So, you’re considering starting an e-commerce business. That’s great! In today’s market, it’s highly encouraged, even. Jumping on the bandwagon of online sales and an online commerce website means you’ll be doing what many successful businesses have done – and still do – on a regular basis.
Although this does mean an abundance of competition, of course, it also means that you’re getting involved in a highly lucrative market of business opportunity.
Consumers simply love shopping online, with the majority turning to order products through their smart devices or computers instead of leaving the house and visiting a physical store.
However, deciding to begin an e-commerce website from scratch can seem like a very daunting task. Not to mention that you then need to ensure that it is found easily and stands out in a crowd, too.
That’s why this guide has been formulated to help you.
Is Building an E-commerce Business Right for You?
With any business venture, it’s important to always weigh up the pros and cons. You can never expect to be free of any disadvantages when making a business move, but it’s important to be sure that the advantages outweigh the negative aspects, and also understand the latter to ensure that you find a way to best deal with them and make them manageable (or avoidable altogether if possible).
The Pros of Building an E-Commerce Business
- The potential for a bigger, worldwide market. The bigger your market, the more potential you have for making a bigger profit.
- It’s easier and quicker to react to market trends and consumer behavior. You can much more easily track the needs and wants of a consumer as well as what is in demand currently.
- It costs significantly less to open and run an online business than it does a traditional company in a physical store, which includes a high amount of extra costs. Without the costs of running a physical location, you can put the money into marketing your business.
- There is an opportunity for personalized content tailored to consumers.
- A website will be able to showcase selling techniques such as videos and customer reviews, which you wouldn’t get in a traditional store.
- You are not limited by the amount of physical shelf space you would have in an actual store.
- You can use online analytics to track the behavior of your customers and tailor your marketing towards that.
- You can respond quickly to sudden consumer trends or a shift in the market.
If you are selling digital items or online products, consumers can receive their product in an instant, which leads to more positive shopping satisfaction.
The Cons of Building an E-Commerce Business
- You will depend entirely on internet access. Although most consumers do have access to the internet these days, some may not, or others may have very slow connections with jeopardize the functioning of your website and could deter a sale. You’re depending entirely on your one website, and relying on the hope that it won’t malfunction or run into a hiccup.
- The risk of cybercrime, including cybercriminals hacking your website, infiltrating your customer database or stealing the credit card information of your consumers.
- A lack of personal touch. A lot of shoppers still favor the traditional method of speaking to a human being in person and receiving a smile, personalized experience and the feeling that they have been personally attended to. E-commerce websites, unfortunately, lack that personal touch.
- Consumers cannot feel or see a product in person before buying. This is the huge benefit of a traditional store, as a customer can pick up a product and see exactly what they’re getting before making that important decision.
- The risk of product comparison. It’s less likely for consumers when physically shopping to go into each and every shop to compare products and prices (unless they have buckets of time to kill). Whereas online, it’s so easy to find a cheaper deal at the click of the button, that it puts a lot of pressure on your business to be the cheapest.
While there are a few cons to running an e-commerce business, this is not to say there isn’t anything you can do about it.
With the right tactics in place, you can ensure that you can still run an e-commerce store and gain the benefits. For example, where it concerns cybercrime, having a security system in place will not deter you from running a successful business.
However, now that you’re better informed about the expected advantages and disadvantages of your new e-commerce business, let’s discuss in closer detail how to create one and make sure that it’s a success.
Simple Tips for the Design of Your Website
First off, you’re going to need your website to look user-friendly, enticing and professional. Especially in the case of shopping online, consumers need to be able to click through pages and products easily, see clearly the relevant categories for products and also have the option to click, zoom and view products at their leisure.
So how exactly can you improve the design of your e-commerce website?
- Ensure That You Use a Favicon
A favicon is a simple design element, yet it’s incredibly useful. A favicon is a small icon or logo which is visible on a browser tab next to the description of the website. This can make shopping online much easier for a consumer who may have several tabs open and wants to easily recognize the tab which is open on your e-commerce website.
You should research the best favicon generators for your business so that you can reap the benefits that come with it, from credibility to repeat visits. The favicon icon needs to be something that boosts your online branding, such as your personal logo or a symbol that represents general shopping or your product.
- Create an Attractive Logo
Needless to say, with so much business competition, an attractive and memorable logo can pave the way to your e-commerce business is instantly recognizable. The right logo should paint the perfect picture of what your business is about, including the target market, professionalism, and tone of your company.
- Make Your Web Design Easy to Use
Any website should have usability in mind, but this is crucial for an e-commerce website. Consumers can be so easily put off if a product page isn’t loading or if a website is running slowly. Not to mention how frustrating it can be if you’re looking for a certain product and there’s no search bar option, along with tabs and categories being completely confusing.
Make your website layout as simple and user-friendly as possible. It’s also a good idea to trial run it with friends or family and asks how easy they found it to use.
- Make the Checkout Process as Pleasant as Possible
You want your shopping basket to be easily noticed, easily managed and as clear as can be. You don’t want consumers to spend time searching for how to get to their shopping basket and then be confused about what they’ve actually put into it. It’s a good idea to have the shopping basket visible in the top corner, no matter the page your consumer is on.
Once a consumer has clicked on to the shopping basket, you want to make sure that all information is displayed in detail, including product description and price – and a photo of the product is always helpful, too, in case a customer has multiple products in their baskets with similar descriptions and prices. Clarity is also beneficial!
4 Actions You Must Take Before Building Your Site
You have a product and a great idea; therefore, it’s understandable to want to get started as quickly as possible. You may think that you can start building the basics of your website, get it live and tailor it or edit it as you go along – however, that isn’t the correct route to success.
An e-commerce website, unlike other websites, needs to be perfect from the word go. You can’t create a basic design and plan to make it the best it can be later, just to get something out there.
Imagine how many customers you could lose in the first instance if your website isn’t up to scratch – and, once they are lost, they are not going to remember your site in order to return to it later.
Therefore, you need to be in a position of strength from the very beginning, and the first build of your website needs to be its best and optimized self.
- Find Your Product Niche
It’s easy to want to create an all-singing, all-dancing sort of website, rich with content, products and seemingly able to do everything. However, more isn’t necessarily better, as focusing on quality over quantity is more important. Focus, as much as possible, on your product niche.
- Conduct Competitor Research
You need to know what the competition is doing, and how they’re doing it. Visit as many online shopping websites as you can which are specific to your product or niche, and analyze everything about their website and how popular their website is, too.
It might also be a good idea to visit the most popular e-commerce websites, even if they’re not related to your product, just to see how they operate their business and how they have designed their website.
- Research the E-commerce Market in General
You need to find out everything there is to know about the e-commerce market, how it operates, how consumers expect it to perform and the bare minimum you need to do in order for your own website to start off on the right foot.
Research is crucial for knowing exactly how you’re going to build your website, and what the e-commerce market will expect from it at the beginning, as well as going forward.
- Preparation is Key!
There’ll always be lessons to learn as you go along, and areas of your website to tweak once you’ve gained some e-commerce business experience.
Making your website as strong as it can be in the first instance doesn’t mean that you’re expected to create the perfect website and have it the same way for the rest of its existence.
There’s nothing wrong with making a few changes along the way, but the important thing is that your website needs to be functional and optimized in as many ways as possible when it first goes live.
Developing Your Identity
In order to create a successful website that is unique to you and which tailors to the right people, you need to do a little soul-searching to discover what you want your brand identity to be. This is the perfect chance for you to figure out the sort of consumers you want to attract as well.
- Who Are You?
One surefire way to stand out in a saturated online market is to know exactly who you are, what your persona is, and how you can market this.
Although e-commerce shopping does mean that a personal touch can be lost in terms of a lack of human interaction, it doesn’t mean that your brand needs to completely lack a personal identity.
Depending on your product, you can tailor it around the idea of a personal service, where your consumers can learn more about you as a person or business.
More homemade items can be tailored around your personality and personalization opportunities for consumers, for example.
- Who is Your Target Market?
In order for your website to have the right identity, you need to understand who you’re tailoring it to.
Target market research is imperative in any business, but it’s extremely important when creating your brand identity, as this identity needs to appeal to the right consumers.
- What Makes You Unique?
Perhaps you’ve established your brand identity and your business’ personality – but there may be a hundred other online businesses out there who are preaching the same message.
You, therefore, need to identify what makes you unique and market that aspect to the full.
It might be something extremely simple, such as the quirky personalized packaging you use for every order, but even something simple can be the difference between standing out from the competition. Be sure to let your consumers know what exactly makes you unique.
The Basic Requirements for Your E-Commerce Business
Alongside all the marketing know-how and branding inspiration, there are some fundamental base business tasks you need to complete for a legally sound and functional website. It might be considered the dull, practical side compared to the creative flow, but it’s essential that you fulfill the following 6 points.
- Choose Your Business’s Name
This should be the name which you operate your business under – it doesn’t have to be your official store name or the name of your website.
- Officially Register Your Business
Once you’ve chosen your business name, legally register it.
- Choose the Name of Your E-Commerce Store
As mentioned, this doesn’t have to be identical to your registered business name but it needs to be relevant enough that it is tailored to your branding plans. Choosing a store name that is memorable and explains exactly what you do is the best place to start coming up with ideas.
- Acquire Your Business License
You need to ensure that you have the correct business licenses in place that are relevant to the kind of business you are running. Be sure to research which licenses are required for you to operate your category of business.
- Get an Employer Identification Number
Every business, even online businesses, are required to gain an Employer Identification Number in order to operate.
- Check for Any Relevant Permits or Other Licenses
Along with business licenses, there may be permits you are required to have in order to conduct your business, too.
These might be specific to your country or state, but they may also be specific to any country which you supply with your product throughout the world, so it’s important to always double-check.
This is why you have to be fully aware of selling regulations and tax requirements for more than one country if you’re selling in many different areas around the world – not just your own.
How to Attract Customers to Your New Store
Once you’ve developed an amazing and attractive e-commerce website, it’s not enough that you’ve simply created it. You’ll want consumers to find it, see it and fall completely in love with it.
Here are a few important tips on how to do just that.
- Don’t Neglect Your SEO
Search Engine Optimization is, and always will be, essential for driving traffic to your website.
Everything you do on your website needs to have SEO in mind. This includes product descriptions, image tags, category headings, blog posts, and even your page URLs.
Due to the fact that most consumers who shop online are starting off with a requirement typed into a search engine – for example, ‘size 6 little black dress’ – then you need to make sure everything on your website is optimized for search engine traffic.
- Learn from Marketing Tools and Tips
It’s okay if you don’t have a clue how to market your e-commerce store when first starting out – there’s no shame in it.
What matters most is accepting that you need to thoroughly do your research, and opening your mind to marketing tools which are out there.
Look online, listen to podcasts, or speak to individuals who have created successful e-commerce websites so that you can learn from them and tailor your own site accordingly for success.
- Invest in Your Advertising and Marketing Campaign
A lot of e-commerce stores and sites depend on the right advertising and catching consumers at the right time when they’re searching for a certain item.
You should spare a significant amount of money in your budget for paid advertising and tailored marketing practices. This advertising could appear on social media, on search engines, or as banners on certain websites.
- There’s Nothing Wrong with Hiring Help
Building, running and marketing an online store is a lot of work when you’re trying to do everything alone. Hiring somebody to take on the marketing side of the business is a very smart move if you have the resources and funds to do so.
This can take the strain off you allowing you to focus on processing orders and shipments and every other requirement which doesn’t concern marketing.
This is important because marketing absolutely requires a dedicated mind and a set schedule, and should never come under a ‘just when I can fit it in’ approach.
Marketing Your Products Online
While attracting customers to your store and driving traffic is naturally important, your end goal should always be to sell, sell, sell. Simply having consumers land on your website without making a purchase defies the point of why you wanted to build an e-commerce website in the first place.
This means that as well as driving traffic, you need to implement the best methods to ensure that those all-important visitors turn into all-important sales. Here’s how.
- Develop Your Leads
One of the best ways to do this is to gather a consumer list of email addresses and contacts.
This can easily be done through opt-in pop-ups on your website or the request for email addresses in another form such as a social media giveaway where an entrant has to supply their email address. This means that you have a collection of contacts and leads you can work with to promote a sale.
- Build a Relationship
You should concentrate on encouraging interaction between consumers and your business. Once you have email addresses, you should send out interesting and helpful emails, along with invitations for consumers to review your services or offer an opinion in some way.
If consumers connect with you via social media, you should also take the time to engage in conversations and reply to messages in order to better encourage the chance of a sale.
- Provide Exemplary Customer Service
A lot of consumers take the time to contact an online brand or business if they have a query about a product or service before they buy.
This is common on social media; if you browse the comment section of an advertisement, you will see many people asking questions such as ‘do you ship to this country?’ or ‘does this come in another color?’.
The answers may be provided on your website, but don’t expect the consumer to go searching for them. If questions are asked, ensure you answer them quickly and in a friendly way. Customer service begins before an order has even been placed, but a helpful reply can often turn into a sale.
Within the online e-commerce business world, research, marketing, and usability are key. While branding and identity are important for your new e-commerce website, you must be sure not to neglect basic technical aspects, such as site speed and how easy your checkout process is. Be sure to create a unique identity, a pleasurable shopping process along with a great product, and your e-commerce business is sure to thrive.