with logistics issues, we will be able to help us understand consumer behaviour regarding the collection of shipments. According to eurostat data, collection points can be divided into 4 groups: home/place of work, post office, stationary shop, collection point.
Delivery to the workplace/home is chosen by Germans, UK residents, Italians or Austrians, more than 80% of all deliveries.
Pick-up points with shops or post offices are mainly chosen by residents of the Nordic countries and France, this applies to 5-10% of packages. Deliveries to pick-up points, including post offices and shops, can be considered as a way to generate potential savings in the logistics cost category. That is why it is so important that the operator who works with us has a strong network of service and reception points.
Another way to optimize costs is also to use the solutions that the marketplace has for us. Thanks to this, we can use, for example, a dedicated system to support the entire logistics process. From warehousing, packaging, delivery, handling and return management to guarantees of duly performed services. Fulfillment, because this is a solution created for sellers who are ready to start selling abroad while supporting it by handling logistics issues. EBay, for example, has another solution for us. The platform offers ready-made integrations with courier companies. Through a convenient and intuitive panel for managing shipments, we optimize the amount of time needed to process the order. From there, we can manage multiple packages at the same time, automatically generate consignment lists, set pick-up times, or manage additional services such as pick-up, insurance.
It should be noted that the largest marketplaces give us the opportunity to simultaneously access several hundred million potential consumers in Europe and/or around the world.
When deciding to sell outside poland, let's build on good practices, let's create a well-thought-out expansion strategy. The time spent on good preparation will pay off with gaining experience, new customers and, above all, generating profits. To avoid errors in the first perhaps most important phase, let's stick to the rules:
- transparency of delivery prices, without hidden additional costs,
- let's give the limit time to which the order must be made so that it is shipped on the same day,
- let us pay attention to the right delivery times to specific directions, let us not artificially shorten them,
- supply costs in national currencies e.g. euros, dollars, pounds,
- let's establish cooperation with a global courier company like DHL, a foreign customer pays attention to who we cooperate with, a trustworthy logistics partner positively affects the image of the e-shop,
- be sure to put in place an efficient return policy,
- it is also worth choosing for premium deliveries, i.e. air shipments, in this way we will earn further points from potential consumers.
Choosing a courier company is just as important as deciding on which platform we will create our e-shop. Every e-commerce entrepreneur entering the market must choose a courier company with which they will cooperate. It is worth to bet here on well-known and proven operators. Let us remember that it is the courier who will have direct contact with customers who mainly perceive our shop through the prism of the company that delivered the package to them. Therefore, it is worth using the best logistics solutions available. A wide cafeteria of possibilities is offered DHL Parcel.
The courier company is largely responsible for building the image of the e-shop, therefore, when making a decision, you should not be guided solely by the lowest price. Note the lead time and speed of delivery. The logistics company should be reliable, honest, efficiently carry out shipments of goods and deliver shipments within the prescribed period. Most courier companies deliver packages within 1-2 business days.
Some companies, including DHL Parcel, offer Premium – i.e. the next day's delivery guarantee. Let's pay attention to this aspect, because such a service will allow to stand out from other online stores when it comes to high quality delivery. Here it should be mentioned that the standard delivery time may increase during specific periods of the year or at certain shipping times.
In the decision-making process in choosing a courier company, it is necessary to pay attention to several important points, which should make it much easier for us to choose the best logistics service provider.
- Delivery time – Delivery is a seemingly easy process. Many companies offer a standard range of 1-2 business days, but it also depends on several other factors. The most important of these is the time limit for parcels – for example: from place X, the courier can arrive for our packages by 13 to pick them up and so that they can be delivered to our customers the next day, after this time it will be impossible, the delivery time will be extended by an additional day. Another important thing at this point is to make sure how well the courier company is prepared for the critical periods of the year, especially the winter parcel peak, that is, the holiday season. The courier company should indicate to us the specific solutions it uses during increased traffic.
- Tools for tracking shipments and communicating with the recipient – customers of online stores appreciate the ability to track their package along with additional facilities for its delivery. So consider choosing a company that will offer us free tools m.in. the possibility of redirecting the package by the customer to another delivery address, informing the recipient by e-mail and SMS about the way of the package, the possibility of connecting to the courier, sending information about the hour interval in which the package will be delivered or the day of delivery will change. Choosing a company offering such comfortable solutions will pay off in the eyes of our future and current customers.
- Maximum dimensions and weight of shipments – an important thing when estimating shipping costs and determining the process of packing and shipping packages abroad. Proper packaging will allow us to avoid the higher costs associated with the surcharge on a custom package.
- Return system for shipments – easy and affordable return system for our customers is a "must have" in today's building of business strategy in e-commerce. This system must also be provided to us by a courier company. So let's ask whether we will have this option to use and the experience of the logistics operator with this type of service.
- Deliveries to pick-up points – in addition to the standard delivery by courier, let's pay attention to the delivery to the points. This method is becoming more and more popular among consumers (you do not have to wait for a courier at home). Consider working with a company that offers an additional long waiting time for receiving a package at the point, has a strong network of points, located throughout the country (currently in DHL Parcel we have 10,000 DHL Parcel ServicePoints). It is worth adding that this is also an economical form of delivery – it is usually cheaper than courier delivery.
- Additional services: package insurance, pick-up packages – let's ask what are the options for insurance of shipments by the transport company, what documents are required for making a complaint and what cost we incur for additional package insurance. In addition, the aspect of the download package is also extremely important, because more than 25% of the Polish population chooses this type of payment for the package. So let's remember to verify what the price of this service is and what is the time it is to return the funds from the collection to our bank account.
- Number of attempts to deliver packages – this is an important issue when communicating to the buyer how many times the courier will "knock" on the door.
Paying attention to the above issues, we will answer the question – "who do I want to cooperate with in the logistics of my e-shop?" This will certainly help in choosing the right partner with whom we will build and develop our e-business. Proper handling of logistics processes will have a positive effect on minimizing the costs associated with running an online store, but also will allow you to gain a group of satisfied and loyal customers.
The market for courier services in Poland is growing at a double-digit pace year on year and this is the fastest growth rate in the EU as a whole. Last year it recorded an increase of 19.7%, which is related to the ongoing boom in the e-commerce segment. By comparison, the European market is growing at an average rate of around 4-5% per year. In 2019 alone, Poles sent almost 537 million packages, an increase of more than 45% compared to 2018. Forecasts for the coming years are even more optimistic, according to estimates for 2021, the number of shipments in Poland can reach more than 850 million per year. According to our analysis, e-commerce packages account for about 50-55% of all supported packages.
Several factors influence the market situation, first of all, the fact that Poles "fell in love" with online shopping. We have become open to buying online, we trust online stores. These, on the other hand, introduce a number of improvements to make online shopping convenient and fast for us.
They focus on professional marketing, quality of customer service, and implement alternative delivery methods that the market needs. In this age of coronavirus- related situation, undoubtedly one of the key directions in which changes in the business world will follow will be the further development of the e-commerce sector. Many entrepreneurs will face the challenge of moving sales to the internet. How to start your own e-business step by step?
Everyone who dreams of selling needs to know exactly what they want to sell. If you're already selling in a stationary model, it's a good idea to think about which products are most often chosen by customers who just come to you. The next phase is the expansion of the assortment. It is also worth paying attention to the seasonality of sales of individual products. Spring will not be a suitable time to sell e.g. ski equipment.
If you plan to sell large quantities, check your current stock, you need to have these goods in stock and store. This entails additional costs to be incurred in connection with the storage of goods.
Competition testing is an integral part of the success of your e-shop. Verify what online sales activities competitors are doing, what products they sell, where and how do they promote them? Whether they use additional sales channels, such as social media or market place, to aggregate multiple sellers' offers. Remember that monitoring the competition is necessary not only before the start of online sales, but also in the later stages of the development of the online store. It is also worth being inspired by the proven solutions that have been implemented by the biggest brands on the market. One of the popular solutions are widely promoted, fast, free returns. Also think about free delivery or easy and intuitive contact for additional questions. In e-commerce, it's not just price that counts. A conscious e-consumer takes into account many factors, and the price is only one of them. However, be sure to define your pricing policy and monitor your competition activities in this area.
- Choosing an e-commerce platform
The Polish market offers about 30 native platforms and the same number of foreign ones. Each of them is available in a different billing model, some of which can be used free of charge.
Which platform should I choose? There are four main models:
- SaaS (Software as a Service) – that is, software used as a service in in the form of a licence fee
- open source (open source software) – free software to implement e-shop, be aware of additional paid modules and IT support
- license fee – fee for purchasing a full license with the possibility to purchase additional functionalities of the system
- dedicated platform – created practically from "zero" advanced e-commerce systems
If you are taking your first steps in the world of online sales, I recommend using one of the first two models, due to the low initial costs and easy and fast implementation.
Model SaaS – selected available platforms: SkyShop, Shoper, IAI. This type of e-commerce platform works on the basis of a fixed monthly subscription, prices start from about 50 ZŁ. As part of the subscription, we get an e-shop, almost ready to start a business. The implementation of our store using this model takes from a few minutes to a maximum of a few days. In addition, as part of the subscription we get a comprehensive package of materials - ready-made graphics modules, plug-ins for logistics companies, ready-made modules for integration with wholesalers, integrations with Allegro and many others for self-installation. This will give us access to basic versions of additional features in our e-business and will significantly reduce the time it takes to open an e-shop.
Open source model – selected available platforms: Magento, PrestaShop, WooCommerce. The main advantage of these platforms is the ability to modify the store in any way. We have full access to the source code of the platform, which allows you to make technical changes and new features that are visible in the store. It is also worth noting that the use of the platform itself is free. Expenses start only with the platform modifications described above, the installation of additional modules or hosting. This model requires us to have technical knowledge or to order implementation from a third-party IT company. When choosing this kind of platform, you need to prepare for monthly costs from several hundred to several thousand zlotys.
With whom to start logistics cooperation in e-business? Such questions are asked every day by many entrepreneurs thinking about choosing a logistics partner. Logistics is an important success factor in e-commerce sales. It is the backbone of our online commerce. Before the start of the sale, it is worth looking at logistics companies offering delivery services, compare delivery options, the cost of the package together with the declared delivery time that other online stores operating on the Polish market have. Let us remember that proper service will have a positive impact on the perception of our store by consumers. When choosing a logistics partner, it's a good idea to ask yourself some basic questions that should make your decision easier.
So let's ask about:
- cost and time of delivery of shipments
- additional services and their cost (I am referring here to the insurance of shipments and the download service with the possibility of paying by card for download)
- tracking system for our customers (whether it is possible to send sms messages to the recipient, online tracking of the shipment with statuses, notification of the package mail)
- maximum dimensions and weight of shipments (especially important when estimating shipping costs and determining the packaging process. Proper packaging will allow us to avoid the higher costs associated with the surcharge on a custom package)
- what return system is offered by the carrier
- complaint handling process (how much time the carrier needs to process the complaint, after what time we can make complaints, what documents are needed for the complaint)
- additional delivery/forwarding options (alternative collection methods are increasingly popular, so for example, a strong network of collection points offered by a logistics partner will certainly be for our customers)
- number of attempts to deliver packages (an important aspect when communicating to the buyer how many times the courier "knocks" on the door)
- offer of guaranteed next-day delivery (in order to meet the expectations of customers, let's check whether the carrier offers guaranteed delivery the next day. Surely this will represent our unique selling point against other e-shops)
Terms and conditions of the e-shop
Every e-business owner should have clear and understandable rules. It is important that the e-shop regulations should comply with the applicable regulations, together with the Consumer Rights Act. Within the framework of the regulations, we should carefully observe and describe the policy of returns, guarantees or complaints. The rules must be written in clear and understandable language. I will inform you that the relevant terms and conditions for our e-shop can be ordered e.g. by using a subscription on SaaS platforms. If you are a user of the open source platform, experts from the prokonsumencki.pl portal can help you, with ready-made solutions for online stores.
It's not just a product that's enough to run an online store. It is also necessary to rethink the technical background, the promotional plan, constantly analyze the activities of the competition, keeping a close eye on the different strategies in the online channel. It's also a good idea to be inspired by the solutions that market leaders use, even if they work in other industries. Any entrepreneur can develop a business in the e-commerce sector. However, at the beginning of the road it is worth to lay out an appropriate starting plan, based on the above areas, which will certainly help in achieving many sales successes.
Before answering this question, let's go back in time to December 2019 and remember how it all started. That's when the coronavirus pandemic erupted.
To a large extent, our private and professional lives have changed. Many companies have had to reorganise themselves as a result of the transition to remote work, virtually all stationary stores have been closed or their operation has been radically changed.
In most cases, the cross-border supply chain of goods has also been halted or significantly delayed, putting online retailers, among others, in a difficult position.
What should you do right now in the face of a new, dynamically changing situation? Here are some tips to implement in your e-business:
1. Get in touch with your suppliers
Good communication is of strategic importance, especially in the current crisis. Therefore, contact your most important suppliers immediately to get an account of what the situation is. Are they not in danger of slowing down, limiting production due to the lack of people to work. It is also worth examining the terms of the contract with the supplier, with particular regard to verifying that we have a clearly described process in the event of an emergency. Also, analyze your own inventory of existing products. Are you prepared for, for example, delivery delays?
2. Analyze your current pricing policy
This may seem controversial, but if the current situation escalates, we will probably have to deal with the sellers market. What does this mean? This is a situation where there is more demand for certain goods than they are physically available. The current supply chain problems in China have a major impact on this scenario. As a result, in a few weeks, during a prolonged pandemic, there may be trouble with the lack of assortment in warehouses. In this case, you can think about verifying prices or lowering discounts on the purchase of current products. A more advantageous strategy is to sell fewer items at a higher price than losing customers because their order could not be handled.
3. Think about automation
There is a high probability that during the crisis there will be an increased number of messages from current and potential customers. To efficiently handle all customers' queries, it's a good idea to implement a chatbot in your company to automate the process and avoid overcrowding your email inbox. In short, it is a tool based on artificial intelligence, whose task is to help solve the most common problems. With this automation, you can save a lot of time by setting up a chatbot with frequently asked questions on the store's website to answer the most popular delivery questions or other frequently asked topics.
4. Coupons and gift cards
What else can you do to keep your e-business flowing? One way can be to start selling coupons and offering gift cards. Both options are great because you can sell them now and offer them later to secure your liquidity. The great news in this 'alternative' model is that consumers are now actively encouraged to support companies that face the challenges of this particular, difficult situation.
5. Stay active on the web
Your customers will definitely react positively if they see that you are able to cope with the crisis. Therefore I recommend that you take a proactive stance. How? Start by using online channels, such as social media, to openly share information about your situation. Use video conferencing, web webinars or other forms of interactive communication. It's a good idea to be active on your business profile (if you're running one) and respond to all comments. It is also important to use live chats and chatbots to inform your e-shop visitors of any real-time activities. In times of crisis, it is also worth joining forums and groups related to your business segment. You can easily and quickly exchange valuable information with other traders to learn more about how they are coping in the current situation.
Given current economic forecasts, the scale of the threat to business is significant. It is very important in this situation to focus on what has distinguished good sellers for generations: ingenuity, flexibility, negotiating skills and a positive attitude.
Never before has security when shopping been as important as it is now. This also applies to the Internet, which in the era of the coronavirus pandemic is for many companies the only place where you can sell.
According to the latest survey of online stores working on Shoper software, interest in opening a new e-shop increased by as much as 90% in March 2020 compared to the previous year. Compared with a similar period in 2019, the largest number of new online stores were established in the following industries: books and multimedia, food, gift, health and beauty, and home and garden. Pharmacies and dietary supplement stores and shops selling games and software are gaining a lot of growth. Shops selling fishing equipment, medical goods, multimedia and music and groceries also see a marked increase in orders. In a word , your own online store is long overdue not only the domain of large companies, but also a convenient channel for sales for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Ten years ago, if someone wanted to sell online, it was easiest for them to sell through auction sites. With the proliferation of online shopping, but also the modernization of software for e-shops, retailers began to invest more heavily in their own brand-stores, where they could build their strong brands.
Today they are especially useful. Even when the company's fixed facilities are closed, online stores operate all the time – with the help of companies like DHL – reaching customers who prefer to buy online these days. How to do it safely? At least in several ways.
1. Give your customers a sense of security right at the start
Online shopping is becoming more common in Poland, but still many shoppers say they are also at risk. Therefore, every online store – whether new or already in place – should first take care of all the basic elements that make up the sense of security by shoppers. The store must have an active SSL certificate (which ensures data security), correct and legal (preferably purchased from a lawyer) the terms and conditions of the store and clearly and legibly described purchasing rules: from the information page about the store owner to the rules of possible complaints and refunds. Just as importantly, the customer should not look for this information for too long, so it is important to make it relevant.
2. Enable secure payments in the store
Despite the growing opportunities offered by the online store, Shoper's analysis shows that not all online stores still offer instant online payments. Why? Some still prefer to offer their customers the oldest payment methods for purchases: in the form of a traditional transfer or a cash on delivery fee. The transfer has it to itself that the traditional one is not posted immediately after the purchase, the pick-up – that the seller will receive the money long after the order is dispatched. Fast payments are therefore beneficial for both parties. For sellers, they mean quick finalization of purchases, for buyers – above all convenience and safety. Using cashless payments in the online store – which today can be carried out in two simple steps – you do not have to risk exchanging cash with a courier, you do not have to worry about the amount deducted, or that the money goes from bank to bank for too long. What's more , the support of fast payments is supervised by companies guaranteeing the security of data, money and transactions (in online stores Shoper, internal Payment Shoper supports Blue Media).
3. Guarantee customers efficient shipping (and handling)
So just bet on proven and renowned courier companies. Don't limit your customers to just one form of shipping – give them the choice and comfort of shopping. Recommend courier shipments that are fast, reliable and so popular with online shoppers.
Also, remember that from buying in an e-shop to receiving purchased goods, the road can be a long way, but you can always make it more enjoyable. Already in the transactional email, sent with confirmation of purchases, it is worth while the customer can clearly describe what happens next. "We're about to complete your order and ship it. You will learn about the next steps from the next e-e-e-go", for example. When the shipment is commissioned to a courier company – the customer will receive from it, as in DHL, a separate e-mail with the order number to track. But before that happens, don't tell the customer to guess what's going on – for example, with a period of increased purchases and an extended fulfillment process – with their order.
The more the customer knows, the better. And you do not waste time on additional service. Safe shopping!
The article was created in the Customer Service Department of Shoper - a provider of ready-made software for online stores. More than 13,000 e-commerce companies work on this e-commerce platform, offering safe and convenient online shopping. Welcome: https://www.shoper.pl/
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