Full e-Shop or Click&Collect?
In these days of pandemics and repeated lockdowns, being able to sell online is becoming of vital importance for shops that do not have this facility yet, but, beside the prospect of increased sales, what are the options and what do they entail?
Putting aside the technical and financial aspects that we will consider later, running an e-shop does imply a time and effort investment – all depending on the size and complexity of your catalogue of goods as well as the level of service that you wish to provide online.
Essentially, an e-shop requires to have an electronic catalogue of the goods that can be purchased from your shop – each article will have to be photographed at least once, and maybe more for some items, and precisely described. The stock – both online and in the shop – will have to be managed so that customers know when they click that the item is indeed available.
For a complete e-commerce site, customers will pay online through a specific solution linked to your bank account, orders will need to be processed, prepared and shipped. You will need to be ready to accept returns and manage refunds. The stock level will need to be kept in sync between what is sold on premises and what is sold online.
If you have hundreds of references and/or if you sell goods that are regularly changing with the seasons for example, the cost of keeping the catalogue up-to-date is not to be overlooked.
If you sell goods that are best tried before purchase (shoes, clothes, …), the cost of managing the returns is likely to be significant.
A small shop is unlikely to have dedicated staff to manage the e-shop – so be prepared for the effort this will involve.
Technical options and choices
If not reserved already, a domain name should be chosen and reserved with one of the numerous hosting companies. Beside just picking your ‘’shop-name.com’’, you may need to research a little on what could help in the google search.
This cost just a few euros / pounds – to be renewed each year
Many companies offer hosting facilities – for small/medium shops, a web hosting solution – where servers are mutualised between several clients – is usually suitable
The cost may vary but for a professional offer, you can budget somewhat less than £ 150 per year
Lots of options there
- A bundled DIY offer may cover the cost for 1) and 2) above and provide a framework for you to design the site look, insert you catalogue, propose payment solutions and technical assistance for a monthly fee that varies from one service provider to the next (eg wix, 1&1, …)
- E-Shop platforms are now appearing, proposing a mutualised service for local shops for a percentage on the sales revenue possibly as well as a fixed monthly cost
- A professional web designer will assist in the complete process: design of the e-commerce site, assist in the creation of your initial catalogue and product descriptions, offer advice on how best to manage your overall business, stock management as well as hosting options and the maintenance of the site. Pricing can vary hugely and will depend of the service provider but it can often be negotiated as a monthly fee
- Create a web site on your own using a CMS (content management system) tool such as WordPress: obviously the cheapest solution, but time consuming and requiring some technical knowledge
Stock needs to be managed across the shop and web site to avoid disappointing customers with a product bought but no longer in stock
Full end to end solutions exists to link a on premise sales terminal with the web site, thus maintaining a consistent view of the stock but these come at a cost and may necessitate the use of bar codes.
It is not unusual for small shops to manage their sales and stock with a pencil and paper… and this will imply an additional task to enter the on-premise’s sales on the web site stock management on a regular basis
If you propose online payments, an external payment gateway must be used. The pricing for these vary but normally involves a percentage on the sales revenue
You will need to manage deliveries (and returns). Several options exist, either through the national postal service or a private specialised provider. Cost depends on the number and size/weight of your parcels but you can usually retrieve that cost from your end customer.
What about just a “Click & Collect”?
If the level of investment, both in financial terms and increased workload, seemed too great for the potential benefit, an alternative is to create a site just for “click and collect”.
- Online payment can be omitted if the customer pays at the point of sale
- Deliveries are not needed
- Stock management can be relaxed as the customer can be informed that some of the products are no longer available before payment and collection of the order
This could be an initial solution for shop keepers and it can seamlessly evolve to a full e-commerce web site if needed.
Take a look at this demo site here