E-commerce has revolutionized how goods and services are sold around the world, and it seems that it will continue to experience rapid growth in the foreseeable future. In fact, Nasdaq predicts that 95 percent of purchases will be made online by 2040. Yet, today many small businesses that have a website do not sell their goods or services online. This means that there is ample opportunity right now for businesses who take the plunge into e-commerce.
Whether you’re thinking of adding an e-commerce element to your existing business or opening an online store from scratch, there are many benefits to be had, including:
- You can save money on start-up, overhead, marketing, hiring, and traveling.
- You can attract and serve customers in all parts of the world.
- Customers can purchase from you 24/7.
- You can track and analyze customer interest and buying behavior.
Nine Tips for E-Commerce Success
While there are significant advantages to starting an online store, you will need to approach it strategically in order to be successful. Here are a few practical tips for opening your first online store:
Get to know the business.
The world of e-commerce can be a lot to take in at first. That’s where online guides can come in handy. Take some time to learn about all the key topics related to e-commerce, such as branding, upselling, and merchandising. By studying everything there is to know about e-commerce, you’ll be off to a good start with your business.
Be sure to protect your data.
When you sell products or services online, you are responsible for keeping sensitive information safe and secure—both for your company and your customers. If the wrong data ends up lost or stolen, it could result in catastrophic damage to your company. It’s essential to have proper security software and protocols in place. And if you do experience data loss, you will need to bring in a team of professionals to help you recover it.
Meet legal obligations.
In addition to legal requirements that revolve around data, you may also have to have a business license. While running an online business is vastly different from a brick-and-mortar operation, your local city or county may require you to register just the same. To do this, you will need to come up with an official name, apply for specific trade licenses, and potentially acquire a home occupation permit. To find out about e-commerce rules in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce.
You’ll also need to consider setting up a business entity. Many business owners choose to set themselves up as a limited liability company to limit personal responsibility and avoid extra taxes and paperwork.
Set up payroll.
If you’re going to be hiring employees, you’ll need to create a process for payroll. Payroll for small business involves calculating employee earnings, deducting federal and state taxes, and keeping detailed financial records. A payroll service can simplify this process by automating wage calculations and tax deductions and providing payday and filing alerts.
Create a brand.
If you want to be truly successful online, you have to have a recognizable brand. It is not enough to simply have products up for grabs. A brand is essentially a quick way to communicate with your clients. Think about Amazon. Their signature smiling logo is easily recognizable whether it’s painted on a delivery truck or gleaming from your computer screen. Build your brand by first knowing your target audience. You’ll need to cater to those who buy from you the most. Spend some time researching other brands in your industry and make sure that all of your materials quickly convey the benefits of buying with your stamp instead of someone else’s.
Get into the dropshipping business.
One of the best all-around ways to get into the e-commerce market is to start a dropshipping business. In short, dropshipping means to sell an item from your online store which is then shipped directly to the customer from a supplier. This eliminates the need for you to keep physical inventory of the items, it’s low-risk, and it requires basically no overhead. Plus, you can sell anything through dropshipping, so be sure to look into all your options.
Choose your domain and pick the best platform for you.
It’s important to choose a solid domain name that isn’t already in use. Once you’ve figured out your domain name, it’s time to choose a platform for your store, and it’s important to choose one that meets your needs. For instance, WordPress is an easy-to-use and cost-effective platform that claims over 42 percent of all e-commerce websites and comes with a fair amount of free themes and other features. However, if you want your online store to stand out and provide more powerful tools and features, you may want to go with a customizable platform like Magento or BigCommerce.
Offer free shipping.
To stay competitive in the e-commerce market, you will need to offer great shipping options for customers. Really, you need to offer free shipping, because customers are expecting it more and more. However, you may not need to offer free shipping for everything. Many businesses find it best to charge a reasonable shipping fee on orders under a certain amount (like $50) and include free shipping for orders over that amount.
Give the best customer service.
Excellent customer service is a fundamental offering that every business should provide without hesitation. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The good news is, however, that the better your customer service, the more loyal your client base. Something as simple as responding quickly to online queries creates trust and can set you far apart from the competition. Remember, it is easy to lure customers in with low prices but keeping them is a much more difficult – and more important – task.
The benefits of opening an e-commerce store abound, but it’s important to approach it the right way. Be sure to learn about the world of e-commerce, protect your business and customer’s data, look into dropshipping, choose the ideal domain and platform that fits your company’s strategy, set up a payroll system, and figure out ways to show that you are the better choice given the competition. There are many other aspects of starting and running an online store, but implementing these tips and others will help you get a solid start.
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Author: Amy Collett