These days, more and more people dream of daring to start their own business and be their own boss. Factors ranging from economic instability to enforced lockdowns – thanks to Covid-19 – are giving many the push they needed to make the jump into eCommerce. In parallel, today’s consumers are shopping online more than ever before. So, how to do you take that leap into online retail, and land on rails that will lead you to success?
Many aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs make the mistake of losing sight of the bigger picture. They may spend all of their resources building a great looking online shop but fall flat when it comes to choosing a niche, or mastering marketing. Developing an eCommerce business plan is going to be a must, helping you to keep that lovely broad overview. Also vital is going to be keeping focus on the reality that sales must be the target for online retail success. With these core truths in mind, we have put together ten top tips to help you flesh out your own sales-focused business plan!
1. Identify The Best Business Model For You
Right from the off, you might already know what product you want to sell – or, you may have no idea, beyond knowing that you want to go into eCommerce! Many are taking the leap from high street retail to a virtual store front as a pandemic survival tactic. Whichever you are, selling online requires having something to sell. If you don’t already have a warehouse full of product, you need to decide whether you have the capital to source, buy, and maintain your own stock, or if you should explore drop shipping. This term describes acting as a middleman between manufacturers and shoppers, so you handle sales and marketing, but leave the physical production and shipping to someone else.
2. Zero In On Your Niche
Unless you dream of becoming the next Jeff Bezos, and have a budget to match your ambition – you are going to need to pick a product niche! Trying to compete with the likes of Amazon is going to be impossible unless you focus in on doing something specific and doing it really well. You might choose to sell a particular style of women’s clothing, or quality fishing equipment – whatever it may be, choose a niche that avoids going toe to toe with huge brands, but does have some competition out there. Unless you have hit on an extraordinary innovation, a lack of competition could simply indicate zero market!
3. Get To Know Your Target Market
Once you have a product offering in mind, perform in-depth market research. Look at social media trends, and what successful businesses are doing in terms of marketing. Try to uncover everything you can about the audience you will be aiming for – and make no assumptions. Harnessing techniques such as developing customer personas can really breathe life into your market analysis. Also, identifying “shoulder” niches, (associated markets that are not direct competition), can help you build mutually rewarding online connections.
4. Choose A Brilliant Brand Name
The name of your eCommerce site needs to be catchy and memorable, and a perfect fit for your brand persona. Your website address does not absolutely have to be the same as your business name, but keeping things consistent can be helpful, and make things easier for your audience. Take your time one this one, as it’s a decision that will begin to shape the core personality of your business!
5. Set The Tone By Deciding On Visuals
With a clear picture of your audience and your product offering in place, you should be able to identify an optimal visual tone. The aesthetics of your eCommerce site will incorporate details such as colour scheme, font choices, logo design, and product picture format. For example, an online retailer selling men’s suits is likely to choose a formal look, in perhaps blues and greys, over a curly-font laden bubble-gum-coloured theme! A beautifully selected visual style, applied consistently across your branding, will give just the right impression. Choosing a professional format for your product images, and sticking with this look site-wide, will also set the tone. Make sure that every image you use is of excellent quality.
6. Check Out The Competition
Your competition can provide great inspiration when it comes to choosing your brand persona, helping you to explore options around your aesthetics and marketing voice. Be sure to scope out some great ideas, but then integrate them into something new. Your eCommerce store should out-shine the competition, rather than mimic it!
7. Get To Grips With SEO
It may seem overly technical and boring, but SEO – or search engine optimisation – is going to be your best friend in the world of eCommerce. You do not necessarily need to have a finger on the pulse of every new development in the world of SEO, but you do need to have a strong handle on the basics. This means a good grasp of things like using keywords, creating SEO friendly copy, and having a fantastic website structure. Don’t be tempted skimp in this area, as you’ll have twice the work to do later on!
8. Create Your Online Store
Take a moment to pat yourself on the back here, as the ground work is done, and now it’s time for construction! Thanks to the many great eCommerce platforms out there today, you can build an eCommerce site with relative ease. This is not to say that it’s a small task – each and every page and product will take time to get set up. It does, however, mean that you will be able to tap into great resources geared towards getting you selling!
Take your time in choosing the right platform for your needs, and then it’s time to get stuck in – whether you build an online store yourself, or enlist the help of experts to get things off the ground. As you go, remember that user experience is everything, so it’s crucial to test, test, and test again!
9. Work Through The Little Details
There are lots of little details to consider, beyond getting your products up and online. You will need to iron out multiple details such as where you ship to, calculating your shipping costs, and choosing reputable payment gateways. You also need to start out ready for what might go wrong. This means having top-notch customer support all planned out and ready to rock. By getting all the little touches set right from the start, you can establish your brand as one that deserves trust, and quickly earns a great reputation – the makings of a golden ticket for the eCommerce train!
10. Develop A Marketing Strategy
Having great products and a spectacular website is not going to do much for you if nobody ever finds them. Marketing is how you turn all the hard work you have put in so far into hard cash! Look to your audience research for pointers, as you identify which social media platforms are going to be the most productive. Begin building a list of subscribers for email marketing and use automation tools to roll out timely and fresh content that will build your brand’s allure. Weigh up your paid-marketing options, and don’t forget to factor marketing costs into your product margins. Will all of these tips on board, you’re sure to be steaming towards a thriving eCommerce enterprise!