10 Things to Consider When Starting an Online Shop
Designing websites for online merchants is one of the most time consuming aspects of launching or rebranding an online business. The challenge of designing a unique and successful web store is enormous and expensive. But with proper planning the design process can be very enjoyable.
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The needs of website owners are different and so are their requirements but this list of the top 10 things to think about before designing an online shop will always apply to all merchants. All of these elements are subtly connected to each other but if you review them carefully, you’ll be on the right path!
Define Your Goals
Setting clearly defined goals can make your work quite easy. In doing this, it is very important to set a clear goal and different milestones to achieve before starting your project; this will help you stay focused on the final objective. Your goals should help provide answers to questions lie:
- Why are you launching an ecommerce site?
- Is it a revamping of a pre-existing website or are you launching a brand new project?
You could, for example, have a primary objective such as increasing your market share, and a secondary objective, which could be changing your company’s image in the eyes of customers.
Setting goals is the most critical success factor and so we will dwell on this in greater detail. When setting your goals, keep in mind that they have to be specific, Be guided by these principles:
Get clear on the goals you want to prioritize
One of the biggest challenges in any business is that everything needs to be done at the same time. You need to find new clients, keep your existing clients happy, manage your finances, streamline your processes, and motivate your employees—all at the same time.
When it comes to setting your big, overarching company goals for the year, you must know what your top priorities are.
A SWOT analysis is a fantastic way to be crystal clear about what needs to be addressed first. It analyzes your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats(SWOT).
Review these goals with your team
Every successful business owner knows that the people who work for you are your most valuable asset. This is never truer than when you are defining your business goals.
Your team is out there every day, working on your products or talking to clients. They are the people who can tell you what’s working and what’s not, what’s holding your business back, and where you should be focusing your efforts and setting your business goals for the year ahead.
So, once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis and selected what you think should be the top goals for your business, sit down with your employees and get their feedback. They may agree, or they may have useful insights which you haven’t thought of.
Even more importantly, involving your staff in the creation of your business strategy will motivate and inspire them to reach those goals.
As Dale Carnegie put it,
“People support a world they help create.”
By involving your employees in the goal-setting process, you make them feel valued and engaged, while at the same time making sure your goals are realistic and achievable.
Make your goals SMART
After deciding on your goals, now it’s time to develop your goals from the idea stage to the action stage, and create SMART goals. SMART goals are:
- Specific: What exactly are you going to do?
- Measurable: How will you know if you are succeeding?
- Achievable: How will you implement the goal?
- Relevant: Does the goal connect to your overall objectives?
- Timely: When will you achieve the goal by?
Set your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Now that you’ve built your goals with your team and converted them into SMART goals, you need to think about implementing two aspects: measuring your goals and setting timelines.
Remember, as Bill Hewlett put it:
“You cannot manage what you cannot measure…and what gets measured gets done.”
The most common way of measuring whether or not you’re on track to achieve a business goal is to set KPIs.
KPIs (or “key performance indicators”) are numbers you can track that show if you are making progress with your goals or not. They are also great motivators. You’ll already have established the KPIs you need to measure when you’ve ensured your goals are SMART.
To take an example, a KPI would be the number of new clients won from the office building (which means we’d need to make sure we have a way of keeping track of where our clients were coming from). We might also want to consider setting KPIs for how many flyers we hand out, how many calls we received as a result of the flyers, how much each new customer spent, and whether or not they came back.
You will also have different KPIs for the business as a whole, such as overall monthly sales targets, as well as setting individual KPIs for every staff member. It is a good practice to set staff targets as an important way to motivate your staff to meet company goals.
Build good business habits to help reach your goals
For a business owner, as in life, if you want to make something happen, you need to create a schedule and build good habits around it.
If you want to lose weight, you know you need to include exercise on your schedule, plan time to cook healthy meals, and so on. If you want to achieve your business goals, you need to think about them in the same way. The actions that will achieve those KPIs need to be scheduled.
Automate as much as possible. Use a calendar for both you and your staff, and add reminders. Use online to do list software like ToodleDo to organize tasks, set deadlines, and prompt you for repeat actions. Put key goals on your office wall or in the staff meeting room to keep them visible.
And, crucially, regularly review and analyze your progress, and resolve any issues; review if you have the right KPIs in place, and constantly optimize your processes to improve them, if applicable.
It’s a great idea to put regular (possibly quarterly) business plan review meetings on your company calendar, so you can prioritize time to review your goals and milestones regularly, not just once a year. This will help you set specific goals and objectives, both short-term and long-term, and revisit them regularly to make sure your KPIs are on the right track.
This might all sound a little overwhelming, but it’s much less overwhelming than the feeling that you’re drowning in work and are nowhere near to achieving your goals.
By identifying and reviewing your key focus areas, setting SMART goals, defining KPIs to track your company and individual progress, and putting systems in place to make sure you are sticking to the schedule, you’ll put yourself in the best position to make your business shine.
Keep Branding In Mind
Building your brand is critical to reflect your confidence in your business and send the signal that your are real about what you do. Your website needs to visually and structurally reflect who you are as a company, what is your image, and more generally the core values you want to communicate to your customers. This often starts by looking at your logo which is meant to symbolize all of that: a good logo will help define the graphic chart and general aesthetic of your new website. If you’re not satisfied with your logo, you might want to give it a facelift before designing your new website.
Here are some takeaways from an earlier post we published on Ways You Can Build Your Online Trust and Reputation:
1. Monitor your online reputation and presence
Monitoring your brand online helps you find out what your brand image looks like right now. That’s a critical step – if you don’t know what’s working and what’s not, it’s tough work trying to improve anything.
What you monitor depends on where your brand is present. Do people talk about you on social media, on forums, or on review sites and how much do you know about this?
2. Be Consistent in Doing What You Do
This is applicable to services, content development and every aspect of your business that relates with your eternal public. If you roll out a weekly newsletter be sure to produce them weekly. It is better to have them released on a particular day of the week as this help both your visitors and the search engines on what you do.
3. Work with influencers
Influencer marketing has been a marketing trend for a while now.People love to hear from experts and industry influencers who’ve made it. Working with great influencers boosts your online reputation in these three ways:
First, it expands your reach. I haven’t heard of you, but I’ve heard of them.
Second, it gives you credibility. I don’t know you or your brand, but I trust them.
Third, it allows for cross-promotion. I like them, maybe I’ll like you, too.
You shoild have so much to gain from being mentioned by infliencers,
4.. Be Transparent
A big misconception about doing business online is that it isn't personal. But you need to say hello and introduce yourself. Let customers know who you are by building a comprehensive "about us" page. Talk about your business, how you got started and what your business has to offer. Don't forget to include photos as well as your business address and contact information.
5. Social Media
Not only do you need to be online, but you also need to be on social media. However, you don't need to be on every social media platform out there. Instead, develop a social media presence on the platforms your target market likes to spend time on, whether that's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.You can read more on How Your Communication Can Address Negative Customer Issues on Social Media
6. Take Advantage of Testimonials and reviews
Why toot your own horn when you can have satisfied customers do it for you? Displaying customer testimonials is a great way to show potential customers all the other satisfied clients you've had. When possible, display third-party reviews such as those on Yelp or Google. If you find a negative review, turn it into a positive by addressing the complaint in a timely, friendly and professional manner. How you handle negative reviews can go a long way toward preserving a good online reputation.
In addition to showing a list of satisfied customers, provide links to the work you have done. Be sure to include any relevant items such as before/after photos, case studies, customer logos and links to customer sites as references.
8. Trust seals
Online consumers are savvy and want to feel safe when they are shopping. No one wants to enter a credit card number on a sketchy website. Visible trust signals such as BBB, ssl certificate, and malware scan seal on your website are all proven to build trust and increase conversions.
9. Keep Your Website Secure
A security breach leading to a hack can be one of the most damaging to your reputation. Customers and visitors want to feel secured when theyy visit your website and so you must avoid any security breaches.
10. Avoid the Google Penalties
Building a good reputation for your website and maintaining that reputation will mean you avoid the penalties from Google and any other website assessment platform. Google penalties are usually related to SEO. You will need to maintain a healthy website in terms of your SEO practices to be relevant and not penalized by Google.
Think About Your Products
Each industry is different and that means you need to communicate and display your products in a certain way. This involves taing a decision on what to sell and how it should be sold. All products have specific attributes that need to be treated accordingly: color, size, accessories, technology, etc. Among many other things, this reflection will help you determine decisions such as whether your product pages need to be as simple as possible or thoroughly detailed because of the very nature of the product.
Key Considerations in Selling Online Products
1. Decide what you want to sell.
This is certainly an obvious decision to take, but many people get so excited about the idea of selling products online that they start with a product that never had a chance. If you start with a product you believe in, you’ll be able to focus your next steps around that product. Need some ideas? Take a look at our enormous list of 15 Online Business Ideas to Consider you can start today
2. Get a handle on your product, market, and pricing.
As you do your research, answer these fundamental questions:
- Commoditized or niche products? Commoditized are the most popular products, the things that most people buy online. Niche products serve a specific group, or niche. Niche vendors often sell products personalized for that special group.
- Are you already an expert in a niche? If you are already part of the in-crowd of an existing market niche you’ll be one step ahead of your competitors. Nothing turns a niche buyer off faster than inauthentic marketing.
- Is there a problem you want to solve? Maybe you like to dance, but can’t find the perfect heels for a night out? You love to cook with ginger, but the right peeler has evaded you. Start with the problems you and your friends encounter every day and look for your product there.
- What are your fantasies and indulgences? Do you crave gourmet ice cream or follow celebrities on social media? Your secret indulgences might be the perfect inspiration for your product.
- What do you buy online? Your opinions and experiences are your core. Your most successful ventures should be in line with who you are and how you like to get things done. Keep a pen and paper beside you as you shop online and make notes on what you do and don’t buy online and why. Take note of your experience as you shop too, and what you respond to online.
Now, sell and promote your products. Once you know what you want to sell online, you’ll get to dig into the fun part: building your site, talking to your audience, and selling your products.
3. Stay simple.
When processes get complicated, they become less effective. As you build your sales process, website, and marketing strategy, step back regularly. Ask yourself:
- Do any of your processes feel too complicated?
- Is there a step you can remove, or is there a tool that can help you automate that step?
- Why did you create that step in the first place?
- Does your hosted website offer the flexibility to make adjustments as your business changes?
Repeat this evaluation every 3-6 months. When you are learning how to sell products online, it is easy to add little steps to your processes as you learn about your customers, business partners, and tech workarounds. Constant evaluation will ensure that your processes are effective.
4. Lay out clear and measurable goals and connect those goals to every step of your plan.
Create goals inspired by, but not directly connected to, your sales goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time- bound. These goals might include:
- The number of industry partners that you connect to
- The number of clicks for your social media campaigns, or
- An improvement over time in the rate of online shopping cart abandonment.
Use a spreadsheet to outline your goals and consistently track your results. It can take a long time to see financial results, but if you measure your success by more than earnings you’ll have evidence of the progress you are making.
5. Try new ideas as you grow.
It can be easy to get in a rut and stick with what works the first time around. The ability to surprise and delight customers is the basis of the most successful products and marketing. Experiment with different processes and ideas to ensure that you’re building habits that will produce optimal results.
6. Use the knowledge of the experts around you.
Think about this from both an internal and external perspective and consider which conversations will be helpful from start to finish. Do you know someone who already sells online that you can talk to? You may have someone who has experience with how to sell products online. Their experience can help you as you develop your battle plan and figure out how to sell products online.
Do you have a marketing guru or a pal in HR? Do you know lawyers, CPAs, or manufacturers? They may not be experts in your specific niche, but their knowledge is priceless. It is a great idea to sit down and address specific questions in an interview format, but the real tricks of the trade can take a bit more time to understand and put in place. Host a happy hour or afternoon barbecue with these friends and see what you can learn from informal conversations about these new areas of expertise.
After you’ve started selling online, there are also some important internal considerations that can help grow your business.
- Do you have a staff who is helping you?
- How do you keep them motivated?
- If your vendor delivers good products on time, how do you show your appreciation?
People are 16 times more likely to read a post by your employees than from your company directly, so your employees and partners in your business are some of the best resources you have for marketing your business. How will you leverage their support and enthusiasm?
7. Celebrate small victories.
It can be easy to focus on a big goal, but you can enjoy every day selling products online if you celebrate the little benchmarks. Find ways to celebrate every step as you complete it. Create rituals to honor the ups and downs of every week. Build in time to look back and say “Wow, look what I did!”
4. Targeting Your Audience
What defines your target market? The interface of your ecommerce store needs to be adapted to your customers, hence the paramount importance of understanding who they are, how they behave when searching & purchasing products, and if there are patterns in their behavior. Understanding your marketing demographic will also give you hints on what type of user experience you should deliver on your website, and how innovative you can be based on the ability of users to take ownership over the interface you will offer them.
5. Rise Above The Competition
One of the first things to do naturally is analyzing your competition: who are your competitors and how are they running their ecommerce sites? There are very often a lot of things to learn in order to implement successful practices. However, the difficulty when looking at your competition is not replicating what they are doing but rather finding what they are “not” doing right (or at all), and that you think you could implement on your own site in order to differentiate yourself from rivals.
6. Setting A Budget
Launching a professional ecommerce site is not a trivial thing to do: you are about to invest in your primary business tool, literally the “machine” that allows you to run your company. An ecommerce website plays the role of an expert, a salesman, a cashier (etc.), through a single interface; it is crucial to set aside a budget that will give you the means to acquire the efficient tool you need.
7. List Feature Requirements
Make the right technical choices based on all the elements above: objective, product, audience, etc. This concerns needs for specific pages, modules, hosting, email subscriptions, blog, etc. You also need to think about aspects connected to your site such as emailing solutions, social media and content strategy.
8. Develop a Plan
Write a plan containing a detailed description of the project including all the above elements. Creating this document will not only help you in your thought process, but it also will generate a document of reference to which you can go back to every time you’ll need during the project’s duration. This will allow you to take a step back, identify potential weaknesses, and find solutions to eliminate them. Last but not least, having such a document will set a solid basis if you decide to work with a professional web designer to start the project in ideal conditions.
9. Consider An Expert
Now that you’ve taken all of the above into account, you can determine if you could satisfy all of your needs using a pre-designed ecommerce template or if you should work with a professional.
If you decide to work with an expert, select a skilled professional from whom you appreciate past work references and that you feel comfortable working with. You need to pick the right partner for this project: someone who will be able to suggest adapted solutions based on the above elements. Designing a fully customized ecommerce website is not easy and such a project requires a lot of communication between you and your partner, so choose wisely and select someone you can trust.
10. Design Specifications
The design of your website needs to take all aspects of your project and its different parameters (functionalities, graphic chart, rebranding, etc.) into account. Make sure the design process answers all specifications and delivers a website that will be able to achieve your initial goal.
There may be difficulties along the way you need to avoid. Among them might be the sentimental approach you have towards your project: this is your project, your “baby,” but it needs to be more functional and efficient than it needs to subjectively please you. Also, this is why choosing the right partner is so important as a seasoned professional will be able to advise accordingly to ultimately deliver not what you might ephemerally want, but what you not only like, but truly need.