Did you know that organizations selling online average a 30 percent increase in profits? But building a website, let alone online stores, can be a daunting task for your parent-teacher group if there’s no one familiar with the intricacies of the process.

How (and where and what) do you build? How do you accept online payments? What features are needed?

Unless you have a web master or a dedicated and knowledgeable volunteer, selling online seems like a far-off reality; but it doesn’t have to be.

How to get started

After you’ve determined the lead/team for this endeavor, picking a platform for your online store is the first step. Ask yourself the following:

Do you currently have a website? Will the store be built within that site, or stand alone? And what about the products being sold?

You’ll want something that either seamlessly integrates with the current website, or is strong enough to stand on its own and doesn’t require a lot of time management on the back-end. And when it comes to the products, do you have a process of procuring, presenting, accepting orders, and fulfilling or shipping once purchased?

Building (and managing) online stores

Depending on what you currently have/or don’t have, here are the top three (3) considerations when exploring online stores:

1. Payment processing

Will you accept cash/check, tracking in-person payments and “promises to pay”? Will you only accept debit/credit? Or accept all of the above?

Determining the accepted forms of payment is only one part of the decision. You’ll need to find a trusted payment processor (PayPal, Stripe, WePay) and enter the organization’s banking information to be able to accept any orders.

It’s even better if there can be an emailed receipt post-checkout with pertinent information.

2. Store functionality

When you select your platform and begin building there will be endless options for customizing your store. Make sure the setup process makes sense and and is easy to follow – for both you and your customers.

In short: Every customer wants a process with a few, easy to understand steps to expedite their experience.

Be sure to have as few steps as possible from the time a product is added to the cart to the payment method and eventual “checkout”. Take time and care with the product imagery and descriptions. And ensure the product details and multiple options match your inventory; but we’ll explain this more below.

Another key bit of functionality with your store may be inventory tracking. ie. You might have 100 shirts to sell and need to know when you are almost out so you can re-order more. If so, make sure your platform has things like inventory updating and set re-order points to help warn you when your inventory gets too low and needs replenishing.

If you can find an application or platform that manages these various elements for you, it will save much time and energy (and sanity).

3. Types of Products/Items:

No matter what you’re selling online, you’ll want to take into account items you may be selling that have multiple options (also know as variants – colors, sizes, etc.).

With things like spirit wear (t-shirts, hats, etc.) you’ll probably want to sell different sizes or colors of the same t-shirt. Make sure your system allows you to clearly detail the product description, and be sure your product options are correctly labeled to reflect your inventory. If tracking inventory, make sure your system can handle inventory on a per option basis!

You may also want to be able to collect donations in your store which would allow your customers to enter a custom donation amount. Or you may want the ability to sell a downloadable file like a student directory. Be sure your store can accommodate for such types of sales.

Best part of selling to your families, members, teachers, and faculty?

Your close proximity to the buyers. You have an option to deliver everything to the school, during the next meetings, or even ship (if you so wish*) to their homes since you’ve got everyone’s contact information.

Best part about offering items online?

Your store is always open and selling for you 24/7. Once it is set up properly, you can sit back, relax, and watch the profits come rolling in. Assuming you also allow for credit card purchases, online selling is proven to increase sales by over 30% of the non-online traditional stores.

Here are the three (3) best types of store items from school groups using PTOffice:

  1. School dance tickets: Imagine allowing your customers to purchase all the way up to the time of an event rather than having a deadline. And then having the ability to print or bring a receipt to the door. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
  2. Spirit or Pride Rock: We have a couple schools who offer a spirit rock — you guessed it: a big rock on campus — that can be rented by a family, teacher, or faculty member and painted for a day. Birthdays, anniversaries, or special messages now have the attention of everyone on campus. With every new purchase, the old message is covered with the new and doesn’t require any maintenance or monitoring from your organization. You’d be amazed at how fast the days sell out!
  3. Sponsorship ad: The South Salem PTO in New York offers sponsorship levels that help their students afford a trip to the opera. The sponsor gets their logo placed on the website and social media accounts while helping the kids have an experience of a lifetime. And the best part? Receipts with their non-profit information for tax purposes are delivered with every purchase.

Final thought (Shameless plug*)

Atop the member management aspect of our application, PTOffice has an included stores feature that allows you to build a custom experience for raising funds or gathering sponsorships. Our stores are geared with PTA’s and PTO’s in mind and include all of the important features we’ve mentioned above. And the best part? As members order from your store, everything is tracked inside the application and paired with their profile for easy recall and management.

For more information about PTOffice and the features we offer to help you run a better parent-teacher group, download our FREE pricing guide and compare us with our competitors.