“Support your online customers by sending order-status information as soon as you have it, give them package tracking numbers and send follow-up emails.”
Launching a website is only the first hurdle you must clear to sell online. What are you going to do when the orders start to roll in?
Over the years, our crew at Brain Station has tried Just about everything at least once, so here are seven tips we’re sharing with TDmonthly Magazine readers:
1. Have realistic expectations. A website is usually an extension of your store, rather than a separate operation. While it may not allow you to retire early, it can offer you an additional revenue stream for a reasonable investment.
2. Learn how the Internet works. To sell online you should learn something about web technologies and how they fit together. Good overviews can be found on sites such as How Stuff Works.
3. Develop a system. A “use case” describes a typical activity that occurs when something is sold online. It should be simple, concise and prepared ahead of time so you can identify and resolve potential issues before attempting to fill real orders.
Here’s an example of a typical “fulfillment” use case:
Order arrives from web site. Julie takes the packing slip, pulls the items from the floor and places them on John’s desk.
John packages the items and places the receipt and packing slip in the box.
John weighs the box and purchases a shipping label from USPS.com.
John prints the label, double checks the contents of the box, seals it with the receipt and packing slip inside, and puts the shipping label on the box.
John places the box in the outgoing shipment area.
When you compile use cases into a notebook, a "system" starts to evolve, so you can see how all the pieces fit together. Use cases allow you to train new staff and adapt to changes better and faster, and that gives you an edge over your competition.
4. Pay your taxes! If you are required to collect state sales tax and pay it to your state, do so.
5. Coordinate inventory and point of sale. It’s gut-wrenching to ring-up the last item for a customer at your cashwrap, when the same last item sold online last night and wasn’t pulled from the sales floor in time.
To avoid angering your online customers with cancellations, tightly control your inventory. You may even want to hold back some stock from the sales floor specifically for sale online. If you can’t do that, have someone check your online sales as often as possible, and pull stock as soon as an order comes in.
6. Maintain your shipping station. A dedicated shipping and packing station in your store should include a variety of box sizes, packing tape and a scale. A computer with a printer for shipping labels is a great idea, since all shipping services have options to print labels from their websites.
7. Manage your customer’s expectations. Support your online customers by sending order-status information as soon as you have it, give them package tracking numbers and send follow-up emails to ensure their purchases have arrived in good condition.
If an upset customer does call, don’t challenge him. Hear him out, no matter how wrong he may be. There is real reward in turning a dissatisfied customer into a lifelong client. We have done it so many times at Brain Station, and so can you.