Starting your own E-Commerce Venture – The Things You Need to Keep in Mind
As internet penetration rises, businesses can no longer afford to just make a catalog web page and expect customers to flock to them. Developed countries are already experiencing exponential growth in online sales with a corresponding slowdown in offline sales – and the situation is not too different in a developing nation either. However you would not want another dot com bubble to hit and hence a careful planning prior to such a venture is necessary. Here we look at the certain steps in going forward with it.
The Business Plan
Yes, having a proper business plan for your ecommerce website is a great first step before everything else. Try to define your own niche and target customers and avoid extreme competition when starting off. Defer horizontal expansion to later stages. Having a plan makes your vision clear and removes any ambiguity regarding future plans and clearly puts the objectives in front of you i.e. it helps you see the “bigger picture”. Further in case you want to go for venture funding or present your business to prospective partners, having a formal business plan shows your competence and how focused you are.
Online Market Analysis
Before you start making your business plan however, a proper research on market is required to identify your key USPs and customers. Since we are considering ecommerce, we are talking about online targets.
- Use keyword tools to find what people exactly search for online.
- Consider what the searcher’s goal is and hence try to identify what exactly they are looking for.
- Specific searches signify a buying intent whereas general searches tend to be more for browsing purpose alone.
- Accordingly create your niche to start with, avoiding too stiff competition and ready recognition.
Building the Website
Thus, we arrive at the most important task – actually building a functional website. The ingredients you would require are website builder tools and personnel, hosting provider or self-hosting, merchant license and a payment gateway. Often many domain and hosting providers offer free website building tools bundled which can be of great help, otherwise, you may go for professional tools. Note that, many tools are completely free to setup and use and can reduce your investment.
After you create it, you may need to host it somewhere so that it is accessible on the internet, this is where hosting providers come in – they provide servers where your website will be hosted and provide you with domain names which you can choose if available, for periodic charges. Be sure to check and compare before committing into it.
For monetary transactions, you would require merchant license after which you can directly receive card (debit/credit) from your customers and making the process hassle-free. This might vary from country to country, so contact the appropriate authority for details regarding such license. Payment Gateway facilitates the transfer of information between your website and the bank. These services also provide means of authentication of card details and encryption of the required credentials.
There are also dedicated Ecommerce site building solutions with payment gateways like Magento that provides these tools for a minimal charge. You can entirely outsource this part to an experienced Magento development company or who can provide completer e-commerce solution provider.
Marketing and Supply
As retailers will tell you, where you setup your shop matters equally as much as what you sell. Same is the case with online sites. Only, the location in this case is how much down from the top does your website feature when your prospective customers search for it. If it is new and not popular, it will be languishing in the nth page, which nobody visits, and thus your website remains unknown. This is where SEO comes in. SEO or Search Engine Optimization signifies techniques whereby you increase your site rankings to search engines so that your website features in the first page of the appropriate search result. The preferred route would be to hire a proper SEO company with experience and integrate it with your site-building task for the best performance. Brand Management is equally important. If you can create a brand value, your customers will instantly recognize you and will stay loyal. It is not just about the tagline and a unique eye-catching logo, but also your presence in social media, which lets people ,know about your products and services on offer.
How you intend to deliver your product to customers is equally important. This is where supply chain management comes in. Having business logistics and supply chain information tells you about what to produce and how much to sell. There are numerous softwares available for such purposes i.e. VISCO, Inventory Pro, etc. You can also hire a consultancy to provide you with a custom solution if need be. Inventory control is another area where things can go wrong both ways – either an excess in production or a deficit. While the former will increasing your inventory carrying costs until sold, the latter may hurt you more as customers will be frustrated due to the non-availability of the required product.
While creating an ecommerce website may have become trivial due to integrated tools being provided, the real stuff lies in the details. Evaluate how good a web experience you are providing. Are you keeping with current trends? That is, smartphones and apps are a rage these days; does your ecommerce website allow people on smartphone purchase products? Being up-to-date helps you stay relevant in a volatile market of online business and the kind of experience you provide will dictate how successful your ecommerce venture is.