Do you want to grow an e-commerce business? Do you already have one? In my interactions with clients and prospective clients who sell online I have seen the good, bad and the ugly. What I have discovered through analysis and many interactions some common things to build a great e-commerce business. They are:
- Build A Brand – This is first and foremost. Be original and personally own the brand. This can not be delegated or a part time gig. Napoleon Hill in his book, Think and Grow Rich talks about once you have definiteness of purpose and you are using applied faith, people and opportunities will appear.
- Create an Audience – It’s all about marketing. Whether it be through creating a space on the web where people come to on a regular basis for information or resources, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click campaign, social media (Facebook, Twitter etc), email marketing.
- Outsource & Delegate – Most of those businesses that I have seen become truly successful from start up to a growing concern, started or decided along the way to outsource their fulfillment. Ok this can seem like a self serving statement, since that’s what we do, but it’s true. Peter Drucker, talks about stop doing things you can never be great and focus on things you can….marketing your business. By outsourcing to a fulfillment company, you can benefit by cheaper shipping costs leveraging their shipping volume with a carrier, efficiencies in pick and packaging, costs for shipping supplies and inventory control. That’s all they do. For you the business owner, this is another skill set you would have to master and hire additional staff – which becomes a fixed expense versus a variable one. A quote from Peter Drucker states, ”
The first step in structuring a collaboration is to identify your company’s ‘front room,’ which Peter defined as your strengths, or the activity that is most important for you to do—that which stirs your passion and shows off your excellence. Everything else is your backroom, and it can be almost everything. One of Peter’s famous quotes is, ‘the only thing you have to do is marketing and innovation”
- E-commerce website/platform – This is your store front. Making the proper investment here can be your greatest success or your biggest point of failure. User experience and functionality can determine how well you convert viewers into buyers. There are thousands of e-commerce/shopping cart platforms out there. The range in which you can spend can vary greatly. If you are looking to get started but have a low budget or cash-flow is a consideration, choose a platform where you pay for a monthly fee. Top platforms I would recommend in this model: A) Shopify B)Big Commerce C)Volusion. If you are looking for more robust platforms and have $5,000 to $20,000 to spend, you will require the services of an e-commerce web developer who may use open source code such as ASP.net or platforms such as Magento. We can refer you to our partners who have a proven background. Just because someone designs websites, doesn’t mean they understand e-commerce. It’s a totally different animal. A game changer in the next year or two will be mobile commerce. More people will search the web on their smart phone in 1-2 years than on their computer. Creating a mobile commerce shopping cart should be a part of your e-commerce strategy too.
- Keept it Fresh – If you have a following or loyal customer base, updating content and creating new products on a regular basis are vital to growing sales. We’ve seen this time and time again. One of our clients gets a million unique visits the website a day. They do this by adding content every other day. People visit their site on a regular basis. Every time they add a new product, sales spike on a significant level. Last year they introduced a new item and sold 10,000 in a week.
- Multi-Channel – In an effort to build a brand and market it, a multi-channel strategy is the key for the future for businesses according to Forrester Research. A common model for E-commerce centric businesses sell their products online (B2C), to other online market places (B2B), brick mortar retailers, affiliate marketing and social media.
- Finance – It all comes down to money. You’ve heard the saying, ‘It takes money, to make money’. We’ve seen many make bad decisions on how they spend their money investing in their products, marketing or e-commerce platform, only to find out they are cash poor because of this. This results in a lack of resources to grow the business. Cash is king in small businesses and you must be profitable. Having a balanced approach to growing your business and the expectation that things take time. It typically takes 2-3 years of an e-commerce start up to be profitable.