So, you’ve finally got around to getting your products online, you’re so proud of finally getting over that hurdle you’ve been putting off for months. But hang on, no sales are coming in, you wait a few more weeks but still none. You’re feeling frustrated and like it was all a waste of time.
Don’t panic! You’ve made the right choice and while it can take some time for your store and products to gain some traction, there are some tried-and-tested ways that you can ensure you’re ready for those products to fly off the online shelves in no time.
1) Plan to Succeed
Number one for a reason, and we really can’t stress this one enough, business that plans to sell online needs a plan that outlines the how, what, where and when of the entire project it’s building.
Now this might sound like it should only apply to large, 50+ employee enterprises but it absolutely doesn’t. If your small business doesn’t plan ahead you could risk not only falling short of your own expectations but your also your customers.
Yes, a business plan takes time and resources, that are often scarce when starting up, invites you to other’s opinions that can feel like criticism to your new-born venture, risks your idea being stolen by those you feel are more skilled and pressures you into projecting revenue and expenses based on almost nothing, it could not be more essential to your online store’s success.
What this process will achieve is force you to think through many of the hurdles and challenges that might arise but more importantly how you can overcome them. You’ll think long and hard about your product, your potential customers and the cost to get to a place where the shop is self-sustaining.
All of this will leave you thoroughly well prepared for almost any eventuality or problem that might occur so that you can deal with it appropriately. Planning is arguably the biggest differentiator between online shops that succeed and those that don’t.
2) Pick your products carefully
You can never be too particular about the products that you are going to sell. With the vast amount of competition on the internet, you need to pick your battles wisely, there is no point going head-to-head with the likes of Amazon!
If you manufacture your products, it might be better to start with just a subset of products – the best sellers and easy shippers – and grow from there. This will allow you to gain a bit of experience in how it all works on products that you know are market tested and easy to manage (storage and logistics) and that you can do some focused marketing on. Placing all 500 of your products on at once with all their variations will only make your store that much harder to market from the ground up!
If you do not manufacture your products, you must ensure that your supplier(s) are able to supply products in an ongoing manner, preferably without selling the same product to 100 other online stores. After all, you are putting money and time into selling their product, so this is critical to your success.
3) Understand your market
One thing your business plan will have pointed out to you is your potential customer base. Keeping an eye on their demographics and buying habits is one of the most important factors in creating a successful online store.
How do you do this? It’s easier than you think, make a note of all the businesses that you consider to be competitors in your sector and head over to their websites and social media. Browsing through all the feedback they’ve received, what people liked, didn’t like and everything in between will give you a fantastic understanding of the market and help you define where your want your product niche to be.
4) Ecommerce Choice
Once you have your products in place and have planned out your route to success, you’re ready to get online!
Next you’ll need to choose how and where you sell your products, whether that be through a marketplace (such as Etsy or Amazon), a hosted platform (Shopify or Squarespace) or your own website. Find out the pros and cons of each solution here.
While all of the options above allow you to sell your products online, having your very own eCommerce store through your own website allows you full control over every single aspect of your store, and with the help of a web designer/developer you’ll be able to create the website you’ve always dreamed of having for your business, without limitations or commission on your revenue.
5) Domain & Hosting
If you’ve chosen not to use a web designer or developer for your website and instead gone it alone, you’ll need to find a domain name for your site and a hosting provider for it.
Be sure to choose your domain name carefully, you’ll need to think about questions such as what other business have a similar domain to you? Should you use a .com address or .co.uk? What about .org? And what hosting package best suits your business plan?
If you’re unsure of the answer to any of the above questions we’d suggest that you get the advice of an expert, as choosing incorrect domains or hosting could start your business a step behind your competition.
Once your site is built, connected to all the services it requires and the products are loaded, it’s time to start driving customers to your new store. Unfortunately for all of us there are hundreds of thousands of companies around the world selling a similar product or service as you do, so your site needs to stand out. The number one way to stand out? Marketing.
*Gasp* I haven’t got the money to spend thousands on marketing like my competition! Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a big scary word associated with million-pound budgets and tv ads, marketing can be straight-forward, simple and most importantly free.
Social media is the most cost-effective method to expand your reach and can in fact be done on a small scale without spending anything other than time. It allows low risk gauging of your products or shops success in the market – are you getting visitors? Are people buying? What are they buying most? Simply post regular, insightful content and you’ll be on your way to increasing visitors in no time.
Once the store has gained some traction using free social media marketing, paid advertising is the next logical step. This can be done through Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and much more. If you’re not sure how to run paid advertising campaigns or what platform would be best to run them on it is always best to ask an expert to ensure the greatest return on your investment.
7) Don’t forget email
Possibly the most effective but also most under-utilised methods of promotion available, email marketing will allow you to keep your customers engaged through product promotions, blog updates, or something as simple as your businesses latest news.
There are a number or email campaign tools available on the internet, most start at no cost for smaller lists and increment costs as your business grows.
Ensure you not only have a business email address but more importantly an easy way for users to sign up for your email newsletter on your website and you’ll be able to grow your email list into a thriving marketing opportunity in no time.
8) Measure, measure, measure
Figures, we all know they can be a tad boring or complicated when you’re starting up but make sure you get to know them. When I say get to know them, it should almost become a bit of an addiction, check your sales, visitors, where they’re coming from, in little time you’ll understand what’s working and what isn’t.
Reviewing not only sales figures but also advertising/engagement figures on a weekly basis is vital to ensure that you are focusing your efforts into the correct parts of your business.
If you’re unsure of how to monitor the performance of your website, this blog will help you.
9) Be Responsive
One of the simplest ways to gain customers is through being responsive. When they ask you a question, they don’t want an answer tomorrow afternoon, so it is important to ensure you’re able to quickly respond to all channels your site offers. Luckily most channels have mobile apps, allowing you to stay available no matter where you are.
We recommend keeping these channels to a manageable minimum – whilst it is nice to have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Email, Phone, YouTube and Pinterest all on the go at once, it is nigh-on impossible to answer all communication, from all of these, all of the time. It is therefore best to select 2 or 3 channels when starting out and ensure you’re able to respond in a timely manner to these few.
10) Keep Improving!
Pat yourself on the back, you’ve built a successful online store and your products are selling regularly. But don’t stop there, in order to sustain any growth, it is always vital to embrace continual improvement in all processes within your business.
From maintaining your ecommerce store itself, it’s products and promotions, to auditing your suppliers, manufacturing methods and your marketing focus, ensure you’re checking every part of your business is working for you on a regular basis and you’ll be set for success long into the future.