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Published November 02, 2023
A monthly look at issues facing Wyoming business owners and entrepreneurs from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Audie Cunningham, Wyoming SBDC Network regional director, Fremont and Teton counties
E-commerce sales make up about 22 percent of total retail sales, and online retail sales continue to trend up year over year. So, for many businesses, selling online seems like a great option.
If you create a handmade item such as woodwork, artwork, candles, jewelry or pottery, you have probably considered selling your product online. There are many benefits to selling your handmade items online, but there are some questions you will want to consider before setting up a shop.
Should I sell on an online maker market or my own e-commerce site? Online marketplaces such as Etsy, Creative Market and Faire can offer a large pool of existing customers who already are visiting their sites regularly looking for products. They also offer extensive training and support through webinars, blogs and seller handbooks. Consumers also have established trust with these online brands and, when you sell on their site, you get to take advantage of some of that trust. Cons can be that there will be fees involved to use their services; there’s a lot of competition on these sites; and you don’t always get to do things the way you want.
Alternatively, you can create your own e-commerce site on your website. Pros are that you won’t have as many fees; you have more flexibility and control over your shop; and, once your potential customers get there, there’s no other competition. Cons are that you will have to do all of your own marketing and advertising to get customers and potential customers to your shop. What you save on fees, you might end up spending on advertising and an upgrade to your website to host the e-commerce site or to hire a designer to build the site.
If you have decided to go forward with an online maker market, follow these 10 steps to prepare your shop for customers. If you decide to create your own e-commerce site, talk to your SBDC regional adviser for help, but know that many of the steps below will still apply.
-- Determine what platform is right for you. What is most important to you, and what is the best fit for your product and business?
-- Review terms of service and fee schedules. Make sure you understand how you will be charged and taxed. When you sign up to be a seller on any of these websites, you are signing a contract. It’s best to understand those contracts completely before moving forward.
-- Review seller handbooks. Many online platforms really do want to see you succeed. After all, the more sales you make, the more money they make.
-- Determine your pricing. Things you will need to consider are listing fees, shipping fees, commissions and packaging costs. Build these prices into your sales price, if possible. You may need to adjust your pricing as there will be more costs involved in selling on these platforms than at your neighborhood craft or art fair.
-- Write your shop policies. You will want to include policies on shipping, returns, exchanges and potentially anything else that applies to your business or products. This is where you outline expectations to customers to avoid any disputes.
-- Take product photography. You will want at least five or six photos of each product, showing it from a variety of angles and highlighting some details. You also will want a few “lifestyle” photos that demonstrate how your product is used. If you sell handmade Christmas ornaments, a lifestyle photograph might be a child hanging the ornament on a Christmas tree. The best option is always professional photography but, if it isn’t in the budget, I suggest investing in a light box or some simple photography tools to help you.
-- Write your product descriptions. Make sure to use the keywords that your customers would use to find your products. Include keywords in the title of the product as well as the description.
-- Create your page branding. You can use online design tools such as Canva to help you create some nice-looking banners and images or hire a designer to create some for you. Include your business name, logo, fonts, brand colors and brand images in your shop design. Get these assets done before you start setting up your page.
-- Set up your shop. List as much inventory as you can. You want to start off with a robust page that has a lot of inventory.
-- Advertise, advertise, advertise! As soon as your page is complete, do a hard advertising push on your shop. Online platforms often give your page a little boost right after you publish it, so take advantage of that and do as much advertising as you can. This includes sending out emails to your email list, sharing them on your social platforms and adding a link from your website or blog.
Creating an online shop is just the first step. You will need to maintain that page with a robust marketing plan, and you will need to review your financial documents regularly to ensure your prices are working for you and that the online shop is helping your business, not hindering it.
You also will need to continually work on your customer service skills, ensuring you have happy customers who return and refer. Your Wyoming SBDC Network adviser can help you plan for success on all of these topics.
The statistics source for this story is at www.bigcommerce.com/blog/online-shopping-statistics/.
The Wyoming SBDC Network offers no-cost advising and technical assistance to help Wyoming entrepreneurs think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their business. In 2022, the Wyoming SBDC Network helped Wyoming entrepreneurs start 68 new businesses; support 2,411 jobs; and bring a capital impact of $5.3 million to the state. The Wyoming SBDC Network is hosted by UW with state funds from the Wyoming Business Council and funded, in part, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email email@example.com, or write Dept. 3922, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071-3922.