Bottom Line Boost — 6 Ways Your Hospitality Businesses Can Save Money

Running a food establishment to turn a profit can be a tricky combination of creativity pitted against hard-nosed dollar smarts.

Positioning a business in a high visibility location with plenty of passing foot traffic, parking and a steady stream of customers, is still no guarantee of success if its outgoings and overheads are hemorrhaging money.

The process to regain control of spending must begin with an internal review. This is done to provide insights into excessive expenditure and poor processes whilst identifying crucial areas where strategies can be implemented to metaphorically and literally ‘trim the fat’.

By addressing the following key sectors, a business can turn around its turnover, rein in costs and boost profits.

Begin with the basics

Cafes, restaurants and hospitality businesses all survive on the income from food and drink. This means implementing optimum menu competitive costing calculations while providing an adequate profit margin is vital.

Menu pricing should be set based on a food cost percentage formula which takes into account:

  • Stringent, detailed recipe costing
  • Associated overheads of running a business including:
    • Staffing
    • Leases
    • Utilities

Licensed premises should run a similar audit of their bar prices to ensure they are balancing affordability with healthy profit margins.

Reduce waste

A compelling study by the National Restaurant Association in the US found that restaurants lose approximately four to ten percent of food to wastage. The restaurant industry alone is responsible for trillions of dollars of waste each year.

This means that substantial savings can be made without affecting the quality of an establishment’s fare, through streamlined food preparation methods, effective storage systems and well managed procurement processes.

The good news according to researchers at Champions 12.3, is that for every dollar businesses spend in strategies to lower food waste, an average of $14 is saved in operating costs.

Begin with a kitchen audit:

  • Install a rotation system to ensure the oldest food gets used first.
  • Inspect food quality from suppliers to identify issues surrounding trimming and loss (e.g. high fat content of meat).
  • Check expiration dates as food is delivered to ensure you are getting the freshest possible produce.
  • Review food preparation techniques to identify strategies to reduce wastage.
  • Review food storage temperaturesto increase shelf life of refrigerated produce.
  • Clearly mark expiration dates so staff understand when to move dishes to the ‘specials board’.
  • Predict peak demand periods to optimise procurement processes.

Preparation and Portion Control

Are diners regularly leaving large amounts of food on their plate? Identifying dishes where portion size is excessive, can substantially impact recipe costs. This is equally true for sides such as salads and chips. Making these an optional extra can have the double impact of saving on food waste and minimise ingredients expenditure.

Consider the off-cuts accumulated during food preparation. Could these be incorporated into other recipes to make full use of each cut of meat or serving of fish? Dishes which lend themselves to this type of economising are:

  • Soups
  • Stir fry
  • Chowder
  • Casserole
  • Stew

Review the Menu

Making a conscious effort to save money requires staff awareness, involvement and commitment. Staff training needs to be instilled and regularly refreshed to:

  • Create awareness and understanding regarding the vital role of economy in a food service environment
  • Identify strategies to monitor storage and preparation methods to restrict food wastage
  • Implement techniques to encourage faster table turnover
  • Promote and upsell meals and extras
  • Encourage practises which lower energy and utility usage

Table Turnover 

Long delays in table turnover can be reduced by installing pay-at-the-table and pre-ordering technologies. These apps result in reduced demands on staff, a streamlined customer experience and increased table turnover rates.

Apps which promote themselves in this arena include:

  • Hey You
  • PayPal
  • Groupee (enables menu splitting)

Faster table turnover is of particular importance in cafes where lower priced products mean you may be relying on higher turnover than a restaurant. Moving customers along can be an art and requires some tact by staff. To avoid confrontation, at busier times it may pay to install written policies.

These written signs needn’t be confrontational and can even carry some subtle humor. An example may read:

‘In a crazy bid to turn a profit, Management kindly request non-diners to give up their seats to the hungry, when  seating demands are high.’

Before seating them, staff can politely ask customers whether they will be requiring a dining menu and if the answer is in the negative, direct them to the window stools. Alternatively, they can give a gentle reminder when directing them to a seat, that lunch dining begins at noon and their table may be required.

In the hospitality industry even small details can dramatically influence viability. Awareness, motivation and processes are the key factors to turning the fortunes of a food service business. If a single step such as reducing waste can result in significant savings, imagine the impact multiple cost-reduction strategies could make to your bottom line!

Should you need funding to implement any of the tips above helpful advice about growing your business and need financial help in realizing it, let us help! IOU Financial specializes in helping small business secure business loans of up to $300,000. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more.

Guest Post: About the Author

Danielle Ryans is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She loves that writing allows her to explore new topics and ideas, and is interested in business, travel, health, food and lifestyle. You can follow her on twitter here. 

Should Your Body Shop Offer an Independent Lifetime Warranty?

As an owner of an auto body shop, you may be wondering how you can give your business a competitive advantage. Every city across the USA has a multitude of body shops, so what can you do to set your business apart from others? A proven strategy for many owners has been offering clients an independent lifetime warranty on some products and services. Read on to figure out what you can cover with your warranty and how it can benefit your business.

What is an Independent Lifetime Warranty?

While some auto part manufacturers provide limited warranties, you can offer your customers an independent lifetime warranty on some parts and repairs. While you may not be able to offer warranties on items such as engines or tires, you can offer to cover repairs on fit, finish, functionality and overall quality. You can cover items such as body work or paint jobs, mechanical repair, parts and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts.

Why Should You Offer Independent Lifetime Warranties?

As a small business owner, it may be difficult to manage costs as it is, and offering any kind of free work may seem like an unneeded expense. However, there are benefits to this incentive, such as:

Setting You Apart from the Competition

Many people shop around before committing to getting their car fixed or serviced at a body shop. They not only look for the most affordable price, but perks not offered anywhere else. You may not be able to beat the cheapest price in town, but you will be able to justify your cost by the fact that you stand behind your work!

Letting potential customers know that they don’t need to worry about bad service or faulty parts will set you apart from the competition and give new customers the faith to give you a try.

Repeat Customers

Another benefit of offering an independent lifetime warranty for your body shop customers is the promise they will keep coming back. A client may have chipped the paint on their car and came back to you for a free touch up, but chances are they may also require an oil change or a tune up at that time.

The promise of your guarantee will keep your clients coming back to your shop, where they likely will spend more money on additional work. This will lead to customer loyalty and more revenue for your business.

Word of Mouth Referrals

Individuals typically find body shops in two ways: through their insurance company or by referrals. Word of mouth referrals are incredibly important for small businesses, and offering an independent lifetime warranty is reason enough for your customers to share that information with their friends, family members and colleagues. This is not a common incentive for small body shops, and it is enough to impress your customers to recommend your business to others, growing your customer base!

If you are looking for effective ways to grow your auto body shop, you may benefit from a small business loan. Let IOU Financial help! Call us today to inquire about our fast and easy loans of up to $300,000.

 

 

Bad Restaurant Review? How to Remedy!

All restaurant owners know the value of customer recommendations and feedback in attracting new customers. Savvy restaurateurs ask customers to leave reviews on their websites and social media accounts to speed up business growth. However, sometimes, the reviews left are not positive, and can present the business in a bad light. What do you do that in that situation? Read on to learn how to remedy a bad restaurant review.

Don’t Ignore

The one thing you should NOT do is do nothing. Some business owners believe that bad reviews are just part of doing business, and figure out that enough good reviews will distract from the negative ones. Others believe that there is nothing to be done about bad reviews at all, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. All it can take is one negative review to prevent potential customers from giving your restaurant a chance.

Contact the Customer

The easiest and often more effective method to deal with a bad restaurant review is to contact the customer that left it. Most websites, such as Yelp and Facebook, will allow you to privately message the individual. If you can connect the name to a client database, you may be able to figure out the person’s phone number or email.

If you have a way to message the person, always take that as your first step. Always remember to be on the customer’s side, whether you find truth in their review or not.

Apologize for the fact that they had a negative experience at your restaurant, and state that your customers’ satisfaction is your number one priority.

Most people will agree to remove or upgrade their review with just a tad of personal attention from the owner. Knowing that you took the time to acknowledge their feelings will make all the difference!

Offer an Incentive

If you feel that the individual is not likely to update their review after your initial contact, consider offering them an incentive to do so. Be careful in doing this, as certain websites, like Yelp, have a policy that penalizes business owners who incentivize clients to remove reviews.

However, doing so in a way that doesn’t directly ask the customer to take this action is acceptable. State that while you cannot change the initial experience, you want to make things right. Consider offering them a refund or a gift certificate to give your business another chance.

This second step is almost always effective in changing a person’s perspective about your business.

Respond Publicly

If the individual refuses to remove the review after the first two steps, the only thing left to do is respond publicly. Although this won’t hide the initial feedback from online users, it will give them another perspective, and show them that the restaurant’s management cares about the business’ reputation.

Always remain professional, empathetic and kind. Apologize to the reviewer and state that you tried to remedy the situation to make it right. If you offered them an incentive, don’t be afraid to include that in your public comment. This will tell the readers that you care about the opinions of your customers and address problems.

You also have the option to hire a Public Relations (PR) specialist to provide you with a good direction in tackling negative reviews. If you need financial help to afford these services, or need other funds to grow your business, contact IOU Financial. We offer fast and easy small business loans up to $300,000 with an easy fast pre-approval  process.

 

 

 

Marketing Ideas for Spring

Spring is a time for new growth and new opportunities! Retail business owners should consider ways to market their companies or products during this season. After the cold winter months when many people stay indoors, spring is the time to focus on attracting new customers and keeping your current ones loyal with strategies to boost profits. Utilize these marketing ideas to jumpstart your sales during the spring season.

Focus on the Holidays

People love holidays, and one great strategy to market your brand is to tie it to a well known event. There are a multitude of options during the spring—major holidays such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Passover, and less known ones, such as Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

Just so you know—”last year, U.S. consumers spent an estimated $17.2 billion for Easter, $20.7 billion on Mother’s Day, and $13.3 billion on Father’s Day,” a source explains.

To attract clientele to your retail location, consider putting on a holiday-inspired event inside your store. If your business is family-friendly, you can advertise an Easter celebration with a bunny, an egg scavenger hunt and other child-centered activities. If your store is more adult-oriented, you can hold a more sophisticated event with music and light bites.

Let the public know about your celebration and you will attract new foot traffic from people who may never have heard about your business and gain new customers for life!

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a time to get rid of the old and focus on the new. It provides a chance to analyze your inventory of products that are not selling as well or no longer serve your brand image and hold a blow out sale.

If you advertise a sale, chances are you will boost your profits for the quarter while getting rid of overstocked items.When discounting items, create a price ending in 9, such as “$23.99” or “19,” as research has found that this strategy increases sales by 24%!

Tax Season

Another important event happening during the springtime is National Tax Day. It is estimated that about two thirds of individuals expect tax refunds during April. This is a perfect opportunity for retail business owners to encourage customers to spend that cash!

A great incentive to attract shoppers to your location is to offer a free item or discount with proof of filed taxes. Or, celebrate Tax Day by waiving taxes on purchases in your store on April 15th!

Marketing Strategies

With holidays, spring cleaning sales and tax season as three main ideas you should consider for the season, you will need to plan on actual ways to market them, which can include:

  • In-home mailers
  • Marketing emails
  • Ads in the local paper
  • Social media advertising
  • Sponsorships
  • Handing out leaflets
  • Leaving ad materials in other local businesses (cross sponsorship)

Start planning now on how to put the spring marketing ideas into motion. IOU Financial is ready to provide financial assistance to help you grow your business. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com.

Best Industry Podcasts for Restaurant Owners

As a restaurant owner, it is beneficial to stay on top of the latest news in your industry. Unfortunately, this business requires a big time commitment, and not many owners have the availability to network or even read restaurant-related news.

Most, however, would find it valuable to connect to relevant sources to help them run their business if they can do it on the go. Podcasts offer exactly that opportunity to restaurant owners, allowing them to hear experts in the field discuss topics of relevance to them that they can listen to during their commute, while exercising, or even planning meals for their restaurant. Here are the very best, hand-selected podcasts for restaurant owners.

Social Restaurant Podcast – Weekly Talk Radio for Restaurateurs

Nate Riggs, a NR Media Group owner and professional speaker, puts on a weekly episode in which the restaurant business is discussed. Each episode is 30 to 60 minutes, and features owners, operators, executives, authors, chefs and technology experts from the top restaurants worldwide.

Nate leads discussions about the latest trends, helpful technological advances and other topics of relevance to the food industry. The episodes features one-on-one interviews, conversations, commentary and advice on reinventing your restaurant!

Profitable Hospitality

Profitable Hospitality is a website designed for owners and managers of hospitality businesses, including restaurants and cafes. The founder, Ken Burgin, has been in hospitality for over 25 years, owning various restaurants, as well as serving as an advisor.

The site features a multitude of podcasts (over 250!) with restaurant owners, managers and chefs, among others.

Topics include:

  • Diversity
  • Menu customization
  • Targeting specific audience
  • Finances
  • And more!

Restaurant Unstoppable

Calling itself the #1 podcast for restaurant owners, these podcasts target independent restaurant owners. Run by Eric Cacciatore (like the chicken dish), the site started when he was a mere hospitality student to broaden his horizons. Now, he helps business owners learn the tips and tricks to expand and successfully run their restaurants.

He allows his listeners to hear advice from industry experts, as well as sharing their failures to teach others never to give up. He also provides actionable advice for getting funding, managing a team and marketing.

Secret Sauce

The secret is out—the site marketing4restaurants.com shares their take on the best marketing strategies to run these businesses.

The advice comes from the real world—monthly analytics of bookings and orders from actual restaurants. This helps the podcasts provide actionable and proven tips to help restaurant owners.

The reason this blog is helpful is because marketing for restaurants is unique from other industries, and you can learn the best and most cost efficient ways to grow your business.

Table Touch

Hosts Brandon Hull, founder of NextRestaurants, a marketing-focused restaurant resource on the web, and Randy Lopez, the founder of JaKE, a restaurant-industry marketing and PR agency, came together to create this podcast.

They invite leaders in the restaurant world to help listeners hear their opinions on:

  • Building a brand
  • Opening multiple locations
  • Sales
  • Holiday menus

If you hear some helpful advice about growing your business and need financial help in realizing it, let us help! IOU Financial specializes in helping small business secure business loans of up to $300,000. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more.

 

Best Marketing Methods to Bring in New Salon Clients

For a salon to be successful, your calendar must be full of appointments. If you are just starting out, you must attract new clients so that your salon doesn’t operate without any customers. To grow an existing salon business, you need to maximize the amount of clients so you can hire more stylists to grow your profits. How do you attract new clientele to your salon? By utilizing the following proven marketing methods:

Utilize Local Social Media Groups

While some people will walk into a salon without knowing anything about it, most people want some kind of referral. In the past, we had to rely on our friends, family members and colleagues. In today’s world social media is king when it comes to referral sources.

As a salon is a brick-and-mortar business, you must concentrate on the individuals in close proximity to you, as they are your most obvious customers. Apps such as Nextdoor and local groups on Facebook are great resources to connect with your neighbors.

Stay on top of these groups – answer questions in which people may ask for services such as those your offer, or inquire about advertising opportunities on these groups.

Start a Referral Program

To motivate your current clients  to refer your salon to their network of friends, simply offer them a reward!

You can offer a special discount or a free service or product for any customer who brings in their friend! Reward top referrers with special prizes to encourage them to keep spreading the word.

Social media can also play a role in this strategy.  Ask your clients to post reviews, upload photos and recommend your business on their social media accounts.

Become an Influencer

Many small business owners turn to influencers, or individuals with large social media followings, to market their services. The problem is that strategy is typically expensive, and it doesn’t target your local audience.

Instead, spend your efforts to become an influencer yourself! Create a YouTube channel, start an Instagram account or open a Pinterest account to share your expertise in a given area—makeup, hair, nails or hair removal services.

With the right photos and videos and relevant advice, you can become an expert in your field and lead new customers to come to you instead of searching for them!

Get Involved in the Community

Another way to achieve brand recognition in your neighborhood is to get involved in your community. Sponsor a local school event, a charity or a little league team. Organize a park or beach cleanup event to do something good!

If you can get local media to cover the event, and create some posters or make T-shirts, that would be amazing advertising for your business.

It has been proven by a study that community involvement is something that customers keep in mind when choosing which business to support, and that it leads to “loyal customers and happier employees.”

Investing into marketing strategies to bring in new clients is never a bad idea. However, if you don’t have the financial means required, IOU Financial is ready to help. Contact us to learn how you can get qualified for a small business loan of up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours!

Four Easy Strategies to Create Email Campaigns that Retain Customers

Customer loyalty is one of the most important differentiators between a successful and a failed business. It takes time and and investment to attract new customers—customer acquisition costs alone can make it cost prohibitive to run a business. This is why taking steps to retain your current customers is vital to generating sales in a retail environment.

Keeping your customers in the loop about new products and services, alerting them to sales and special deals and simply staying in communication with them through email campaigns is a cost effective and proven strategy. In fact, one source claims that email marketing is more effective than Facebook and Twitter! We share with you tricks of the trade to implement email campaigns to ensure customer loyalty.

Know Your Audience

Email marketing is completely ineffective unless the emails are opened and read. In order to accomplish this, you need to tailor the content to your particular target audience. Do you know who your clients are? Knowing the following demographics can significantly increase the chances of your emails being read:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Purchase history

Once you have these demographics, you can segment your email lists to make them more interesting to your customers. MailChimp found that segmented campaigns get 14.64% more opens and 59.99% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.

Personalize Emails

People get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day, most of it spam. We are so used to ignoring or deleting content that is of no interest to us, that it is increasingly difficult for retail owners to cut through the clutter. One way of getting a reader’s attention is to personalize the email that is sent out.

Experian found that simply including a person’s name in an email’s subject line increased open-rates by as much as 42% for companies that are selling products or services. And the biggest bonus was not just that more people read the emails, but that they spent more money! “Transaction rates were 49% higher and revenue per email was 73% higher with personalization.”

Share Interesting Content

To retain your customers, it’s not enough to simply make announcements in your emails, you need to create relevant content that is interesting and important to them. In addition to sales announcements, consider sending out articles that educate your readers about topics that are of interest to them.

One article explains that educating customers not only builds trust, but it also adds a human element to email marketing. When you are able to get your customers to trust you, you become an expert in your field in their eyes, which makes it easier for them to open their wallets and make purchases based on your recommendations.

Create a Call to Action

Always focus on the main goal of every email—it’s not just to get readers to open or read it, but to generate a sale and retain a customer. It’s not enough to hope that individuals do this, you need to ask, or better yet, direct them in doing so.

Include a call to action (CTA) in every single piece of email sent out. These can ask readers to like your social media page, visit your landing page, purchase a product or share your article with their social network.

There are many useful software programs that will help you design and test effective email marketing strategies that work. If you need financial help in setting up a marketing plan, turn to IOU Financial. We can secure a small business loan for you with a few easy steps and quick funding. Contact us today!

Four Proven Marketing Tips for Restaurants to Implement During the Holidays

The holidays are a joyous and busy time for many, but some restaurants owners see a decline in business during the winter months. One source found that as many as 61% of restaurants reported a decline of up to 20% in patrons and sales during this time.

There are a multitude of reasons that sales can be down, ranging from cold weather which discourages patrons from leaving their homes and times spent indoors with family rather than out and about. A holiday decline does not have to affect your restaurant, however, if you strategize with carefully crafted marketing holiday marketing tips to drive customers to your business!

Holiday-Themed Menu

People love to feel festive during the holidays, which is why adding a holiday-themed menu can draw people to your restaurant. Consider offering family-friendly meals that your patrons can eat in or take to enjoy at home. Offering family-sized meals makes it convenient for your customers to quickly order without having to deliberate on what items and amounts to get.

Add holiday-themed foods to your menu to appeal to your patrons’ palates! Holiday favorites, such as turkey, egg nog and stuffing are always a hit! Get creative with adding items and ingredients that your customers may not be familiar with to surprise them and keep them guessing!

Appeal to the smallest patrons by offering foods that can excite them, such as specialty-shaped foods (sandwiches shaped like Christmas trees!), holiday cookies and other treats shipped from the North Pole.

Holiday-Themed Activities

Help your patrons get in the spirit by adding a holiday feel to your restaurant. You can choose specific nights to throw special holiday parties which feature holiday music and a winter wonderland decor.

If you have a family-friendly restaurant, encourage your customers to bring their kids by planning a visit from Santa Claus, as well as arts and craft activities, such as making holiday cards. Advertising a free photo with Santa with every family meal can help your customers save on holiday photos and instead spend their money in your restaurant.

Holiday Specials

The holidays are an expensive time when most of us shop for gifts for family and friends. Help ease the financial burden your patrons may be facing by offering holiday specials and coupons that they will surely appreciate.

Consider tying in an exclusive discount with a charitable cause, which is always important to remember during the holidays. Ask your customers to stop by and leaved canned food for a local food bank or used clothes for a nearby shelter. In exchange for their donation, you can offer a discount on their food purchase or a free item (a drink or dessert) in addition to a paid meal.

Marketing

Once you figure out your holiday menu, decor, activities and specials, you need to share that information with your target audience so that they can be informed about what is going on at your restaurant. Consider the best ways to get their attention and how best to spend your marketing budget.

If your restaurant is located in an area with high traffic, putting up a large sign or poster may suffice. Otherwise, sending in-home mailers to your local patrons or sending out emails through your customer database can be effective.

To stand out from the competition, consider unique ways that you can grab your customers’ attention and encourage them to frequent your business. This can include funny holiday cards to make them laugh or bold online campaigns.

Should you need help to invest in marketing or making your restaurant holiday-friendly, IOU Financial is happy to help. We offer hassle-free small business loans of up to $300,000 in as little as 24-48 hours. Visit our website to get more details about how we can help your restaurant thrive during the holidays and all year round!

Tips for Restaurant Owners: How to Take Better Food Photos

What would you do to increase your restaurant’s profits by 30%? What if all you needed to do was snap a photo? That’s right, one study found that taking and sharing photos of food served at your restaurant can increase profit by as much as 30%! Unfortunately, most of us are not skilled photographers, and with the mass amount of competition online, it is imperative to improve your skills to grab your audience’s attention. Read on to find tips on taking better food photos!

Choose Natural Light

While professional photographers don’t go anywhere without fancy lighting, good old natural light is best for taking photos of food. This is because you want to show food as it truly looks without adding any yellow or orange hues from artificial lighting (no one is going to want to eat yellow rice or orange eggs!).

What’s the best way of getting natural light? Go outside! Avoid spots with direct sunlight as that will add shadows in your photo. Instead, try to take your photos on overcast days where just the right amount of sunlight peers through the clouds.

Need to take photos when it’s raining or snowing, and outside is simply not an option? Take photos near windows or a patio, allowing the sunlight to hit the plate from as many angles as possible.

Remove the Clutter

A professional photo only contains what the photographer intended the viewer to see. Look through the lens and remove any objects that are not required in your photo. You can leave objects that enhance the image, such as flowers, a fork and knife or a beautiful landscape; however, you want the viewers to concentrate on the food rather than be distracted by anything else. In fact, the best backgrounds for food photos are neutral, light or dark; avoid reflective backgrounds such as countertops.

Choose the Best Angle

Taking a photo of a plate or pasta, a smoothie or a sandwich all require different angles. The rule of thumb is to shoot from above when the food is on a bowl or plate as this provides the best view of all of the ingredients in the food and minimizes the background (unless you choose to zoom out and include more details in the photo). Drinks and foods with layers, such as sandwiches, lasagna and cakes, best shot from the side.

Focus on the Arrangement

When your restaurant patrons come into your business, they are hungry and don’t pay too much attention to how their food is arranged as long as it tastes good. However, when you want to attract new customers based on photos alone, arrangement is key.

Learn the art of food plating to carefully and aesthetically place the food so that it looks attractive. Consider what ingredients you can add to enhance the look of the food, such as bright spices, green spice leaves or bold sauce colors.

While you can take photos with your iPhone or a cheap camera, the best photos are made with professional cameras. If you need help in financing this expense, or want to truly invest in photo marketing and hire a professional photographer, IOU Financial is ready to sponsor this goal! We help small business owners acquire loans in 24-48 hours. Contact us today to learn more.

How to Start an Online Site for Your Retail Store

Whether you already own a brick and mortar store, or just want to focus your retail efforts online, creating a website is an important step to growing your business. With over half of Americans preferring to shop online, not creating a user-friendly e-commerce site is not a smart decision. Read on for steps on starting an online site for your retail store.

Choose a Website Name

The first step to creating a retail store is choosing a website name. Ideally, you want the name to be the same as your actual business name. If you are just starting a business, consider including relevant keywords into your domain name to make your site come up in Google search rankings. 

Check GoDaddy to verify if your first choice for domain names is available; the site can also recommend domain names for you based on keywords you input into the search field. If available, choose a .com address as that’s the most common and easiest to remember. Although this is not officially stated anywhere, Google doesn’t prefer .biz or .info extensions because a majority of those websites are considered to be spam. Purchase a domain name through your web hosting provider or a different domain name service.

Pick a Hosting Solution

In order for your website to be found online, you need to choose a web hosting platform that will store your site on its server. There is a multitude of web hosts to choose from, both free and paid. Paid web hosts typically provide more options and services that can benefit your site in the longer, such as:

  • Storage: While free web hosting solutions offer up to 10GB of free storage, a paid service can give you unlimited storage space. Images and videos can take up a lot of space, causing you to run out of storage quickly.
  • Domain Name: If you want a custom domain name, you will need to pay for your web host because free options mostly include their own site in your domain name, such as www.wix.com/yournamehere
  • Ads: Free web hosts often make their money by advertising on your site; if you would rather control what ads (if any) you run, you will need to pay a premium fee.
  • Support: It’s very difficult to get support for free web hosting solutions, while paid ones will usually provide a phone number or chat options to a specialist who can help you 24/7.

Consider Wix, WordPress, HostGator or FatCow for inexpensive options for your ecommerce website.

Hire a Web Designer

While many web hosts allow novices to build websites from scratch using pre-designed formats and add-ons, it is always best to hire a professional web designer who will create an easy-to-use, functioning and unique website that will look and feel professional.

Concentrate on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

According to Entrepreneur, SEO is the third vital step to online business success after offering good products and creating a great site. Optimizing your website with keywords that online users can search for to lead them to your site is imperative to gain traffic. 

Utilize Google’s Keyword planner to enter terms relevant to your brand. This free tool will suggest other terms, as well as provide information about competition and search results for each keyword. Once you have this information, you can include the keywords in your website content, blogs, press releases and image tags.

Starting a retail website usually requires an initial investment for website design, SEO and advertising. If you need financial help to grow your business, turn to IOU Financial. We can provide a small business loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.