If you’re planning to launch a business that’s going to be selling products online, don’t just jump in and hope for the best. As with all companies, you need to know what you’re doing, who you’re targeting, and how you’re going to achieve those much sought-after web sales.
Here’s a refresher of the basic things that you need to have in place to help make a success of your online trading.
1. Know what you’re doing
Any budding entrepreneur should be knowledgeable and skilled to succeed in the market in which they’re working. As well as a basic education, you should also have developed some specific business skills. As you launch and grow your online business, you will have to be the master of many things.
So, if you haven’t already got any management training or qualifications under your belt, then think about taking a BSBA degree online or a shorter course. You may want to consider doing this before you start out with your venture to truly maximize your chances of success. If not, you could get things going and study alongside your work commitments.
2. Identify your brand
If you’re starting up a company, you need a business plan in place, one which sets out where you want to go and how you’re going to reach it. You need to define the products you’re going to market and sell online and who you intend to target with them - your customer market.
Before you take to the net to trade, you need to have developed a carefully defined brand image and messaging. You want your clients to identify with you, and the goods you provide and come back to you time and time again. You need customers to trust your company and recommend it to others.
As part of this, you need to have a business logo and corporate branding to use in all forms of marketing, whether that’s on your website, on social media channels, or in direct marketing. You need to think about branding which not only defines who you are but also connects with your clients. If your clients were a logo and brand, what would they look like? How would they feel? What would be their aspirations?
Besides marketing and PR efforts, you should also be very protective of your brand. For example, as an online store, understanding basic online security is integral. If you were to be hacked, not only would you lose out on sales opportunities at that moment, you would also risk angering potential customers who are unlikely to return.
If you’re serious about doing well in business, then your branding isn’t something you should be doing in a hurry and on the cheap. It’s worth investing in some expert help, to advise you on what’s best for your business and to deliver the results you want.
3. Your online store
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling on the net; you need to make your online store the place to go for your products. That means you need a great looking website, which is accessible on all sorts of devices, from desktop computers, tablets, smartphones and so on. Online customers have set their standards high, having had some great retail experiences already on the web, so you need to seduce and impress them too!
What this all means is that you need an amazing online store which truly does the business. If you’re not an expert in all of this, then again, you should look to hire in some outside help, such as professional specialist website developers who’ve got a proven track record with designing successful sites for e-commerce.
You’ll want a site that completely immerses your customers in your products. If you’re selling condo vacation rentals, for example, you’ll want to be including features such as 360 videos, where people can have a look at the properties you’re offering as if they are there in person. Still photos and other video content will also help.
You also need to make sure your online store is attractive, not text heavy and is easy to navigate around, with products and services placed into relevant categories that are easily searchable. You need to take people on a journey, one they’ll remember and will hopefully want to buy into and explore further.
Also ensure your site has efficient SEO, or search engine optimization features, to make sure that customers can find you in organic search listings (these are the ones you don’t have to pay for!).
4. Payment facilities
Whatever your line of online business, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to take payments from customers. That means installing a payment gateway, which is easy to use but is crucially safe, secure and protects client data. You also need a facility that gives your business peace of mind, authorizing payments and transmitting them to your business bank accounts efficiently.
5. Marketing your products
As well as through your website, your online store, you should also be maximizing the promotion of your products and services through other channels, including social media. Social media platforms are an effective way to reach out to your clients and interact with them directly.
You should create and maintain several profiles, across all the main platforms, and post content them on a regular basis, in a uniform way. Make sure your messaging and branding is clear, but don’t just fire adverts at people. You should be including content that’s relevant to your market, your industry, and clients, and content that gets them talking and sharing.
Also, think about writing a regular blog, it can be a great way to raise the profile of you personally and your business on an international scale.
6. Growing your online business
You may well have your sights set on building a huge online trading empire, but a word of caution: you should try and take one step at a time, in a managed and realistic way. Your business plan will form the basis of this. You need to stop and review your business as it develops and ask yourself: am I reaching the revenue levels I expect to reach at this stage? Am I on track for the growth that is forecast? Is the current business model working? Do I need to make any changes?
With growth, of course, come more demands on your business. You will have to think about whether you need to take on any staff, invest in more resources and possibly get some office space. You will need to factor all of this into your growth aspirations.
Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.