Are you looking for a business venture with little upfront investment and plenty of growth possibilities? If so, the e-commerce economy might be the perfect place to launch your next business. Running an e-commerce business gives entrepreneurs flexibility and reach beyond that of a brick-and-mortar storefront. But before launching and growing an e-commerce business, you should consider these core steps in starting a business.
1. Satisfy a Need
E-commerce businesses often fail because they are product-oriented and not customer-oriented. Many entrepreneurs come up with a great product idea and then search for a market after they launch. However, you should first find a need in a market and then create a solution that satisfies that need. While your great product idea may eventually find a market, you’ll be more successful if you find the need first.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to look for needs:
- Visit forums and query-based Websites to find real-world problems.
- Use tools like SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner to see which terms people are most frequently searching.
- Go to trade shows or use social media to communicate with people and industry experts to find new opportunities.
2. Evaluate Your Idea
After you find an idea that satisfies a need, you’ll then want to evaluate the product idea further, specifically looking at market potential, competition, product criteria, and market trends. For market potential, you can use a tool like Buzzsumo to search your idea and find how many articles and subsequent shares and comments are happening around that topic.
Is this a popular topic? If so, there is a reason to be optimistic. Additionally, you must consider how the product will be manufactured, priced, marketed, and shipped. The more thorough you are in your analysis, the better chance your e-commerce business has of succeeding.
3. Take Your Time on the Website
One of the most critical steps in launching an e-commerce company is designing and building the Website. Outside of the product itself, your site is the next best representation of your brand. In fact, the average attention span of a human is 6 to 8 seconds, which means you need a fast, clean and well-designed Website in order to capture and sell customers.
If you’re just starting out, keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to launch your Website in beta before an official launch to get real customers in and access their feedback. Also, as you start to grow your business, look for ways to continuously improve the user experience on your Website. This is your online store, and you need to make it as customer-friendly as possible.
4. Write Great Copy
If your online store is one of the most important elements of your e-commerce success, then the copy on the Website is crucial. Onsite content is the best way for you to articulate your product’s benefits and persuade the visitor to purchase from you. The copy needs to be compelling enough to capture attention but also needs to be informative enough that users can quickly understand your product’s benefits.
Writing great copy starts with an understanding of headline writing. This is not only the first thing visitors see when they land on a page, but it’s likely the only thing users read on a page. It’s estimated that 80 percent of people read a headline on a page, but only 20 percent read anything else on that page. Thus, it’s critical to start with a great headline. Afterward, focus on drawing out the problem, framing the solution, and creating a sense of urgency.
5. Use Onsite and Offsite SEO
Just as you would market your brick-and-mortar store, you also need to find ways to market your e-commerce store. SEO is one of the best ways to do that. Make sure you create unique product descriptions for all of your items. This includes color or size variations. The more unique, relevant content that you have on your site, the more likely your products are to show up in search queries.
Besides content, you also need to have a strategic plan to generate internal links to your Website. There are a number of different ways to generate backlinks, from guest posting and testimonials to internal links and PR outreach. Whatever your method, just be aware of the benefits of linking for your SEO.
6. Use Email Marketing
Email marketing is another powerful tool for e-commerce stores to grow and retain their customer bases. In fact, an active email list is likely to be much more valuable than any number of social followers. Emails are a personal communication medium that gets you directly in front of your target audience. If you can capitalize on email marketing, your business will see tremendous results.
As you grow your email lists, it’s important to focus on segmenting. Collect as much information as you can for your lists and break the contacts up based on whether they have purchased, what they purchased, where they are located, and other relevant variables to your product offering. This will help you drill down your emails to be as customized as possible.
7. Make Checkout easy
Nick Eubanks, co-founder of FE International, says, “My biggest tip to grow an e-commerce business … remove friction from the checkout process.” Essentially, you want your customers to have a seamless user experience when maneuvering your Website. This is particularly important with regards to checking out and paying (the most important part as a business). Some of the easiest tips to improving the checkout process are to:
- Make sure your site is mobile and desktop friendly
- Avoid requiring customer accounts (make optional)
- Make defaults the cheapest options
- Auto-fill as much as you can and only require the minimal information
- Save important information if it is required multiple times
- Have payment options, including the most common, such as PayPal
E-commerce businesses offer entrepreneurs an endless number of opportunities. With the global economy, you can reach customers anywhere and anytime. If you’re thinking about launching your own e-commerce store, you should make sure to follow the tips above.
Looking for a business idea?
Check out my most popular article, The 300 Best Small Business Ideas. This comprehensive multi-page article offers expert advice on every single business idea. Includes home based, online, steady income, low cost, product and service ideas. Many of the ideas in this long article can be started part time.
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Jeremy Lang is a BusinessTown contributor