Post written by Anne Farrimond
The internet is a dream come true for a lot of budding entrepreneurs. Being able to do business in cyberspace, whenever and from wherever, opens up an awful lot of options. Independent business people have been able to make a go of projects as diverse as blogwriting, counselling, and retail from the comfort of their own homes. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that e-commerce is an easy ride. The internet gives with one hand, and takes away with the other. Sure, there are plenty of advantages to operating within cyberspace – but you’re also moving into a highly volatile and competitive market, in which the attention of customers is hard to catch, even harder to keep, and their limitless options mean you have to fight hard for their custom. If you want to build up a successful e-commerce business, you’re going to need to put in some legwork. Here are a few tips to get you started:
This is pretty basic stuff. Chances are that you already know what you’re going to be selling if you’ve reached this page. However it’s worth repeating – and it’s worth reviewing your product. While e-commerce has major advantages in physical overheads etc, you do still have to have something tangible to sell at the end of the day. If your product overheads are greater than the business you can generate, you need to rethink your strategy. How will you know? Well, in all fairness, a lot of it is guesswork, risk, and confidence – but a little market research never hurts. Scout around the web to have a look at your main competitors. See how they market their products, and (if you can) check out web traffic to their pages. E-commerce can make market research trickier than it otherwise may have been, and clicks do not necessarily convert into sales, but things like Google listings and web traffic numbers can give a general indication of the interest they’re raising. If they’re getting lots of interest, have a look at how they’re doing it. If they’re not, it’s time to either re-evaluate your product, or come up with new ways of making it into a saleable prospect.
It sounds arduous and unnecessary for something as potentially ephemeral and small-scale as an e-commerce venture, but writing a business plan really will help you. If you’re angling for a business loan, or looking to attract either partners or investment, a well thought-out business plan is an essential. Even if you’re not, writing a business plan will help you to coalesce your ideas and set out your strategies. Business plans are great for getting things clear in your own head. You may even find yourself encountering and thinking up ways to deal with unexpected issues as you write your business plan – so it’s well worth doing!
In the internet age, things like picking names and logos are more complex than they used to be. In order to really hit upon something effective, you need to take the time to research the ever-changing world of SEO. You want a name and keywords which will bump your e-business up on Google’s databases without sounding clunky or forced. You need to learn what terms people are entering when they’re looking for businesses akin to yours, and craft your web text accordingly. This can be annoying and repetitive, but it’s worth doing. What’s more, there are SEO crafters out there who have become extremely good at putting together sales prose in such a way that it will raise your search engine ratings without sounding forced. Such techniques are well worth investigating. Whatever you may feel about your product’s saleability, the simple fact is that your business will sink or swim via search engines – and people rarely look further than the first page of results.
Once a customer has clicked onto your site, they’ll make a judgment within milliseconds. Getting them onto your page is a big victory, but you’ll have to fight to keep them there. You need eyecatching, enticing design, great product descriptions, pictures, a smooth interface. With e-commerce, you’ll need to pull every trick in the book (and keep pulling them!) in order to convert clicks into sales. And, even when you’ve done that, you’ll need to keep on top of customer relations via social media etc. This is where a good website designer/developer comes into their own. If you’re not particularly savvy with web design, it’s more than worth hiring someone to do it for you. Good luck!
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