The global trend in online shopping is increasing rapidly – from 7.4% of all retail spending in 2016 to a predicted 8.8% in 2018 – equating to 2,489 TRILLION dollars spent by online shoppers this year.
If you’re chasing a piece of this lucrative pie, there are a number of key tasks to consider when starting a successful eCommerce business – we’ve listed the top 20 below:
1) Choose a Business Name
Of course, the first step for most businesses is coming up with a business name. The perfect business name should reflect your brand and tone, and appeal to your target audience whilst remaining catchy and memorable.
To help with business name inspiration, check out our How to Name a Business for a complete guide and hundreds of suggestions, or browse our blog for industry-specific business name generators.
2) Secure Your Domain Name
Once you’ve chosen a business name (or as part of the decision-making process) you’re going to need to secure a domain name for your website.
Like your business name, your domain should be memorable and easy for your customers to type into their website browser. Ideally, the domain name should be the same as your business name for consistency, however, if your business name is not available, you may have to choose a domain that is an adaptation or abbreviation of your business name, or otherwise relates directly to your business.
With this in mind, we’ve conveniently designed our Business Name Generator to also provide information around domain availability, helping to kill two birds with one stone!
3) Secure Your Social Channels
Even in the early days before you start producing content, it’s a good idea to lock down your social channels, as they may also become unavailable. With social media becoming an increasingly critical piece to any digital marketing campaign, it is also just good practice in laying the foundations for a successful online presence.
4) Register Your Business
Before you start making money you’ll need to officially register your business. This can easily be done on your own, or you may wish to obtain professional assistance or advice from a business filing company or lawyer.
The main decision-making process involves what business structure to register your business under, for example, Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), or Corporation.
5) Select a Business Structure
As part of the business registration process, you’ll need to select a business structure. Different business structures will have different tax and liability implications; for example – a sole proprietor could potentially have their personal assists seized by the court if your business can’t cover its debts, whereas a corporation or LLC separates you and your assets from the business, and provides other tax benefits.
Information on choosing the right business structure is available on the IRS website (or equivalent government agency in your country).
6) Design an Engaging Website
No matter how great your products are, your website design will still be the most critical factor in converting customers for your eCommerce business – considering a Kissmetrics study found that 93% of buyers consider visual appearance to be the most important factor when making a purchase.
A good website design should capture and maintain visitors’ attention, showcasing your business and products as clearly as possible, whilst being user-friendly and easy to navigate. You can pay a lot for a professional web designer, or learn how to write code and build your own website, however more and more eCommerce businesses are choosing a ready-to-go eCommerce template for their websites.
There are thousands of brilliant eCommerce templates available on sites such as TemplateMonster, SquareSpace, and ThemeForest, which are customizable for your business, and importantly keep up to date with the latest web design trends.
7) Ensure You’re Mobile Friendly
With people spending more time on their mobile than their desktop these days, it is predicted that m-commerce (online shopping from a mobile device) will account for up to 45% of the eCommerce market by 2020.
As such, it is extremely important to ensure your eCommerce website has a responsive web design that adjusts and responds to different sized screens and devices and is optimized for a user-friendly experience on mobile as well as desktop.
Most eCommerce themes include a responsive design, but it is still important to perform user testing and analysis to ensure you’re making the most of your inevitable mobile audience.
8) Develop an Appealing ‘About Us’ Page
In a saturated market, people’s stories sell products… and there is no stronger unique selling point to promote than your own story.
If people click on your ‘About Us’ page they’re already showing they are interested in your business, and that’s your opportunity to captivate them with your story, your brand, and your business objective. You should clearly explain who you are, what you do, and what you’re about in order to convert these leads into customers, loyal followers, and future promoters of your brand.
9) Get Blogging
If your business isn’t blogging in 2018… it should be! No matter how bland you may think your business is, producing regular content through your blog is a proven way to promote your business, build trust in loyal followers, identify yourself as an industry leader and boost your presence online.
Your blog doesn’t need to be all advertising and marketing… offering free helpful information around your niche or telling funny stories through your blog is a great way to showcase your businesses personality, increase brand awareness and also improve the popularity of your website through social media links and search engine rankings.
10) Focus on SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a critical part of any modern business’s marketing plan. The fact is, the vast majority of website access comes through Google (dominating over 85% of the global search market) – and even the coolest website in the world will probably not be found unless it’s optimized to appear on Google searches.
There are thousands of different factors that go into how a website ranks on Google, and trying to master them all is impossible, however seeking professional assistance from a digital marketing agency can ensure you’re ticking the essential boxes to maximize your online presence.
There is also a plethora of experts offering brilliant free advice around the developing SEO industry such as Moz.com.
11) Find the Right Vendors
It goes without saying that your products need to sell themselves. Spend time shopping around to make sure you are partnering with vendors who are offering you the best quality products or materials for the best prices and try to engage in mutually beneficial business relationships that will be long-lasting and sustainable as your business grows.
12) Partner With Other Brands
Showcasing your partnerships with other brands is a great way to establish your reputation and expand your audience. Partnering with other relevant brands can be a large investment or can be inexpensive if you can find mutually beneficial relationships where you can feed each other’s audiences or customers.
13) Provide Popular Payment Options
An online store can’t exist without payments. You should give your website visitors options from all the most popular online payment options, so every visitor to your website has the ability to make a purchase. It is also a good idea to allow customers to create an account so that their details can be accessed conveniently for future transactions.
14) Offer Online Support
Just like when people go shopping in person, online shoppers want to know they have support available to them before, during, and after purchasing. Thus offering some sort of online support is critical to a successful eCommerce business.
Giving your customers an option for support, whether that be a business hour phone number – through social media messaging, or a 24/7 online chat – will help convert hesitant customers, and also build trust with loyal return customers. In fact, studies have shown that a live chat option can increase conversions by up to 10%.
15) Build Trust Using Product Reviews
We live in a world of reviews, and the traditional ‘word-of-mouth effect has evolved into a massive online review industry that stretches to all corners of the globe. In one study, 84% perfect of people surveyed confessed they trust online reviews as much as a close friend’s personal recommendation. Businesses can literally be made or broken by reviews on social media, popular review websites, or Google.
If you’ve received positive feedback from a customer, get it in writing and get it online! Quite often customers who are satisfied won’t consider leaving a review because everything is fine… but it’s okay to give them a polite push and encourage them to share their positive experiences with others. Alternatively, negative reviews should be responded to in a polite manner, as to how your business deals with a disgruntled client in a public forum can do wonders for your reputation.
16) Set up and Monitor Your Analytics
The most effective way for online store owners to increase growth and improve results is by monitoring their progress through analytics. Google Analytics is a free and relatively simple tool specifically designed to help website owners understand the behavior of their visitors.
By understanding who is coming to your website, how long they are spending on particular pages, where they are finding you, and what issues they may be encountering on your website… you have the ability to analyze this data and adjust specific aspects of the process accordingly.
17) Build an Outreach List
Networking with the right people in your industry is a powerful way to reach out to more buyers and increase your target audience. The online landscape has transformed the outreach possibilities – from traditional reporters to industry bloggers and social media influences, there are hundreds of different ways and platforms you can use to showcase your products or brand through other people’s reviews or experiences.
Do some research on people or influences in your industry who have the ability to quickly spread the word of your products, and reach out to these people to discuss options and opportunities to promote your business.
There are tools and platforms that exist specifically to help connect people with influencers in their industry, such as Buzzsumo.
18) Study Your Competition
Whilst everyone wants to be original, there is no shame in closely studying the movements of your competition and taking inspiration from what appears to be working for them, and just as importantly, take note of what is not working in their favor.
Understanding your competitors is a great way to help find a lucrative niche, as you may be able to gear your business towards servicing gaps in the market no one else has picked up on.
19) Invest in Professional Photography
Even the most expensive and professional-looking website design can be rendered useless if the product pictures it’s showcasing are clearly taken from an old mobile phone. Investing in professional photography can often be overlooked in a bid to save money… but be wary of underestimating the power of professional photography in selling your products, particularly with an online audience that has increasingly lower attention spans, and more and more options to look elsewhere.
20) Use Email Marketing Techniques
Email marketing is a proven method to build relationships with your clients and encourage conversions. Online business owners can quite easily set up targeted messages that appeal to clients in different stages of their experience, whether that be pre-sale information or post-sale assistance. This gives merchants the power to send valuable information, encourage conversions, and build a trusting relationship with their audience.
The first step is building your email marketing list – which can be done by gathering emails of people who approve to receive messages moving forward. This can be done through a number of methods, either during the sales process, as a pop-up window when browsing, or as part of an offer for useful information through a newsletter or weekly update.
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