Paths to your own online shop

One’s own online shop? In the paper and stationery sector, certain businesses – especially small and medium-sized retailers – do not have one. But web shops not only offer new sources of income, they can also be set up much more easily than many people assume. 

Art supplies, stationery, special paper or even greetings cards – with its visually appealing products and a wide range of gifts, the paper and stationery sector is actually pre-destined for online retail. It is precisely this sort of product that is in-demand on the web and that sells really well. However, many retailers, especially small and medium-sized businesses, shy away from starting an online shop. 

According to a survey by the E-Commerce Center at the Institute for Trade Research (IFH) in Cologne, eight out of ten paper and stationery retailers questioned did not have their own web shop in 2014. 

The reasons for this are varied. Some are still hesitant about taking the step from brick-and-mortar retail into digital retail. Others fear the effort that running your own online shop brings, ranging from additional costs through to the IT know-how required. 

The last year of COVID-19 lockdowns especially, though, has shown how helpful digital purchase options can be as an alternative. The internet offers many possibilities for starting your own successful online shop. 

Own online shop with website 

Naturally, it is possible to set up a website with an online shop. This offers the greatest flexibility and freedom of design. With tools like Wix or Wordpress, it is possible nowadays to mount a professional website with ease, even while not having much knowledge about IT. To set up more complex features, though, such as payment functionality or GDPR terms and conditions, it may be advisable to engage a professional to help. 

Advantages: 

  • Set up the shop exactly how you imagine it
  • Better ranking on search engines (and therefore more traffic and better conversion)
  • No commission payments 

Disadvantages: 

  • Greater cost and time implications
  • Requires constant marketing and advertising activities

Become a seller in existing online shops 

If having your own website seems like too much effort, another option for paper and stationery retailers is to sell their goods through large shopping platforms like Amazon or Etsy. This can be thoroughly successful. Both portals recorded record turnovers in 2020, which comes down to the increasing number of people favouring online shopping. 

Advantages:

  • No IT knowledge needed
  • Constant presence on popular portals
  • Possible to have direct contact with customers

Disadvantages: 

  • High levels of competition 
  • Portals charge commission

An alternative to the well-known online sellers could also be to have a shop on a social network like Facebook or Pinterest. In return for a moderate cost and time implication, these provide the opportunity to tap into new target groups and increase revenues. 

First steps: Build up online presence through Google Maps

 

Newcomers can also try to establish their initial online presence through Google Maps, before building this up gradually. Linking your business to the online map makes it easier to be found. Shoppers can also leave reviews, which is helpful for new customers.

It is also possible to redirect searchers from Google Maps to your own website. This could even be to a Facebook or Instagram page, for example, so that interested parties get a first impression and have a point of contact for enquiries. 

Shop systems in cooperatives

For cooperative group members, there is also the option of using shop systems of industry cooperatives such as Sonnenecken, Duo or Büroring, to mention just a few examples. These allow retailers either to link to the relevant online shop system or provide them with support in building up their own online shop. By joining a cooperative group, you can also benefit from other services, such as help with marketing and advertisement and simple billing systems, as well as advice and training courses. 

Other advantages: 

  • Comprehensive service
  • Industry-specific network with insider knowledge
  • Minimal expense/effort

Disadvantages: 

  • Own products are directly comparable with those of competitors
  • Less scope to design your online presence

Own online shop as standard

Regardless of whether you opt for a website or a cooperative marketplace, having an online presence is becoming more and more important for paper and stationery retailers too, both in terms of customer service and revenues. 

Building up an online shop does not need to involve great expense and effort and there are different approaches, so businesses are able to choose the option that suits them the best. 

InsightsTalks Online give an overview of current developments in digitalisation and e-commerce in paper, office supplies and stationery retail. 

Go to summary of InsightsTalks Online

 

About the author:

BASIC thinking is an online magazine and is one of the widest reaching tech platforms in German-speaking countries. The magazine reports about social media, marketing, and business topics daily. This article was written by Christina Widner from BASIC thinking GmbH.

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