Why 2021 is the year to build and scale your online store

Why 2021 is the year to build and scale your online store
Beatriz Estay
Beatriz EstayBigCommerce

Posted: Tue 19th Jan 2021

If 2020 taught us anything, it's that having an e-commerce store is essential to B2C businesses.

Businesses with an online presence going into the global pandemic were better prepared than bricks-and-mortar businesses — which struggled significantly more due to worldwide lockdown measures. Life will always remain unpredictable, but what you can ensure is how you stay prepared for any challenge that comes your way.

Five reasons why you should build and scale your online store in 2021

In a world increasingly dominated by e-commerce, online sales aren't exactly negotiable. Customers want to buy their favourite products without leaving the comfort of their couches; failing to meet that need can put you at a disadvantage. There are plenty of benefits involved in e-commerce, making the investment of time and money required to get started well worth the effort.

1. Reach new customers and sell more products

As we saw in 2020, physical retail businesses are limited to people who walk through the door, making little room for growth during a pandemic year. Creating an online storefront will power your business to reach existing and new customers, further enabling consumers to shop with you.

As the retail industry progresses, it's become clear that e-commerce is essential to business growth.

Plus, you can leverage digital communication on your e-commerce website to encourage customers to take advantage of in-store promotions like curbside delivery.

2. More insight into your customers

Traditional retail sales are fairly limited in analytical capabilities. There's not always a way to know who bought what; many customers choose not to provide personal information at checkout and make payments in cash.

Using online tools, retailers can learn all kinds of valuable data, including:

  • Page views

  • Average time spent shopping

  • Clicks on particular products or offers

  • Products frequently purchased together

  • Specific customer-level information

  • All of these details can play a big role in how you choose to operate your business. For example, if you see trends in items customers tend to purchase together, you can curate promos or sales around this pattern

3. Relatively low operational costs

A lot of time, money and energy goes into opening a bricks-and-mortar store. E-commerce costs a lot less. A well-crafted site won't require significant maintenance, giving you a way to boost sales that doesn't divert much attention away from the day-to-day course of business.

4. Gain loyalty and repeat purchases with creative digital marketing

Marketing is no longer limited to ads in the local paper or sale signs in your front window. Online advertising is extremely popular, expanding reach and growing visibility. Your e-commerce platform can essentially function as an all-in-one automated marketing engine, providing a way to drive ads and direct traffic to boost sales.

5. An overall better customer experience

Not everyone wants to show up at your storefront and browse your shelves in person — especially in the year following a global pandemic. So, failing to offer an e-commerce solution, and one that offers a good mobile experience or dedicated mobile app, can put you behind the curve.

By diversifying your sales channels with both in-store and online sales opportunities, you create a better customer experience by default. Web users don't want to see a limited page with hours and contact information; they want the robust experience your competition can provide.

Six steps to launching your online store

Once you've selected a winning e-commerce platform, like BigCommerce, it's time to create a plan for launching your online store.

By creating an organised approach to launching your online store, you'll set up your store for long-term, scalable success.

1. Ensure your online store looks professional

If you want to have a viable online business, you need to focus on quality from the outset.

You need to build a store that looks professional, attracts your target customer, and has the right calls to action to help them convert when they visit your site.

It is very easy to blur the lines of 'design' and 'functionality' when building your online store. Not to say that design isn't important — an attractive website can definitely drive online sales. But your design shouldn't outshine what you are trying to sell.

Online shoppers will decide if they trust and want to purchase from your website in about three to five seconds. That means you need to have a simple, trustworthy and easy-to-use website.

2. Pick a payment gateway

In order to get paid, you'll have to be ready to accept payments. Might be obvious, but it's quite essential to running a successful business.

BigCommerce supports over 60 different payment gateways and features one-click, digital wallet options like Apple Pay and PayPal One-Touch.

If you're a bricks-and-mortar coming online for the first time — or plan to open physical retail locations — you'll also want to be connected to leading POS solutions, like iZettle. This way, you can sync your offline store with your online store to manage stock levels and payments.

3. Set up shipping integrations

Shipping options depend heavily on your product, your business model, your target audience, and your e-commerce solution.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when you're getting started with online shipping:

  1. Start by researching your competition. You may uncover some really great insights on what works and what doesn't in your category

  2. Make sure your shipping policies are straightforward. This will prevent confusion or surprises, making it more likely your potential customer will follow through with their purchase

  3. Lastly, offer multiple shipping options based on different shipping speed or carriers. How quickly a shopper gets their product can be just as important as how much they pay for shipping

4. Set up taxes properly

Setting up your taxes correctly from the beginning is a game changer for your business. Luckily, we're talking about taxes for your business at this point, not local sales tax. So this step is pretty short and sweet — all you need to do is speak with a tax professional.

5. Choose a great domain name

Equally fun and challenging — picking a domain name for your website is critical. Your web address should speak to your brand and serve as an important marketing tool.

Your domain name will be a way for potential customers to find you and then come back to buy more. So keep it simple. Resist the urge to include difficult spellings or unknown acronyms. Choosing a credible domain will instil confidence in customers and build customer loyalty, so take your time.

6. Set up analytics to measure your success

You need data and benchmarks to grow your business. To start, examine your platform's in-store analytics. At the minimum, your platform should be able to help you with basic metrics like:

  • Unique visitors

  • Conversion rate

  • Most popular products

  • Average revenue per customer

Also take a peek at platform options like in-store site search that could provide you with valuable insights into what your customers are looking for. Analytics in general are a key element in helping you act on facts rather than assumptions about your customers and business.

You're ready to launch

Tackle these key areas - site functionality, business basics, and analytics - and you'll have created the solid foundation you need to build out your online store.

Get your new e-commerce store up and running in less time and with less cost with BigCommerce and iZettle, a PayPal service. Plus, take advantage of your first three months free on BigCommerce, and discounted online rates from PayPal powered by Braintree.

Beatriz Estay
Beatriz EstayBigCommerce
Beatriz is a content marketing manager at BigCommerce and the fashion and lifestyle influencer behind The Letter Bea, an Austin, Texas based blog. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Sociology/Anthropology from Lake Forest College and specialises in e-commerce, marketing and merchandising strategies, influencer and branding work, and social media. When she's not curating content, Beatriz loves to travel the world, share her journey with Type 1 Diabetes, and find Austin's most Instagram friendly spots.

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