Opening an online shop can bring in money during lockdown, act as a revenue stream in case of future closures, make it easier for clients to buy their favourite products and offer a good way for you to recommend products, as well as acting as a revenue stream outside your existing client base. However, Kate Woods, founder of hair and beauty digital consultancy Salondipity, says it’s important to keep in mind that an online store takes work to set up and must be managed daily: “You need a marketing plan and delivery mechanism in place, and bear in mind that most platforms and payment mechanisms have costs attached. It takes an average of 31 days to get your first sale, so don’t view it as a quick-fix solution,” she says.
1 Choosing your platform
There are several platforms you can use that will plug in to your existing site. “I generally work with Wordpress sites, things such as WooCommerce, which is a free Wordpress plug-in that you can add to your site, build and then attach to your menu,” says Woods. “It looks the same as your site and will fit in to its structure. Alternatively, Shopify is simple to use to create a standalone store and can be integrated in to your site. There are Wordpress plug-ins you can use for Shopify too. It is possible set up an online shop yourself if you have a website that you confidently update.”
She adds: “If you already use a web company then they can help with things like putting in the navigation or setting up the domain. It can be tricky getting everything working perfectly so if you want a more complicated set up then get a pro in.”
2 Content and pricing
As a salon or clinic owner, it can be easy to assume that everyone knows as much as you about your products. “You need to think like a customer. Focus on the benefits of the product, the results of use and, more importantly, dividing your store into categories that feel logical to clients,” says Woods. “It’s best to organise categories by brand because that makes it easier to search.” You also need to think about what is going to make you stand out from the big online beauty retailers. “The most obvious way to do this is to use your knowledge,” says Woods. “Rather than using product descriptions from brands, write these as if you were describing them to your clients.”
Also, make sure your store looks like an extension of your business. “Prepare your photos and descriptions by creating them yourself or asking brands for images, but don’t take them from the internet because that’s not legal. Make your images and descriptions uniform, as consistency shows professionalism, which brings trust,” says Woods. “Research delivery options too and set your pricing. Look into how much it will cost you to send your products, based on size and weight. From experience, a price point of between £3.95 and £4.95 works well. Putting delivery rates on products is good practice because they can always be taken off in a sale.”
3 How to effectively market your online store
Use every channel you have available – email, SMS and social media – advises Woods, but don’t just use it to tell people you have a store. Instead, Woods states you should use it to promote your store through campaigns, launches and promotional bundles. “It takes seven points of contact for a client to make a purchase, so promote your online shop via different educational and interesting content,” she says. “The ‘Buy Now’ button is a great tool because it can be added to the bottom of a blog post or social media content and act as a link for your customers to easily buy the products featured in the post.”
4 Swot up on SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving traffic to a website from search engines and is integral to getting your website seen. “A slug is part of a URL which identifies a particular page on a website in an easy-to-read form,” explains Woods. “Make sure yours is intuitive and use hyphens rather than underscores. Page title is the most important, so make sure you use the product name and a very brief description. “Page description is the information that appears on the Google search results page and is no more than 155 characters. Include a call to action so people can see a reason why they need this product,” says Woods.
5 Sale and checkout
“All platforms automatically send out notifications, both to you to let you know that you’ve got a purchase, and to the person that has made the purchase. These come out of a default box, but they can be customised, so put your logo on them to make it look like an extension of your brand,” she says. “Check the box to allow abandoned cart emails too as statistics show that 30% of abandoned cart emails end in a sale. “Have a process in place to track instore sales as well as your online ones and attach an order fulfilment process to help you keep track of your completed online orders.”
Kate Woods is a digital consultant to hair and beauty businesses, and the founder of service provider Kor Digital and training company Salondipity.