It’s never been easier to set up an online store. Nowadays you don’t even have to understand code – you can simply make one using an out-of-the-box ecommerce solution. As a result, ecommerce entrepreneurs are popping up here there and everywhere. But as the barriers to entry are lowered, there comes another problem: competition. As the crowd grows ever larger, it’s harder to stand out in it. Most ecommerce stores fail to attract enough customers to become viable. Here are some pro-tips that will help to ensure your ecommerce business makes it through infancy and into the realms of profitability.
Treat it the same as an offline business
It’s easy to feel like an ecommerce business can be pursued as a nice, leisurely venture – something you enjoy managing in your spare time. Particularly if it isn’t earning very much at present, it can be hard to muster the time and motivation to spend more hours on it. But here’s the thing: unless you do, you can never realistically expect it to grow into anything more than a hobby.
If you want to make a real, viable business out of your ecommerce store, you need to give it the attention it deserves. After all, every big business on earth started out as just a small idea in someone’s mind. With just a little extra planning and strategy, you can turn your hobbyist side venture into a proper money-making business.
So just because it’s online and you don’t meet your customers face-to-face every day, don’t take that to mean that you can get by with doing less. You can only hope to be successful if you make every effort to advertise, engage and attract an audience – just as you would with a traditional brick and mortar store.
Don’t neglect your marketing
Great marketing is all about identifying which channels will be the most effective for you – and then keeping on top of them consistently. There is no point going full throttle on every single marketing channel available, because some of them won’t be right for your audience. It’s far better to narrow down your efforts, and spend more time on the channels that convert.
It’s common for new entrepreneurs to think that once their online stores are set up and functional, their work is done. People will simply stumble across them. This is not true. It takes a lot of work to spread the word, and there’s a lot of competition out there. Stay front and center in your customers’ eyeline, and reach out to them regularly. Read our Pro-Tips for Building Strong Online Presence.
A good content marketing strategy is a must. All the best ecommerce stores run a regular blog on their website, which amounts to shareable, relevant content that will get you a lot more traction than repeatedly sharing a product page. Likewise, don’t ignore social media. Identify the top three channels most appropriate for your business, and read up on the best ways to get results.
Focus on the user
The biggest problem that ecommerce stores have to overcome, as the very nature of their business, is the fact that customers cannot pick up and examine the items firsthand. So ecommerce store owners must do their utmost to make up for this shortfall by giving as complete a picture as possible – high quality images from multiple angles, with a variety of models, and accompanied by detailed and unique product descriptions (not just the one supplied by the manufacturer).
Ecommerce store owners can also compensate in other ways, such as by providing free shipping, keeping the checkout process simple, and displaying customer reviews on the page to provide unbiased feedback.
The best ecommerce websites identify any potential problems a user might be experiencing, whether it’s lack of information, a convoluted sign-up procedure or a lack of trust, and take steps to address and resolve these issues.
Use the right software
While none of us are psychic, as a business owner you do need to take steps to try and identify potential issues with your ecommerce store before they arise. Your choice of software is something to think long and hard about, because it will form the foundation on which your online business is built. You will interact with it regularly.
Before making a decision, factor in what you will need in terms of security, usability, scalability and marketing features. This may influence which software you choose to go with. It’s a real pain to choose the wrong kind of software that will not be able to accommodate the growth of your business further down the line, or which isn’t secure or user-friendly.
When it comes down to it you have two choices: to go hosted or self-hosted. With a hosted platform you get a lot more in terms of security, and the whole thing is very quick and simple to set up. There are plenty of store creators who offer tree trials that can be used to get a feel for the hosted platform.
With a self-hosted platform you need a little more experience, but you get more freedom and flexibility with fewer ongoing costs. Do your research to find the best tool for your requirements.
Testing your website is so important, and it should be an ongoing process for your business. With testing and analytics, you can test and observe the performance of your store, and figure out ways of improving its performance. It can also be a great means of identifying any sticking points for your users and resolving them, before you lose too many customers as a result.
Be sure to use a powerful analytics solution to keep track of what’s happening on your website. At the very least, you should be running Google Analytics. But you might also want to consider something like KISSmetrics to provide further insight. A/B testing is also a useful way to split test different variations of all kinds of things – messaging, design, form-fills, etc. – and see which get the most favorable response.
Hopefully this advice will prove useful to you on your ecommerce journey. What have your experiences been so far? Share your thoughts with us in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.
Patrick Foster: Ecommerce blogger
As an ecommerce entrepreneur myself, I know a lot of the challenges that new business owners face. I write about everything from setting up a store, to sales logistics, branding and marketing. I hope to be able to provide others with the insight to get their ecommerce businesses off the ground.