Ecommerce is booming.
There is money to be made now and even more in the future.
It’s tempting to jump into the online marketplace as quickly as possible, but that isn’t a good idea.
It’s absolutely a great idea to start an online business. The marketplace has been booming, but running an online business is more complex than simply throwing up a website and waiting for customers.
Even the best laid plans can become hopelessly ensnared with hold-ups, delays and complications.
That’s why it’s best to slow down. Plan carefully. And build an e-commerce business step-by-step that is more likely to last and be profitable for years to come.
Step 1: Determine Your Brand
Many brick and mortar businesses start with a product. You are going to sell an item or a service and the brand and methods are secondary. That’s not how it works online. In the ecommerce marketplaces, you will first determine how you want to present your company to the world at large. What brand and persona do you want to create? The product is secondary.
Step 2: Create a Business Model
You want to be a fun and youthful company. Or present yourself as a classic and classy entrepreneur. Whatever your persona, your next step is to create the business plan for your product. Will you be moving physical items? Selling services? What is your plan for inventory and the resource pipeline and scheduling?
Step 3: Recognize Potential Bottlenecks
Before you take your business any farther, consider the things that may hold you back. Is your time limited? Your budget? Make your limitations clear from the start so that you can either work within those parameters or find a way to bring in additional resources so that you can follow the business plan you just created.
Step 4: Build the Website
You know what you want to sell, and more importantly you know how you want to present it. You know what your budget and your resources are. Now it’s time to bring it all together to create your online store. It’s possible to outsource much of this work provided you have a strong plan and direction or you can keep much of the creation in-house if you work with an existing platform or have the necessary design experience.
Step 5: Lay the SEO Framework
While the days of easy keyword stuffing are long gone, search engine optimization is still very much alive and well, if a bit more integrated and complex. As you build your website, be mindful of the words and content you’re using. Make your site easy to navigate not only for your human visitors, but for the digital ones as well.
Step 6: Develop a Marketing Plan
What is your plan for bringing customers to your website? While SEO will have many long-term benefits, it is no guarantee of future success, and certainly cannot be counted on for any immediate sales. Your marketing plan will be tied to your product or service, of course, but there are many ways to reach your target market online.
Will you be paying for advertisements on other sites? Creating native ads such as videos and articles? Self-promoting through online communities? Develop a marketing plan that matches your goals, your budget and your time – marketing will be the most labor and cost sensitive aspect of your emerging business.
Step 7: Build a Clientele
Your first sale is exciting. So is the second. But what is even more exciting is when customers come back and buy more from you in the future. This means you’re going to need a way to contact them about new offerings and promotions.
Build a clientele by offering free promotions, getting customers to sign up for a newsletter, gathering up emails for the occasional special message or birthday greeting. These aren’t just your customers for the day – they are your clients for the life of the business.
Step 8: Become Active in Your Community
To sell things from your brick and mortar business, you try to get out and be active in your physical community. The same is true in the online world. If anything, networking is even more important online. Build relationships with upstream and downstream businesses.
Join communities in your industry. Get to know what others are doing and what they aren’t – you might discover a profitable niche nobody is covering. You won’t know until you get out there to look.
Step 9: Revamp and Reinvent as Necessary
Finally, no online business is successful in the same way for eternity. And the online attention span is even shorter than the physical ones. Keep careful tabs on your stats. Work hard to stay ahead of the curve and be immediately reactive to changes in the online environment.
A well-developed brand can bring in new products and archive old ones. Build a business around what you do and how you do it and you can shift quickly as the marketplace ebbs and flows around you.
If you want your ecommerce business to thrive, you’ll need more than a good name and catchy product. A sustainable business model involves careful planning, careful design and – perhaps most critically of all – careful, ongoing development. A well-built ecommerce business is not only well-crafted, but also adaptable to the fast-paced online environment. This can only be achieved through meticulous planning.