By Patrick Foster
It’s often the simple things that trip us up in life, and business is no different. Elementary and basic concerns can easily topple a successful business operation. When setting out on an ecommerce operation for the first time, here are six essentials to consider.
Migrating Your Brand Over to a Digital Format
Ecommerce retail is growing fast. Small businesses often have awesome brands, but they forget to translate all that knowledge and expertise over into digital format. But digitizing your brand doesn’t have to be difficult. All you need to do is ensure that your online presence is modern, global, and customer-friendly.
A good place to start is by analyzing what your competitors are already doing online – the more successful ones in particular. You should be willing to assign a portion of your marketing budget to building brand awareness online through advertising and promotion. And for the long-term, consider hiring a digital branding consultant to take you through what needs doing to get you up-to-date. Alternatively, you could even bring some of these skills in-house by hiring your own designers, developers and digital marketers.
As you migrate your brand over to a digital format, here are some essential ecommerce digital branding questions to ask yourself.
Mastering Omnichannel Selling
Large retailers have the luxury of bigger budgets to invest in their omnichannel shopping experiences. But this side of things can be more daunting for small businesses. Consumers increasingly expect to be able to buy what they want, when they want – or even to make use of convenience options such as click-and-collect. As a retailer, the ideal scenario would be to embrace as many routes as possible. But it’s not always financially feasible.
For small businesses with smaller budgets than the giants they share ground with, it’s about finding more affordable options. There are now many tech companies with affordable services that small businesses can use to build their omnichannel sales, from online store builders to point-of-sale systems – many of which will give you professional capabilities equal to those of big players.
Fostering Trust in Your Online Audience
Trust plays an important role in a customer’s decision to buy from you (or not). And ultimately, whether or not your customers trust you comes down to the look, feel, and experience of using your online store. First impressions are crucial, so a website that looks good is your first objective. You should also ensure that you clearly display your contact details, delivery information, returns policy, and T&Cs.
If you don’t currently own an online store (and it’s recommended that you do in order to build brand equity), you can also choose to sell via online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, who are already trusted by consumers.
Finally, ensuring good usability and no nasty surprises (like last-minute high shipping fees) will all help your customers to feel comfortable when shopping with your online store. Be presentable and professional – just as you would if you were managing a physical store.
Knowing Your Ecommerce Law
Ecommerce law can certainly be confusing. As an online store owner you hardly need to have written a dissertation on it, but there are some basic principles you ought to know. These are covered in more depth in 5 Things Online Businesses Should Know About Ecommerce Law. Here’s the shortened version:
- As an online merchant, you are bound by the ecommerce laws of the country you are doing business in – these laws can vary.
- It’s important to be aware of changes regarding ecommerce laws because of how frequently they can change – and how recently some have changed.
- Most ecommerce laws follow the same principles of standard commerce – so no false advertising, no copyright infringement, and if it’s illegal to sell in your country, then it’s illegal for you to sell it online.
- Online, information is currency. Ecommerce businesses are legally obliged to adhere to their privacy policies.
When it comes to ecommerce law, if you’re still not sure what you’re doing, then there’s no harm in copying your competitors as you try to find your way.
Having a Business Plan
Setting up an ecommerce business is just like any other business – it should always start with planning. So be clear on the following questions before you wade in too deep:
- What is your business model?
- What are you selling and how will it improve on what your competitors are offering?
- Who is your target market and how can you address their needs?
- What is your mission?
The answers to these questions will help to influence both the design and functionality of your online store to ensure that the end result serves both you and your customers.
Small business owners are coming and going all the time. The ones that ultimately succeed are those that are flexible and reactive enough to thrive in the unpredictable environment that is the online world. A future-proof online store isn’t just about having all the technical aspects in place – it’s also about incorporating must-have features such as responsive design, which allows your store to be accessed with ease from all user devices.
Customer needs are always changing – and to some extent, you must always be looking to anticipate and prepare for those changes. As an ecommerce entrepreneur, don’t overlook the power of long-term strategies like SEO, which will help to establish your online reputation and make you visible in the search results.
There’s much more to running an ecommerce business than just adding a shopping cart function to your existing website. Being online doesn’t mean you can skip the steps that any new business needs to take in order to be successful, such as having a clear plan, a hardworking attitude, and access to the necessary skills. Be prepared to put in time and dedication to get your digital business off the ground – and if there’s something you can’t take care of yourself, that’s the time to get others involved.