Selling the products and services in a virtual marketplace is one of the fruits of the advances in Information and Technology arena. It empowers a relatively uninitiated person in IT to spawn their business across the traditional geographies. One does not need to be a tech guru to start an eCommerce business but a person with business acumen who can foresee the advantages and is open to the adoption of available software tools and templates. If you are one of such entrepreneurs and interested in the know how of an e-commerce business, then read on…
1) Decide Upon a Business Model
Do you intend to sell your own products or want to provide a platform for other businesses to connect with the consumers? For the former you want to make savings on the real estate besides reaching out to the customers who could not visit your store in-person. The later involves providing services to other vendors who do not fathom setting up their own eCommerce infrastructure but want to have the pie of the cake. You earn commission from the vendors and can pass a portion of it to the customer by lowering the prices of the products there by posing some good competition.
2) If You Are Starting a New Business
If you are just adding a virtual front to your already existing business, then you are spared some of the regulatory formalities such as:
B. Regulatory formalities like seeing tax registration number.
However, since an e-Commerce website is supposed to be border less marketplace, there
are some formalities you need to complete irrespective of the tenure of the business which
is to obtain the appropriate customs approvals for exports.
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What type of products customers seek to buy online? Are the products you intend to sell online are viable? You may want to sell an Elephant, but can you afford the shipping? How does your product stand in comparison with the competition in terms of the price and quality? There are other things to ascertain:
A. How the after sales support will be provided?
B. Decide on the return/exchange and warranty related policies.
C. Step into the customer shoes, research the prevalent product/return and replacement features to envisage the most convenient and fastest process.
Remember you need to build loyal customer base, these policies go a long way in securing customer’s favours.
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Akin to the traditional business where you seek a store location which is expected to receive maximum foot-falls, the name of the eCommerce business needs to be decided keeping in view the type of business and the retention value it could have with the customers. The website’s name needs not be exact as that of the business name, it may be an abbreviation or an off shoot. Just do some brainstorming with some assistance from friends, family and co-workers having vivid imagination.
Once you made a choice, contact any of the domain registering firms to reserve the name for your business. Please do remember the domain registration is done on first-come first-serve basis. Think of multiple names just in case the name thought by you is already taken. You can also make a deal with the chosen platform vendor to register a domain name for you as part of the platform usage agreements.
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5) Choose a Platform
It is exorbitantly expensive to own the IT infrastructure to host your eCommerce website. Look for commercial vendors such as WordPress, Shopify or Hexagon Digital. They may provide you a deal based on tenure and storage-based billing or pay-per-use billing. These vendors usually have robust infrastructure to provide fail-over and disaster recovery mode of function. They have 24/7 on call support. They are agile in providing services and modifying the infrastructure as per your request.
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6) Arrange for payment processing
You may want to keep various options for your customers to pay for the products it may include, Bank Transfers, Credit/Debit Card Transactions, Internet/Online banking, Payment through e-wallets or COD. Make relevant agreements with the banks and e-Wallet processors of the charges. The payment processing functions are available usually with the platform provider but just needs to be configured according to your business needs.
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7) Secure Your Site
It is recommended to use the SSL certificate for your websites. The SSL (Secured Socket Layer) provides for encrypted traffic between your website and client systems. It is becoming the industry norm and a security standard. This ensures that your customer are assured of the safety of the financial transactions and have secured shopping experience from your website.
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8) Decide on Packaging & Shipment
Do you want the products to be packaged and shipped by your company or you want to involve professional shippers. You need to take call depending on your budget and maturity of the business. If you are already employing the services of external shippers, make a note of asking your application provider to ensure that the shipping and packaging functions as integrated with the existing application services being paid for by you. Usually new businesses start out with their own shipping and packaging functions, but it is not a rule, in either case, think of the future provisions for shipment and packaging functions.
Once you have all the infrastructure in place to host the website and the content, the actual activities to start preparing for representation of the stuff you want to sell begins:
A. Describe the content through the professional clicked pictures. Good quality pictures speak highly of your products and depicts professionalism. The poor quality on the contrary shows the products in the bad light. You could be hurting your sales with the improper use of pictures.
B. You may need to hire content writers having some knowledge of website development.
C. It would be prudent to hire web developers to keep building and updating the IT content.
D. Describe how the product adds value to the customer. Quote examples how it can enhance a customer’s experience by providing some convenience.
E. Clearly specify pricing. Be fair and transparent of what you are selling by mentioning the price prominently. If there are any taxes, levies or shipping charges to be added, specify them clearly.
f. Display an explicit benefit of buying a product for example when bought as a bundle with other products, or as special discounts on ordering a quantity of products or shipping charges waiver on orders of specific value.
10) Product Reviews
Get product reviews from the customers. These are great ambassadors for the new customers and assures them that the product in question is of great value. It helps in boosting the sales. Being a new business, the reviews may be few and far to come but these must be incorporated.
11) Product Comparison
To assist customers in making decisions, provide for a product comparison functionality. This might be based on product brand, configuration, color or price. This gives a customer assurance that they are not being huddled to buy specific products rather they are spoilt of choices to pick and choose from. If this functionality could be enhanced to compare the prices and features of products with other sites, it could be a bonanza for your customers.
12) Company Information Pages
Another important piece of information which should be privy to customer is the brief information about the company through the About US and Contact Us pages. A customer may be curious to know who is behind the website they are dealing with. Most of the customers are vary of the fly-by-night operators, they would like to loosen their purse strings only for a genuine entity. A slick About US page can depict who you are, what are the values and ethics of your company and what you intend to accomplish. This generates trust among the customers that they are dealing with someone at the other end of the wire and not entirely with a web page.
The Contact US page can further instil confidence in customers about where to look for and whom to contact if things did not go their way or they have any concerns. A clearly specified contacts list does a lot of good to the customer’s confidence and website’s reputation.
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13) Market Your Website
A. Content Marketing – Use podcats, blogs to write in periphery about the contents of the website which adds value to the customers. It may not provide results in a short term but could be helpful in boosting the traffic eventually.
B. Social Media – Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms and websites to promote a product or service. Social media can be a great way to increase brand awareness while driving traffic back to your eCommerce site. There are a lot of social media networks out there, but the ones you’ll probably find the most value in are Instagram and Pinterest. Both of these are more image-driven platforms, so they align well with selling products. Instagram will give you a way to showcase your product itself, along with how it’s commonly used. While Pinterest gives you the opportunity to create and share content that’s related to your niche and drive targeted traffic back to your site.
C Influencer Marketing has been used to build some wildly successful eCommerce stores. It’s the process of reaching out to influencers on Instagram and having them promote your brand and products to their audience. You have the option of doing paid shootouts, but you might also be able to find accounts who will mention your product for free in exchange for your product.
D. Online Advertisement – Use targeted google ads based on its exclusive reach, and customer’s search patterns.
E. SEO – Search Engine Optimization could be used to evolve higher ranking in the search results through the clever use of keywords in the website headers and contents. The content needs to be regularly updated and the keywords kept up to date.