August 23, 2011

How to Setup Online Store in India

Want to setup online store in India? Take a look at these steps that will help you setup your online store.

Zulily online store by Magento

Indian markets are booming. With easier access to Internet in India, more people are shopping online. If you have some great products to sell, now is the time to setup an online store and reach these customers. And, by providing awesome service, you can also turn these customers into loyal, repeat customers who will continue to buy from you for a long time.

So, what does it take to setup an online store in India? 
  1. An Ecommerce Service – that powers your website and helps you create and run the online store efficiently
  2. Backend operations - to supply products
    1. suppliers for your products
    2. warehouse for products
  3. Shipping Service – to ship the products to customers and collect payments when cash-on-delivery is used
  4. Payments – providing multiple payment options to customers to make it easy for them.
  5. Marketing – your store and products online and offline. Marketing is an ongoing activity that will help you get new customers and generate repeat business from existing customers.

Each of these items are further detailed below.

An Awesome Ecommerce Service
To start with, you’ll need an awesome ecommerce service to power your store. Pick a hosted ecommerce service, as it will handle most of the burden of running your online store – from running the servers and software to ensuring that the website is up 24/7. If you decide to run your own servers and software for the online store, be prepared for a lot of additional work to run your online sore.

Most hosted services provide entry-level plans, which allow you to setup the online store for as little as $15/month and a free trial period where you can test the service. Magento Go is a favorite with one of the best features and pricing and with the financial strength of its parent eBay. Others include Big Commerce, Volusion and Shopify. Check Magento Go vs Big Commerce to learn more about these services.

BuildaBazaar and MartJack are two ecommerce service providers in India but do not compare in reliability, features or pricing with the above.

The ecommerce service will be the core of your store, so choose carefully. You will live with the service for a long time.

And, remember to always keep a copy of your source product data (images, description, pricing etc), customer list and store transaction data. These will help you if you ever need to rebuild your store or migrate to another service.

Backend Operations
This is your key value-add. Once an order is placed, how do you supply the product? How soon can you ship it? Do you have the product in stock or need to get it from the supplier?

It requires an efficient supply-chain, a good relationship with your suppliers and perhaps a warehouse to stock products for efficient deliveries.

Once a customer places an order, they expect to get it as quickly as possible. Fast deliveries create a great customer experience, create customer loyalty and improve your cash flow. For reference, in the US, Amazon usually delivers order in 2-3 days and Zappos has been known to deliver online orders to customers the same day creating the ultimate shopping experience.  

Shipping Service
You’ll need good shipping services that can deliver your product to customers reliably, ontime and without damage. Indian customers still prefer to pay cash-on-delivery (COD) rather than pay with credit cards or other instruments. Therefore, the shipping service will also collect the COD payments for you.

Most customers will prefer that shipping is free, so, as much as possible, (based on the product, size of the order etc) offer free shipping or a modest shipping charge to customers.

The ecommerce service will provide multiple payment services as part of the store – credit cards, debit cards etc. Since credit cards use is still not popular in India, you’ll also need to provide other payment options such as cash-on-delivery (COD), NetBanking, PayPal, PayMate etc.

From your perspective, cash-on-delivery slows down your cash flow and creates a payment risk, but if it helps you sell to customers who otherwise would not have bought from your online store, then it is still worth providing it.

Marketing your Store
Once the above are taken care of, gear up for marketing your online store extensively. Marketing is an ongoing activity. Marketing is what will get you new customers, increase customer loyalty and generate repeat business from customers.

While most ecommerce services include decent features for marketing your site and products, you’ll need to go far beyond that. It includes organic marketing (that is included on your website), advertising on the Internet, marketing on social sites, promotions, email marketing, offline marketing and more. Marketing an online store effectively is a topic for a future post.

Your marketing goals should be getting –
  • more users to your website
  • users to buy products and become your customers
  • customers to become repeat customers
  • customers to develop loyalty for your store

Indian customers are ready to buy online, get ready to direct them towards your online store.