So, you have decided to become an online retailer, and are going full steam ahead with setting up an e-commerce platform. Now, to sell products and services on the internet can be really smooth sailing only if you are doing things the right way. You need to understand how to execute the establishment of a solid business in the right manner.
There are some definite steps that you need to undertake so that your ecommerce site is will become the dominant force in the market. The primary questions in your head regarding setting up an e-commerce website, are answered below-
What Do You Want To Sell?
You need to have a sure and well researched answer to this question. You have to find your niche. Think about the products you will be selling; are they good enough? Will they find audience on the internet? The bottom line is that they also need to have a high sales potential.
Hot Tip- Try avoiding a niche, that is saturated, this will make it really difficult for you to find a place in the market. If you want to sell clothes, then may be do so at the local level if the national level has the big players dominating the market.
How To Set Up The Website:
Now, that you know what you will be selling, the next decision to make is building your online store that is the website. You have the following options in this case- you can build it or host it on an ecommerce software package.
For those on a limited budget, it is not advisable to have a website built from scratch. You can go for a website company providing a hosted e-commerce software package. There are many such vendors on the internet that will help you set-up low cost websites. These are really convenient, you can design themselves without the need for any design skills. You must ensure that you have the access to edit the websites code. With this code access, you can later afford to have a designer build a customized look for your site. You must be able to edit your own site so that you can add or remove widgets/logo etc.
You must make your website with sections for products/categories/pictures and an easy payment routes. Your website design must be pleasing to the eyes and directs the visitors towards a desired experience path. With the use of colors -pictures and content, you need to direct a visitor’s actions on your site.
Hot Tip- Your website design is crucial in holding on to the visitors. An average visitor spends just 10 seconds or even less in judging a website. So, an attractive design supports the usability of the site, and you must design keeping the same in mind.
More on setting up websites here-
What Are Ecommerce tools? How To Integrate Them?
E-commerce tools are the essence of your ecommerce platform, and their integration depends on the hosting platform you have chosen. The key ecommerce tools have been discussed below-
- Shopping Cart
- Payment Options
- Merchant Accounts
- Payment Gateway
Like in a real or lets say a brick and mortar store, the shopping cart on an ecommerce platform is really important, in fact, even more. A good cart ensures a smooth e-commerce transition. There are certain elements that make up the cart- Merchant tools, Shopping features, payment options, shipping and taxes and security. You must customize all the above for a truly great shopping cart.
You have to set up hassle free payment options on your ecommerce site. The ways of accepting on-line payments are either through -
Credit Cards, Checks, E-checks, Cash On Delivery, Phone Orders, and in direct personal contact.
You need to get a merchant account set up with leading banks in your area. With this account only, will you be able to accept credit cards as payment that the customers may make for your products and services. If you have a big bank backing you, do display it on your site to assure the customers that you can be trusted regarding the buying-selling and payment of any products. People will trust you.
You need to set up a payment gateway. This is how it works- when a customer enters credit card information while buying your products, the information goes to the merchant web server- passed to a payment gateway through a secure socket layer (SSL). This payment gateway is the step where the software verifies all of the credit card information, after it has received the transaction data. The result of this verification lead to the acceptance or decline of the credit card. Then the payment gateway generates an email receipt and sends the same to the merchant web server and to the customer. The merchant’s bank is notified of the transaction by the payment gateway and the money is placed in a 30-day holding merchant account owned by you or your business.
Hot Tip- Set up clear payment/return and shipping instructions for the customers. They must feel secured while dealing with you.
How To Promote Your Business Online?
If you are of the thought that “build it well and they will come”, strategy will work here, then you are wrong. There are a million similar websites on the net, and you have to make yourself visible. Some of the essential marketing strategies include search engine optimization; pay per clicks, banner ads, and affiliates just to name a few.
The idea behind all of these strategies is to generate traffic to your site. To begin with, you need to identify your target audience and get on with it.
When you set up your ecommerce site, you must remember to make it open to search engine optimization Your products and services’ names will become keywords, that will lead the people looking for them on the internet to your site. So, you must optimize your website, make it search engine friendly. Only then will your business truly take off. You must make sure that your homepage, and other product pages appear in the search engine search results for relevant keywords. As an ecommerce platform, you will get more than 60% of your traffic from search engines, so you better get good SEO done for your site.
Other methods of generating traffic and promoting your site are-
- Paid Search Advertising (PPC)
- Social Media
- Article Marketing and Press Releases
- Email Marketing
- Ads in Print Media
- Electronic Media promotional Spots- TV and Radio
While you are marketing for your site, make plan everything according to your target audience-the people who will be most interested in buying what you sell.
Hot Tip- Getting Customer reviews and user generated content for your products is a good marketing tactic. This will improve your credibility among the other customers.
What To Learn From The Competition?
Like any business, and that too a startup, you can learn a lot from the established businesses in your niche. Assessing your competition will prepare you for competing with them in the future. You need to stay ahead of your competition and you can do that by knowing what they are doing. So, keep an eye out for-
- How are they promoting their products?
- Any special offers like reduced shipping charges?
- The keywords being used by them ?
- Where are they getting their link juice from?
- Is their website easier to navigate through than yours?
Hot Tip- To get a first hand idea of their promotional activities, you must subscribe to their email newsletters.
Once you are through with the above steps, and you start getting traffic and customers, the most important tasks will be:
- To Hold On To The Customers
- To Make Sure They Come Back
- To Give Them A Good User Experience
- To Provide Full Customer Satisfaction With Your Bills And Products.
More on how to do the above, in the write ups coming soon.