eCommerce is big business. Last year, in 2002, e-retail sales exceeded $4.2 trillion globally; and this figure is set to increase, year on year. You might want to take part in this momentum, and open your own online store. The problem is where to begin, especially if you are no ecommerce expert. However, it isn’t that complex; and most of the assistance is out there. More so, you can start your own store with just these six steps:
Step 1 – Pick your domain name
If you are going to sell online, you need to make sure your business name is available. Research the existing domain names when you start working on a domain name for your website. When it comes to selecting your domain name, do so carefully. The first thing you should make sure of is that your brand is reflected in the domain name. Also, see that the name you select is easy to spell, is short, and that it communicates your business. For instance, if you are going to send SMSs as part of your marketing, a long name will cost you more. A shorter name is better not just to remember, but in costing less. However, make sure that the name you select is not dull, but also not strange – make it memorable. A big no is anything with hyphens, numbers, or even any special character. Therefore, you should also avoid any names that will lead to breaches of any copyright, or lead to legal issues. You should ensure that your domain name is mobile-friendly. Keep in mind search engines, and then keep the name relevant to the industry you represent.
You don’t need to follow all these tips, but do select those pertinent to your situation. A bad idea is to choose a weird-sounding name just to have a keyword. Rather select a name that will pique the customer’s interest.
If you are going to sell online, you need to make sure your business name is available. Therefore, research the existing domain names when you start working on a domain name for your website. But when it comes to picking your domain name, do it carefully. The first thing you should make sure of is that your brand is reflected in the domain name. Also, make sure the name you select is easy to spell, is short, and relates to your business. For instance, if you are going to send text messages as part of your marketing, a long name will cost you more, so shorter is better not just to remember but can save you a bit.
Yet, make sure that the title you pick is not dull, but also not strange either – so make it memorable. A big no is anything with hyphens, numbers, or even any special character. But you should also avoid any names that will lead to breaches of any copyright or lead legal issues. You should also make sure that your domain name is mobile friendly, keep in mind search engines, and then keep it relevant to the industry you represent.
Step 2 – Select your eCommerce platform
There are many eCommerce platforms already available – that is, if you don’t want to spend a fortune on a custom-built site. However, each site will charge different fees, possibly also transaction costs. The safest approach is to select a platform that is both cost-effective and capable of matching your needs.
There are a few options to consider, such as Amazon. Also, you do not have to do much legwork. If you are busy, you should consider going Amazon FBA. You can then turn your attention to boosting your sales, rather than running the backend of your online store.
However, also consider your needs. For instance, if you are a small business, then Wix, Weebly or 3dcart would work well. If you are a large business, then BigCommerce would be better. Shopify will work well for great eCommerce software for dropshopping. Then again, if you are a local and growing retail business, consider Square Online. If you are new to eCommerce, Zyro is good for multi-channel sales. If you are looking for a white-label option with print-on-demand, then ShopBase could work well for you. Then again, if you are looking for a really user-friendly platform, Volusion is appropriate; whereas Squarespace is a great drag-and-drop website builder. If you have a website already, then consider Ecwid; and if you have a WordPress site, then the free plug-in WooCommerce is a must.
Just remember, you can also sell on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. The important point to remember is to select a platform you can manage and that is suitable for your budget and scale.
Many eCommerce platforms for your online store are already available. Meaning, if you don’t want to spend a fortune on a custom-built site. Keep in mind that each of these sites will charge different fees, including transaction costs. The safest approach is to select a platform that is both cost-effective and capable.
Step 3 – Discover your unique selling point that sets you apart from the competition
Do you have a business idea, then ask yourself – is this idea unique? If you are unsure, then look at the work of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne devised the terms blue and red oceans, to represent the market universe. In short, the red ocean is cut-throat and bloody, in which most businesses are trying to outperform their competition, grabbing their share (and holding onto it) of the market. However, the term blue ocean refers to a space that is vast, where opportunities and growth are waiting. The key is innovation, and a unique idea is to tap into this unknown market space, free of competitors.
Therefore, set yourself apart from the competition with your unique selling proposition (USP). You can do this by placing yourself in your client’s shoes. Maybe they will not love your product as much as you do. And don’t just think you can offer it cheaply. The improvements that Nobel Prize winners, Paul R Milgrom and Robert B Wilson, made to Game Theory, also indicate that there are people who will buy quality items, regardless of price; whereas others will look for a bargain, and will ignore quality. Therefore, make sure you are aiming for your market of choice. This means looking at behaviors and buying choices. What is also important is to look at your clients’ genuine wishes, and not just at what your competitors are doing.
For small business owers that have a business idea, but ask yourself – is that idea unique? If you are unsure, then look at the work of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne devised the terms blue and red oceans to represent the market universe. In short, the red ocean is cutthroat and bloody, where most businesses are in, trying to outperform their competition and grab their share (and holding onto) of the market. However, the term blue ocean refers to a vast space where opportunity and growth are waiting. The key is innovation and a unique idea to tap into this unknown market space, free of competitors.
Step 4 – Define your target market
You need to know who your market is! This means knowing those buying your product or making use of your service. You need this vital info since you will base your marketing strategy (including your digital marketing strategy), branding, and all your messages on this – therefore make sure you have it right (and keep it updated!). What you need to do is create personas of these various clients. Give each a name, so when you are formulating your copy you are speaking to James, the 22-25-year-old male who has just bought his first apartment, and still has a student loan he needs to pay off. James is a lawyer, and is showing potential for making partner in only three years’ time. He lives in New York, in a studio apartment. It is small, but he likes to go out a lot. Also, he likes the movies, bars, and socializing with friends. See, we gave James a description which makes it easier for you to visualize him when you construct your messages. You will be more personal, and more story-driven.
Step 5 – Optimize your online store’s website
It sounds obvious, but you need to optimize your website. In other words, if you want to increase the traffic to your site via the various search engines. There are several ways in which you can optimize your site – such as adding a blog, using keywords which you have selected whilst doing a keyword research, adding meta descriptions, the correct headers − and don’t forget to check for broken links. Also, what can be missed is that if there are issues with your site, it crashes. A site that is unavailable will negatively affect your SEO score.
Step 6 – Get the word out about your website
There are various ways in which you can tell people about your site – from email campaigns, text marketing, to advertising on platforms such as Google, Facebook, or other sites. The latter type is known as PPC campaigns. These campaigns can be extremely effective in driving new people to your site. Just remember, this will cause a temporary spike, which will only last if you keep on feeding it. In the long term, that can be expensive, and therefore it is important that you get your SEO sorted.
However, there are other marketing tricks you can employ, since as running a competition, using social-media influencers, collaborating with other companies, and using discounts. In addition, you can grow your social-media presence and use your online fans as your marketing ambassadors that will spread the word about your site.
Last few words
eCommerce is big and getting bigger. The competition is also getting increasingly more challenging; so you need to innovate to stand out. There are also various platforms you can use to make your life easier. If you aren’t that tech driven, it is straightforward to get started. You can always choose to outsource the most demanding and time-consuming tasks. This way you can focus on growing that eCommerce business and making it a place people want to visit, and talk about.