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July 1, 2015

While e-commerce has become an almost essential platform for retail businesses of all sizes, many stores, including pet stores, have yet to jump on the digital bandwagon. According to an extensive survey conducted by Lightspeed, only 50 percent of retailers have online stores

Some retailers have their reasons for keeping business offline but many others could benefit from having their store and products searchable on the Internet. Pet supplies stores are known for being late adopters of new tech but are starting to embrace the available tools that can improve their bottom line. If you think you’re finally ready to blend physical and digital shopping, consider these points before setting up your web store.

Domain Name

Starting an online business might not have been top of mind when you first opened your store but buying a domain name should be a priority whether e-commerce is a part of your short-term plan or not. The sooner, the better, or all of the “.com” names you had in mind might get snatched up.

Inventory Management

It’s easier to manage a web store if you have an inventory-centric point of sale (POS). Your physical store’s inventory and website should speak to each other in real time, otherwise you’re managing two disparate inventories and that could spell disaster. For those of you who use Lightspeed, you have likely saved a lot of time and energy by syncing your POS with Lightspeed Web Store. This way, you only have to enter inventory information once.

Product Descriptions

Photography

Your vendors might give you high-res, great quality images but chances are you’ll want to ensure uniformity by doing some photography for the website yourself. To take good shots, you’ll need to establish an on-premises mini studio area with a white background. We recommend checking out Orangemonkie.com as a solution for retailers needing an easy setup to take high-quality photos with their smartphones.

Shipping

It’s one thing to have all your products beautifully displayed online but delivering the goods to customers’ homes is a whole other story. First, establish which shipping service you’ll use. Think about what your terms will be. Will your shipping be limited to a certain geographical area? Check that your e-commerce platform offers an open API that enables shipping quotes from various carriers to actually be integrated into your web store.

Once you’ve decided on your shipping protocol, be sure that there is staff ready and trained to pack the goods once the orders start coming in.

You also have to think about the package dimensions. Make sure the weight, height and length are added into the system for accurate quotes.

Taxes

Retailers should be sure they know when to charge taxes (and what taxes to charge), especially if they are planning to ship abroad. It’s best if your e-commerce platform offers tax calculations that are built right into your system.

Handling Returns

Dealing with return items is a necessary reality of operating a web store. Decide on your return policies and make sure that you have the tools you need to quickly and easily replace merchandise, refund purchases, restock your inventory and send emails to customers about the status of their return.

Track Traffic

Google Analytics can help your online business in many ways. Use it to track important metrics that can help you analyze your online business’s sales, traffic trends, market information and how your customers are interacting with your site. Explore the many facets this powerful tool offers.

Marketing Strategy

Don’t forget to inform everyone about your new web store. Email existing customers to let them know they can shop online and allow new shoppers to discover your website through in-store signage and social media. Your top-tier customers may even appreciate a personal call that includes a special promo code only they can use.

Running a brick-and-mortar store with an e-com business has become increasingly easy for pet industry retailers, even those with little knowledge of digital strategy. With a good integration that has a quality point of sale, it shouldn’t be long before you extend your reach to a much larger market.

-Stephanie Braun

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