You may think that running an e-commerce business will be a breeze compared to setting up a shop and doing things the old-fashioned way. Be warned though – if you go in with this attitude you are going to run into problems very quickly. E-commerce does offer fantastic opportunities for start-up businesses: it is quite possible to reach a global client base in a relatively short space of time. However, in this fast-moving world you need to stay constantly up-to-date with ecommerce marketing techniques and technologies or you will be left behind your competitors.
Many e-commerce businesses have failed because their owners simply don’t know how to establish – and maintain – a strong online presence. With that in mind, here are some tips all small online business owners should bear in mind when they are starting out:
Business Model: It’s important that you’re very clear from the beginning exactly what kind of company you’re going to be. How will your business make money and what is it that makes it unique? What areas will you need to focus on in particular and where are the risks likely to be?
Know Your Clients: To be able to market yourself effectively to your core customer base, you have to know what their priorities are and what they are likely to respond to. How can you ensure they come to your online shop and not those of your competitors? Keep an eye on upcoming trends and make sure you keep your product range fresh, innovative and relevant.
Watch Your Overheads: If possible, competition between online retailers is even fiercer than between those who sell offline. Buy as low as possible by getting as close to the manufacturer in the supply chain as you can. Don’t rely on one supplier, but instead seek out several so you are not forced to pay more out of necessity. This way you can be sure of reasonable profit margins on the majority of your products, even if you make a loss on some lines.
Be Visible: This is perhaps the single most important rule for an online retailer. You may have great products, you may have a beautifully designed website and your customer service may be second to none. This will all count for nothing, however, if you haven’t invested in SEO. Your customers must be able to find your website so keywords, back links, advertising and blogging are all essential tools in your arsenal. SEO can be tricky to negotiate so many e-commerce businesses find it advisable to hire in an expert to ensure it’s done properly.
Communicate: The majority of e-commerce sites will rely on repeat business for the bulk of their sales. This means, if you are to succeed, your customers should have such a good experience of your website that they want to come back. Make sure all your product descriptions are clear and accurate, that you respond quickly if there is a problem and that you make it easy for them to communicate with you. Include email addresses, contact forms or comment boxes on your site, and use social media sites to encourage communication through these channels as well.