People often see opening an e-commerce store as an easy way to quickly build an asset, make some money and stake their claim in the brave new world of internet empowerment. Of course it isn’t quite that easy, but it remains true that e-commerce stores can indeed be a great business opportunity – provided you do it in the correct way. Here are some tips:
How to evaluate opening an e-commerce store?
1. Niche down – Because of the intense competition, concentrate on niche selling. This means focusing on just one of a very few of the best cases such as Kindle Fire rather than spreading an interest over a raft of products like iPad, Kindle, Galaxy and other accessories.
2. Test before investing – Before going live with the site it is critical to check whether there is any interest in the product and whether the idea can convert into profits. This can be done by starting a simple blog, writing about a few market products and setting up some affiliate links in a sidebar and in the body of the article. Throw in a few adverts with Google and see what kind of a response you get. You can also learn more about the market and industry in the process of doing this research.
3. Problems over Asia manufacturing – Many start-ups, as profits grow, seek to create their own products by opting for cheap manufacturing in Asia. Bear in mind that there can be a few headaches associated with this. First is the inevitable language barrier, but also the near impossibility of quality control and the different approach to business in those parts. It helps enormously when thinking about operations in Asia to liaise through someone familiar with the language and business practices and who can work comfortably with local factories there.
4. Harness SEO – SEO strategies will drive the bulk of your site traffic and hence directly impact on your income. You’ll need high quality, linkable content; guest posts; and forum activity for building contacts and promoting interactivity.
5. Pick a good, robust platform – You need to choose a good platform at the start and stick to it because later migration will be a real headache. There are plenty to choose from, as we discuss next.
Related Post: How Outsourcing Could Help Your E-Commerce Business Grow
What are the simple tools available to do this?
Finding the right platform is not as easy as may at first appear, as each of those currently on the market has its own advantages and disadvantages and will have been designed with various different categories of user in mind. As you’ll probably discover for yourself, customizing your e-commerce store and getting product information uploaded to it can be terribly time consuming. So be sure to test drive a few platforms before taking the plunge and integrating one of them into your site. Here are a few of the simpler choices on offer:
Magento – This is a fabulous piece of open-source software, used by such luminaries as The North Face, Samsung and Nespresso to drive their e-commerce operations, and it’s currently e-commerce’s fastest growing platform. There’s also an Enterprise Edition with added bells and whistles, but the basic suite is more than enough for most start-ups.
osCommerce – This is particularly simple to set up and get running on, and there are literally thousands of add-ons (see below) to help you customize your shop front and make it stand out from all the others in the same line of business. Many of these come at a price but can be well worth the additional investment.
OpenCart – OpenCart’s great strength is scalability. You can sell as many products as you wish and create unlimited categories for them. There are more than eight shipping and 20 payment methods and you can incorporate multiple language functionality for international trade. Prominence in Google rankings is greatly helped by its search engine friendliness, and also customers are able to review and rate the products they buy, to promote user interaction.
Spree Commerce – With this free e-commerce platform users are able to customize their Ruby on Rails storefronts to distinguish them from their competitors. Great amounts of time and effort are saved by the handy custom tax logic, single page checkout and multiple payment gateway support. The useful Google Analytics tool is also built in to it.
Presta Shop – This professional-grade solution has a comprehensive back-end application to assist in the management of online business in real time, including orders, inventory, customer and shipping functions controlled from under the one roof. The latest security technology is used to send customers’ payments straight into your business bank account.
VirtueMart – This works with Joomla! to create a bespoke and easy-to-manage shopping cart that allows customers to create an account, access their order history and add addresses as well as buy products. The category and product numbers are unlimited and so scaling is not an issue, and multiple currencies and languages are supported.
What are add-on tools?
E-commerce add-ons are popular for transforming a website into a store that will attract visitors and get them to buy your products and services. The term actually covers a multitude of sins to improve the functionality and change the site’s appearance. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Intuit Quickbooks – QuickBooks, from the leading accounting software provider Intuit, is an integrated financial suite that helps you save time on a range of accounting tasks. It stores supplier, customer, financial and staff details so you know where everything is, and by importing business contacts it saves on unnecessary keying in to get you up and running in no time at all. You can create invoices without having to retype data or open several different suites of software, and cash-flow figures are shown in real time.
Hootsuite – Hootsuite is a social CRM that allows users to more effectively engage with their customers and thereby empower them to become effectively a social business. Hootsuite, when incorporated into your e-commerce website, will automatically collect scheduled activities (calls and meetings), mentions on Twitter and other platforms, direct and indirect communications as well as all contacts into a single company record.
This means that when a client’s record is retrieved you’ll immediately be presented with a complete overview of them and their history with your company, including all their connections, transactions and conversations. The overall effect is to provide you with a realistic, actionable context to all your business contacts, so you can always keep the whole of your company in the loop and not miss out on any opportunities. This allows for enhanced customer experience and engagement by your team, without having to log and record data all the time.
Mailchimp – Mailchimp is an email marketing add-on. When people get in touch with you through a website form, their details are added to lists kept by MailChimp. A MailChimp list can be linked to a form on your website, which will effectively turn the site into a virtual salesman, from which monthly email campaigns can be scheduled, for instance.
MailChimp also lets you keep your customers actively engaged with tips, offers and company news, and you can use them to help build loyalty through the incorporation of useful content targeted at them and their needs.
How to start marketing your store?
When you start selling online, the first impulse is usually to simply sell to as many punters as possible. The problem with this is that it will make it much more difficult to identify the true market for your product or service. Niche marketing is usually a better strategy, whereby the size of the target audience is reduced as much as possible. The audience may be smaller but they’ll all have the identical need and usually be a lot more passionate about it as well, which can take a lot of the initial legwork out of marketing.
Once it has been identified, you have to devote some time to studying your niche market and what drives these people. Use keywords and phrases that you have decided they’ll use when searching for product information and incorporate these into your site content as well as into PPC and SEO campaigns that you run, as this will drive additional traffic.
Provide content that is specific to your identified niche audience so that they’ll look at your videos, social media and blog posts and receiving useful, high-quality information. This will be crucial for building trust and brand loyalty.
Make sure too that you get actively involved in the community. Niche customers are usually much more passionate and you can tap into this to create a meaningful dialogue with them through a range of social media and tailor your marketing strategy to their needs. Eventually you’ll become a trusted source and this is the best way of driving increased volumes of traffic to your site.
Are you ready to grow the ultimate big business e-commerce website?
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