Being able to sell online is a cornerstone of many businesses. The virtual storefront, which is always open and available to anyone in the world, is a powerful concept capable of breathing new life into many businesses, brands, or products. In many cases it can allow you to create a successful business with surprising speed and ease.
There are some pitfalls, however. Just like with physical stores, you may run into problems like insufficient inventory, insufficient customers, or even negative word-of-mouth. As a global business you’re exposed to the world and open to that much more criticism. On the other hand, this exposure means you have access to all the benefits of cyberspace. Let’s look at the strategies and infrastructure you need to succeed online.
Use Direct Marketing
The world online is full of competition, so you can’t expect to sit back and wait for the customers to roll through the doors. Use direct marketing techniques to find potential new customers, engage existing ones, and keep them coming back for more. You may even find that they’re so impressed with your efforts that they recommend your e-commerce shop to their friends.
Along these lines, social media is an excellent way of reaching out to customers. If just a few of your devoted fans share your posts or content, that can pyramid into some extremely effective “word of mouth.” A viral video or infographic can do amazing things to build your brand and get people coming to you, also.
Another tactic you can use to go after new customers is to run promotions during holidays and other special occasions. (Use any excuse you can find — your website’s anniversary is a good one.) Community events and contests that reward people who are loyal customers are an excellent idea, also. By putting yourself out there, you make yourself visible to your customers.
Lastly, always have an email newsletter and give people every opportunity to opt-in. This is both a great way to win new customers and retain old ones.
Get In The Trenches
Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean that helping promote your company needs to be beneath you. If you have charm and charisma, make yourself the company’s face. Send out news releases to both local outlets and the national media to announce your business’ opening, and send out more releases every chance you get.
Never wait to launch your business or a product because you’re hoping for a “perfect moment,” because these never come. Make your company’s name known as widely and as early as possible, and it will bring interest.
Don’t Just Sell, Publish
Running an online storefront is good, but most people aren’t interested just in products. Therefore, become a publisher of information which your customers love — start a blog as a companion for your store, and use it as a way to talk about things which are relevant to what you sell.
An excellent idea for e-commerce sites is to put out reviews for the new items in your store inventory. These create attention and spotlight the new items, driving new sales. You can also write articles talking about industry trends, which will get picked up and linked to by other blogs and maybe even the news media.
By keeping a steady flow of quality content, you’ll see your readership and your store’s customer base grow hand in hand.
Know The Details — Be Able To Fix Your Ship
As the company owner, final responsibility is always yours. Since an e-commerce site is open for business every hour of the day, you have to be able to manage the operation even if one of your staffers isn’t. Learn the details of their jobs, and how to keep the site running, so you can step in if there’s an emergency.
At the same time, make sure you have backups and redundant copies of everything. Your site should always work, no matter what. This means having backup procedures in case of a failure and backup copies of your website and databases ready to go.
Make Your Site Easy to Use
User interface is everything in e-commerce. Unlike a physical store, there’s no physical clerk customers can ask if they’re confused. Here, confusion means they just click away.
Therefore, make sure your search function is properly indexed and produces relevant results. If possible, implement a recommendations system that makes suggestions if you don’t have what the customer wants. Similarly, make sure your membership and shopping cart features are smooth and streamlined.
If you have customers abroad, website translation is critically important. Just as you wouldn’t expect a store to do well with a French-speaking clerk in an English-speaking country, your storefront must speak the customer’s language.
About the Author
Alex Pejak is an economist currently working on a few projects in Australia. She is passionate about market research and project management. She is also interested in topics related to business IT and career development.