Nearly half of American small businesses have no website, but competition will make them go online sooner or later. This article, the first in a short series, provides comprehensive tips for new e-commerce site owners.
The internet has made financial success just as attainable for small entrepreneurs as it is for big corporations. Small businesses can be equally competitive as long as they manage to attract online customers.
However, enticing traffic and conversions is challenging, especially as the digital commerce market explodes.
My company, QuartSoft, builds custom online stores. During more than a decade of working with international clients, we’ve gathered e-commerce wisdom we want to share with you.
In the first installment of this guide, we’ll go over the types of e-commerce newcomers; marketing tips; and social media strategies.
Three Types of E-Commerce Newcomers
New e-commerce website owners tend to fall into one of the following three categories. Note if any of the following describe you and your venture:
1. Niche Artisans and Manufacturers
It’s a blessing to earn money from your passions. Individuals who do so are frequently experts in their niche, as well as manufacturers of high-quality products.
These artisans, such as Asian Brushpainter, which creates custom Chinese seal stamps, tend to work in a narrow niche.
Asian Brushpainter’s highly specialized products mean that the company has to reach out to the largest possible audience.
Those who operate online shops use them to showcase their products, unique personality, and talents to customers all over the world.
This group’s biggest challenge is to reach as many buyers as possible and turn them into loyal customers.
2. Early Stage Startup Founders
These people are considering going full time with their hobby by creating a startup or selling niche products. Consider Jessica Lawlor, who quit her day job to focus on communications consulting and blogging
People like Lawlor frequently look for opportunities in a field unrelated to their former jobs, or they use their corporate job experience to help others solve problems they used to face.
Their biggest challenge is finding a niche that hasn’t yet been exploited, then marketing that niche through a website. These nascent startups should focus on creating and testing their online business model with the lowest costs possible.
3. Entrepreneurs Who Want to Expand
Just over half of Americans prefer online shopping, which means that brick-and-mortar shops are competing with digital stores. Traditional retailers are starting to create online extensions to withstand the competition.
This group’s biggest challenge is to build a professional online store that reflects their brand and is integrated into their offline business.
Expanding companies require fast and affordable web development so that they can reach existing business goals.
What Comes After Website Design?
All three types of entrepreneurs can’t rest on their laurels once they have online stores up and running. The most daunting work – finding buyers and engaging their audiences – begins now.
The tips below will help newcomers to the e-commerce realm acquire their first prospects and attract loyal customers.
6 Marketing Strategies
Marketing can help you reach a higher number of customers, as well as achieve a higher rate of conversion.
Here are six guidelines that can help you market and raise your conversion rate:
1. Target Your Location for Better SEO
Making your location clear is key, especially if your primary audience is local.
Google uses the Pigeon algorithm to detect searchers’ locations and return locally relevant results. A website optimized for the local market will achieve better search results shown to local buyers.
For example, Googling “jewelry near me” brings up an ad and a map for jewelry stores that have established their location in D.C.
Targeting your location in web page titles and product descriptions can drive customers to your store – and it’s free.
2. Consider Conversion Boosters
Top conversion boosters are price, discount, speed, and cost of shipping.
It’s no secret that online shoppers visit multiple stores to compare prices. Lower prices or large discounts can make your product stand out among your competitors’.
Another strategy involves offering coupons, since 68% of consumers love such offers. In fact, searching out discounts is an entire online lifestyle.
If you can’t offer lower prices, consider free shipping. Almost three-quarters (73%) of buyers consider free shipping an important or critical factor in their purchase decision, and same-day delivery is a desirable option.
3. Use Abandoned Cart Software
Abandoned cart software is useful for reaching out to indecisive prospects with follow-up emails.
These special tools are designed specifically to bring back hesitant buyers.
4. Create Product Scarcity
You can make your supply seem scarce by using limited releases, last day offers, and flash sales.
Consider this Modcloth sale, which includes the phrase “LIMITED TIME.”
This helps convince buyers that the right time to purchase is now.
Show the number of items remaining in stock, and create urgency by setting up a timer counting down until the end of an offer.
5. Make Customers Feel Secure
Give customers pertinent information up front. That way, they’re more likely to make a purchase.
Customer testimonials published on your store can increase conversions by 34%. Let your customers review products and offer them some incentives, like a coupon code, for doing so.
Also, consider offering easy returns and a money-back guarantee. Over 60% of online shoppers make a purchase only if they are satisfied with the shop’s return policy, and 48% of online shoppers would buy more from stores with convenient return policies.
6. Get a Toll-Free Phone Number
Over half (57%) of online shoppers prefer using the phone to contact vendors if they have an issue.
Phones may be old-school, but given the leads you might lose otherwise, offer customers this contact alternative as soon as your online business is profitable enough to afford it.
3 Social Media Strategies
One of the most important first steps for every new online company is getting noticed. But by using social media, businesses can find an audience for any product or service.
Social media recommendations influence the buying decision of 23% of American online shoppers, according to the Pew Research Center.
The biggest challenge is to find the right approach to your prospects and make them want to become your customers. The following tips will help you nurture your clients through social networks.
1. Create a YouTube Channel
Successful companies post video content that demonstrates how consumers can use their products, or how their products outperform those of their competitors.
Blendtec, a blender manufacturer, started its “Will it Blend?” YouTube campaign in 2006 when it wanted to prove that its product could blend anything. Blendtec posted videos in which its blender chewed up everything from marbles to iPhones.
The Blendtec campaign was hugely successful – it attracted millions of views and hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Blendtec influenced many marketers, who began to showcase their products in a fun, offbeat way.
2. Regularly Produce Value-Added Content
The more content you create, the more material you have to attract your prospects.
Readily share useful and engaging content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks. This is a good way to spread the word about your online shop.
3. Promote Your Product’s Lifestyle
You can use content to educate your customers on the kind of lifestyle that fits your product.
Consider Beardbrand, a men’s grooming company. Its YouTube channel features videos about beard styling, eating with a beard, and interviews with beard icons.
Beardbrand began as a YouTube channel before selling beard care and styling products. The channel's educational social network strategy proved so successful that it paved the way to a thriving online business.
Marketing and Social Media are Key
Basic online marketing activities like follow-up emails, discounts, and testimonial gathering can mean an immediate sales boost.
In addition, social networks are the best tools to build customers’ trust and awareness about your online business. Even household brands care about their social media presence and activities.
The bottom line of successful marketing and social media: They guarantee steady traffic to your online store, and therefore a steady profit.
About the Author
Dmitriy Nesterov is a marketing officer at QuartSoft Corp., a web design and development agency that helps start-ups and e-commerce businesses build their professional online presence.