Creating an e-commerce store can provide new business owners with the opportunity to avoid the added expense needed to acquire and maintain a physical environment as well as providing existing business owners the means to increase revenue by selling their products online. While there are only a few steps involved in the creation of an online store or retail business, failing to properly plan ahead can lead to many costly mistakes. The following outline details the main steps needed to start an e-commerce store and begin generating revenue through online sales.
Creating a Business Plan
Unlike other opportunities to earn revenue online, starting an e-commerce store requires the creation of a detailed business plan, one that will provide comprehensive information regarding expenses and time frames. While less effort may be needed to start a blog or begin working as a freelance professional, selling products to customers directly often provides a more lucrative opportunity. Creating a detailed business plan or outline is the first step in the process, one that no current and prospective business owner can afford to overlook.
In order to be effective, business plans must outline all financial and logistical issues pertaining to operation. Overlooking the expenses needed to create and maintain a website, ensure a successful marketing and advertising campaign or handle the logistics of building inventory can be nothing short of a disaster. In order to be as effective as possible, business plans need to be both detailed and flexible. Overlooking the importance of flexibility is a common mistake when starting an e-commerce store, one that leaves countless new businesses unable to deal with any unexpected developments or unforeseen problems that may be encountered along the way.
Having enough inventory to meet demand can be a challenging issue for new businesses that have no way to approximate future sale’s volume. Maintaining a minimal inventory or only creating products once orders have been placed can help to keep overhead costs low, but it may result in lengthy order delays and decreased customer satisfaction. Creating too much initial inventory can also create problems by depriving businesses of the operational funds and financial resources that may be needed to deal with other issues. When it comes to building initial inventory, striking the right balance is of paramount importance.
Inventory levels are often heavily dependent on the funds available. Existing businesses and new startups that have plenty of working capital would be wise to maintain the higher levels of inventory needed to meet even the most liberal sales projections without risking delays or other issues. Minimal inventory levels may be more difficult to avoid when starting an e-commerce store with only limited funds. As a general rule of thumb, having enough inventory to make it through the first month or fiscal quarter is always a good idea as future adjustments can be made based on initial sales figures.
Selecting a Domain Name and Creating a Site
A website serves as the public face of a company, and is often the single most essential asset for businesses that operate solely online. Selecting a domain name that will allow potential customers to more easily recognize or find your business is never a matter that should be left to chance. Paying a little extra for hosting services that will be more reliable or to obtain the right domain name can often be well worth it. Domains function as virtual real estate for online businesses, and those who overlook their importance can find themselves faced with significant disadvantages.
Sites that are poorly designed, lack an easy-to-navigate layout or that cannot be easily accessed from a mobile device may be little more than a liability. Professionally designed sites that feature a more attractive layout, the right features and the mobile site optimization needed to ensure that all visitors are able to enjoy the best browsing experience possible can play a critical role in ensuring new ventures are able to enjoy greater success. Making due with a site that looks less than professional can lead to decreased revenue, lost sales and an inability to attract and acquire new customers in greater numbers.
Payment Processing Solutions
Businesses that are unable to offer payment processing that is both secure and convenient rarely last long. Potential customers who are provided with payment services and options that do not provide the highest possible standard of security are more than likely to take their business elsewhere, and those that are forced to deal with a lengthy and inconvenient checkout process are far less likely to make future purchases. Even the most promising e-commerce stores and online businesses can quickly go under due to issues with payment processing.
Advertising and Marketing
Investing in the best designed website may be little more than wasted expense for those who are unable to generate enough inbound traffic. Advertising and marketing services and techniques play a vital role in ensuring that new companies and ventures are able to attract the attention of potential customers with greater ease and success. Resources like search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per click (PPC) marketing methods can provide new online retailers with the means to attract and acquire the new customers they need to improve both initial and long-term sales revenue.
While SEO services and efforts to start a blog or capitalize on social media in order to generate more word-of-mouth advertising may prove to be absolutely essential, they often lack the short-term results needed to ensure a successful site launch. While PPC marketing may entail higher cost for more near-term results, it can be a very effective tool for generating inbound site traffic quickly. Making a bigger splash when launching an online business can have tremendous long-term benefits and investing in PPC marketing and other short-term advertising opportunities is often one of the best ways to start an e-commerce store.
Launching the Site
Even the most meticulous planning and preparation efforts are not always enough to avoid every problem. Assessing and fine tuning the site and operational process before, during and after its launch can ensure that minor issues do not create larger problems. Providing customers with numerous ways to contact a business ensures that valuable feedback can be more easily received. A common mistake for many e-commerce stores and online businesses is to assume a successful launch rules out any short-term issues and complications that may develop.