Over the past 20 years, brick-and-mortar retail has faced pressure from eCommerce sites and has suffered one of the most precipitous declines in economic history. The experience has made clear that the future of retail belongs to the internet, and that new ventures can only ignore that fact at their own peril.
For today’s entrepreneurs, that means it’s essential to have a solid understanding of what it takes to plan, build, and run an eCommerce operation, as it is now an integral part of just about any new business. To help entrepreneurs that are approaching the task of starting an eCommerce business or adding eCommerce capabilities to their existing business, here are the four critical tips to getting things right on the first try and building a flourishing online enterprise.
Bring an Offline Mentality to the Task
The first and most important thing that any entrepreneur can do when approaching the start of an eCommerce business is to realize that although the operation won’t be physical, it still requires the same (or greater) amount of attention, effort, and plain old hard work to succeed.
The importance of this tip cannot be overstated. That’s because it is very common for entrepreneurs to treat their online efforts as more of a part-time occupation since there’s no physical office to show up to, no meetings to attend, and no organizational structure to report to. In reality, that’s a recipe for failure.
When starting an eCommerce business, it’s vital to treat it just as you would a brick-and-mortar operation. That means putting in full-time hours tending to customers, refining processes, and testing marketing messages. Failure to do so will severely diminish your prospects for success.
Know Your Market and Customers
Unlike conventional retail operations, eCommerce sites operate in an always-on global marketplace, where they must compete with other businesses both down the road and on the other side of the globe. On top of that, you’ll also have to contend with some of today’s biggest businesses, like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay—and that’s no easy task.
To carve out a market segment and avoid being stifled by the larger competition, it’s essential to conduct thorough online market research to know your target market and customers inside and out. There are many ways to do it, and many of them are simple and inexpensive.
It’s also possible to contract out the work to an experienced market research expert, which is preferable in crowded and ultra-competitive market segments. No matter how you proceed, though, there can be no success without this important step.
Choose the Right eCommerce Software
On the operational side of any eCommerce business, there is no more important decision to make than the choice of what eCommerce platform to base the business on. It’s a choice that will have repercussions for many years after the launch of the site because it determines everything from the look and feel of your product pages, to every last detail of your site’s shopping cart.
For many new eCommerce startups, the decision comes down to WooCommerce vs Magento, as they’re two of the most common open source software solutions available today. Generally speaking, WooCommerce is an excellent option for small eCommerce startups, but Magento offers added functionality that will allow your business to scale up to any size needed, so it’s a good idea to have a solid business projection and growth plan drafted before making this all-important decision.
Make Customer Service the Top Priority
The last tip for building a successful eCommerce business is to design everything—from the products offered, to the shipping, returns, and pricing structure—with your customers in mind. Although that would seem obvious, it’s something that all too many entrepreneurs forget in the rush of work that it takes to get their new business off the ground.
Still, there’s no greater priority for any eCommerce business that hopes to achieve lasting success. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos sums up the importance of a customer-first mentality with his oft-repeated quote: “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.” That’s the central idea that allowed a tiny eCommerce startup that sold books online from a garage to grow into one of the world’s most valuable companies.
While putting customers first won’t guarantee your new eCommerce business will grow to rival Amazon, it’s a great place to start, and should be at the heart of everything you do.
From the Ground Up
By now, the one thing that should be obvious is that the essential parts of building an eCommerce business all center around two things: having the right mentality and the information and tools to get the job done. Besides that, running an eCommerce operation isn’t all that different from running any other conventional business.
Any way you slice it, it will take quite a bit of work and tenacity to succeed in the online global marketplace, but any entrepreneur gearing up for the task would do well to make these four tips the core of their plans to start their new venture.
Once the right foundation is set, there’s no limit on how far the business can go – it’s just a matter of taking it there.