Fancy being an online entrepreneur? You may think it is as simple as setting up a website and away you go, but there are a number of steps to take before becoming a successful online retailer.
We all have sold something on an online shop, maybe more often than not over the last six months. The jump from occasional eBay seller to successful online retailer is not an easy one.
Here are five steps to take you from eBay hobbyist to serious online seller.
1. Think through your business idea
Like any business, becoming a successful online retailer needs careful thought and planning if it’s going to take off.
Start by watching who else is selling the products you would like to sell, and exploring rival websites.
Also do some research on branding and naming: check that your preferred domain is available, as ideally you’ll have a web address that reflects your business name.
Plus, it’d appear to be there are few overheads for a web business, but there are costs that you simply got to take into account: believe web hosting, paying graphic designers, storing your stock, and buying insurance (more thereon later). Will you continue to be ready to make an honest profit once you’ve taken these costs into account?
Finally, it’s always a good idea to start off small and test your idea. Hopefully you’ll get an honest response then you’ll think bigger, but if you’ve got any problems then you’ve got the prospect to form some tweaks.
If you want to be a successful online retailer you should keep an eye on the international market. The internet is international, so researching your competitors overseas is a good idea. This is what Snusdirect did when considering to sell snus in the UK. They noticed that the UK would be a big market when selling their product online. Selling overseas is not easy, but that market might become bigger than your local one.
2. Get your website right
Your website is your “shop window” so it must look eye-catching. But remember that it also must work well, and therefore the browsing and buying process should be as easy as possible. People online are impatient, and visitors should only ever be a few clicks away from buying.
This is where it may be a good idea to call in the professionals. Consider hiring a contract designer who features a good portfolio and knowledge of interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design principles. This means they’ll be clued abreast of how people interact with websites, and they’ll be ready to guide you on creating an internet site that your customers can navigate easily.
If you’re designing and building your site on your own, consider a Content Management System; like WordPress, which has shopping cart plugins for eCommerce.
Make sure that your selling process is secure, and that your customers are reassured that their card details are safe. If you want to use PayPal, for instance, to take payments, you’ll need to set up a business account.
And when you’re brooding about the pages and content to incorporate on your website, keep things as simple as possible.
Take good photographs of your products, and make key details like price, product information and postage details as clear as possible. Include an ‘about us’ page that tells people a touch about you and your company. If you’re making your products by hand, or if there’s a really quirky story behind your business, be sure to tell people about it. Also list your contact details, including a business email address and a phone number.
3. Get a good grasp of online marketing
Having a site that appears good which works well may be a big step, but getting people to truly visit it’s the trickiest bit.
If you’ve got a store on the main street of a busy town, then there’s an honest chance people will stop by if your products look appealing. Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple on the Internet. You’ll need a good working knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) and online marketing tactics to have any chance of getting visitors. Luckily, there are many free SEO and marketing guides online to assist you start.
You can also think about using something like Google AdWords, which may be a way of paying to seem in prime spots on the search results pages. You only pay if someone clicks on your ad, but you need to make sure that you have well-targeted ads and a well-designed website so that those clicks convert to sales.
It’s also really important to set up social media accounts for your business, so that you can get the word out about your products and encourage visitors to your site. But don’t flood social media with sales pitches: share interesting content and have interaction with like minded people and businesses, and you’ll slowly start to create a community around your online shop.
4. Make the most of existing platforms
Because it are often difficult to urge people to go to your site, it’s going to be worth using a longtime online retail platform like eBay, Etsy or Notonthehighstreet. You will usually need to pay a fee or commission, but these websites have many visitors and large marketing budgets, so your products are far more likely to be seen.
Provide a link to your own website from the merchandise description or online store if possible, and eventually you ought to be ready to build up enough brand awareness and attract enough visitors to your site to go it alone.
5. Get the right insurance policy
You might think that business insurance isn’t necessary if you simply sell online, but there are literally some key covers you ought to consider.
Product liability cover, for example, could help protect you if your products cause injury or damage.
Even if you don’t actually make the items you sell, you’ll be responsible for compensation claims if the products bear the name of your business, if you’ve repaired or refurbished the product, or if the actual manufacturer can’t be traced.
Stock cover is another important consideration. This can cover your replacement costs if your stock is damaged or stolen, which wouldn’t be covered by a normal home insurance policy.