In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, it seemed like everyone was rushing to venture capitalists to try to start a .com business. It didn’t take long for the bubble to burst, but that hasn’t deterred entrepreneurs from trying to start smaller scale online businesses. If you want to run a successful e-commerce business, try the following tips for a smooth start:
- Have a clear plan: Pick a niche, and work to serve it. You’ll do better by successfully targeting a small, clear audience, than you would by trying (and failing) to appeal to everyone.
- Focus on usability: Unless your target audience is web developers or artists, there’s no need to focus on flashy graphics and fancy user interfaces. Most people just want to visit a website, buy what they want, and move on. Make your website clean, quick to load, and easy to navigate.
- Do your keyword research: A huge billboard advertising program probably wouldn’t fit inside your budget, and would be a waste of time for most startups anyway. Do some keyword research and figure out what your target audience is searching for. You’ll make more money out of 100 interested visitors than you would out of 10,000 people that will just leave once they land on your site.
- Test your processes: Do you have a web fulfilment strategy? Whether you’re selling ebooks that need emailed, or necklaces that will need posted, you need to make sure that when you get your money, your customer gets their goods. If your web fulfilment process goes wrong more than once in a blue moon, you’ll end up with a bad reputation that is almost impossible to shake off.
- Price carefully: It’s easier to lower your prices than it is to raise them. If you’re not sure what to price your products at, start high, and run a sale. Make sure that you clearly mention the high price on your website. The psychological effect of “If I don’t buy now the price will go up” can be more powerful than you realise.
Making money online is not just a case of “set it and forget it”. You need to design your website, set it up, market it, and figure out a web fulfilment process. Once your site is up and running, you have to keep updating it, and keep an eye on your chosen keywords and your search engine rankings too. It’s a lot of work, but it can be worthwhile if you do it right.
If you have a niche that you absolutely love, and you want to build up a successful business, the best thing to do is to start small. If it looks like your business really could take off, then consider outsourcing the bits that take up the most time, leaving you free to focus on the parts of the business that you really enjoy, and are best at doing. This will allow you to expand your business gradually, and in a sustainable fashion that won’t leave you stressed and burnt-out.
This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Hallmark Consumer Services, who offer web fulfilment and similar services.
While Amy is currently in full time employment, she is hoping to set up an internet company part-time in the near future.