In today’s online marketplace, everyone is an e-commerce company. If you’re a manufacturer or a brand that has been around the block a few times, you may be thinking about going digital and opening up your own store to start selling your products online. Launching an e-commerce business has never been more difficult, no matter how long you’ve been in business. In addition to creating sales channels and effective marketing strategies for your new web presence, there are certain legal considerations you must take into account when starting any type of business. Here are seven tips on what to consider before launching an e-commerce site:
1) Register Your Trademark
Before placing your product in the hands of third-party sellers or starting your own company, you should register your trademark. This will protect your brand and business by signaling to consumers that your goods originate from a single source — in this case, your online store. Not only is it important to file and maintain a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but you should also search the USPTO’s website for any other trademarks that resemble yours.
2) Protect Your Domain Name
With hundreds of thousands of new domains registered each year, consumers don’t always remember URLs correctly or even at all. For example, there have been several cases where customers have attempted to access a website by typing in an incorrect top-level domain (e.g., .com vs. .net). Even if your company’s domain name is simply “yournamehere.com,” you should register any variations of this to prevent other companies from using them without your permission.
3) Create Business Accounts on Popular E-Commerce Sites
Many e-commerce sites, such as Amazon and eBay allow third parties to sell their products through the platform’s basic account setup. If you don’t want others selling your product for cheaper or free of charge under your business’ name, make sure to create new accounts with separate email addresses and unique passwords on each online marketplace where you do business.
4) Protect Your Product with Patents or Copyrights
While patents and copyrights protect the proprietary rights of specific products, they do not protect the physical attributes. This means that if your item is distinctive because of its shape, color, or any other feature but doesn’t have a patent or trademark securely attached to it in some way, a third party can copy or reproduce your product with impunity.
5) Create A Contractual Relationship with Wholesalers and Retailers
If you’re looking to sell your products through a third party, discuss your licensing and distribution rights in advance. This will keep all parties up-to-date on the product’s availability, any restrictions that apply and set out renegotiating points for the future. Without protecting your trademark and copyrights in this way, other companies could try to step in and put their own name behind the product without compensating you for it. Make sure to get your hands on tools that allow you to communicate with your partners, such as MRP software.
6) Know Your Customers Personally
Many new e-commerce businesses offer products that aren’t readily available locally or regionally. Whether it’s goods from across the globe or homegrown products that simply can’t be found in your area, consumers are willing to pay shipping fees and wait longer for their purchases if they can’t get them any other way. This is why it’s important you try to communicate directly with customers as much as possible. Working on personal relationships with customers will build brand loyalty and go a long way toward preventing third parties from poaching sales or sabotaging production.
7) Don’t Ship from Home
One of the easiest ways to harm your business’ reputation is by letting your home provide the first impression of your online store — not exactly the first impression you want to give potential clients. Instead, find office space near where you live or along your delivery routes. This will help you separate your business life from family life while also giving customers an easier way to contact you without making them wait until the weekend.
Many of these tips are incredibly basic, yet they’re frequently overlooked by small business owners that are just starting out selling online. With just a little more work each day than if they didn’t follow any of these suggestions at all, manufacturers can ensure they only have to deal with their customers in good faith and not worry about losing trust or sales along the way.
Featured Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay