Creating a successful eCommerce startup is difficult, but it is getting easier every day to create a retail business online. Suppose you are starting from square one. If you were to sit down at your computer and think to yourself “now what do I do?” or “where do I start?” then there are five areas you need to pay attention to for success.
There is no such thing as a business without customers. Getting people to know about your site and come visit is the most important priority. Fortunately there are many ways to draw visitors to your site the two most common are paid advertising, and word of mouth.
Advertising is the method most people think of to draw traffic to a site. It basically consists of paying websites which already have traffic to display an ad for your site to their viewers. Websites and services with huge audiences usually run fairly cheap advertising. The two most popular platforms for advertising are Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.
There are many other advertising networks around as well, some are cheaper or more expensive or have more or less audience than others. Since advertising costs money, it can pay to shop around for the best place to advertise your site before you run ads. It may go without saying, but the ideal place to advertise is a place that has the type of people you are trying to attract. If you are selling wedding dresses advertise on wedding related websites, if you are selling tools advertise on handyman sites, etc.
Word of mouth, also called organic growth, means that people tell one another about your site. A site that has a good reputation will start to attract people organically, and will likely keep them coming back for a long time. Best of all, word of mouth is free, since your customers do the work for you. If you have ever checked out a website after it was suggested by a friend, then you have experienced organic growth in action.
The key is to make your site something people want to talk about and then get people talking about it. Social media is a great place to start spreading a reputation for your site by contacting your friends and asking them to let their friends know you are in business. People like to tell their friends about sites that are fun, useful, novel and creative, or that support good causes.
The process of buying inventory wholesale from a supplier is very complicated and can cost a lot of money up front. This involves finding a factory or distributor that carries in large bulk the items you want to sell, then buying a huge number of them up front for a reduced price, then selling them at a markup. This will also require you to rent warehouse space from a reputable company to store the delivery in (unless you have a really big garage!). This method is also the most risky because you are stuck with inventory if you can’t sell everything.
Drop shipping is easier. This technique involves selling your customer something that you do not actually own. Once the customer pays you, you take the money and pay a factory to ship a single item to the customer. Then you make a profit by keeping the difference. The drawback is that keeping track of the money flow can be very complicated and it is usually difficult to find factories that will drop ship single items.
Your best bet for buying wholesale is to have someone with experience do it for you. But your best bet for drop shipping is to use a system like ralliBox, which allows you to drag and drop inventory into your site and takes care of the details for you.
Once you have something to sell and people to sell it to. Then it is time to make a website that is easy to navigate and easy to buy on. The sophistication of your website conveys your brand to your customers the same way that a flashy car is used by a real estate agent. The better your website looks, the safer and higher quality your business will be in the eyes of customers.
The best website designs use the psychology of color, simple but efficient buttons and search functions, and a streamlined checkout process. A good website will also contain beautiful images or entertaining and informative videos about the business.
So how do your goods actually get to the customer?
If you are selling from wholesale, you will need to buy packaging and “picking services” (putting the items in their individual boxes) from the warehouse you are using. You will also need a way to generate shipping labels with your customer’s address on it. The warehouse will then send out your package on the next truck.
If you are drop shipping, things become a little easier. All the drop shipper needs to know is the address of your customer and they will arrange the shipping for you. A tool like ralliBox does this automatically.
5. Accounting and Policies
Keeping track of your money and setting your store policies are another very important key to success. Accounting is a complicated process, but it is not very difficult to learn the basics. The point is to add up all the costs you need to pay per item in your store so that you know how much to charge for them (including shipping & handling, taxes, etc).
Setting store policies is also important. For example, what should a customer do if they want to return an item? This is the place where your customer service can really shine. The best store policies are customer friendly and will lead to good reviews for you store.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into having a successful ecommerce store, but there is also plenty of help and tools out there to allow you to accomplish your dreams.
David Kneusel is the CEO of ralliBox Inc and can be reached at DavidK@ralliBox.com.
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