Starting an online business can seem a daunting task, but in reality, it’s never been easier. There are some excellent tools out there that skip the coding aspect, and plenty more integrations for problematic areas like payment gateways.
The problem is that so few budding entrepreneurs know just how easy it is. Therefore, we’ll give you a peek behind the curtain to see the secrets behind all successful online stores. With a combination of solid business tools and know-how, you can even get started from your bedroom.
They say the best authors write about what they know, and the same applies when starting an online retail business. What we’re saying is: if you’re a specialist designer, it’s unlikely that a business selling complex car components is the natural choice. Work within an industry you’re passionate about as it will pay back dividends when times get tough and you need a bit of inspiration.
One of the most obvious tasks when considering how to start an online retail business is market research. Now you’ve got an industry you love, start learning all about it. Blogs and video series both give an in-depth understanding of how each industry works. They reveal your customer demographics, common pain points, and what’s already out there to solve issues.
Once you’ve got a broad picture, the next steps in starting an online retail business involve doing a deep dive on your competitors. Read up on their success stories, identify their unique selling points and give them a mystery shopper call to weigh up their customer service. With detailed competitor research, you’ll gradually start spotting gaps in the market that your business can capitalize on.
Intrinsically linked to your market research is finding out what your customers are lacking, and what they need. The success of any business is ultimately down to how well a company responds to their customers’ pain points, so when considering how to start an online retail business, detailed research is simply essential.
Your customer needs will inform not only the products that you sell, but also the content you produce for your website and social media. By discovering the hot questions and coming up with answers to them, you can create relevant content that builds trust with both new and existing leads.
One of the most common techniques to address customer needs is to create buyer personas for each of your demographics. Do your research and include details such as age, gender, interests, behavior, and more. With this information, you can build an online retail business that will attract the right audience. Every step forward you make, you can ask what your buyer personas would think about it, and tweak your approach as necessary.
When you’re wondering how to start an online retail business, it’s easy to forget the importance of the product itself. Your customers will quickly sniff out a low-quality product and probably tell everyone in earshot about their experience. Therefore, keeping a keen eye on your product development is paramount.
Now you know the state of your industry and what your customers want, it’s time to settle on the specifics. Points to consider when choosing a product to sell include:
Is there an active demand?
Is there a niche in the market that you can fill?
How much are customers willing to pay?
Can you source materials and sell at a profit?
To take things further, consider variants, such as color, sizes, and quality, and populate your inventory with all available options. Your buyer personas may be able to inform your decisions here. Do they want top-quality materials, or are they happy with something cheap and cheerful?
Now you’ve got your product ideas and you know who you’re selling to, the next step in how to start an online retail business is to arrange the logistics. Late deliveries or an excess of stock can be catastrophic to online businesses, so getting your suppliers right is essential.
It’s highly unlikely that when you build an online retail business, you’ll be able to cover every step of the production and selling. Therefore, when you speak to suppliers, you need to arrange costs and timings before launching your store. Without a firm process in place, your business plan will suffer, meaning investment is unlikely.
Many ecommerce sites are in the fortunate position of being able to sell directly from the factory. This lowers expenses such as storage and handling. If not, you’ll have to organize different stages of the supply chain to guarantee your service level agreements.
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One of the key steps to starting an online retail business is to create your identity through branding.
But why is a brand so important?
A brand is your calling card. It’s something that assures a level of quality and is the personality of your company that speaks to your customers. No guide to starting an online retail business is complete without branding, and it is so important that well-funded startups often hire branding experts to point them in the right direction.
However, experts are often over budget for small businesses, so spend time with your team to create text and visual assets including:
A brand name
Your vision and mission
Your brand story
Your go-to color schemes and fonts
An often forgotten tip on how to start an online retail business is to check the availability of your name. Before selecting a domain name and social media handles, make sure they have not already been taken by another business. Similarly, think about how your markets will view the name. Can you pronounce it easily? Does it mean something offensive in another language?
Your business plan should also include the long-term plan. Will your company be sustainable, or is it likely to be a one-time craze that disappears after a few months? Subscription services are a good sign of sustainable business plans as they sell items that need to be renewed frequently.
A plan for how to start an online retail business should include:
Your organization and management
How the company is financed
Your market analysis
Long and short-term KPIs and projections
Although business plans are often used to request investment, it is well worth creating one even if your funding is already secured. It serves as a roadmap to measure success against and is ultimately your own guide to starting an online retail business.
Your website is your shop front, so when thinking about how to start an online retail business, you can’t leave it on the back burner.
Start your journey with a website builder that lets you customize your site to reflect your brand. Think about your products and set the structure of your site. Start with your overall headers which should outline your product categories, before narrowing down to specific items. Most site builders allow you to set your own domain name too, which is an important step in appearing professional.
Your ecommerce site won’t work without a payment feature, and this can be seriously daunting if you’re not an expert. But help is at hand! The best website builders will allow you to integrate a payment system that suits you. The ideal payment method varies from country to country, and with a bit of research, you’ll quickly find the most suitable for your site. As long as your payment system is recognizable, efficient, and secure, you’re on to a winner.
Among the most time-consuming steps to starting an online retail business is creating authoritative content. While it’s not directly involved in the sales process, great video and written content serves as a pathway from social media or search engines to your website. By creating instructional guides and providing industry-relevant information, you build authority in your area which leads to customers trusting you. Remember to optimize your content for SEO so you appear high in the search engine rankings for your keywords.
There’s no point in learning how to start an online retail business if nobody finds out who you are. Marketing is a crucial part of launching your business, and requires a great deal of planning.
With your previous research into your product, you’ll know all the best features about it, which seriously helps when it comes to writing killer copy. Compare your product or the service that goes with it against your competitors and you’ll soon find the main selling points you want to drive home. Next, combine your copy with some eye-catching imagery and get the look and feel for your brand.
Then comes the task of getting your message out there. When starting a business, it’s unlikely you’ve got a massive database of contacts, but marketing an online retail business has become so much easier with social media — a free tool where you can reach millions. Get those hashtags right and post regularly and you might just find your follower count starts spiking.
Once you’ve got their attention, send them to your snazzy landing pages. Even if you don’t make a sale immediately, you can customize forms to collect their data and build a mailing list in your customer relationship manager. Whether it’s monthly newsletters or spontaneous offers, email marketing is a sure-fire way of waking up dormant leads and enticing them in with offers and promotions.
Analytics aren’t just for the major multinationals. When considering how to start an online retail business, start using analytics from the outset. You don’t want to find yourself a year down the line wishing you had records of your first steps. Therefore, integrate all areas of your business with analytics tools and let the algorithms do the work while you concentrate on creative tasks.
You can spot trends such as the best times for sales and make predictions about the future. Similarly, CRM analytics give you valuable insights into your customer base. With the best tools, you can pull out real-time reports with the click of the button. This saves you a whole heap of time to invest in other areas, while getting reliable facts and figures on your performance.
With your reports, you can track progress over time and identify your strengths and weaknesses. All of this data can then be compiled to help you adjust your approach and improve your performance.
But before you think about how to start an online retail business, it’s important to have the right tools in place. Luckily, you can equip yourself with all the apps you need for an online business on one handy platform.
Bitrix24 already makes the background work a breeze for over 10,000,000 organizations. It comes with a website builder, CRM, marketing tools, analytics, and everything else you need to run your store.
So instead of juggling a whole host of different apps and awkwardly integrating them, sign up for a free trial with Bitrix24 and discover how to build an online retail business the easy way.