Data show that most U.S. homes have at least one pet. For eager entrepreneurs, combining America’s love for pets with its love of convenience may lead to successful online pet stores. If you decide to enter this market, there are several things to keep in mind. The following are four elements of a successful online pet store.
1. A Strong Business Plan
A comprehensive business plan is key to a successful business. This document should include an overview of the business organization and structure as well as details about the products to be sold. Other important elements include:
- Marketing strategy
- Market analysis
- Financial projections
This plan will help you stay organized and focused. You will need this document when applying for funding, so make sure it is well-written and professional.
2. The Right Digital Programs
Technology can help your business run more smoothly, but it is important to choose software that is both helpful and reliable. The following are some tools that may be useful for an online pet store.
A point-of-sale system is how customers pay for their purchases. Some systems have additional features that may be useful. When looking for a high-quality pet store POS platform, keep an eye out for the following elements:
- Relevant product catalog
- Customer loyalty program
- Inventory management system
A product catalog designed for pet stores keeps you from having to manually input the goods you sell, and a customer loyalty program helps you compete with big box stores that offer rewards points. An advanced inventory management system helps you track what you are selling and what you need to reorder.
Without the right training, bookkeeping can be a nightmare for a small-business owner. Fortunately, there are many software programs and apps that automate the process. These tools can keep track of everything from bank balances to sales tax. Some can even automatically file payroll tax forms. Although you may still have to hire someone to do annual tax returns for your business, an accounting program can help you keep all of your information organized so that you can give your bookkeeper what he or she needs.
Filing cabinets may still have a place in your business, particularly if you want to keep hard copies of insurance forms and other documents. For the most part, though, you should be able to streamline your organizational system by using cloud-based tools. You can store documents that you created or received digitally as well as digital scans of physical documents. Make sure you have a system for organizing digital files so that they don’t get buried and disappear.
3. High-Quality Products and Delivery
The market research you conducted while writing your business plan should have led you to a profitable range of offerings for your target audience. Find your niche. What are you offering your customers that they can’t get somewhere else? Perhaps you specialize in homemade cat toys or organic food for exotic pets. Whatever you are selling, make sure it is high quality. Food should be fresh and nutritious. Toys and accessories should be safe and durable. Cleaning products should be effective and non-toxic.
For an online business, shipping and handling are just as important as the products themselves. Your customers need their purchases to arrive on time and in perfect condition. This means you need to find a reliable delivery service, purchase durable shipping materials, and pack items carefully.
4. Excellent Customer Service
No matter how good your products are, poor customer service can ruin your reputation. Whether you are a one-person show or the leader of a team, make sure every interaction with your customers, whether face-to-face, on the phone, or by email or chat, is pleasant. Be patient and polite. Do your best to solve all problems and satisfy all customers. Respond thoroughly and promptly. Take customer feedback seriously. Pay attention to what customers need, what they want, and what they struggle with. Polish your skills by reading a book or taking a course on customer service.
Many factors affect a business’s chances for success. To get your business off to a great start, focus on investing in the right tools and creating a strong business plan with an emphasis on excellent products and service.