From buyer to seller: sound business advice straight from shoppers

MANILA, Philippines – Whether you’re starting a new business or expanding an already successful one, you've probably considered opening an online store.

Going digital is a no-brainer: it requires relatively low capital, is easy to set up, and can help you gain a wider reach fast.

There’s no better time to open an online store than right now. The e-commerce industry in the Philippines continues to grow, providing you a built-in market.

It’s still anyone’s game, so go out there and experiment. For entrepreneurs, it pays (literally) to be where the opportunity is.

Don't know where to start? The best source of advice will be your customers.

Below are some of their common concerns about online shopping. Take these in, see how they could apply to your business, and address them even before they’re brought up.

“I don’t really know where to shop online”

If you run a clothing business, then you'd know that fit is just as important as quality.

Since customers don't have the option to test your merchandise online, consider having a generous return policy. Offer at least a 30-day window for returns.

Doing so won’t just benefit your customers – it will also allow you to rake in more profit. "Without a good return policy, consumers take their business elsewhere," said Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Marketing Group.

You can also open an occasional pop-up store to augment your digital shop. In 2015, local retailer Zalora launched their first temporary physical space in the Philippines. Shoppers got to try on products, then made their purchases using computers that took the place of checkout counters.

Don’t think opening a pop-up store defeats the purpose of your online one. It’s actually a good opportunity to educate your patrons about the online shopping process. Since they still do their transactions through your website, they’ll see just how easy and convenient it is, introducing an activity that will hopefully become a habit.

“The site is too complicated!”

Just as a store’s layout is crucial, your site’s look and feel is important as well. Your homepage should give a good first impression.

By showcasing your best products and promos upfront, you’ll encourage visitors to buy, and at the same time, reduce clutter on the page.

Organize your products in categories. Relevant categories will make the shopping experience much better because they help streamline your customer’s search.

Make sure that all necessary info – such as name, price, dimensions, features, and materials – are available on the product page.

A complicated checkout page will push shoppers to abandon their carts. So make sure yours is secure, but simple. Avail of e-solutions that will allow you to do away with redundant sign ups and accept a wide variety of payments.

“Can I use my credit card securely online?”

Your customers' security should be your priority when building your online business. 

Online, using credit or debit card is the most convenient way to pay. Make sure your chosen payment channel is trustworthy. Assure your customers that you won't compromise their privacy or financial safety. 

On your checkout page, indicate the safety of your shopping process by placing a security icon and including logos of your partner credit card providers (such as BDO). 

"Shipping takes too long and is expensive”

The shipping fee is a sticky point for most people, especially if their area commands higher delivery charges.

Standard shipping rates for Metro Manila range from P50 to P100, while those outside the metro typically have to shell put P100 to P150.

If your business can afford it, offer free shipping. You can do this across all purchases, for a certain total bill reached, or as a seasonal promo.

Can you offer express shipping as well? It takes about 1-7 business days for packages to be delivered in the Metro Manila area and 5-12 business days for addresses outside of it. Look for a courier service who can help you speed up your delivery time.

Customer service does not go out the window when you set up an online store. 

Adopt solutions that allow you to build your website, increase sales through digital marketing, ensure efficient delivery, and accept card payments through secured online transactions. Consult the experts if needed. 

Listen to what your customers need and want, and you'll reap the rewards. –