E-commerce is among the fastest growing and most profitable sectors today. Statista estimates that retail e-commerce sales worldwide will surpass $4 trillion by 2021.
The ubiquity of smartphones and the Internet has made online shopping the norm. It can be safely said that if your business is not on the internet, then you’re probably out of business (or if your business is still thriving, you’ll be out soon). It’s true. Majority of consumers prefer the convenience and accessibility that online stores offer as reflected in the global retail sales figures.
And why not?
Digital retail stores let you shop anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to bother getting dressed up and visit the physical store. E-commerce sites offer a number of seamless payment options. Basically, online stores bring the products right at the fingertips of consumers.
In 2017, e-retail sales accounted for 10.2 percent of the global retail sales. This number is projected to grow by at least 2 percent every year. Capitalizing on this trend, many large companies and brands have begun moving their brick-and-mortar stores to the digital marketplace. Small and medium-enterprises should also seriously consider this growing market trend to remain competitive.
However, it’s not enough to just set up and launch an online store. There’s intense competition on the Internet. For an e-commerce site to be successful, there are a lot of things you’ll need to consider.
Here are some concerns you’ll encounter when running your own online store.
1. Developing a good business plan
First and foremost, you need to develop a solid business plan that will guide you in running your e-commerce site. Think of an online store as a physical business that needs careful planning and strategizing to succeed. Basically, a business plan is the blueprint of your online retail store. It should discuss the product, the market, the competition, the marketing strategies, and the costs and potential revenues, among others.
2. Choosing the right platform
Once you have a solid business plan, you need to consider the technology or platform you’ll use. There are many ways of creating an online shop, such as a hosted e-commerce platform, open-source software, and third-party marketplaces. Hosted online retail shops let you use customizable website designs and tools (ex. BigCommerce or Squarespace).
With open-source, e-commerce software, you build your own website with unique and customized tools and interface, as well as all other website maintenance requirements. Meanwhile, third-party marketplaces (ex. Amazon, Alibaba or eBay) let you sell your products through their established e-commerce sites.
Not sure which solution is best for you? Turn to comparison websites, such as Technology Evaluation Centers, to make selecting an e-commerce platform simpler with a general overview of the solution, user reviews, and top features.
3. Building an online presence
Digital marketing plays a vital role in successfully running a digital store. You need to stay updated with the latest digital marketing methods and strategies to ensure that your e-commerce site gets maximum visitors. Social media, email, influencer, and SEO marketing are some of the strategies you’ll need to invest in.
Once you have already built a name, you have to work hard to protect your reputation. This makes it important that your online account administrators know how to handle customers online, especially complaints and feedbacks. Any faulty approach in handling your clients or online presence can adversely impact your brand reputation.
4. Reviewing shipping details
Shipping cost is an expenditure that is unique to e-commerce – and it accounts for a huge portion of the operational expenses of an online business. While free shipping is a great way to drive new customers and encourage purchases, it can increase the cost of your products or erode your profit margins.
According to Byteplant, an address validator service provider, online retail shops can significantly reduce their expenses on shipping if they only validate the shipping address of their customers prior to sending out the shipment. Bounce mail and shipments account to millions of dollars every year – and these losses can actually be avoided.
5. Engaging with customers
To make any business sustainable, you have to involve your customers. The advantage of e-commerce is that businesses can directly connect and engage with the customers. To engage your customers, regularly ask feedback from them or make survey an automatic part of their purchase.
Make your social media accounts accessible to your target audience. Reply to their messages and concerns on time. Encourage them to like or share your posts. Building good customer relations plays a huge role in the success of an online store.
Running a store, whether an online or a physical store, entails a lot of hard work. There are a lot of things that you have to consider, but all of these can be learned when you devote time and effort.