Expanding your business from a traditional storefront model to an online store? With some careful planning, you can apply your retail experience to the web. The key is to be able to adapt to the online world.
Adapting means starting with some online business basics.
1. Prepare with a solid business plan
As with your offline business ventures, your online store needs a solid foundation. Your business plan must begin with your funding obligations. You won’t need a physical storefront, but you will need to purchase applicable webhosting, web design services, and appropriate software.
Next, you’ll need to check out the competition. What can you offer that they don’t? Can you exceed their customer services with free shipping or 24/7 assistance? What about bulk pricing or deeper discounts?
2. Identify your marketing strategy
Your first challenge is to identify your target audience. Who are they, and how can you best serve their needs? What exactly do they want from you?
Take a look at how your competitors reach the market. Are they taking full advantage of social media such as Facebook or Twitter? Your key to success is to improve on their strategies and to develop even better plans of your own.
Your strategy must include a specific advertising plan. You can invest in pay per view or display ads. While these campaigns can provide instant results, they are also expensive. Consider your alternatives. The web is full of advertising platforms. Find the plan that is effective yet cost effective for your budget.
3. Take advantage of the best technologies
The online shopper demands speed, ease of use, and security. Take any of these out of the equation and you’re at risk of losing your customers.
Speed means utilization of an online shopping cart system that loads quickly and is easy to understand. And speaking of easy, make certain that your website is easy to follow and simple to navigate. To confuse your customer is to lose your customer.
Finally, you must provide security. Online shoppers are by nature somewhat apprehensive. You cannot expect them to provide you with their credit card information without a recognizably secure payment processing system. Choose carefully.
4. Be patient
Rarely does an online store provide instant gratification. Put up a storefront, and you can expect customers immediately. It’s not quite this easy on the web. Developing customers, or online traffic, takes time. Give your store some time to mature by utilizing the best possible advertising techniques and other traffic building ventures. In fact, you should account for this period in your overall budget. Set aside enough funding to carry you through until you are profitable.
Kirsty LaVier is editor for Shopping Cart Reviews, the leading shopping cart software information website.