So, you’ve decided to jump on the e-commerce bandwagon? With the global e-commerce industry set to surpass $2 trillion this year, it’s hardly surprising that you’d like a slice of the action. But setting up an online store is one thing, and building a successful business is another. Establishing your business and generating sales can take real hard graft, and competition is fierce. Here are five tips intended to help you on the way to building your first online store, and prevent you from having a bumpy ride.
Product research is essential
Being a successful e-commerce merchant involves spending time researching to ensure that you can source the best quality products, at the lowest price, and then mark them up to make a profit. Here are some clever ways that you can source just the right products for your store:
- Finding a simple accessory niche is a sure-fire way to generate sales. Accessories to high-ticket items (like HDMI cables) are always in demand. These lower ticket items are less price-sensitive and are crucial in order for more expensive products to function. Despite their lower price, merchants frequently make the same profit on an HDMI cable as they would from a TV!
- Scouring the online shelves of marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay is another way to get inspiration. Products that are out of stock often can be a great business opportunity for you
- Consumable, disposable and subscription products can not only generate sales, but often lead to repeat business. Repeat business is very useful for online merchants – when you can rely on people coming back for more, you can begin to predict cash-flow levels and plan for the future. You should consider running a subscription service for guaranteed, periodic sales
It’s also paramount to do some keyword research as this will reveal what potential customers are searching for online. With this information, arranged in a spreadsheet, you can really get to the crux of what will sell in a particular industry or niche.
Have you designed your own original product? That’s great! Your product should fill a gap in the market, or present a solution to a problem that users frequently search for online. Your next step to protect yourself and the future of your business could be to patent your product design or manufacturing processes. Check out this article on how to protect your business online to see how you should go about it.
Know your customer
To ensure that your site and products and content are meeting your customer’s needs, you need to create some buyer personas (fictional representations of ideal customers). If you meet their desires, you will be far more likely to make sales.
Your keyword research should have already informed you about the search queries that your target audience are using. You can consolidate this with research on sites like Quora, or perhaps setting up online surveys, to directly find out what products and information that people are searching for. (Using a site like Survey Monkey is a quick and free way to make online surveys. You can then put the link in an email to reach a sample of people).
This information will help inform all of your future business decisions, from the domain you choose, to how you market your online store.
Register a good, memorable domain
Your domain is usually one of the first things that your potential customers will notice about your brand. Selecting your own, an original domain can be hard, and so many of them will already be taken. Don’t worry – there are ways that you can find the right domain for you.
If you want your domain name to reflect your niche, you can put relevant keywords into it so what you sell is clear to all. For example, if you are selling vintage books, perhaps vintagebooksoflondon.com would work for you.
But, don’t let that limit you. There are so many online brands out there that have invested a nonsensical, catchy phrase to name their business – like Bing and Google, to name but a few.
Get the word out on social media
Social media is one of the most powerful tools in your online marketing toolkit. To not spend marketing budget and time on social media would be to miss out on a great opportunity to advertise your brand and products to your target audience.
Look back to your buyer personas – where do your target audience hang out online? Which social networks do they use, and what kind of content do they like to see posted? Do they prefer wordy ads on Twitter and Facebook, or more visual content on Instagram?
You need to publicize your brand where they are, and tailor your content with them in mind to develop a loyal online following. You can learn from the likes of ASOS and Best Buy by reading about their social media marketing for ecommerce.
Know what customers expect from an online store
The decision about whether to get a custom-built ecommerce store or use an online store builder service is a big one. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Whether you go for a SaaS service or hire a web-designer to build your store, here are some things to consider:
- A clean, minimal design with a clear user interface will make for a great customer experience overall. Your store should be easy to navigate, without too many distracting calls-to-action and your customer should always know what stage they are at during the checkout process
- Your online store should support a wide range of global payment options. From PayPal to international debit cards, your products should be available to people on an international scale
- With increasing swathes of customers using mobile devices to make purchases, your store needs to have a responsive mobile design.
- Your delivery process should be priced fairly and not be too limited. For stores that send items less regularly, you may want to arrange couriers when needed via Shiply.
With these tips, you will be ready to get out there and set up your very own online store. And, with the e-commerce industry expanding at a staggering rate, it’s a fantastic time to get involved. However, I’d advise that you stick at the day-job until your business gets off the ground – it may not always be plain sailing.
Did these tips inspire and inform you to set up your online business? Let us know in the comments.
Patrick Foster, e-commerce entrepreneur & writer
Part tech geek, part entrepreneur, with a real penchant for blogging. When I’m not coaching business owners, I am writing about topics in the industry to spread my knowledge. I love helping others to be successful