Ecommerce is a £400 billion dollar industry, and it’s one that’s growing rapidly. With low start-up costs and maintenance, but with potentially high profit margins, more people than ever are jumping on the bandwagon and selling in bulk online. As with any business starting out, there are plenty of pitfalls to fall avoid, and some things you simply must do if you want to succeed. Here are some of them.
Do your research! As simple as it sounds, you’ll want to make sure that you know the ins-and-outs of your product and the online retail business before your website goes live. Whether you’re peddling high fashion or bespoke smoking materials like SmokeCartel, it’s critical to know the value of your products. Under-sell and you’re giving money away; over-estimate and nobody will buy it. It’s also important to research behind-the-scenes costs around shipping and customs, on top of the usual business concerns like taxes and credit card charges. If you’re using a hosted ecommerce option, comparing prices and products will save you any headaches in the future.
Don’t let it sit! It’s critical when starting out to aggressively market your products. This means maintaining an active social media presence, optimising the content on your website for search engines and providing a natural, simple interface to greet customers when they do arrive. This means learning the nuances of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing strategies.
Do build a great site! As an online retailer, your website is your shop front. It needs to be attractive, well-laid out and organic. Many webhosts will provide a website builder to work from, which saves building a website from the ground up with programs like WordPress. The only downside to this is the relative lack of customisation options – it’s more likely that your site will seem generic if you’re using pre-sets which are available to others. Clean, informative copy is the key to being noticed by Google and other search engines, so make sure your text is grammatically correct and readable!
Don’t go in blind! While you’re not purchasing real estate or (possibly) manufacturing products yourself, ecommerce retailers are still businesses, and beginning with online sales should be treated like starting any other business. This means performing market research, understanding both your consumers and your competitors, analysing market forces and pricing, and making sure that the products you’ll be moving are effective money-makers in volume. If you’re hoping for a quick turnaround on a low-end item, then you’ll be positioning yourself much differently in the market than someone selling high-quality, bespoke products.
Do decide on a product! It’s no use selling just anything – if you’ve only got a vague idea of what it is you’ll be shipping then it’s almost impossible to perform the steps outlined above. Only once you’ve decided what it is you will be selling then you can optimise everything toward it: this includes everything from packaging and shipping costs to website structure and branding.