Whenever I build a new online store for a brick-and-mortar shop, we start by discussing how they plan to keep the store updated.
- How do you want to receive alerts for orders?
- What tax settings do you want to use?
- How to you plan to process payment?
- Will you offer exchanges and returns?
- How will you manage shipment?
Each of these questions fits into a larger discussion about managing an online store. During the conversation, my clients realize that they need to put a process in place to manage the inventory — just like they do in their physical store.
Literally, the online store is an actual storefront — requiring a different level of website maintenance.
Two Ways to Manage Updates
Whenever I launch a new website, I train my clients on how to update their store. This includes key tasks such as:
- Adding new inventory
- Putting items on sale
- Pulling orders
- Creating coupons and sales
In general, my clients split into two groups. Some decide they want to update their store internally. They delegate the updates to someone on their team. This person is responsible for taking product photos, creating the listings, managing the orders, and keeping the site up-to-date.
Other clients decide that I will keep their inventory up to date. I take the product photos for them, create the listings based on a spreadsheet of information, and keep the site up to date. Then, the client is only responsible for managing the physical inventory and fulfilling the orders.
In either case, I offer a few key tips to help my clients to keep their store up to date.
Online Store Tips
When you create an online store, you’ll make more money on each item if you can lower the overhead of keeping the website up-to-date.
Choosing Your Categories and Tags
As you walk around your physical store, you may not arrange your wares by category. The displays are based on how customers walk around your store. By contrast, your eStore product categories work more like a filing system.
Set up categories that are as broad as possible while being accurate. Create tags to “sort” products by individual features. Users will need these options to shop.
Maintaining this system can become cumbersome if you make it up as your go. I suggest making a list of your products first and then arranging them in a spreadsheet. Use this to think through how you will arrange your categories. Also, this can help you keep track of tags.
Ideally, you won’t have a category or tag that is only attached to a single product. If that’s the case, consider removing it from your store until you have other like items.
Choosing Your Products
Sometimes, my clients try to use their websites as a “clearance” section for their store. Essentially, they take the few items that they don’t sell in-store and try to sell them online. This doesn’t work well for several reasons.
The Hard Way
First, it costs you more per item to make a single listing for a single item compared to making a listing for an item that has multiple in stock. If it takes you 10 minutes to create a listing, you are taking the cost of that time out of the sale price of your item. If you have an inventory of 10 on that listing, you can divide that time by the sale price of each item. So, you have less overhead on items where you have multiple in inventory.
Second, this strategy is bad for SEO. The items will come up and down from your site more quickly than if you have an item with multiples in stock. Your backlinks will break, your overall trust ranking will be lower and you lose opportunities to gain organic traffic to your site.
The Better Way
My strategy for choosing products is quite simple. Pick products where you can create a listing that can stay up for months. Create the listing with variations for size, color, etc. You’ll need to write a general description and take photos of all the different colors, sizes, and variations that you offer. Then, manage the stock within that listing.
There are two main benefits of this strategy. First, you save time on creating your product listings because you’re using it for several variations and keeping it up for a longer period of time. Second, you give search engines, social media, and your customers a chance to organically find your listings. This means you can invest in better photos, keyword optimization, social media promotions, ads, etc. This gives your store a chance to actually carve out a niche and become “known” for certain products — boosting your overall visibility.
Managing Your Inventory
Finally, you need to create a plan for managing your inventory between your physical store and your eStore. Some clients choose to keep the inventory completely separate. They warehouse the online items in the back of their store and ship from there.
Others manage the inventory together — using a point-of-sale system that connects to their eStore. While some of these are automated, they don’t sync automatically. So, you’ll want to set reminders to check on low inventory to ensure you don’t sell an item that is no longer in stock.
Each of these tips helps you lower the cost of maintaining your website and increase your net profits.
Keep Your Online Store Updated
It’s easier to keep your online store updated when you start with a sound product management strategy. Start by arranging your products into a spreadsheet. Make sure you only choose items that you plan to keep in your eStore for months at a time.
Then, record your variations, choose the categories, and type out tags. This will help you save time when you create your product listings — making it easier to keep your online store up-to-date.