Studies have revealed that today more consumers perform research online before actually purchasing products. They prefer online shopping because it allows them to read up on reviews, compare different products, and get the best deals.
Many entrepreneurial individuals are turning to e-commerce as a ticket for them to earn larger profit and reach a global market. Sadly, not everything is as rosy as society makes it out to be. Yes, it’s easy to set up a website and sell stuff online, but getting people to actually visit and buy from your website is a different story. Do you know if you have captured the right market? Do you have a system in place for fulfillment and orders? These are just some of the questions asked by novice and seasoned e-commerce entrepreneurs.
Don’t get me wrong, e-commerce is a great business to venture into, but only if it’s executed right. Today’s blog won’t teach you any ‘get rich quick’ strategies; rather it will help you with the steps you need to take to jump-start your e-commerce business.
Do market research
Researching your market is the first important step. Make sure to perform different kinds of market research based on your products’ supply and demand, and on the volume of competitors. If your product is a common product with a huge demand, it will require a different marketing approach compared to niche or specialized products.
I would recommend to start searching online for similar products. If you’ve noticed numerous online merchants selling these types of products, it’s an indication that a considerable demand exists for these products.
The best thing about the Internet is that almost anything can be sold online. You can choose a product that is locally available to you and can be marketed somewhere else. You can also sell digital goods like e-books or computer software that customers can download.
Choose a domain name
As soon as you have identified, and researched the market for, the products that you plan on selling, choose a domain name for your website. A domain name is a specific web address where people can locate your business. It is essential that your domain name is memorable and has search-traffic potential to allow visitors to easily find and remember your business name. Read our article for more tips on how to create a domain name that stands out.
Get a reliable web hosting service
Every running website needs a web hosting service to publish contents to their online visitors. The web host stores all website files. Whenever a person visits your website, it directs the visitor to the hosting servers. Nowadays, there are many providers to choose from. It’s best to shop around to search for the right web host.
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Set up shopping cart software
A shopping cart allows visitors to browse different items, gather selected items in a virtual “shopping basket” and save them before they commit to purchasing them. This tool makes it convenient for e-commerce owners to sell their products immediately, without needing a background in programming or complex software.
There is shopping cart software that allows full customization of e-commerce sites as well as platforms that can plug in directly to sites like WordPress with various free script installations. Popular shopping cart software includes Magento, Prestashop and osCommerce.
Design your website
You can either design your e-commerce website yourself or outsource it to a web design agency. If you’re doing it yourself, your best option is to use a CMS (Content Management System) platform like WordPress to help you customize site content and design, even without a website designer.
Aside from the aesthetics of your e-commerce site, make sure that the design is user-friendly and incorporates a responsive design, so that it is compatible on mobile devices, such as tablets and smart phones.
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Get the right payment gateway
Chances are, that if you subscribe to an e-commerce solution, it already comes with a payment gateway. Otherwise, you have to register for a payment gateway like PayPal to help process payments.
Payment gateway providers connect with merchant banks to authenticate the payment. Merchant banks then collect and process the payment and transfer the funds to your bank account. You might ask, “why not just let the payment go through a merchant bank directly?” Merchant banks provide limited access to their servers for security purposes. Payment gateways have been approved by merchant banks to access and communicate with their servers.
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Time to market your e-commerce site
As soon as you’re done setting up your website, it’s time to let the world know about your online business. Your marketing strategy may involve SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC Advertising (pay-per-click Advertising) to help increase traffic to your site.
Social media is also an awesome tool to get visitors to your site, so make sure that you establish your presence in Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks where your customers can find and connect with you.
Another great (albeit pricey) marketing tool is Affiliate Marketing, wherein other blogs and websites (the affiliates) promote your products by displaying banners, widgets, or text links on their sites on a commission basis to help boost your sales.
The steps mentioned above are far from exhaustive–it’s only the beginning. Once you’ve gone through all steps, you should be able to get some traffic to your e-commerce website. Converting your visitors into customers depends on the products you’re offering and the marketing strategies in place. Along the way, you will learn how to improve and rise above the challenges when managing your online business.