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14 Ways to maximise the opportunities being presented by the growth of e-commerce

by Tim Rimington | January 16, 2012

Last week we were contacted by the journalist, Keeta Nova who was researching an article for the Fairfax publication, Money, via The Sydney Morning Herald about the opportunities being presented by the growth of online shopping and e-commerce.

The article, which appeared in last Saturday’s edition of Money and the SMH website, discussed the benefits of online retailing as well as the many challenges faced by small start up businesses.

During the phone interview we discussed many aspects of ecommerce, but with obvious constraints to the article’s size, not everything we discussed made it into the published article. The purpose of this blog is to elaborate on the topic.

The first point pertains to planning and budget. A great idea typically forms the drive and motivation to commit funds to starting your first online venture. Unfortunately I often see that vision get in the way of facts and commercial reality. Often, someone starting out will begin research by keying in to Google “website builders” or the like, and quickly find no shortage of companies offering $500 websites. But as I wrote in an article illustrating the true cost of building websites, you won’t get much bang for your buck for that price point.

The second point is branding. Learn the differences between brand and branding, and how important that is to your business. If you’re starting new, set aside budget to engage a brand development company and sit down with them for a chat. But do not jump in with guns blazing and instruct your web developer to use yellow as your base colour because you’re in love with the colour yellow (it happens!).

The final point I wanted to make in that article was approaching your new online venture with all the facts before signing any cheques. So here’s a quick breakdown of what lies ahead when building a commercial-grade e-commerce website for the first time:

  1. Research: know your market (sounds obvious but some people jump in blind, with little idea as to who they’re actually marketing to)
  2. Learn about the daily, weekly and monthly requirements necessary to maintain a successful online store. Yes, you will likely “receive orders while you sleep”, but managing a successful online store requires a lot of input.
  3. Invest a good chunk of your time in preparing your products: copy writing with an SEO-slant, product photography, etc.
  4. Which payment methods work best? Which banks offer the most appropriate payment gateway for your initial business?
  5. Multiple currencies or Australian dollar transactions only, and why?
  6. Shipping charges: learn what your market expects; will you need to absorb shipping into your margins?
  7. SEO: learn about it and how it needs to be applied if you expect to attract customers from search engines such as Google. “Build it and they shall come” rarely applies in the online world.
  8. SEO warning: Do not blindly sign up for SEO campaigns. Learn how to do it yourself before deciding whether you are prepared to invest the time yourself or if paying someone to do the work for you is more cost effective.
  9. Set a realistic advertising budget (SEO, PPC, Print, etc.). A well-managed Google AdWords campaign may be beneficial in the initial 6 months of the store launch. Like SEO, learn how to maintain a PPC campaign before paying someone to do it for you.
  10. Are Facebook and Twitter appropriate and if so, how well do you understand what’s required from both, and how many hours are required to maintain a presence?
  11. Learn to blog and understand its importance to your site’s success
  12. Develop a refunds and returns policy, and learn how it affects consumer laws
  13. Online customer service: develop a flow chart of purchase, payment, shipping and after sales communications. How will you personalise this?
  14. Devise a marketing strategy that extends beyond the initial store launch. Have strategies in place and set budgets to implement them effectively.

But above all, don’t be discouraged! If you’re approaching your first online venture with just a modest budget, rest easy knowing that you have a firm business plan in place. As long as you tick all the necessary business-planning boxes, you’re in with fighting chance and more likely to succeed in reaching your goals rather than falling flat on your face.

Typically, SiteSuite doesn’t charge for consulting so feel free to drop us a line and we’ll walk you through the areas that need the most attention. As we like to say, “We look forward to helping you succeed online”!

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