If you are reading this you are probably a couple of steps behind your competition. If you don’t, in 2021, have an online store worth the value of the resources used to run and build it, then you need to get to work.
Perhaps you run a physical store and have somehow managed to survive this long without an adequate online equivalent, or just want to start your own online store for a product and range you wholeheartedly endorse.
The age of online shopping was clearly very much upon us, even before the COVID-19 crisis, but now restrictions, guidelines, and a sense of safety have left a huge percentage of us now doing pretty much all their shopping via an online store.
Why Online Store?
What was previously a luxury has now become, for some, a necessity, and the situation isn’t going to change. The desire to find the best, for the cheapest price, means the shopping community no longer shops on the main street, they do so online.
A key reason for doing so is the fact that a customer need not settle for what they can access via a short walk from their homes, they can now shop the world over to find precisely what they want, for a price that works for them and according to a shipping policy that suits their geographical location and a payment method they possess.
Opening an online store is easy, opening a successful online store is anything but. Either way, be ready for a long, but hopefully successful, battle ahead.
Here are some key elements that you’ll have to be on top of, from day one if you are going to make it in an ever-crowded marketplace that relies on business from a customer base that can switch to a competitor within a matter of seconds.
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Know Your Product
Whatever it is that you are selling, make sure you know and love it. There’s no way you’ll make it without the knowledge and salesmanship needed to stand out from the crowd.
If you are embarking on an entirely new venture, as opposed to being a business owner looking for an online presence, make sure you do the relevant market research needed to make your product pop.
Do a detailed market analysis. Look at your competitors, imitate and innovate accordingly and align your efforts to a workable business plan.
If you think your product is unique, think again. It’s unlikely that whatever you are selling, hasn’t been sold before online. Undertake thorough research of the players in your field and see how you can create something that tops the competition.
Design and Key
You might be selling a truly awesome product but if your online store looks like something put together back in the early 2000s then frankly no one will care. Make sure your website is designed to perfection and don’t try to do this yourself.
In terms of overall costs related to the setting up of an online store, designing the UX and UI will come in as one of the most expensive outlays you’ll have to make, so you’d better make sure it’s worth it.
When it comes to the design ethos of your site as a whole make sure you bring in a professional to shoot product photos and videos, doing this yourself can end up proving very ineffective.
A professional photographer, or videographer, knows the tricks of the trade when it comes to making your products sell themselves. Getting this right could be the difference between a sale or a dissatisfied customer.
Make Sure You Are Using a Top eCommerce Website Builder
When it comes to putting your online store website together, make sure to use a great eCommerce website builder.
Anyone who has ever started a website from scratch, regardless of for what purposes, will know that the many intricacies of trying to do so can be hard to contend with, especially if you are not necessarily technically minded.
Selecting a strong eCommerce builder will streamline and simplify the process. Whether it’s setting up product pages, setting your payment methods, or keeping stock of inventory, an eCommerce builder can help you take care of it all with a minimum of fuss.
The best brands in this market are incredibly intuitive and are geared specifically to deal with pretty much every obstacle you are likely to meet. The ideal way to learn all about the top brands is to check out reputable reviews.
The big players include the likes of Squarespace, Wix, and GoDaddy and you can read all about the last of those and get more information before signing-up.
Perhaps the best aspect of using one of these is that you can get your site up and running in a super quick time.
The number of possible options in this field can be quite daunting but if you want to find out which eCommerce website builder is best for your particular niche always do your research.
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Partner Your Store with a Top-Grade Social Media Campaign
A strong product and an excellent, workable, website are all well and good but unless you have customers you are essentially only a fraction of the way to your goal of opening a successful online store.
The best way to boost your customer base is to run a solid social media campaign. You might want to attempt this yourself, though we’d recommend using a social media agency to assist you.
Perhaps you already have social media channels with a big follower base, this may well be the case if you are already an existing business entity, you’ll still need to market effectively to your potential clients.
It’s important to note that every social media channel is a different beast entirely. Both in terms of the way you might market to the customers from the relevant network but also according to guidelines in place.
As an example, Instagram is more of a visual marketplace (clearly), and as such direct conversion may not occur quite so effectively as via, for instance, Facebook. So, whereas Facebook might be a quick win, Instagram is more of a branding opportunity.
Each of these networks has different pricing models also and as such you should work out where your business dollars are most effectively apportioned.
Classy Customer Support
The old maxim, the customer is always right, has never been truer than today. The very nature of an online store makes it open to a very brief lifespan when it comes to user loyalty.
In order to retain your customer, you will have to be at the top of your game when it comes to customer support. You’ll have to be super attentive and ready to answer queries day and night and always make sure to reward repeat customers as these are very much the lifeblood of an online store.
Make sure that you have multiple customer support options, be that simple messaging and phone service, as well as, if possible, a live chat facility. Try to avoid any negative confrontation as these have every possibility of becoming a viral issue that could haunt you.
Make Sure Your Payment Methods are Plentiful
Depending on your geographical location, and perhaps the eCommerce builder your site is built upon, are the payment methods you can offer. Make sure to keep the options as broad as possible.
You’ll, clearly, need to have the usual array of credit/debit card options but MUST support the likes of PayPal or Payoneer. Be sure to align your site to a signed-in user experience that saves these options in the long run, so as to better engender loyalty to your brand or service.
Create a Smooth, and Cost-Effective, Shipping Policy
You won’t be using a shiny bricks-and-mortar store, where customers come and go as they please. You’ll have to make sure that your products effectively, and efficiently, follow a shipping funnel. It should cost-effective and not resource-heavy.
Don’t overstretch yourself when your online store is in its infancy. In other words, if you are opening your store, and don’t have the facilities yet to deal with international shipping logistics, then don’t do so.
Offering free shipping and returns sounds good on paper, and can (to some extent) be factored into your product pricing. But they can prove hard to follow through on. To begin with, make sure that what you offer works.
Similarly try to avoid making promises with regards to ‘fast shipping’ that you can’t keep. Build up to a place where shipping is as good as it can be. In other words, don’t overextend yourself too early.
Always Be Offering Deals and Promotions
You know how that shop on the high street ALWAYS has a ‘SALE’ sign in the window, even if it’s patently obvious they haven’t had a sale since last fall? Well, they clearly know the power of a promotion or even the illusion of one.
Make sure that you have a strong incentive base on your site. Eye-catching ads in key locations across your site will help to encourage conversions. Your site needs to have something of this nature in place 24/7.
Whether that’s a deal that’s offered to signed-in users, or even to new visitors, there has to be an incentive visible on every webpage of your site; failure to have such a promotion in place is a missed opportunity.
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The Sky’s the Limit
When it comes to achieving your goal of running a successful online store it’s worth remembering that nothing is set in stone. Don’t be afraid to try and fail when you are putting together your site.
The costs associated with starting, and maintaining, an online store is clearly far lower than a physical store. And as such, you can make mistakes and learn from them.
The world of the online store is changing on a near-daily basis; take a look around for inspiration, and good luck with your upcoming eCommerce adventure.