Guide on how to start a successful eCommerce business

Share
Hands holding a tablet with an eCommerce Splash-screen - Starting an eCommerce Business
Steve ThompsonSteve Thompson
April 9, 2021
Popular
Type:
Popular
category folder
Category:
Operations

Table of Contents

UPDATED:

As the digital economy has become more crucial during the pandemic, more and more people are jumping into the world of eCommerce and launching online businesses. Each year sales from online shopping increase while brick-and-mortar establishments must reinvent themselves to embrace more digital experiences. Here are the basics of how to start a successful eCommerce business.

Pillars of Electronic Business Success

Website design wireframes

Every business is unique, but a modern business that allows customers to purchase online should embrace four key principles. First, you need an attractive easy-to-navigate website that tells your story. Then you need a product that meets consumer demand or fills a market hole with a new solution. On top of that, you need high-resolution product images, a unique selling proposition, and responsive customer support. While some eCommerce sites offer digital downloads, most involve placing orders online that leads to shipping or further communication.

If you are not producing your own product, you can be a reseller of existing products as a middle entity between the manufacturer and consumer. Building an online store is fairly easy when you sign up with a popular marketplace platform such as Amazon, Shopify, eBay, or Etsy. Be sure to develop a business plan that explains your strategies on earning revenue and how to increase margins. Some of the keys to promoting your online store are email marketing and social media.

Dropshipping as a Basis for Small Business

Dropshipping process

The internet has popularized the concept of dropshipping, in which website owners place links on their site from vendors that sell online products directly to consumers. Your site is credited with a commission for a sale when a customer places an order through your site. Then the manufacturer and its divisions take care of the rest. When you start an eCommerce business as a dropshipper your main task will be driving traffic to your site, based on search engine optimization and other online promotion methods.

Profiting off the dropshipping business requires picking the right suppliers that you can successfully promote. Writing a blog series that showcases your expertise in a niche provides content to share with your target audience through social media and other online channels. Keep in mind that almost any viable online business has a long list of competitors and you will need compelling content that makes your brand stand out from the pack.

Conduct Extensive Market Research

Market research will point you in the direction of finding your target audience. Not only should you find out what customers think, but you should also research the current landscape of competitors. Find out who's winning at serving their target audiences and who's not. Here are key competitive factors to getting an eCommerce startup off the ground:

  1. A business model describes a marketable online niche and its buyers
  2. Deciding on one product vs. a line of multiple products
  3. Using specific social media channels to communicate directly with patrons
  4. Defining your target market and its segments
  5. Strategic use of marketing channels such as PPC, SEO, and email
  6. Maintaining a level of regular engagement with followers

Using Content Management Software

Online store in a tablet

One of the best ways to keep your digital assets organized is investing in or subscribing to a Content Management System (CMS). A user-friendly CMS such as Shopify allows you to create an online store quickly in a matter of clicks. The software gives you templates to choose from for the layout of your design elements. Of course, you'll need a business name and a logo, both of which can be generated through brainstorming sessions or other creative environments.

Shopify and similar CMS platforms allow you to create, manage and market your offerings in one place. Some CMS platforms are designed to integrate with marketing software, which allows you to keep profiles of your customers in one place. Emarketing remains one of the most effective tools to online success because it allows you to stay in touch with your target market in a matter of clicks. Many online businesses take off once they develop a long permission-based marketing list of recipients who want to be informed about a brand.

Signing up for a Shopify account makes online marketing easy since the platform integrates with Google's new Smart Shopping Campaigns. You simply set a daily Shopify budget, select the products you want to advertise, set bid pricing and determine the market you want to target. Google uses this information from Shopify to display in relevant searches.

Optimizing Ecommerce Marketing

Email Blast Concept - Email letters flying out from the laptop

Emphasizing proven eCommerce marketing techniques in your business plan will contribute to learning how to increase profit margins. Developing an email marketing list can be achieved through social media engagement through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can communicate to recipients on your email marketing list on a regular basis, such as sending them offers or your latest newsletter. If you have a long enough subscriber list, you can use the stats to sell advertising space in your newsletter.

One way to make subscribers feel more special and pay closer attention to your offerings is to provide them with exclusive offers unavailable to non-subscribers. Rewarding customers for their loyalty goes a long way in certain industries such as hospitality. By prioritizing digital engagement with customers, you can gain a wealth of information about them to the point of communicating on a more personalized level.

If your company has a staff of remote workers, be sure each worker understands your policy on interacting with customers. You need to establish a consistent policy for handling customer complaints that ends up being a win=win situation. A way to gain repeat business with a customer is to ask them about their journey with your brand and let them know you care about what they think. You can elevate a customer's enthusiasm about your brand by letting them feel they are contributing to making it better.

Analyzing the Customer Experience and Customer Service

Woman with a headset doing customer service

An online business typically gathers much more customer data than a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment. Today's business marketers have many more tools at their fingertips than last century's most successful marketers. You still need a business plan as the foundation, which should address customer service.

Many modern organizations use digital communication channels such as email and social media networks to connect directly with customers and answer questions, although using the phone is still more effective at closing sales deals. In any communications model, feedback completes the messaging cycle. In other words, consumers have the final say in an online transaction as they often post reviews on popular websites. These reviews are highly coveted by other consumers exploring the same item. Consumers like posting their opinions on social media and directory sites like Yelp! Various studies show consumer reviews influence sales.

You must deliver a high-quality customer experience these days to be competitive. While last century's businesses were chosen by consumers more due to location, in the digital age convenience, transparency and credibility can be easily researched in a matter of moments as top purchasing considerations. That's why it's important to control your online presence as much as possible. Businesses that don't have time to create blogs and interact with followers on social media platforms often hire digital marketing teams as a solution to building a vast library of valuable online content.

A study published in Wired found that 44 percent of online consumers inform friends about bad website experiences they've had. Negative news spreads fast in cyberspace, so if you're going to operate a business online, you have to be serious about making customers satisfied.

In order to gain a competitive edge, the online business must be truly devoted to delivering a high-quality customer experience. Make sure your online checkout process is simple and painless, otherwise your visitors might click to competing sites. Today's online consumers expect convenience along with quick, responsive customer service.

Conclusion

Understanding how to start a successful eCommerce business will put you on a path toward developing digital revenue streams through a platform such as an online store. The key to how to increase margins deeply relies on hassle-free technology and how you treat customers. Building a seamless 24/7 online business can be a dream come true if you work with the right small business digital marketing experts.

footer graphic