OK business owners, it’s time to be honest with yourself. Have you ever thought about taking your business online but stopped because you were afraid it would fail? If so, you’re not alone…but you are missing out on a chance to possibly achieve even greater success.
Taking your business online offers an incredible opportunity for you to expand your enterprise in ways that old brick-and-mortar stores never could. Opening an online store can increase your store’s reach far beyond the actual front door, bringing in new customers (sometime from all over the world), and pushing your sales to heights that are hard to reach otherwise.
So, if you’re ready to take the plunge, consider these Five Critical Steps to Launching a Successful Online Business.
1. Develop an eCommerce Business Plan — It sounds obvious, but before you begin selling online you need a clear understanding of which product and/or service will actually drive sales, and which channels are best for reaching your intended audience. Too many people take their business online with the sole goal of expanding their product line and services with no thought about whether or not there is a demand for more products or services…and if the demand is there, how to effectively reach potential customers. This is why an eCommerce business plan is critical. It will help you better understand your industry and target market, organize your day-to-day operations, identify your competition, and establish financial goals.
2. Understand Your Options for Creating a Website – As technology has progressed, so have your options for developing a website. But, as the saying goes, not all options are created equal. You have to consider site functionality, conversion rate optimization, security/trust assurances, page speed/load times, as well as the impact of site navigation on user experience. That said, some low- or no-cost options are worth considering if you want a truly bare-bones approach. But, it’s important to know that the lower price tag means less functionality and more self-management of the site. For example, you will likely have to manually enter prices, update inventory, and manage orders if you choose a simple web solution like Wix.com or Web.com. For more sophisticated websites, you will want to engage a professional website development company. Yes, there will be additional up-front costs, but you receive more functionality, better customer service, less headaches, and more time to spend building your business vs. managing your website.
3. Make Life Easy for Your Customers — This is really closely tied to the second bullet point (Understanding Your Options for Creating a Website), but it is so important that it deserves it’s own mention. You want to make it simple for your online customers to make a purchase. With that in mind, it is critical to optimize the checkout experience so your shoppers can buy an item with the least amount of clicks possible. This is the concept of single-page checkout. Also, be sure to have a plan to reach out to customers who add an item to their cart but don’t actually buy the item (also known as cart abandonment). Automatic “abandoned cart” emails are the simplest solution. These emails alert the customer that they have an item in their cart, providing incentive to revisit their purchase. Think, too, about inventory management. What system will you have in place to ensure you have appropriate stock to fulfill your orders?
4. Be Strategic With Your Content — Another obvious step that somehow seems to be overlooked is the importance of how you position your content. Too many websites (primarily those that are built from a template) fail to create the proper categories and sub-categories. Many also fail to utilize unique content like newsletters, blogs, and videos. Remember, this is YOUR website and the content should be a perfect match for YOUR clients. Any quality web developer will help you through this process.
5. Build Your Social Media Presence — Once you have your web development plan in place, begin to think about ways to promote your business. Paid advertising is one option, but a more cost-effective first step is building your brand via sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. This is called social media marketing. The idea here is to communicate your vision and value to those who might be interested in your product or service. Consider these intriguing statistics from research done by marketing agency Hubspot:
• 57% of businesses have acquired a customer through their company blog
• 41% of business-to-business companies and 67% of business-to-consumer companies have acquired a customer through Facebook
• Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic
Taking your business online can be a big challenge, but knowing yourself and your customers, as well as important strategies for launching and maintaining your website, can help position your organization for greater success today and far into the future.
To speak with a professional about launching your online business, contact DotcomWeavers at [email protected] or 888.315.6518.
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