Running your own e-commerce website seems like an easy path to success—just ask the creators of Amazon and eBay—but like any business, it comes with its own obstacles. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean that you won’t run into many of the problems that physical stores have, like running out of inventory, a dearth of customers, or negative word-of-mouth.
You’ll be globally exposed, opening you up to more criticism. But because you’re on the Internet, you’ll be privy to all the advantages cyberspace has to offer. Today we’ll take a look at the tools you’ll need to find success in your e-commerce website, separated into two broad categories: strategies and infrastructure.
A. Strategies 1. Sell the company Even though you are the show-runner of your shop, don’t think of personal advertising as beneath you. If you’ve got the charisma and the charm, become the face of your company, the little startup that could. Mail out releases to local and major media outlets announcing your opening. Don’t waste time waiting for that “perfect moment,” because if you do, it will never come. Let your name be known—the names of both you and your store—and attract interest as early as possible.
2. Practice direct marketing You’ll be facing lots of competition online, so you shouldn’t sit on your laurels and expect that people will stumble upon your site. Engage your existing customers, keep in touch with them, and ensure that they return. Who knows, they may even be so impressed with your business that they’ll recommend you to your friends.
Social media is one of the most effective platforms out there. Just a few shares by your most fervent customers can pyramid into an incredibly effective word-of-mouth campaign. Developing an infographic or a video that goes viral will work wonders for your company’s mindshare.
Actively pursue new customers by running promotions during pertinent holidays—or even for arbitrary dates like your site’s anniversary. Run contests and community events, rewarding those who are loyal to you. Put yourself out there, and your customers will come.
3. Act like a publisher You may be running an online storefront, but your great wares may not be enough to keep people interested. Establish a blog that serves as a companion to your store, and use it to talk about, well, anything that is pertinent to your products and services.
Write official reviews for the latest item that’s in your inventory. This will generate attention and point to your new stuff, resulting in increased sales. Create articles that talk about the latest trends in your particular niche, using your insight as an insider to shed new light onto the topic. Keep that quality content coming, and your readership (and therefore your customer base) will grow.
4. Be an administrator You are the boss, so the ultimate responsibility falls on you. Unlike physical stores, shops on the Internet never close, so take it upon yourself to manage your operations. Learn the ins and outs of the business so that when your dedicated people fail, you’ll be able to do their work in emergencies.
Keep everything redundant—there’s nothing more of a turnoff for a potential customer if the site doesn’t work, if links lead them nowhere, and they are unable to purchase anything. Knowing the ropes will decrease the chances of that happening, keeping your e-commerce machine well-oiled.
Understand that your online store is a 24/7 operation and cannot take care of itself. Allocate full-time resource(s) to manage the site, even if that means you. Make sure you have backup procedures in place for both the site and the database.
B. Infrastructure 1. Have a phenomenal logo The best companies in the world have a striking, instantly recognizable logo that will never leave the minds of their customers. If you don’t have the design chops, hire someone to do it for you. Make sure that your logo embodies your brand, is unique, and will remain memorable.
Having a fantastic logo will reassure your customers—it serves as a business card, establishing trust right away. It will also establish your brand in the hearts and minds of people, so your logo must be exceptional.
2. Maintain an easy-to-use user interface On the online platform, user interface is everything. Every competent online storefront will have three basic elements: a search function, a shopping cart, and a login. The search function makes sure that people will find what they are looking for. It needs to be properly indexed so that relevant results show up, as well as recommendations if you don’t have what they want.
A shopping cart will let customers keep track of the items they wish to purchase, and a membership functionality will make this even easier. Membership will even introduce features such as wish lists and gifting.
3. Promote great customer support The impersonal nature of online shopping can be alienating to those who have grown up with traditional brick-and-mortars. To offset this, you’ll need to have your own customer service team to provide a human face for your company. Once you can afford it, have real-time chat open so that customers will have answers to their queries at any time.
Coupled with your blog, great customer support will ensure that your business will remain approachable and friendly.
Keep these tips in mind, and achieving success with your online storefront should be within reach. How have you created and maintained an e-commerce website? Are there any pointers that we missed? Share your own success stories in the comments below!