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Five steps to start selling online

By / October 24, 2017

At the LBM Strategies Conference last month, I sat on a panel discussion centered around e-commerce and how lumber dealers can get started selling online. Since then, I’ve fielded a lot of questions from other dealers and I’ve often ended those conversations with this response: “Just get started.” Right now, I feel, we are in the perfect time to get started with an e-commerce business. The economy is right for it, customer shopping trends are soon going to demand it, and it’s also the time of year that is best suited for new projects. Your summer business has slowed down a bit and it’s time to do your planning for 2018.

There are many ways to teach yourself some e-commerce tricks of the trade. I know, because at The Deck Store, I’ve experimented with most of them. Here are a few steps that I suggest you follow to get yourself started as well.

1: Choose Your Site Type
There are different types of e-commerce sites. There are marketplace sites like Amazon and eBay, where you can list your products to sell online. There are also private sites that you can call your own. Consider using one of your own and getting an account set up with a service such as Shopify or Magento. Depending on which you use, there are various levels of difficulty for everything from uploading product descriptions and images to processing credit card transactions. Some sites require little or no coding, but you do have to pay to use them.

2: Register Your Domain
You’ll want a domain name. Likely your company already has a website, but you may want something separate for your online store, or a way to completely revamp your current website to include online retail. A service like GoDaddy will help to get a domain name registered.

3: Reserve Server Space
Once you have a domain name, you need server space to host it. You can host the site on your own server, or you can rent server space. Be aware that e-commerce servers are slightly different than what you might use for your email or website. Make sure you’re focused on security with an https (secure) site when processing credit cards. Also, ensure that security measures are always up to date.

4: Study and Strategize
Get to know the terms SEO, SEM and SERP (search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and search engine results page). Even if you have the best website ever, if Google doesn’t agree, it won’t get noticed. Your site will get many more visitors if you can get on the first page of Google results, but be aware that there is only so much room on the first page. Not everyone can get on the first page, so you have to do a better job than your competitors to get there.

5: Start Small and Practice
An e-commerce site with just one item for sale is still an e-commerce site. If you want to try out how it works, you could practice with a pound of nails. List a pound of nails for sale, have someone you know visit the site and order it, then ship it to them. Granted, you’ll probably lose money on that transaction, since who would pay shipping for a pound of nails, but you’ll learn how the process works. Once you know you have the resources to process and ship that order, then start with something like end-cap lights, which are similar sized package, but priced at $89 may allow enough margin for you to recoup some shipping costs.

From my experience, these are just five quick steps that you can take to get started on your e-commerce site. There are many ways to go about establishing your e-commerce business, but the key is to “just get started.” 

Bob Heidenreich

Bob Heidenreich, owner of The Deck Store, in Apple Valley, Minn., has been selling decking and home improvement projects for 30 years. Follow Bob on Twitter: @TheDeckStore.