The 5 Steps Before You Build an Online Store

Ecommerce Our Blog

Ecommerce For Your BusinessSo you want to start an online store!  That is great.  The online store eliminates rent to pay on a storefront as well as reach millions of customers from really the comfort of your own home if you want too.  To begin with you will need a great product, concept to fulfill a need in a specific market, a user-friendly website, and a rock solid marketing plan. Read on to learn how to get started.

Decide what you want to sell. This is the beginning but you probably already have an idea for a great product or a series of products to sell. You need to keep in mind that certain things are conducive to selling online. No matter what, you should believe passionately in the value of your product, services, download, etc. – otherwise, it will be hard to connect with customers. Here are some questions to consider:

Is it a physical product that needs to be shipped, or is it a digital product that can be sent or downloaded through the Internet?
Are you going to have to stock inventory (more than one) of each product, or will they be one-of-a-kind (e.g. artwork, vintage items)?
Are you creating the product yourself? Make plans that you are able to keep up with demand. Make sure you have a reliable supplier.
Are you going to want to sell a wide variety of products, or do you plan to specialize, like selling just t-shirts or books?
If you don’t plan to make the product yourself, you’ll need a good manufacturer. Research different companies to find the one that is ideally local and works for your business idea.
Decide how your product(s) will be shipped. Shipping can be a hassle so be sure and create a plan to ship the product from your home efficiently, or work out a storage and shipping plan with a warehouse. Ideally sell a product you can drop-ship, especially if the product is being manufactured by a third party.

Find a niche. Knowing what product you want to sell is only part of creating a successful online store. You’ll need to figure out what differentiates your services from all the other similar products/services people can choose, both in person or online. Why should a customer buy your hand-knit sweaters when they have 100 other online shops to choose from?
Size up the competition. Don’t just jump into selling a certain product line until you’ve looked at the websites you’ll be competing with. Consider the main online marketplaces you plan to advertise your products; and check out the competition within those portals.
Offer something truly original. Try to strike a balance between something that is highly original and also has general appeal.
Offer expertise. Perhaps the quality that sets your company apart from the rest will be your expertise on the type of product you are selling. Maybe you’re a former baseball pro selling a line of baseball gloves, for example. Make your passion and expert knowledge part of the package.
Offer a user-friendly purchasing process. Even if your product is very similar to other things for sale online, you can set your store apart by making the shopping experience fun and easy. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and fun to share. Be responsive and provide great customer service where others don’t.

Test the waters by selling your items on a small scale. In the real world, it’d be wise to try selling your products through other, low-commitment avenues (consignment, flea markets, etc.) before taking the plunge and starting an entire store. The same is true for selling online. Try selling your items individually on eBay, Craigslist, and the like. Here’s what you’ll want to look for:
Who is buying your product? Offer a discount coupon or free gift if they answer a brief survey. Find out where else they shop online.
How much are they willing to pay? Experiment with different prices.
How is customer satisfaction? This is a good time to test how well you can get your product to the customer. Are you using good packaging? Is the shipping method reliable? Are they happy with their product? Did you describe it well?

Complete a Business Plan. Before you start the process of opening your online store, take the time to draw up a detailed business plan, even if you are not planning on getting outside funding from investors. It will help you plan the steps you’ll need to take to make your business becomes successful. Be sure and figure out your cost of operations and map out a detailed marketing strategy. You’ll want to take these factors into account:

  • Production costs, whether you’re creating your product yourself or contracting with a manufacturer.
  • Shipping costs.
  • Taxes.
  • Employee wages, if applicable.
  • Fees for reserving your domain name and web hosting service.

Register your business according to your state’s laws. When you’re ready to make things official, you’ll need to come up with a business name and fill out the necessary legal and tax paperwork to register your business.

Ecommerce 101

Ecommerce Our Blog

Ecommerce For Your BusinessWe are beginning a new series on how to build an effective ecommerce presence online.  We will cover everything over the next 12 weeks from how to get started, the right software to use, payment gateways, marketing your site as well as some of the pitfalls you may encounter.  

We will be sharing our experiences from the last 10+ years and over a hundred stores we have built from the ground up to migrating to a new platform.  By the end of this series you will have the information, tools and resources you will need to succeed.

Our format is such we will provide you with 12 blog articles, 12 videos and an ecommerce whitepaper you can use.  As always feel free to contact us with any of your questions as we share in the weeks ahead.

Be sure and share with us as well any of your comments and/or suggestions we need to make this better.  Just to plant a seed and to tease you just a little bit we will be doing our next 12 week series on Corporate Branding.  You will not want to miss any of our Cornerstone TV learning series.  Click here for the next article in the series.

Our Po!nt: We have been asked for years many questions about what it takes to start an online store so we decided to give away what we know for free.  Enjoy!!

Do Video and E-Commerce Go Together?

Ecommerce Video Marketing

Ecommerce VideoYou bet it does!  It is one of the hottest trends in online stores to date.  This is a great way for merchants to bridge the gap between on- and offline shopping by simply offering videos on product pages. Video enables consumers to see how products look when being used in real-life, reducing a customer’s hesitation to make a purchase as well as reduce return rates. In addition, video content ranks higher in the search engines and,since videos are highly sharable, this type of content can also help brands increase their overall audience reach across the Web.  I wanted to share with you a blog article written by Allison Howen on “Pusing Play On Ecommerce Video” that offers some great things to consider for using video on your online store!  Enjoy.

Should Your Business Participate in Ecommerce?

Ecommerce Our Blog

Ecommerce For Your Business This article is the beginning of a 12 part series on Ecommerce 101 in the coming weeks. We will be talking about a wide variety of topics related to answering the question as to why your business should do ecommerce.  Most, if not all, of the blog articles will be followed by a video as well as a downloadable whitepaper on the subject of Ecommerce as a Primer. as you read and watch be sure to take notes as well as comment on the information, like us and even tell-a-friend.

So does it make sense to start and online store?  Really?  In today’s economy? Have you considered that starting an online store could just be like owning my bass boat – one big hole to pour money!  As they say the best 2 days in a boat owners life is when he buys the boat and when he sells it.

All kidding aside with today’s reduced barriers to entry, access to variety of quality products and all of the resources it takes to succeed, does make sense to start an online store as part of your bricks-and-mortar store or as a free standing store front online?  The following stats confirm that it does make sense.

Some Of The Stats
– 78% of shoppers use the Internet to purchase and to research products.
– #1 reason people shop online is to save time!
– Amazon sells more that its closest 12 competitors combined!
– Over 50% of branded manufactures said their online sales increased since launching retail-integrated Ecommerce and 10% saw online sales double.
– 73% of branded manufactures say retail-integrated Ecommerce has increased their overall sales (online and in-store combined) since launch, with 15% reporting it has increased sales by more than 10%
– 33% of branded manufactures using retail-integrated Ecommerce saw retail and online sales increase by 10% or more since 2012.
– 51% of retailers who who fulfill online orders by brand manufactures for them increased spend on their brand since they launched the service.
– 75% of branded manufactures report that their dealers express happiness with their retail-integrated Ecommerce Program.

Ok!  Now you are getting excited and you are ready to jump in with both feet but before you do you need to consider some real world realities.  The biggest one is have you done your research?

– Have you taken the time to identify your real and possible competitors?
– What does the audience you are selling to look like?
– Do you have your ideal customer clearly defined?
– Do you know where they like to play on the Internet so you can entice them to come and play in your field?

At this point you should have a complete and detailed folder on all of this and more just like the FBI would do if they were going to do a full workup on you and their business for their files. Armed with this information you are beginning to spot buying trends, needs, wants and more of your targeted market place.  You can never have enough information!

The next thing you need to formulate is a strategy on how you are going to meet those needs in combination with your retail bricks-and-mortar store or stand alone online store.  Once you define your companies unique value proposition, what makes you different, you will have a clear picture of what gives you a competitive advantage.  As a business you have to decide to do ecommerce based on a tried and true business principle of SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) in order to survive.  Answer the the following questions is part of that process:

– What are our strengths going to be with our online store?- What sort of weaknesses do we have from operations, management, financial, market, product mix, experience, etc.?
– What sort of opportunities can we create better than the competition to sell more and sell often?
– What sort of threats do we see that will effect our business from competition, budgets, marketing and other sources?

All of this should get your juices flowing as you look to the Web to grow and expand your company sales online.  Ok! You have decide to jump off the cliff and do it!  You are going to build that online presence so what next? Click now to learn how to start building an amazing online presence.

As always we welcome your input and suggestions.  Also we would like to hear about your successes, nightmares and stories of starting a business online.