Starting an eCommerce Business? Tips on How to Do it Right
Starting an eCommerce business isn’t easy, check out these tips to start your eCommerce business the right way from naming to finding customers.
Tips for Starting an eCommerce Business by Those Who Have Already Done it:
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Naming your business
- Pick a Domain Name
- Business License
- Business Registrations
- eCommerce Software
- eCommerce website
- Initial Marketing
- Distributing Content
- eCommerce Marketing Resources
- Focus on Follow Up
- eCommerce Tools
- Stay Compliant
- Maintain Inventory
- Vendor Relationships
The eCommerce sector is thriving and starting an eCommerce business can be mighty appealing. The world of eCommerce has grown and developed over the years. Still, it has definitely emerged into a fully-fledged and incredibly lucrative industry for people who are prepared to put the time, effort and ingenuity in.
Putting together a winning eCommerce business is something of a challenge, as many people have already done it to great success before, and pioneered most of the obvious methods.
The fact that others have done this before does give you an advantage, and that advantage comes in the form of a Guide to starting an eCommerce business without getting caught up in all the red tape.
Guide for Starting an eCommerce Business:
1. Find your business name
The first thing that you are going to want to do is to focus on your business name. The name of your business will become an essential part of your brand, so it has to be short, memorable, easy to pronounce, and appealing. Apple, Microsoft, Tesla. These are all one-word names, which are incredibly iconic.
2. Pick a domain name
When you have created a name for your eCommerce business, you need to find the site and domain name to go with it. Ideally, your website’s domain name will be the name of your business, but if this is not possible, you’ll want to pick something as close to that as you can.
3. Find your employer identification number
If you’re going to open up a business for yourself, you need to make sure that you have your unique employer identification number. This EIN is your business’s Social Security number, which will help you to file your paperwork, and then identifies you as a business. Regardless of whether you’ve got employees, you’re going to need this number.
4. Get business license and permits
Even though you are starting an eCommerce business, you do not get an exclusion from requiring certain business licenses and permits to practice your business inside your state.
Check with your local authority to see what kind of sales tax licenses or home business licenses you require, and make sure they are approved before you begin operations.
5. Register your business properly
If you’re going to run an eCommerce business, you absolutely have to make sure that you have successfully registered your business to reflect the type of organization that you’re running. You could be a sole proprietor, a partnership, an LLC, or a corporation.
It’s important to know that if you don’t use a business structure that is an LLC or a corporation, the IRS will automatically consider you a sole proprietor. This means that your personal assets are at risk if the company is ever sued, so it’s important to make sure that you are registering as either a corporation or an LLC to separate you and your personal assets from your professional business. If you need a little help for a quick and accurate LLC set up check out, this top LLC formation services provider.
6. Find your eCommerce software
A big part of starting an eCommerce business means having the correct software on hand to make sure that you can tackle any of the challenges that are brought before you. It may seem like quite a challenge at first, but if you’re not ready, the sheer volume of orders can quickly overwhelm you.
If you’re in the early stages of deciding what eCommerce platform to use, choosing a platform like BigCommerce that allows for easy expansion and integration with sales tools and online marketing is critical. There are plenty of open source platforms that you can work with, but none will have the versatility and support that BigCommerce does.
Choosing an SaaS platform for eCommerce such as BigCommerce takes a lot of the guesswork out starting an eCommerce business.
BigCommerce includes native support for the iPad as well as a shopping experience that looks beautiful on all webkit-enabled mobile devices including iPhone, Andriod, Blackberry and Palm Pre devices.
A complete browsing, shopping and purchasing experience takes just a few clicks.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform such as BigCommerce will also allow you to easily integrate your bookkeeping software, order processing software, fulfillment and shipment, as things like that are vital for you to be able to starting an eCommerce business.
You can easily start by using one of these professional themes for BigCommerce:
7. Make Your eCommerce Website Easy to Use
Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, once said, “UX is everything. It always has been, but it’s undervalued and underinvested in.”
Part of the web design process is making sure that once a visitor finds your site they can find the product they are looking for quickly.
With the majority of web traffic now coming from mobile devices, a user-friendly site needs to have a mobile-first, responsive screen design that is easy to view on small screens, with large text and graphics. Your site should also be easy to navigate, with a search option at the top of your page and product categories prominently displayed as menu options. Users should also find it easy to log in and access their shopping cart.
“Of course design is important. But it has to be functional. It’s not about being fancy.
Look at Google, AirBnB or Amazon. Those websites aren’t the most creative when it comes to design. But they’re probably slightly more popular than your website.
Design-wise they have one thing in common: very functional and no visual distraction.
And that’s what good UX design is about. Design isn’t about adding elements. It’s about only keeping those elements that add to the bottom line. Remove the fluffy stuff.
One mistake many people starting an eCommerce business make is having simple tabs with generic labels such as “products” instead of listing actual product categories as menu options, says Baymard Institute.
Baymard’s research has found that visitors often try to figure out what type of products a site sells by scrolling through the homepage contents, and a generic “products” label tells them nothing about what you sell.
Additionally, this forces users to hove over your “products” tab in order to access the submenu they want, which can create “double-hover” issues that cause users to access the wrong submenu. To avoid this, Baymard recommends either making your main navigation consist of actual product categories, or alternately, permanently expanding your product menu so that its contents are always visible.
Established and well known brands typically implement the best online shopping standards and can often be a great resource or point of reference when developing a great user experience. Take UGG for example; this is one of the most well-thought out websites in terms of easy navigation and user experience. This site is 100% percent about the user experience from message delivery, use of images to allowing the user to find the perfect fit within seconds.
8. Begin initial marketing
Even if your business is not ready to go within the next week, it’s a good idea to set up some social media profiles and create content for it. Basically, you want your website to be fully formed and fleshed out when it goes live, not something that has to be built up on the go.
Generally speaking, you can get a “coming soon” segment for the website, so people can go to the site and check to see when it’s actually coming to them.
This is also the perfect opportunity to research marketing professionals to help you launch the site. Specialists such as nuancedmedia.com recommend starting with compelling content.
9. Create and Distribute Compelling Content:
One of the most effective tips to starting an eCommerce business is content marketing.
Content marketing leaders generate 7.8 times higher year-over-year traffic growth than their competitors, averaging 19.7 percent growth compared to 2.5 percent, Aberdeen Group research shows.
Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing, but generates three times as many leads, according to DemandMetric.
A key to effective content marketing is to regularly publish information that addresses the needs of your target audience.
For instance, wire-free security camera systems manufacturer Lorex uses its website to publish information about the latest trends in security technology, such as Ultra HD 4K cameras, remote monitoring services and mobile surveillance units. This type of content improves SEO performance by attracting Google users who are seeking information about security technology. Informative content can also be syndicated from your website to your social media profiles and email list to drive traffic to your site and your sales pages.
It’s important to note that content comes in a variety of forms – not just text!
Video is one of the biggest search trends that savvy online marketers like Lorex use to not only crush search results, but to convert shoppers. Just take a look at the video below that ‘clearly’ captures the difference between 4k and 1080p video cameras. This is a huge conversion tactic that Lorex leverages to sway security camera shoppers who may be interested in less expensive 1080p alternatives. If you were in the market for a security camera system, this video makes it a no brainer to get the 4k cameras. 1080p would be absolutely worthless in identifying criminals, license plates, or really any necessary identifying metrics necessary to aid in identifying criminals or retrieving stolen property.
If the whole purpose of a security system is ‘security’, then Lorex paints a pretty clear picture as to why their technology is superior.
Lorexs’ use of video truly proves that the right content is a difference maker. Their YouTube videos have great search visibility, a large volume of views and are actively shared by customers and potential customers. Lorex takes a truly holistic approach to their content marketing not just focusing on one area. You can see in the screenshot below that they apply a highly targeted content strategy to their Adwords campaign as well as their latest news and product landing pages to capture a LOT of real estate on Google’s first page.
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10. For more great resources on how to marketing your eCommerce business check out the following:
11. Focus on Follow-up
Most visitors won’t buy a product the first time they land on your site.
In fact, it takes an average of seven to 13 interactions or “touches” with a prospect before they become a buyer, according to Beasley Direct Marketing.
This makes it crucial for your online sales strategy to include follow-up marketing procedures.
The foundation for effective follow-up marketing is a lead capture mechanism.
Make sure your sales funnel includes opportunities and incentives for your visitors to subscribe to your social media following and your email marketing list. For instance, offering free content can encourage visitors to subscribe. Once visitors do become subscribers, send them information and offers on a regular basis in order to cultivate sales. You can increase the effectiveness of your sales offers by using customer relationship management software and recommendation engines to track subscriber behavior and make offers that are relevant to individual subscribers. For instance, when a customer visits an Amazon sales page, in addition to the page’s featured product, they will also see a list of related products viewed and purchased by other customers.
Online sales are soaring, driven by the growth of Amazon, but small businesses are also benefiting from the success of larger e-commerce companies. U.S. e-commerce sales are on track to increase 16 percent in 2018 to reach $526.09 billion and account for over 10 percent of total retail sales, eMarketer projects. Amazon alone generated 44 percent of total online sales last year, accounting for 4 percent of all U.S. retail sales, according to One Click Retail.
While Amazon enjoys much of this profit, products from small and medium-sized businesses account for half of all items sold through Amazon’s platform, and millions of SMB retailers are now selling on Amazon, including over a million U.S. businesses. Over 20,000 of these companies took in over $1 million in sales last year. If you’re looking to get in on your share of the booming e-commerce market, you’re going to need the right tools for maintaining and optimizing your eCommerce business.
Fortunately, you came to the right place!
12. Awesome Tools for starting an eCommerce Business:
I’ll state the obvious first; Google Analytics is one of the most widely used tools on the market, and one every business owner should have in their arsenal. Installing Analytics on your website has tons of benefits, and there are a few features that are imperative for anyone engaging in eCommerce. For instance, in order to see which channels are functioning at peak performance and which ones may be lagging behind, it’s important to identify the conversion funnels inside Analytics and to create events.
Until very recently I would have listed Wibiya, but since that product has been discontinued a close second is Bumpin. If you are like most business owners, you may not have heard of or used Bumpin in the past. But this useful tool is important for anyone engaged in eCommerce. Bumpin operates by allowing a website owner to place highly customizable widgets on their site designed specifically to increase customer engagement and retention. These customizable widgets provide users with the ability to promote sales, amplify social profile attention, increase traffic their blog or other social media.
Recently, Topsy shocked many in the industry with its purchase by Apple for a hefty $200 million, thereby securing their spot as a major social analytics force. Their platform boasts a wide assortment of options like the identification of influencers, specific keyword trends, and with a small bit of ingenuity, it offers the capacity to critique the performance of your competitors’ social media.
The cornerstone of success with any website is email marketing, and this is especially true for those customers that list email as their preferred contact method. The usual rate of email exchange in marketing is 72% or higher than search and a whopping 323% higher than social media, and this means those companies that aren’t using email as a way to contact customers are really missing out on a great opportunity. MailChimp is one of the best platforms available for utilizing email marketing.
If you want the ability to bring back the attention of those folks that visited your site but didn’t make a purchase (or even those that didn’t make a large enough purchase), then you really must look into AdRoll. Adroll is paving the way as the foremost retargeting platform, and it does a fantastic job of explaining why past efforts of using AdWords for this task might not be your best bet. I personally love how user friendly the admin area is as well as the cross-channel consistency across both Search and Social platforms.
Both Google Adwords, Facebook and Instagram are a Powerhouse for maximizing conversions through remarketing. Remarketing allows you to drive higher conversions to your website by serving up custom ads to people who have already shown a little interest by visiting your site. If your industry is particularly competitive chances are your customer will be browsing multiple sites before they follow through on a purchase. Once they’ve left your site they might end up forgetting your name and you’ve lost a sale.
Remarketing to website visitors solves this.
When they leave your site and see you again on Facebook or in search, you become more recognizable and that significantly increases your chances of converting them.
I know if I am comparing a product at 2 different sites, one of the most important things that will sway my opinion on which company I buy from is the cost of shipping. If you want to make sure visitors buy from you and not from a competitor, you need to offer free or flat rate shipping. And make sure that you put the shipping discounts where people can see them easily. Many times customers are lured to sites just with the use of the words “free shipping” or “flat rate shipping.” Ecommerce platforms such as BigCommerce make setting up coupons, shipping discounts and special rules very easy.
In order to succeed in business, you must have one very important thing, customers. And to keep customer loyal, you must resolve any issues they have quickly, and with high priority. That’s where ZenDesk comes into play. It gives you the ability to handle customer issues even when you might not have the budget for in-house customer service agents. It has very reasonable plans starting at just $1 a month, and it offers customer solutions through nearly every channel possible. Without a doubt, ZanDesk is the best way to handle all of your customer service support.
While some businesses use Hootsuite, I find that SproutSocial is a much better social media monitoring platform. It boasts a wide array of options that Hootsuite doesn’t offer, all of which are user-friendly. For those that are very active with social media like Facebook, you will find that this particular platform offers great returns on the little bit of cash that you put in up front.
Online Conversion Insights
When trying to optimize and classify areas of your funnel that might be problematic, one of the key steps is to know your conversion process. It is helpful to know the conversion rates of your competitors, as well as the number of your customers that are shopping on competitors’ websites. In order to assess site performance, you must target your conversion rate. Otherwise, an opportunity to improve the performance of your site and one-up the competition can be lost. With Online Conversion Insights, you will be able to use the tools available to give you the ability to take care of all of these issues.
When Google Analytics doesn’t suffice, many site owners realize that they are not able to afford some of the premiere analytics packages on the market. But with Lucky Orange, you are able to take advantage of affordable analytics solutions with an abundance of options not available from Google Analytics. These are things like visitor “heat maps”, visitor recordings, and form analytics, all of which are must-haves for any business wanting to get a better grasp of the way visitors relate to their site.
Distributing compelling content through your website and social media profiles will help you attract visitors to your site. A user-friendly web design and navigational features will make it easier for visitors to find your product pages and use your shopping cart. Follow-up marketing will help you capture sales from visitors who don’t buy immediately, as well as cultivate repeat business. Implementing these best practices will help improve the performance of your e-commerce business, increasing your web traffic and sales conversion rates, and boosting your revenue.
13. Stay compliant
Something that we cannot stress enough when it comes to starting an eCommerce business is that just because you were compliant at the start, that doesn’t mean you stay compliant. Rules and regulations change all the time, and that means that you need to make sure that you are keeping an eye out for all of the different potential changes that could impact the way you do business.
14. Maintain your inventory
Inventory maintenance is an absolutely vital part of starting an eCommerce business and managing it successfully. Regardless of whether it is a guest room in your home, or a warehouse full of stock, you need to make sure that you know exactly what you have available at any given point in that your website accurately reflects that.
The worst thing that you could possibly do is disappoint customers by not having the products that they need even though they’re advertised as being available.
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15. Seek out long term vendors
You must seek out the best kind of vendors to work with on a long-term basis.
If your business is going to take off, you need to make sure that you have the right suppliers. The only way that you can do this is to hunt around, have conversations with people, and make sure that you outline exactly what you’re looking for from the outset.
Getting started With Your eCommerce Business
Starting an eCommerce business for yourself is a rewarding venture if you take the time to build it up properly. If you’re not 100% sure about what you’re doing, you can run into problems with incorrect registering, inefficient functioning, and generally finding that your business collapses faster than it grows.
Generally speaking, it’s important to make sure that you have created an eCommerce business that is going to work for you. There are many different options that you have available to you, a selection of ways that you can create a functioning eCommerce business on your own website or selling platforms such as Amazon.
However, it falls to you to make sure that you have properly registered, researched, and prepared for this venture.