- Why should you start a virtual store for your small business?
- What are the challenges to scaling an online store?
- Is there a solution to these challenges?
Q: How can I scale my online store?
A: Scaling an online store is much like scaling a traditional store. You need to account for an increase in orders, inquiries, and correspondences, while building a system to provide excellent customer service. This article explains the easiest way to accomplish all of these goals.
Online business is the future.
One cannot understate the influence of the internet. From the revolutionary impact of social media on human connections to the meteoric success of Amazon, the world has gone through an incredible transformation within the past few decades.
Virtual stores are quickly becoming the norm for consumer goods. The allure of leaving the house to browse a limited selection of goods is fading quickly.
In its place, e-commerce is on the rise. Convenience for both consumers and business owners makes it beneficial for almost any business to set up shop online.
But while this change is rapidly unfolding, many business owners find themselves unsure of how to proceed.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to continue growing your business, scaling an online store can be confusing.
But with the right tools, you can expand your online store with ease.
- Why start a virtual store for your small business?
- What businesses can benefit from starting an online store?
- What are the challenges of scaling an online store?
- What is the solution to these challenges?
The Rise of the Remote Business
While online business models have been gaining popularity for years, the pandemic massively accelerated this trend.
Everything from groceries to sporting goods saw metoric rises in online sales during the pandemic. With everyone staying home, e-commerce became ubiquitous.
Lockdowns and social distancing may have eased since then, but that doesn’t mean the trend has reversed. Once consumers learned that they could get just about anything they needed from home, they adopted online shopping as the new norm.
This is great news for entrepreneurs, as it’s never been easier to launch a business, find your niche, and quickly become profitable with an effective e-commerce strategy.
How a Virtual Store Works
Conceptually, virtual stores are fairly simple. At the end of the day, a virtual store is simply a website that acts as a catalogue of your business’s products or services.
When shopping, customers add items to a cart that connects to a payment gateway on your virtual store website. This gateway then connects to a payment processor, allowing you to move funds from the customer’s account to your own.
Virtual stores can vary significantly in size and layout.
For example, Amazon has thousands and thousands of products. This kind of e-commerce setup requires numerous specialized features, including a search bar to help shoppers find what they need.
If you run a smaller business, these kinds of features aren’t always necessary for virtual store shopping. If you only offer 10 different products, your virtual store can be much more simplistic without sacrificing the customer experience.
Virtual stores may also exist in the metaverse, allowing online shoppers to “walk around” in a digital rendition of a physical store, browsing for various items. The virtual store experience has become especially popular in the fashion industry.
Here are some of these virtual store examples:
- Harrod’s virtual Dior beauty store
- Ferragamo’s “house of gifts”
- Tommy Hilfiger’s virtual store
- Burberry’s virtual store
- Snapchat’s virtual stores
Why Start a Virtual Store for Your Business?
Starting a virtual store for your business is almost always beneficial.
According to Pew Research Center, a full 31 percent of Americans report being online almost constantly.
Even those who aren’t constantly online are still spending significant portions of their day on the internet. As a result, digital marketing has become an incredibly powerful tool for small businesses who want to set up a virtual store online.
But one of the keys to successfully converting clicks into customers is having a seamless experience. With so much information and so many distractions, successful companies need to make it easy for customers to make purchases quickly. Even a small pause in the process can pull their attention away from you.
This focus on seamlessness is exactly why a virtual store is so vital. Without one, your customers can’t smoothly complete their purchases, meaning you miss out on the sales you need to succeed.
What Businesses Benefit Most from Virtual Stores?
E-commerce sales are growing faster than retail sales across the board.
While many industries (such as fashion or books) can obviously benefit from a virtual store, even the less obvious businesses are likely to benefit.
Consumers are increasingly turning to online stores for services as well.
Restaurants are taking delivery or takeout orders with fully automated websites. Educators are offering online courses. Even businesses like plumbers and dentists are setting up online scheduling.
Regardless of what you’re offering, it’s almost always a good idea to give consumers online purchasing options.
What are the Challenges of Scaling a Virtual Store?
As remote or online-based small businesses grow, they often experience issues while scaling their virtual stores.
While it may seem like virtual stores are entirely automated, the truth is that they still require a lot of work.
No matter how automated your virtual store might be, you still need to ensure your products get delivered to your customers. When you only make a few sales per day, this is pretty manageable.
When you start making a hundred or more sales per day, things change. Suddenly you’re forced to spend hours and hours packing and shipping items.
And to make things even more difficult, you still have to handle all the other elements of your business.
And when you’re dealing with all of those tasks, customer service also becomes much more burdensome. With more potential customers visiting your site, you’ll inevitably receive more inquiries and more requests for things like exchanges or returns.
Handling all of this by yourself is easy when you’re running a smaller business, but it can quickly become overwhelming as you grow.
You can’t just ignore these things. While it may be tempting to try to handle it yourself, going solo rarely ends well.
When you become overwhelmed with incoming calls and emails from customers, you have two immediate options:
- You answer them all yourself. You end up spending hours upon hours responding to your customers, all while trying to running the rest of your business. You get burnt out, exhausted, and things start to slip. Not only will your business start to slide downhill, but slow will your general well-being.
- You start ignoring inquiries. You let your phone ring unanswered and your voicemail fills up. As a result, customers get upset. They start to leave bad reviews online, discouraging future sales and hurting your business’s growth.
Neither of these “solutions” seem very effective, right?
Luckily, there’s a much more modern, third solution that can help you scale without the headache.
Can a Virtual Receptionist Help You Scale Your Online Store?
A virtual receptionist is a professionally trained, remote receptionist that handles your business phones for you.
Virtual receptionists work by providing you a virtual phone number. You then list this number as your business phone and incoming calls are directly routed to your receptionist.
A virtual receptionist helps you scale your online store in two ways:
- More Time: Your receptionist frees you from the constant need to answer incoming calls. You’re able to focus throughout the day, spending time building the necessary infrastructure to support increased purchases through your website. You also have more time and energy to develop new products and expand into new markets, helping you grow your online store even further.
- Customer Service: A virtual receptionist helps you handle the increased demand from customer inquiry. Each potential customer will be met with a friendly, helpful voice that helps them find the information they need. Not only does this boost conversion rates, but it can also lead to more positive reviews, helping you make more sales indirectly.
In other words, you’re free to build your online store while ensuring your customers have a great experience from start to finish.
Virtual stores are the future for almost every business. They make the customer experience easier while also keeping overhead to a minimum.
That said, scaling an online store can be challenging as a small business owner. You have to deal with a high volume of incoming calls while still finding time to build your online store.
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A virtual receptionist from Alliance Virtual Offices can help. With a live receptionist plan, you’ll gain access to a remote receptionist who can handle incoming calls for you.
Free yourself to expand while ensuring your customers have an unforgettable experience with Alliance Virtual Offices.