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Selling online: Advice from the experts

Posted 3 weeks ago in Small business by Andy Muir
Posted by Andy Muir

I recently had the pleasure of hosting a live session on LinkedIn where we discussed the latest trends and strategies for businesses looking to sell online. We were joined by Stephen Rogan, from e-commerce platform Shopify, who provided great insight and practical advice on how to set up and grow an online business.  

So without further ado, here are the key takeaways from the session. You can watch the recording below, or download our dedicated guide to access a host of practical tools to get going with your online business.

Setting the scene

Over the past few months, most businesses have had to rethink how they reach their customers online. “There was no planning for this… and the fact that so many businesses have been able to grow during this time is a credit to what they’re doing,” said Stephen. 

When it comes to common trends and themes, Shopify has been clear about the impact of COVID-19 on the retail space. “This has pulled forward the retail innovation space by 10 years with technology like virtual reality, curbside pick-up or click and collect being massively accelerated during this time,” said Stephen.  

Business and consumer behaviour

Jules at Home, a village shop near Northampton, has moved all trading online since the lockdown. They also expanded their product ranges to meet demand for the increasing need for garden products. 

They are using Shopify in its full capacity to support sales. They have been able to grow their business, finding new customers who have welcomed the broader product range on the new web shop. Going online has improved their cash flow, raised their profile locally and even made them question the need for a physical store at all.

The lockdown has pushed a lot of businesses like Jules at Home to move online and reap the rewards. Shopfiy experienced exponential growth during this time, “between 13 March and 24 April – right in the middle of this – new merchants on the Shopify platform grew by 60%, which is a staggering number,” Stephen revealed.

When it comes to customer behaviour, Shopify has witnessed a huge increase in online purchases as well. Stephen told us “the number of consumers estimated to have made a purchase for the first time from any Shopfiy merchant grew about 68% during the same time period.” And these consumers continued to buy again and again, demonstrating that the online experience is here to stay.

Expert tips to sell online: a recap 

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’re just starting out, this session was packed with expert advice to set you up for online success.  

For those new to the online selling world, Stephen recommended that you “just get moving, your customers are looking for you online so give them that option… it doesn’t have to be an all singing all dancing online shop.” That being said, he stressed that the checkout process is your key route to revenue so ensuring that it’s seamless is a must. 

Here is a recap of some of the expert tips shared:

  • Start with your most popular and profitable products, and build from this foundation.
  • Work on local delivery and pickup options, and focus first on engaging your existing customer base. 
  • Invest in your website and checkout process for high conversion rates. 
  • Invest in elevating the customer and service experience including timely communication with tools like online chat and thank you notes. Also personal touches are great. 
  • Consider different channels to sell alongside the online route. Physical retail space is still important as you look to build a sustainable business.
  • Lastly, when delivering goods, speed is key as is communicating with your customers on a regular basis.

Download our dedicated guide to access a host of practical tools to get going with your online business. 

Expert tips to create a sustainable business: a recap 

Having a clear view of your cash flow is critical. It’ll help you make important decisions about what to prioritise and the areas which are providing the most return on investment. Here are some of the things you need to consider:

  • Predicting how your business is going to perform in the future by preparing a cash flow forecast is essential.
  • Using up-to-date financials from Xero and working out if there’s anything you can do right now to reduce your operating costs will be a massive help.
  • There’s lots of support available so make sure you reach out to your accountant. 
  • There are over 800 apps on Xero’s app marketplace. Make sure you choose apps that best suit your business needs. 

Download our dedicated guide for a full list of cash flow and financial planning tools.

Visit our dedicated site for more resources, webinars and inspirational stories to help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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