It’s an exciting time to be an online business owner. There were 256 million e-commerce shoppers in 2020, with Statista anticipating more than 278 million by 2024.
Not only that, but the global e-commerce market grew to nearly $4 trillion in 2020, according to Business Insider.
An amazing profit stream could be heading your way!
But first, you have to know how to start, grow, and maintain your online store.
Which is why we present this e-commerce for dummies guide.
These are the answers to common questions posed by brand-new, intermediate, and long-standing e-commerce business owners.
How to Start an Online Store
Trying to open your very first e-commerce business?
Follow this simple beginner’s guide, and you’ll be up and running in no time:
Choose Your Business
If you want to open an online store, you probably already have an idea of what you will sell.
Vintage clothes? Flipped goods from third-party sites? Life-coaching services?
Every e-commerce store starts as an idea that develops from a seedling into a mighty oak. But knowing exactly what you want to sell will make it easier for you to identify your target audience and market to them later on.
Next, you need to …
Pick a Platform
There are a lot of wonderful e-commerce platforms out there. Most make it easy to open a store, with simple step-by-step guides and a transparent pricing scale.
If you’re really unsure, check out this comparison guide to the best e-commerce platforms of 2021 by Investopedia.
And if you’re building a Shopify store and want help, give us a call. Shopify design is our specialty, and our development team can help you build the perfect site for your business.
Choose Your Domain Name
Your domain name is one of the first things (if not the first thing) a potential customer notices about your business. So make it a good one!
The best domain names encapsulate the brand experience, letting website visitors know what they can expect from your store.
Select a Website Builder
Unless you’re a website builder by trade, you’re going to need some help setting up a functional storefront, shopping cart, product pages, and other aspects of your site.
Typically, online business owners use templates to build a store on their chosen platform, or they hire professional designers.
Both are viable options. Using templates is friendlier to your budget, but hiring pros can result in a 100% unique shopping experience for your customers.
Keep in mind that no matter which you choose, you will need branding (logos, colors, etc.), page layouts, and relevant information before you start building your store.
Add Payment Gateways
Before you can start selling your goods or services, you have to set up your store’s payment options. These will depend on your platform, business plan, and customers.
Just about every store accepts debit and credit card payments. But the more payment options you offer your customers, the more likely they are to shop with you.
The most common payment options include cards, installment services like Sezzle, and digital payment platforms like PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Amazon Payments.
Enhance Your Store With Add-ons
Every e-commerce platform has a store where you can find apps and plug-ins to help you enhance your store with different features.
These apps can help you:
- Grow your email list
- Find new products to sell
- Simplify shipping
- Track your business growth
… and more.
Do your research to find the best apps available on your platform. If you’re a Shopify user, check out this article for some recommendations: 7 Shopify Apps to Improve Your Business.
Test and Publish Your E-commerce Website
Before you make your site live, review every page from top to bottom. Make sure every image loads properly and that there are no broken links (links that lead to non-existent pages or with mistyped URLs).
Ask friends, family, and colleagues to test your site from the customer’s perspective and give you honest feedback. You need to know your store is 100% ready for customers and provides a smooth, positive experience.
Once you’re satisfied, hit the publish button and start selling!
How Do I Scale My E-commerce Business?
You’ve got your store up and running, and now it’s time to think about growth. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the business owner to scale an e-commerce site.
Luckily, we know a thing or two about that.
Search engine optimization can help web pages rank higher in search results, which can lead to more traffic (and ideally more sales).
SEO is an ever-evolving science concerned with more than just keywords and meta tags. Page speeds, inlinks and outlinks, and content quality can all have a significant impact on a page’s search ranking.
Follow these SEO best practices to get the process rolling.
And if you’re a Shopify entrepreneur looking for expert help with traffic generation, check out our Shopify SEO services.
Continuous Marketing Efforts
Effective marketing is the key to unlimited growth. You need a digital marketing strategy that homes in on your targeted shoppers and uses several approaches to reach them.
In most cases, a marketing strategy should involve email marketing and social media marketing.
Among other things, these channels allow you to:
- Collect and showcase positive reviews
- Notify subscribers about store promotions
- Build a more authentic relationship with your customers
Automated marketing apps can help with online marketing, allowing you to send specific messages to each lead based on their position in the buyer’s journey.
Measure Growth Often
You need to know what works and what doesn’t. In the retail world, that is done by measuring your store’s growth.
Make sure to track how every change made to your site affects business. For example, if you implement a new app or redesign a page layout, follow how it affects page views, click-through rates, and sales.
A/B testing is a powerful technique that can help you to make the best decisions for your e-commerce store.
Grow Your Team as Your Business Grows
Startup businesses are usually created by a small group of dedicated workers. This helps keep costs down while laying the groundwork for a thriving enterprise.
But as you start to grow, you will likely need to hire more people to ensure consistent growth.
These are a few of the job roles you may need to add to your team:
- Social media specialists
- Copywriters/product description writers
- Website developers/technical specialists
- Website optimizers
- Customer service (either in-house or outsourced)
Not all of these job roles will pertain to your business. But you’ll know who you’ll need when you need them.
What Are the Best Ways to Increase Your Average Order Value?
All e-commerce store owners want to increase their online sales. There are a lot of surefire ways to get customers to spend more when they shop with you.
Our favorites include:
- Offer free shipping after a price threshold has been met. This has worked very well for e-commerce giants like Amazon.
- Set minimum order quantities, which are especially useful if you’re a wholesale business.
- Create a VIP program that rewards shoppers when they spend money in your store.
- Upsell and cross-sell products, which you can implement in your marketing emails and on product and checkout pages.
Of course, the best way to increase sales is to sell valuable products and provide the best customer experience possible. If your customers are happy, they’ll not only keep coming back, but they’ll refer their friends and family to you as well.
How Do I Build Customer Loyalty?
While it’s always great to attract new shoppers to your e-commerce store, building customer loyalty is essential to lasting success. This means that you need to attract customers upfront, then build a relationship with them so they continue shopping with you.
It costs your business five times more to attract new shoppers than it does to retain current ones. But, like with every other aspect of running your business, retaining customers and building loyalty takes hard work and strategic thinking.
Customer loyalty can be maintained through:
- Allowing customers to create an account with your store without forcing them to. It’s best to send a sign-up invite after a first purchase, not before.
- Create a customer loyalty program with a points or dollars-spent reward system.
- Provide top-notch customer service.
- Send emails, although not too many, with occasional discount codes.
- If a return is ever made, offer the customer a discount on their next purchase to avoid ruining your relationship.
Focus your efforts and budget on maintaining relationships with current customers. Provide them with a wonderful brand experience, and a sense of loyalty will develop.
What’s the Best Way to Ship My Orders?
You may have noticed there are tons of ways to get your products to your customers. It may seem overwhelming at first, but really, the shipping options you offer should simply depend on your business model.
If you’re a classic business-to-consumer store, you can partner with a freight carrier with flat rates or live rates, like FedEx or UPS, to deliver customers their goods.
If you also have a brick-and-mortar store, you can offer free in-store pickup or same-day delivery options (if feasible).
B2B companies will most likely go the freight, wholesale, or subscription route.
If you sell items sourced from a third-party business, dropshipping is the best option.
Remember: 93% of shoppers say shipping options are a key factor in making an e-commerce purchase. It’s essential to offer several options to suit the needs of your shoppers, your business model, and your financial constrictions.
Our Top Tips for E-Commerce Owners: From Newbies to Vets
We work with small businesses, massive retailers, and everyone in between — and we’ve been doing so for years.
Whether you’re a brand new business or have decades in the field, the following tips can benefit your business, your customers, and your bottom line.
Create a Presence
You want to stay in the minds of your customers. You can do that by creating unique content that is appealing to your particular audience.
Promotional videos and tutorials are some of the most successful content in every niche. When you offer a new product or service, share a video or tutorial that promotes it to your email subscribers and social media followers. This is an easy and effective way to create buzz and potentially even viral content.
Create an FAQ page
Every e-commerce site should have a FAQ page. Yet it’s something a lot of online retailers neglect to do.
By having an informative FAQ page on your site, you can thwart any issues customers may encounter (saving you and your customer service reps some time).
An FAQ page can also establish your brand as an open, considerate, and knowledgeable resource, which can increase customer engagement.
Offer 24/7 Support
There is no reason not to have 24/7 support channels in place these days.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a customer service team available all day, every day. It could mean you embed a chatbot on your website that responds automatically with helpful links for your customers when a live team is not available.
Utilize a Customer Referral Program
Current customers can help you gather more leads. This is done with a referral program.
When a customer shops with you, send them an email with an offer to earn store credit if they refer friends to shop with you. It encourages the current customer to shop your store and gives them added incentive to talk you up to their friends and family.
Embrace Product Reviews
Product reviews inform potential customers that shopping with you is a pleasure.
Take advantage of your positive reviews by collecting and displaying them on product pages, the checkout page, in your marketing emails, and anywhere else shoppers are engaging with your brand.
When they read positive reviews from happy shoppers, it lets them know that it’s okay to buy your goods and services, decreasing cart abandonment and increasing conversions.
Running a business, especially an e-commerce business, takes a lot of knowledge and grit. It’s a lot easier with a technologically advanced team on your side, like our team at SKU Agency.
We are design and development vets with more than 20 years in the business. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you build and maintain a Shopify website that works for you and your customers.