Recently, I got a few opportunities to interact with traditinal brick/mortar businesses who wanted to start an online store. This shows a remarkable shift in thinking in these small and medium businesses who are transitioning from simple brochureware sites to online stores where they want to sell products online. Finally they are breaking away from traditional boundaries of geography and reach…which is a good news. And with this good news, there is not so good news – most of them did not know where to start and how to really go about it…
While interacting with these business owners, I shared with them some fundamental aspects which needs to be considered carefully before begining to sell online. I have summaraize them all here for the benefit of everyone. So here they are:
1. Is there a real market our there for your product?
Are your products really saleable online? This part needs some investigation and fact finding to ensure that the products in your industry segment has really got online buyers. Otherwise, your online store will turn into just another sophisticated brochureware site with a nice product cataloge!
2. Do you have the necessary back-end (planned or established) to support e-commerce operations?
Simply setting up an online store is not going to be enough. You need to figure out how products will be shipped, how payments will be received, how you will process refunds and returns etc. Though most of the small called e-commerce start-ups need not to invest in addtional resources in the begning, it is very essential to be prepared for these things from the start.
3. How are you going to reach out to your audiance?
Reaching out to your customers online is tricky and not easy in the begining. You need to figure out, where is your target audiance on ther internet, what kind of keywords do they search and what kind of places do they visit on internet and what kind of things they do. Then you can plan to go after them through advertising, search engines, social media or pr with clarity and precision.
4. Cost of ownership?
After you have figured out all of the above, you need to find out what’s the best way to operate an online store while not compromising on quality. There is a whole lot of creative and technology investment you are going to make. A lot more time and energy are going to be invested in maintining it. In this respect, hosted e-commerce platform such as 39shops can bring a lot of value with very high reliability and extremely low cost of ownership.
5. Keeping your audiance engaged
This is the last mile of success and comes later, but it’s crtically important to understand it from the very beginning. As 37signals pointed out, your customers are your audiance. You have to treat customers as your audiance, make customers your fans rather than just buyers. Those who have entered the e-commerce game and succeeded in it, know it better than anyone else. To maintain customer loyality and make them keep coming back to you, requires a deep level of engagement in more than one ways. For example, keeping the engagement useful blogs and articles, special loyalty discount bonuses, sharing useful information with them and keeping them engaged with the latest happenings in your compnay and in your industry.
It is not easy to reach #5 unless you put in consistent hard work and intellectual efforts. However, the basics #1 to #4 plays a key role in making or breaking your e-commerce presence. What are your thoughts….How has been your experience selling online?