Have you caught the internet e-commerce bug? Are you champing at the bit to make your first online sale and spread the good news about your products and services around the world? While your enthusiasm may be contagious, it will be short-lived unless you build your online business from the ground up with a strong foundation. Put the right building blocks in place, and you can set yourself up for profits.
PICK YOUR PRODUCTS
It may sound obvious, but one of the first things you need to nail down before opening your store is what you will be selling. Once your shop is up and running, you will be the go-to expert that your customers will consult when it comes to information about your wares, so be sure you do your homework and know what you’re talking about. In that same vein, ask yourself if you really like and even are passionate about what’s in your catalog, keeping in mind that you will be dealing with these products day in and day out. If they are boring to you or, worse yet, if they go against your principles or moral standards, you will quickly begin to hate what you do. Take the time to explore all of your different options, including whether you have the space and desire to keep an inventory in stock that you pack and send to your buyers or if you prefer to do business with a drop shipper who handles all aspects of getting the products to your customers. Then do some marketplace investigating on the internet to see how your competitors are going about the business of marketing similar items. Your job is to find a niche that sets you apart from the countless other online vendors who all want a piece of the e-commerce pie.
PICK AN E-COMMERCE SOLUTION
In order to run your store and display and sell your products, you must find an e-commerce solution that best suits your needs. There are three basic types:
- A hosted solution is ideal for beginners and novices since it keeps your website on their servers and provides you with e-commerce software and templates to help you build your store’s website to accept purchases.
- A licensed solution is a turn-key, out-of-the-box package that you install onto your own computer. It is your responsibility to find your own hosting and security protections, making this more suited to e-commerce experts.
- Open source solutions are usually low-cost or free downloads, but they require you to do most of the programming and other heavy lifting in order to build your own store’s site. While these allow you a great deal of leeway when it comes to customizing your store, they are not for the faint of heart or for someone with just basic internet skills.
BUILD YOUR STORE
Use the e-commerce solution you chose to construct your home page as well as product, FAQ, “contact us” and other content pages. Throughout this process, be aware of the logo and other branding and design features you want people to associate with your products. Design your site to be as clear, easy to navigate and eye-catching as possible.
CHOOSE YOUR DOMAIN NAME
This is the URL or web address that people will go to when they want to reach your store. Make it as short and relevant to your business as possible. Then decide on the extension you prefer: .com, .biz, etc. and register your domain with a provider. Expect to pay a yearly fee for this.
DECIDE HOW CUSTOMERS WILL PAY YOU
Your store won’t last long without income, and you have decisions to make when it comes to how people will channel their funds to you. Many beginners decide to use options such as PayPal and Google Checkout, both of which are well-respected by customers and industry insiders. However, they do require that buyers click away from your page to complete the purchase. To avoid that, you might instead choose to accept customer credit cards directly on your website. If you decide to go this route, you will need to choose a credit card processing company. It’s a big decision that could affect you for years, so be sure you completely understand any contracts before you sign them.
GET THE WORD OUT
You could be selling a totally unique product that millions of people want, but you will go exactly nowhere if people don’t know of your existence. That’s where savvy marketing comes in. It involves using all available options to spread the news about your online presence, including social media, SEO, email, affiliate marketing and even video blogging. Because this step on your e-commerce journey is so crucial, get help from experts if necessary. It would be a tragedy if all of your commitment, planning and hard work went to waste simply because your marketing strategies were ineffectual.
Online selling looks easier than it actually is. Don’t be fooled by unscrupulous vendors promising impossibly high income for very little work. As with any other aspect of the business world, successful e-commerce involves extensive outputs of planning, time and hard work on your part. However, if you do your homework and offer consumers products or services that they need or are willing to try, you can set your online store on the path of hard-won success.