Once you create your own online store, you have a potential to reach customers on a global level, rather than just the people that you can meet and market to locally. However, there’s much more to a successful ecommerce business than starting a website and watching the cash roll in.
Here we’ll discuss 7 essential ingredients to turning your online boutique into a thriving ecommerce business.
One of the biggest mistakes that online shops can make is having too broad of a business plan. While it may seem sensible to try and sell as many products to as many people as possible, it’s actually key for ecommerce entrepreneurs to scale down their big ideas in order to get the most possible customers with the least possible competition.
The answer to these questions will help you figure out your competitive advantage beyond the fact that you have a nicer logo, or catchy product descriptions. In a sea of online ecommerce stores, you need to make sure that you emphasise your differences. Can you provide customers with expert knowledge of your field? Do you offer no-quibble returns or exchanges? Do you provide fast customer service, even outside of normal business hours?
These kinds of tangible differences in knowledge and services give you a competitive advantage in your niche, allowing you to succeed even while other online boutiques may be selling similar products at similar price-points. Find out yours, hone it, and promote it.
Of course, ‘promote your business’ is easier said than done. There are scores of articles on internet marketing, and all of the terms and marketing strategies can seem intimidating for a budding ecommerce entrepreneur.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix here: you’ll have to bite the bullet, do your research, and come up with a marketing plan that makes sense for your business.
Start with a simple analytics tool so that you can track your online traffic and therefore see which marketing strategies are working for you and which need to change. Tracking tools like Google Analyrics will help you discover things like which customer segments are most attracted to your store, what search terms people use to find your store, and what people click on the most in your store. All of this knowledge is invaluable when trying to figure out how to get customers to go from casually browsing to placing items into their shopping cart.
You’ll also need a good grasp of SEO (search engine optimisation) in order to ensure that search engines are pushing as much traffic to your store as possible. While it may seem like all this marketing jargon -- SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing, etc -- will do your head in, they’re integral to the success of your online boutique. You’ve created an online store and developed a fantastic product -- now make sure that everyone sees it!
Since ambitious small business owners are nearly always working, it’s best to make life as simple as possible, whenever possible. Choose your ecommerce platform, such as SupaDupa, and launch a free online shop using shop themes and templates that can make your shop look like a designer boutique without actually having to hire a designer.
Having a shop open quickly allows you to start testing your product, evaluating your product, and start making changes when necessary. It also allows you to have somewhere to drive traffic -- and therefore drive up interest in your products -- even if you’re still formulating your business plan. You can even make pre-sales from your SupaDupa store, which will give you some revenue to start production while keeping down your out-of-pocket startup costs.
Just because your ecommerce platform can set up an eye-catching store doesn’t mean all the work is done for you. Remember that your website is the equivalent of all of the high street locations that any other retailer has. That means your homepage is your version of creative store window displays, mannequins dressed to perfection around the store, and salespeople on the floor to help you make your purchases.
Because of this, it’s key to make sure your product descriptions really sell, and your photos show off your products in the best possible light. Make sure you have appealing, high-quality photos of all of your products, especially if they come in different colors. Having one photo with swatches of the other available colors will dampen your chances of making a sale.
Photography is not the place to skimp in your budget, so be honest with yourself if your photography skills are not up to your own standards. You also need to offer as much information as possible: list measurements and materials, and, if possible, show user reviews. Reviews dampen skepticism about whether your product actually works, or whether it delivers on quality, and can help customers to commit to a purchase.
Your customers aren’t just buying a product, they’re also buying a brand. In the case of most small online businesses, that brand is you! This is especially important if your competitive advantage is that you make products that are creative, custom- or hand-made, or fulfill an aesthetic need (like fashion) rather than solve a practical problem. If your pieces are ‘made with love,’ it makes sense that your customers want to know a bit more behind the person who’s making them.
"...what it means to live on the island..."
What’s your story, and what’s the story behind your ‘signature’ product? What inspires you? What do you want from your ecommerce ventures, and what do you hope that your customers take away from their dealings with you? A great backstory, coupled with an amazing product, will make you stick in your customers’ minds. That means they’re more likely to share your links on social media, buy your products as gifts, and recommend you to their friends. With customers on your side, your marketing job gets a bit easier simply because of their loyalty and the value of their word-of-mouth referrals.
The ‘About’ section of your online boutique or blog is important, but you’ve got to embrace talking about yourself on other platforms as well. Join forums that pertain to your industry as a way to build industry contacts and stay on top of where your industry is headed. With every post, your name -- and your website, if you’ve linked it properly or have it in your signature -- will be seen by people who are interested in what you do. It’s the perfect audience to share knowledge with, demonstrate your knowledge to, and drive traffic to your store.
You can also look into other blogs or websites within your niche and see if you can work with them. Guest posting on blogs that are resources for your target audience is a way to drive traffic to your website, build your online presence, and set yourself up as an authority in your field -- which, of course, attracts customers!
Owing to the accessibly of eCommerce platforms and the many free communication channels available to anyone willing to invest time in to engage with prospective audiences, launching an online business today is as easy as it gets. Contrary to only a few years ago the challenge to starting your own online business is rarely to do with overcoming technical challenges or the cost of building an effective website or shop. It's almost universally to do with the amount and range of effort required to get other people to know about it. Using the various marketing techniques described in this article and the SupaDupa blog you will notice crazy improvements to your bottom line, guaranteed. Investing in self promotion has long term benefits but few persevere long enough to see the results they deserve.
Please leave me a comment to describe what are your biggest challenges facing your online business and note any suggestions you think SupaDupa may be able help you overcome them with.