From the outside ecommerce looks easy. After all, there are numerous success stories that show that running your own ecommerce business either as a full time occupation or concurrently with your day job can lead to sizeable and consistent gains. Some see ecommerce as their ticket to a brighter future in which they will regain their independence, claw back some work life balance and become independently wealthy enough to live the lifestyle they’ve always dreamed of. Of course, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
Here are the key points on how a successful entrepreneur would lay the foundations of a strong online business:
- Choose a product or service that you are passionate about.
- Do your research and understand the market you are entering.
- Create a strong brand and make sure it is consistent across all of your marketing materials.
- Build a strong website that is well-designed and easy to use.
- Invest in marketing to get your product or service in front of potential customers.
- Provide excellent customer service to build a loyal customer base.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest trends in the online world.
- Be patient and don’t expect to become an overnight success.
While there are many ecommerce success stories, each providing a unique lesson in how to survive in this fast moving and ultra competitive landscape; there are at least as many aborted or floundered businesses that went quickly from inception to liquidation with a whimper.
Ecommerce isn’t easy and anyone who says that it is is lying to you to try to get you to buy a ticket to their seminar or one of their starter kits. This is a bitter pill to swallow when there’s so much advice out there, (and quite a lot in here) helping you to navigate your way to ecommerce success, not to mention all those lovely cheap and free resources. Here we’ll look at the importance of starting off on the right foot, looking at the pitfalls you’ll need to avoid from the very starting line and how to ensure that your ecommerce business gets off to the best possible start in its first year.
Why so many ecommerce businesses fail
Ecommerce is a hugely competitive field and many would be entrepreneurs find that their efforts collapse in their first year because they have underestimated the breadth of competition in their chosen field. That’s not to say that a great product can’t find its market in a crowded marketplace but as an entrepreneur you need to know what your USP is so that you stand out from your competition (and that’s really hard to do in your first year).
A lack of investment is also a common stumbling block. While it’s absolutely true that there are free ecommerce platforms they come with their caveats. They may have a cookie cutter selection of “themes” which makes your site scream “amateur” or give it a distinctly late ‘90s feel. While an online store may have significantly reduced overheads compared to a brick and mortar store a lack of investment of startup capital can see your business flounder.
Furthermore, many ecommerce businesses are as on top of their inventory and cash flow as their brick and mortar counterparts.
Your business’ first year will be a trial by fire and it’s not an enterprise that should be rushed into no matter how affordable or logistically easy it may appear to start out.
Your first step: Do your homework
Because brick and mortar stores have such extensive overheads, their founders need to do a whole lot of market research before going cap in hand to chase funding solutions. They need to demonstrate a quantifiable interest in their products while also convincing lenders that they have a strong enough USP to ensure that customers will consistently use their services rather than going through their competitors. Many who want to start ecommerce businesses forego this or don’t take enough time to properly research their chosen field and thus fail to make the impression needed on their target market.
Before you get your business cards printed or pay for a year of web hosting, carry out the following;
- Google your product. See who’s selling and who’s paying for advertising. If they’re spending money on advertising, the chances are that they’re getting money from repeat customers.
- Browse eBay and see how quickly alternatives to your product are selling and in what sort of volumes.
- Read product reviews. These are a free and richly qualitative source of consumer insight. If you notice a significant pattern of shortcomings in your competitor’s products you can make a killing if yours supersedes them.
Be wary of building your business from the content marketing arm upwards
There are many, particularly those who want to run an ecommerce business alongside their day jobs, who build their social media presence, blog, YouTube content etc. before they even begin trading. The logic in this is sound enough. It creates a pre-existing awareness of the brand and begins to build exposure to your product before it even goes to the manufacturing stage. Plus… It’s fun! The trouble is that exposure is a double edged sword. By establishing your content marketing early on you’re making a promise to your target market and if something happens to delay your product launch or the start of your trading you can end up breaking that promise before you’ve begun trading in earnest. Not great PR!
Invest in getting the right help
Entrepreneurs are determined and single minded individuals but don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can do everything by yourself. If this is your first attempt at establishing an online business you’ll undoubtedly need coaching and guidance to make sure that your online presence is as professional and appealing as it can be and that you have marketing solutions in place to grow your sustainability. If you don’t have the time to look for individual solutions, consider a one stop shop that is full of Woocommerce experts. They’ll be able to help you build your website and your brand together.
It’s all about your conversion rate
Starting out in your first year your single biggest priority should be attracting new customers and ensuring that they become repeat customers. This means cultivating your conversion rate and doing everything you can to ensure that website users convert to customers. Set up your ecommerce site with Google and Bing Shopping. This will aid your conversion rate as search terms will appear as a link with an image providing a better chance of a click through.
Ad retargeting is also an effective solution for fickle shoppers who will likely peruse several vendors before making a choice. Retargeted ads can help to coax an on the fence customer back to your store.
You should also take steps to encourage customers to come back or (better yet) introduce family, friends and colleagues to your service. Promotional codes and exclusive offers are great incentives which will turn one off conversions into repeat customers.