A flexible job where you are able to work for yourself, whenever and wherever you want, is the modern entrepreneur’s dream. As online shopping gets more popular, there is an expanding number of opportunities available for budding businesspeople to tap into the online market. If you’re thinking of giving the old 9-5 the boot in favour of a new, self-employed lifestyle, there’s a lot you need to know before making the leap. Below are some top tips to help you on the way to getting the career you want.
Online shopping offers a range of benefits compared to brick and mortar stores, but they also pose some unique challenges for a small business owner, such as building credibility. There is no substitute for experiencing a product in person, but there’s a lot you can do to give as close an impression as possible. Here’s where you should start with ecommerce, and what you need to consider along the way.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy in ecommerce, because every market is different. To succeed in your chosen field, you need to know your industry – and your audience – inside out. Make a point of actively reading industry publications to stay abreast of the latest consumer trends: both in ecommerce and within your chosen niche. Study your target demographic and find out what appeals to them, from habits and lifestyle choices to language and color. Then look at your competitors – what are they doing right? And what are they doing wrong? How will you, as the new kid on the block, bring something else to the table?
In the exciting world of ecommerce, the internet is where your customers live. Therefore it’s important to have a firm grasp of how it works, and what drives traffic. Your marketers will be your new best friends. If nothing else, a good understanding of SEO is key. Your website should be optimised so that it appears in search engines for your most relevant search terms. This is important, if you want your potential customers to be able to find you. Find out how your users behave on your site once they arrive by installing an analytics package.
Having a clear niche is an essential ingredient of ecommerce. In doing so, you make it much easier for your customers to understand your business – they will remember you as a specialist, rather than a jack of all trades. By specialising in one area, you can position yourself as an industry expert, and in doing so build a more trustworthy profile. Your aims, your message and your content are consistent. In addition, you make your own job much easier by only having to stock a certain type of product.
While it’s tempting to sell a wider range of products to hit a broader market, this tends to work better in real life stores than it does in ecommerce. Online shoppers are usually looking for something specific – or if not, they go to the giants of ecommerce: eBay and Amazon. It’s very hard to compete, and equally hard to please everyone.
The trick is to own your USP – this should be very clear to customers from the outset. What is it that makes your offering special? For example, if you promise outstanding customer service, you should ensure that you deliver. Make sure your contact details are clear, and that there’s something dealing with enquiries swiftly when they arise.
Ecommerce is not a good career choice for people who don’t like dealing with customers. Customer service is one of the most important aspects to get right, and the challenge is that increasingly, people expect to be able to reach you 24/7. For this reason, it’s a good idea to state clearly on your website how quickly customers can expect to hear back from you if they have a query – it shouldn’t be more than a day. Live chat support is a great option if you have the resources, allowing customers to find answers before they feel tempted to look elsewhere.
You shouldn’t aim to simply meet your customers’ expectations – you need to exceed them if you want them to become loyal brand ambassadors. These are the kinds of memorable experiences that lead to social sharing and word of mouth. Anticipate your customers’ needs and offer solutions, before they realise those needs themselves. Transparency and staying true to your word are the cornerstones of good business in ecommerce.
Visitors will form an impression of your online store within the first two seconds of landing on the site. How it looks is paramount. But how it works is a deal breaker.
It’s simple enough to find high quality, customizable design templates that are scalable for tablet and mobile when you come to create your online store. Here are just a few examples:
Each of these sites is well laid-out a with clean, simple interface that looks professional and is easy to navigate. A good design has a lot to do with forming a good first impression, but UX is what will determine whether they stay.
You should never design an ecommerce website that puts aesthetic before usability. You should be able to find the best of both worlds. If a website is difficult to use, slow to load, has a lengthy checkout process or is in some way confusing, your visitors will go elsewhere. Your best bet is to keep it simple, and strive for quality in your choice of images, content and branding. Original product descriptions, striking product photos and proof of credibility – such as customer reviews or a regularly updated blog – are a must.
If you’re serious about making a success of your online store, you need to invest in promotion. It is not enough to build a fantastic website – all of it will be for nothing if you don’t get any customers. Where possible, try to outline your marketing plan in advance, as it will help to keep you focused on your goals. And here’s another great tip – always capture customer data wherever you can. One day you might want to run an email marketing campaign, at which point your best target audience is going to be people who have shopped with your before and enjoy your products.
In the early days especially, it’s a good idea not to rely too heavily on any one method of marketing. Spread your name far and wide by using a mixture of marketing techniques to reach as many potential customers as possible. Find out where your online audience hangs out, and try to reach them through various portals – email, guest blogging, social sharing and video, for example. The more creative you can be, the better.
Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to go out and create an ecommerce business you can be proud of. Enjoy the process of building your empire online, and share your own experiences with us in the comments.