Crucial Things You Should Never Miss Before Starting an Online Store
Today’s digital business market is highly competitive. If you enter unprepared, you will quickly fail with the wrong tools or knowledge, wasting your investment and time.
Almost every business in existence today is going online (or should be!). The new natural order of things presents consumers looking for more convenient ways to access products and services.
All enterprise niches imaginable, be it SaaS, retail, brick and mortar, subscription services, counselling, real estate, the stock market or others, are online.
Businesses are fighting over customers.
Hence, it is crucial that you know what you are doing when starting an eCommerce business today. Starting with the proper steps will help you sustain a company that profits.
You can do it!
With the technology available to you, there are endless possibilities for success in the online business world.
However, there are essential things that you will need to succeed. Know what you must do and act fast. Speed is the game when it comes to digital marketing.
Before we dive in, this is PART 1 of 2 of our How to Start an eCommerce articles. When you’re done with this part, read PART 2 here where we discuss some advanced tips on improving your revenue.
Here are ten vital steps that you must take to start profiting from an eCommerce business within a couple of months or less.
- Study your audience.
- Pick a business that you can handle.
- Know your competition.
- A/B test your branding.
- Complete all legal formalities.
- Outsource services you can’t take.
- Do not skimp on product or service quality.
- Plan everything with customer service in mind.
- Pick a perfect domain name.
- Create a website that is easy to use.
STEP No. 1: Study your audience.
Surely you might have heard this tip many times before. However, it couldn’t be more emphasised that this vital step is crucial for starting an online business today.
Consumers change by the hour. If you are basing too much on the knowledge you have previously had without updating your research, then you might be chasing the wrong prospects.
Look for your niche audience on social media platforms. Find out what their interests are, including their online behaviour, active times and spending seasons.
Look into the fandoms they belong to, what influencers they follow, podcasts and YouTube videos your target market enjoys, and online stores your potential clients frequent.
Remember that studying your audience never stops. You will have to do this even long after implementing your enterprise to ensure that you are keeping up with your customers and the market.
Here are some audience research tools you can use.
- Google Analytics helps you track viewers of your pages and content, showing you how they got to your store and via what links or words.
- Google Keywords helps you pinpoint the keywords your audience is searching for and show you terms they frequently use that you wouldn’t have guessed.
- Social Media Insights, like those on Facebook, are simple but powerful data gathering tools that show you who your audience is, what their demographics are, and what content you have that they prefer.
- Surveys are powerful tools for you to get the exact knowledge you want from a particular group of people. You can use the following tools for your surveys.
For your business that is just starting, with no website usage history, surveys might be your best tool for now. Implement survey research alongside manual browsing through platforms and sites.
If you have a family or friend who does business in a similar category you are entering, that company’s audience is an excellent place to start.
Family and friends are your greatest partners for your online business. They would be the ones you are more comfortable working with, and you will have no problem trusting them.
STEP No. 2: Pick a business that you can handle.
If you want a sustainable business, know what you are doing. Do not be in the wrong line of business.
The problem with most startups that fail is that the business owners tend to be overconfident and unrealistic about growth.
They count more on shortcuts rather than expertise and end up having unseen holes that inevitably sink their ship.
One common thing among entrepreneurs who fail is that they usually pick a niche they only know the surface and are usually pop culture or fly by night businesses.
Just because you can source and retail a product, it doesn’t mean you should jump onto an enterprise without sufficient study. You will need a good amount of expertise and preparation.
Walk your walk and talk your talk. Integrity fortifies reputation, which determines trustworthiness.
If you do not know substantially about what you are doing and your audience finds out, you are doomed – nobody will believe you.
You don’t want a Fyre Festival situation at any scale for your enterprise.
Ask yourself these three crucial questions before choosing a business.
- Do I believe in what I am selling/offering?
- Do I have the ability to pivot as needed?
- Am I expert enough to be a reliable source of information and product?
If you are interested in a product you are not an expert about, find the time to do in-depth research.
Another thing you should do is collaborate with someone who is into that niche.
Learn as much and fast as you can before you open a business.
STEP No. 3: Know your competition.
Without knowledge about the entities in your industry, you might end up underestimating or overestimating capabilities.
You have to measure what you can do and scale your competitors.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
The best thing you can do for studying the competition is to find the top-selling brands.
Look at what they are doing that works and find a way to do a better version of their best practices for your company.
Discover customer needs they cannot satisfy and figure out how you can do so with your business.
Implement keyword research, figure out what their website is ranking for and do better with your content. You can use SEMrush for keyword research.
Search for complaints and compliments on review sites, study what people are saying, and do better.
Just like customer research, competitor analysis is a continuous process for your business.
All businesses upgrade and implement new marketing campaigns. You should be able to catch up if you do not want to lose your customers to the competition.
Here are excellent competitor analysis tools you can use.
With these tools, you’ll see your competitor’s site user behaviour, the keywords they use, data about ads, audience demographics and more.
Find out whom they are reaching and how. Then, please find a way to get to them first.
STEP No. 4: Test your branding.
Your brand will represent your identity – who you are, what you’re about, and what you sell.
It means that your branding should give people an idea of your business while being unique and memorable enough for you to be differentiated from your competitors.
The best people who can determine what brand name and thematics work will be the consumers – your target market.
Here are tests you should do before you decide on your brand.
- Package Testing is essential because your packaging is usually the first thing that consumers visually interact with your product.
You have to test whether your package designs are practical. Looking good is not enough, and doing it wrong can lead to significantly painful marketing failures.
In 2009, Tropicana invested $35 Million for a campaign that included repackaging for their product. However, a few days later, consumers heavily criticised them all over social networks, and they had a 20% decrease in sales in two months.
Conduct qualitative research for your packaging.
Implement focus groups, compile insights, and conduct another survey after implementing changes.
Allow respondents to handle mockups and rate factors like uniqueness, appeal, convenience, and others.
- Message Testing allows you to discover whether a new value proposition is compelling.
Conduct this test before a launch to ensure that your marketing is on target and effectively engage people.
Implement demonstrations with focus groups to determine whether your message is on point.
Collate your data, improve your messaging, and test again until you get a significantly appropriate response.
- Persuasion Tests help you find out if branded messaging will entice customers to take action.
The two-part test starts by collecting data on respondent attitudes or intentions preceding watching an ad (content can vary).
After watching the ad, a second test is conducted. The test is to discover whether the ad had affected the attitudes or intentions of the consumers.
The results will tell you whether a consumer will go for your product after watching an advertisement. In addition, you’ll find out whether the respondents have been effectively persuaded or not.
- Recall Tests show you if your customer can remember key brand messages without a prompt from an advertisement.
A recall test will help you ensure that it will be simple for shoppers to recognise your brand among a list of companies.
One of the brands to study for recall is Coca-Cola, one of the most recognisable globally. And, most people will not order a “cola” but a “coke”.
You can use a survey to implement a recall test.
One way to do a recall test is by anonymously asking respondents to select brands they are familiar with. You can provide an open-response box for respondents to list their selections.
You’ll see whether your product topped the list or not. In addition, the data will provide insight regarding the awareness of your brand.
STEP No. 5: Complete all legal formalities.
Some entrepreneurs tend to become too excited and passionate about their new endeavour that they leave some crucial boxes unchecked.
Please never forget that the consequences of legal mistakes can come hefty.
Here are a few reminders that could save you from a million-dollar lawsuit or incarceration.
- Do not sell illegal products.
- Do not source from questionable entities.
- Hire a lawyer.
- Register your business with the government.
- Accomplish all legal accreditation and credentials.
- Check and register intellectual property like copyright, trademarks, and patents.
- Study all your contracts, including confidentiality agreements.
- Record or log everything.
- Get the right insurance policy for you, employees, and clients.
In most countries, all businesses require licensing. Check with your local government or business authority if you do not know or are unsure about the regulations because if you miss a check on the lists, you could face dire consequences.
You can run an online business in the UK without registering or getting a business licence, and you become categorised as a sole trader. However, as a UK sole trader, you are required to inform the HMRC of your business before starting or else you might face fines in the future.
Many businesses in the UK get fined for not informing the HMRC of their business earlier.
STEP No. 6: Outsource services you can’t handle.
No matter how brilliant you or your team are, you only have 24 hours a day, and you have to consume food, clean yourself, rest, and recreate.
There will be things about your business that you won’t have the time for, even if you are skilled and knowledgeable enough to do.
On the other hand, there is a chance that you won’t have expertise on one thing or another.
You need help.
If you want to start profiting within a couple of months or sooner after starting your online business, you will most likely need to outsource some of the work needed.
The good news is that there is plenty of B2Bs available today.
When you outsource, you are giving out the work to an expert who will 100% deliver excellent results. As a result of outsourcing, you will save a great amount of time and effort and avoid mistakes.
One of the most vital yet time-consuming tasks for your online business will be customer support. Depending on your business, you may even have to have someone available to support your customers and shoppers 24/7, mainly if you are operating internationally.
It would be excellent to hire a call centre or BPO (business process outsourcing) to handle your 24/7 customer support. They will streamline the entire process for you and implement your support professionally.
One more crucial part of your business that is best outsourced is email marketing. While, indeed, you can talk about your niche, there are plenty of technical requirements to get your emails out of the spam folder effectively.
Writing 100 newsletters and 50 more emails is not a task for one day, especially for you who is running the first laps of your business.
STEP No. 7: Do not skimp on product or service quality.
It doesn’t matter how good of a marketer you are if your product or service is lousy. You will not have returning customers, and you will lose face in the market.
You have to implement high standards when it comes to quality.
You won’t be able to do this step if you only know the tip of the iceberg of your business focus. So be an expert, not a faker.
It would be best to implement sustainable, quality production and operation with excellent product or service delivery and customer service.
With excellent knowledge of your craft, you will know the best sources of logistics and equipment.
Expertise will allow you to find and employ the best technology and methodology. In addition, high-standard outputs satisfy your customers’ need for dependability, reliability, and convenience.
To further ensure quality and relevance, you have to actively listen to the voice of consumers of your product or service. Customers are the ones you are giving value to – the people who will use what you are selling.
Consumers know how your product should be.
Run FGDs and surveys and determine how you can improve your product or service from time to time. These evaluative measures will give you data that you can use to develop your offerings further.
Find out what people want and satisfy them.
Ensuring you are launching an excellent product or service when you start is a must.
You do not want to leave a wrong first impression as a young online business.
On the other hand, product development ensures quality should be a regular part of business moving forward.
STEP No. 8: Plan everything with customer service in mind.
The essence of any business is giving people what they want or things that they would otherwise not access if it weren’t for the seller. By doing so, the seller or business owner earns from the payments customers make.
You see something lacking in a community or group of people, a logistic need or want. Then, you create or source that item or service and make it available to the people for a fee.
You satisfy people, and you get paid to do so. That is business.
Without the satisfaction part, there is no getting paid. So if you are to earn within a couple of months, you have to make sure that your foundationary goals are always rooted in customer service principles.
A whopping 89% of shoppers switch to buying from a competitor following a terrible customer experience.
Esteban Kolsky, one of the leading customer strategists, says that when you fail to satisfy shoppers, 13% of them will tell 15 or more consumers of their dissatisfaction.
Customers appreciate quality, comfort, convenience, speedy acquisition, pleasant transactions and fast, helpful support. When you check all these boxes, you have a no-fail eCommerce business.
With customer service in mind, observe all aspects of your business from the perspective of different levels of a consumer.
Ask yourself the following questions.
- How am I reaching people who do not know me?
- What is my business impressing on people who have encountered it for the first time?
- Is the experience of first-time shoppers on my website?
- Are those who made purchases satisfied?
- What does it feel like to return to my site as a customer?
- What reasons do customers have to become regular shoppers on my site?
- Are my emails spammy or engaging and helpful?
- Is the blog content on my website exciting and reliable?
- What do audiences think about my YouTube videos and podcasts?
- How am I helping social media users?
- Does my business make people feel good?
Ask these questions and more to know if you are making it easy for people to buy from you and use your product or service.
You can also use these questions as the basis for a survey or FGD.
STEP No. 9: Pick a perfect domain name.
Here are zero-fail tips for choosing a domain name for your eCommerce business.
- It would be best if you chose to use .com.
It is the most trusted domain name extension, and others like .pizza or .ninja do not seem reliable to consumers.
Also, mobile keyboards have a .com button. So you will make it easy for your website visitors.
- Find the right keyword for your business and put it in your domain name.
Doing so makes your website easier to recognise for Google and other search engines. Using a keyword on your domain name makes search engines quickly know what your website is about.
- The shorter your domain name, the better.
Don’t make it hard for users to have to type. Keep it below fifteen characters.
- Your domain name should be simple to pronounce and spell.
Don’t pick one that you have to train a voice-over artist for. Also, make it easy to remember how to type.
- Make it unique and brandable.
Make sure that you pick or create something that will make your customer remember you as you. For example, choose a keyword-based brandable domain like Wikipedia.com, a wordplay “Wiki” and “Encyclopedia”.
Tabasco.com is an excellent domain. It is a branded use of the word tabasco, which is the kind of pepper they use for the original sauce.
- Try to avoid hyphens.
Hyphens not only make your domain name susceptible to typos, but they are also a sign of spam, something you don’t want to associate your business with.
- Don’t use doubled letters.
Something like accesssaleshelp.com is highly prone to typos. Unfortunately, typos will not lead users to your site.
- Leave room for expansion.
Think about this example. You might be selling pizza today but will someday blow up into a full-on Italian restaurant.
Danielspizza.com will not represent the new enterprise, and you might have to do the gruelling process of transferring to a new domain.
Danielsitaly.com will be a more flexible pick.
- Do a trademark search.
Find out if there are domain names precisely like yours or significantly similar that are already trademarked. Also, check on Google and social media for availability.
When you have made sure you’re not striking anything and have a unique pick, don’t forget to trademark your domain name.
STEP No. 10: Create a website that is convenient to use.
Help your customers get what they need quickly on desktop and mobile. Do not set up your website to have confusing navigation and complex processes.
When your e-store is hard to use, your shoppers will run out of patience and transfer to the competition.
Shoppers hate long processes, especially when it comes to checkout. The Baynard Institute conducted a study that shows that 26% of shoppers will abandon their carts if the checkout process is long and complex.
Always remember customer service when building your website. You want to tick convenience, speed, ease, quality, reliability and trustworthiness for your customers.
The best way for you to have an excellent eCommerce site is to outsource digital marketing services.
Most people entering the online business arena are more product or service-oriented and have average technical experience in web building. One of them could be you.
If you DIY without due expertise, you are susceptible to grave mistakes that can destroy your online reputation. As a starting business, your first impression is crucial, and a bad first encounter with your website can have enormous repercussions.
It would be best if you hand the work to a CRO expert.
Conversion Rate Optimisation is the process of building your website professionally to ensure that your visitors will always come and buy.
The optimisation process involves:
- The proper design.
- Speeding up the operations.
- Making things easy to find.
- More technical work.
Make things easy and outsource your CRO.