E-commerce is an industry which grows by double digits each year. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online shoppers spent 16 percent more in 2012 than in 2011. For many entrepreneurs-to-be, the allure of digital retail is simply too strong. Startup costs are low, no need for renting, and the potential size of business is virtually unlimited.
As more and more e-tail startups pop up, even more brick-and-mortar stores are digitalizing their offer. However, where there is plenitude, there is saturation, too. The fact that there are thousands of e-commerce companies with similar merchandise and value has become the highest obstacle for new startups. Here is what you should consider if you want to achieve any kind of long-term success.
Company of one
A great thing about starting your own company is that you get to be the CEO. But, in a company of one, the CEO does everything, at least until you can afford to hire or outsource. Basically it’ll mean that you will be responsible for both securing a seamless customer experience as well as packing boxes and sorting orders. The success only comes as a result of dedication and being prepared to do everything until your earnings allow you can pay for someone to do it.
Testing the market
How can you know customer preferences before you invest seriously in the company? Your product or service might be excellent, but will people reach out and buy it? There are several ways to find this out, but almost every one of them requires boots on the ground – back-to-basics approach that involves you interacting with customers face to face. It is essential if you want to find the best product/market fit and get feedback from customers early on.
Focus gets you a ticket
No matter how unique and original your idea for e-commerce business is, chances are that at least a hundred others have come up with exactly the same idea, with many of them already making money on it. Take your idea and break it into segments. Narrow your focus and reduce the competition. Companies like Airbnb that focused on a niche became successful. They didn’t immediately launch offering home and apartment rentals. Instead they started as an online portal for renting couch space to strangers. If they followed the idea of many, they probably wouldn’t have become what they are today.
Marketing is half the business
Marketing is everything you do that is visible to customers. It can either make or break a business. If you want your website to attract people, you need to make it interesting. Create a quality video content that is helpful or interesting in other ways. Use social media to build a high subscriber base. Create a captivating story to pitch to the press that you’ve made relationships with. Send your products to bloggers and vloggers from that niche so they can make reviews.
Dangerous trend chasing
Every year a new trend shakes the foundation of the e-commerce arena. Droves of business owners believe that the newest trend will revolutionize their business and improve their position. In reality, chasing trends can often divert you from actual success into areas that don’t work for everyone. Take flash sales for example. Flash sale websites have been a big trend since the late 2000s. They were mana from the sky for bargain-hunters and startups seeking brand awareness. However, they have disadvantages. Not all retailers can afford to lower their wholesale price. In addition, when you sell through someone else’s site you lose control over how your products are marketed.
Community before everything
Unlike trends that come and go, community is essential to any e-tail marketplace. The best results in providing continual sense of community across your merchandise are achieved through social media. Social media give your followers opportunity to interact on and away from your e-store, promoting your products and sharing experience. Personal recommendation is critical for lead-generation, but also for community-building, as users are using them to form a collective identity over your brand.
Once you‘ve managed to build up an army of followers, you need to invest in a website that will turn as many of them into returning customers. There are some features that your site needs to implement.
- Visual quality – customers will see your brand through your website design, especially in design-sensitive industries like fashion and home improvement.
- Mobile access – Google’s penal policy for non-optimized websites has been around for some time now. Remember that about 70 percent of commerce traffic is done on mobile devices.
- Provide contact – your phone number, e-mail and a contact us form.
- Customer reviews – they will provide social proof of your quality.
- Clear shipping info – include free shipping where possible, give details on international shipping. By setting a minimum free shipping threshold you can raise your average order value.
- First-hand feedback – ask someone to use your website and make a list of issues to be fixed.
The reliability of your site should be paramount. If you want a powerful content management system that works seamlessly with shopping carts and online stores, consider WordPress + WooCommerce from Bluehost as a perfect combo.
Can’t touch this
Never, ever forget that until they receive the package, the products and services in your e-tail store are virtual for your customers. It means that what they can see and read should make them decide whether to add to the basket or not. This is maybe the biggest disadvantage of e-commerce business, as experiencing something in-person can often be pivotal for sales. Aside from premium product or service images and description you can add features like compare products or match with another product from a different category.
Faith in your idea
There were countless presentations, motivational speeches, and lectures on perseverance and self-belief. Why is it so? Because those two are an essential ingredient for leading a successful company. Steve Jobs used to say that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is nothing but perseverance.
Building a truly successful company that brings revenue and profit takes time. As with any business, the results come only after a good share of bruises and growing pains.