Running a retail business online is a good way to get the experience you need as an entrepreneur while minimizing the overhead you need to pay out in your early months and years. Set up correctly, a low volume online business can be run out of a workshop or basement by a single operator, and order fulfillment services with strategically placed warehousing providers can allow you to scale up affordably if things take off and you don’t feel ready to invest in your own employees and facilities. As a result, they’re good investments for both those who hope to expand to a brick and mortar operation and those looking for a business investment they can run with minimal space, even after it takes off. If you’re just starting out in the world of e-commerce, it can be hard to tell what you need to fully protect your new business. Here are three must-have tools you should make sure you invest in.
1. Your Own Merchant Account
If you’re accepting credit cards, you generally need a merchant account and probably your own payment gateway to go with it. Some online storefronts offer gateway services and others even offer third-party processing so you can operate without a merchant account to mediate between your business bank account and the customer’s credit account. That makes it easy to get going, but there’s a catch. Third-party merchant account provisions are usually the most expensive you’ll find, so it doesn’t take long for virtually any other agreement to be more cost-effective. Shop for the right merchant account and credit processor, though, and you can use any online storefront you want with the confidence that you already know what your cost for credit card transactions will be.
2. Fraud Protection
Merchant credit card fraud is one of the biggest risks faced by online retailers, regardless of their size or the kind of goods they sell. A lot of it is so-called friendly fraud caused by a chargeback being initiated instead of a refund request since many customers perceive that as easier. A fair amount is by intentional fraudsters, too. The right management system can help you provide yourself with the merchant fraud protection you need to avoid losing money to improper chargebacks.
3. Secure Inventory Management
Another important tool is your inventory tracking system. You need something that allows you to follow your on-hand stock easily and fits with your warehousing methods, whether you’re renting space, self-storing, or using a fulfillment service. For high volume companies with multiple answers to warehousing for different sales contexts, this becomes even more important. If you can find an inventory system that integrates with your store to alert you when stock is low automatically, it will also save you a lot of work, and saving you work so you can do more is the key to scaling up an online business.