Eleven Tips for Opening a Public Web-to-Print Storefront

If you have a web-to-print storefront through which existing customers can place re-orders, maybe you have considered setting up an online storefront to attract business from new customers beyond your traditional sales territory. Developing a line of products that you can sell directly to consumers or businesses in a niche field can help make your business less susceptible to big fluctuations in monthly revenues.

Setting up a public (B2C) web-to-print storefront requires a different skills than setting up a B2B storefront for existing customers. For example, marketing the storefront is extremely important because you will be competing for attention with millions of other e-commerce sites.

Consider these eleven tips before and after you open your online storefront.

Choose a niche audience to serve. The best way to compete with existing online marketplaces such as Amazon is to offer specialty products to a niche audience. For example, one online storefront makes it extremely easy for church administrators and volunteers to order banners and printed materials for church-related events and Sunday schools. Site visitors can add their own text to pre-designed templates for everything from programs to table covers and backdrops. Other storefronts are designed to attract musicians who want “merch”  they can sell at gigs or designers or artists who want to convert their designs into sellable products.

When you focus your site on a niche, your site can include specific jargon and images that show you really understand the needs of that audience.

Determine the types of products you will sell. Start with a small group of unique and well-designed products, and gradually expand to offer related products your customers are buying elsewhere. For example, you could start selling posters, signs, T-shirts, wall decals, or photo prints. Or, you could produce awards, presentation folders, or shipping boxes. The type of specialty products you can offer is limited only  by the type of digital printing and finishing equipment you have.

Determine how orders from your online storefront will be produced and shipped. Some print shops operate “on-demand printing and fulfillment centers” that are entirely separate from the printing and production systems they use for producing larger orders from their everyday business clients.

Hire an experienced designer. The branding and design of your online store doesn’t have to match the design of your print shop’s website. Instead, it should visually capture the interest of your target audience. The site should also make it easy for shoppers to navigate and place orders. An experienced designer can advise you of problems other ecommerce sites have faced. To ensure that your storeont is easy to use, ask friends or relatives who aren’t familiar with your products for feedback.

Learn the basics of SEO. Search-engine optimization makes it easier for your online storefront to be discovered among the millions of e-commerce sites already up and running. If you have defined a niche audience, you won’t need to reach millions of people. You only need to find ways to attract people who are already searching online for the types of products you offer.

SEO requires you to research what words and phrases your target customers are using to search for products online. Once you understand how these customers might conduct an online search for your products, you can tailor the design and content of your website accordingly. An experienced website designer may be able to help with SEO or you can find helpful guides online. Moz offers “A Beginner’s Guide to SEO” that has been read over 3 million times. Another one we like is "The Ultimate Guide to SEO"

Don’t skimp on product photography. The quality of visuals can help give website visitors the information they need to make buying a decision. Let them inspect the product from multiple angles and up close if necessary.

Include clearly written content that educates and explains. If you are giving customers a choice of different materials, don’t use jargon they might not understand. Explain why a “premium” option is worth paying more for and why a “value-priced” option might be perfect for shorter-term requirements.

Make sure that payment options, return policies, and shipping options are clearly explained. Online shoppers should also know how to contact a customer service representative when necessary.

Use online advertising and marketing techniques to attract visitors to your site. Promoting your storefront should be an ongoing activity. Use the channels that are most popular with your target customers. Study analytics to find out which channels and techniques are most effective over time.

Build a community of fans. Find ways to convert first time customers into repeat buyers. Offer discounts or other incentives to customers who subscribe to your emails and newsletters or offer to write a product review.

Streamline your systems of accepting and processing orders. It doesn’t make sense to set up a web-to-print ordering system without systems in place to efficiently process all orders. For example, your staff shouldn’t have to waste time converting re-entering data from an online order into a job ticket or shipping label. All that incoming data should flow seamlessly throughout your shop.

At Ordant, we can help you set up B2B and B2C storefronts that send order and payment data directly into our easy-to-use order management system for all types and sizes of print shop. To schedule a demonstration, visit. www.ordant.com

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