By Simon Horton
The Web offers endless possibilities to businesses. You sure are aware that the Internet has changed the dynamics of buyer-seller relationship forever. The lure of the Web is very difficult for an entrepreneur to resist and you are already planning your e-commerce blockbuster.
There is more happy news for you. The holiday season has brought in bumper sales for retail sellers. Cyber Monday saw sales totaling $2.68 billion with almost 21% of that sales coming from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
The weekend after Thanksgiving raked in more than $2 billion in online sales. Online sales in the US for the months of November and December combined are expected to surpass $89 billion, an increase of 16% over 2013.
The Internet obviously is the place to be for businesses. Amazon shipped approximately 426 items per second on Cyber Monday, with sales totaling in excess of 37 million items.
But finding your place under the sun in an unforgiving online marketplace is not easy. With super-hot competition breathing down your neck it becomes increasingly important for you to be at the right place at the right time to land the sale.
Success is very hard to find in an over-crowded global marketplace. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind to avoid a potential disaster for your online business.
1) Think Style over Substance
Once you have decided to take the leap and start selling online, is time to work out a clear strategy.
Do not spend hours creating the most attractive, interactive, responsive and stylish website. Not only are you required to put in endless hours, but you also end up spending quite a lot of money.
Dive into the potential customer base you are targeting. If you are selling kidsÂ garden accessories, make sure you know where to find your customers. Parenting blogs, forums and self-help groups offer much potential.
So do schools and kindergartens. With increasing stress being laid in schools on teaching children to eat healthy and natural, on how to source food from their kitchen gardens, and in general encouraging them to spend more time outdoors, your products do have potential to sell.
Go where your potential customers are more likely to find you and try to engage them constructively.
2) Neglect Content
Your website need not pay big bucks to bloggers to write for you. Spare some time to share valuable, informative, engaging and interesting content with your online visitors.
Blogging would not take up more than a few hours every week. Once you get the hang of it you will be easily able to post two fleshed out posts every week. And thatÂs all that is required in the early stages of your business.
Do reply to all comments and suggestions, and ensure you do not neglect any visitor to your blog.
3) Not Stay Social
Social media holds much sway over the online marketplace. This is where your potential customers meet and share ideas, opinions and latest gossip. You need to be familiar with popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Once you have succeeded in building up considerable traffic to your site, you will be able to leverage social media to increase your visibility to a much vaster audience.
If you ignore social media sites very soon you will be left behind in the race with your competition getting there first and building up a dialog with the prospective customers.
4) Not Gauge the Practical Aspects
Your business is not all about your brilliant idea and yourself. You will need the help and support of plenty of others to actually get your business up and going.
Vendors, suppliers, shippers, customers and employees are all stakeholders you need to work with to ensure the success of your online venture. You need to measure how much all of this is going to cost you financially. How long can you sustain the nuts and bolts of your venture if the revenue takes time rolling in?
Amazon would not have been the success it is if it had shipped stuff late and broken all through its formative years. You will have to sweat to win your customers trust and most importantly their familiarity with you.
You have to honestly and thoroughly assess all of this before you set up your online store. Do you have all the necessary ancillaries in place for your business to flourish and run well?
5) Do Not Have a Customer-Centric Site
This is one of the biggest mistakes that could really mar the customer experience.
An online business site should be a delightful experience for any guest, not just for those who have painfully created an account. Do not make it mandatory for visitors to register to complete sale. Ensure the visitor faces as few hurdles as possible.
Quality, high-resolution images should be provided along with comprehensive product descriptions. There should be no room for doubt in your prospective customerÂs mind as to what he is paying for.
You should also clearly specify the price of the product and the shipping options available. All modes of shipping do not cost the same. US Postal Service offers several benefits for small businesses that you can pass on to customers. Be clear to your customers about the choices available to them..
You should also clearly define your return policies and provide all info regarding customer support for all available channels including phone, e-mail and instant chat.
6) The Checkout Process Is Tedious
Tedious checkout processes can really depress your sales. Help your customer complete the payment in a single click. Follow the industry standard for entering credit card information and make the flow as intuitive and responsive as possible.
When you shop at Amazon or eBay the breezy checkout process makes shopping a pleasant experience.
A long and tortuous order placement process can make your customer abandon the shopping cart and find a better place to shop at.
7) Limited Payment Options
71% of e-transactions are made with cards. But a whopping 29% are using non-card methods which include PayPal and e-wallets. Go for payment methods that are favored by your target audience.
Lack of preferred payment options will deter your prospective customers from completing the transaction.
Ensure you allow payments without having to create an account and do not redirect people to other sites. SSL and PCI badges add to the credibility of your website. Customers value the padlock icon and the https URL prefix that shows you are using a secure payment gateway.
The path to online marketing success is waylaid with potential deathtraps. Avoid these mistakes and your venture is sure to succeed and win customer loyalty.
Emilia Pineda says
What a post, Rosemary.I would add the lack of Shop as a guest feature to the limitted payment options. I find creating accounts on websites I am not going to shop again quite annoying.