There are approximately 1.3 million eCommerce websites based in North America, and many more are established in foreign countries. Of the North American companies, there are approximately 250,000 to 300,000 that are true eCommerce companies rather than marketplace sellers.
Running an eCommerce website offers tremendous benefits compared to a brick-and-mortar retail business, and you understandably want to take advantage of these benefits through the launch of your own eCommerce business.
The benefits of an eCommerce business
Before walking through the essential steps required to build an eCommerce, explore the many benefits of an eCommerce business to facilitate the development of a superior business plan and format. Some of the top benefits of running an eCommerce business include:
- Access to a global customer base
- Decreased overhead expenses
- The ability to operate at all hours of the day
- Simplified collection of customer data for analysis and marketing purposes
- Effective ability to upsell and cross-sell
How to create a powerful eCommerce store
Your eCommerce store will compete against hundreds of thousands of other stores nationally and substantially more on a global scale. To gain traction in a fierce marketplace and to achieve the desired level of success, you must lay a solid framework before opening your virtual doors. These essential steps can guide your efforts.
1. Develop a product list
Developing a product list seems rudimentary on the surface, but it requires a strategic approach and directly affects profitability and success. Consider that some products are readily available through dozens of established eCommerce stores.
By adding similar products to your inventory, you are directly competing in a saturated market segment. Identify products in a specialized niche that are more difficult for consumers to find and that may have a strong or growing demand. For example, rather selling than athletic shoes, you could specialize in a related niche.
2. Research your market
While you can research the market in several ways, a convenient, thorough approach involves keyword analysis. First, identify the most popular keywords relevant to your business. Then, conduct online searches for these keywords. If a search returns numerous results, proceed with caution.
Entering an already-crowded market creates an unnecessary burden on your new eCommerce business. A decision to enter this type of market may be considered, however, if you can offer a superior product, a lower price or a combination of both.
If only a handful of relevant results are returned for a rather popular keyword, on the other hand, it indicates that there are strong demand and potentially minimal supply; this essential upfront research provides invaluable information that ultimately feeds into the difficulty of launching your business. Utilize multiple online keyword research tools to obtain comprehensive data.
3. Identify suppliers and shipping methods
You are now ready to develop a functional operational sales process. After a customer places an order online, how will you process and ship the merchandise? Determine who your suppliers are initially. You may have a reselling business, or you may dropship your merchandise. A third option is to integrate these two methods to meet your unique needs.
Some companies also produce their own merchandise upon request. For example, print on demand technology enables t-shirts, hats and other merchandise to be customized and produced on-demand.
This eliminates the need to maintain a large inventory, to pay for warehouse-related overhead and to pay re-selling fees. As you walk through this step, pay attention to how each option impacts delivery times, overhead and product quality.
4. Design and create a professional website
Once the initial legwork is completed, you are ready to design a professional website for your eCommerce business. Some entrepreneurs utilize advanced website design software or online applications to create their own eCommerce website. The potential downsides to this are the possible lack of a professional presence and the steep learning curve.
Because you likely need a separate page designed for each product, self-design and creation can be daunting and time-consuming as well. When designing your eCommerce website, ensure that the pages are mobile-friendly and have a speedy load time. An alternative is to outsource website design and creation to a reputable web design firm or freelancer.
While the latter option generally requires a substantial initial outlay, the rapid results and a professional-grade website is related to a faster, easier launch with the ability to portray an established presence from day one. If you use professional design services, compare available services, fees, and experience to promote a superior end result.
5. Drive targeted traffic to your website
Regardless of whether your eCommerce website is designed in-house or by a skilled professional, it must be optimized for visibility on leading search engines. This includes utilizing optimized text and meta descriptions on each page. In addition to onsite efforts, look beyond your eCommerce site for marketing opportunities.
For example, utilizing search engine marketing strategies, direct email campaigns, pay-per-click methods and other options can drive more traffic to your website. When the previous steps are executed properly, an exceptional online marketing plan produces a high conversion rate and exceptional profitability.
Use the services of an online marketing firm if you are not comfortable with or skilled in this critical aspect of launching and running a successful eCommerce website.
6. Interact with your customers regularly
Running an eCommerce business enables you to quickly capture data about your website’s visitors and customers. Customers may opt into your blog or product updates, and they may ask to receive regular promotional information about sales and promotions.
While driving new traffic to your website is critical, establishing and maxing the benefits of customer loyalty further drives profits. Established customers are familiar with your business and the quality of your products. Furthermore, you have data about their preferences that enables you to customize marketing specifically to their interests and needs.
Timing is essential when communicating with established customers. Create a structured marketing plan so that your customers receive valuable information without annoying them with excessive communication.
While running an eCommerce business establishes critical benefits that are not available with the traditional retail business, a well-researched plan with a strategic approach is essential to optimizing the success and profitability of your endeavour. For assistance with the development of your eCommerce business, contact our skilled professionals for a consultation.