Current business statistics indicate that e-commerce is exploding! This would mean immense growth opportunities for startups in general , particularly in the online space.
The success of e-commerce and internet sales would also explain why some major retail giants like Macy’s and K-mart are choosing to shut down their physical stores countrywide and instead focusing on optimizing sales through their e-stores and online business.
For these retailers who have been around for years, managing their online business is not as daunting as a newbie entrepreneur and startups looking to kick start their business online. While certainly challenging, launching and managing a successful online business and e-stores is not impossible. In fact, business forecasts indicate that now is the best time for startups to establish themselves online.
Find a ‘Need’ and fill it
Most small entrepreneurs and startups make the common mistake of looking for (or inventing) a product first and the market later. If you want your business to succeed, find the market first. This means detecting a group of people faced with a problem who are looking for a solution. How do you do this? There are many ways to determine if there is a market for your product and fortunately a lot of these are available online. Look up customer survey reports, consumer feedback and surveys, access consumer forums online and research keywords that are frequently keyed in by people but not too many solutions pop up.
Evaluate your current lifestyle
While finding a ‘Need’ is important, once you’ve found it, it is equally important to make sure it is something that you love doing. If you are unsure, evaluate your personal situation now to determine if it will support your startup. This is important because starting a business is a commitment that builds credibility for yourself and more importantly your product in regards to your customer.
Devise your business strategy
Once you are confident of your ability to commit to your business, it is time to put a plan in place. While a formal business plan is becoming outdated, you still need a focused plan that involves knowing the detailed ins and outs of your product, who your target audience is , how you plan to get your product to your customer, how to manage sales etc. It would also include a thorough evaluation of your financial situation, your available capital and the ability to raise funds if and when required. The end game is to make sure you know even before you start that your business would be sustainable in the long run. Having a plan is a critical step to success.
Supply and Infrastructure
No business that’s launched can get very far if it doesn’t have the right number of supplies and/ or means to get these out to customers. You have to make sure you have a fully functioning supply chain that can be managed and effectively cope with the pressures of demand and supply brought on by clients.
Connect with Customers
Customers are people who are way more likely to return to your website if they have a good experience. Companies are fast realizing that an increased focus on customer satisfaction is critical to not only growth, but potentially survival. According to Bain & Company, if you can increase customer retention by even five percent, it will result in profit increases of at least 25 percent.
“Make sure you have some way of interacting with the people visiting your site.Whatever domain — through live chat, survey, email or phone.”, says Steve Tobak, Managing Partner of Invisor Consulting, the Silicon – Valley based business strategy firm, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur. You can also, monitor social-media sites for brand sentiment and check out review sites like Yelp to see who isn’t happy with his or her experience and reach out to them.
Design and Build an appealing Website
Once you’ve got your market and product, and you’ve nailed down your selling process, you’re ready for your small-business web design. Your website is your online storefront, so make it customer-friendly. Keep it simple. You have fewer than five seconds to grab a potential customer’s attention. If you don’t do it right, they’re gone, never to be seen again. Here are some tips for creating an effective website:
- Choose one or two plain fonts on a white background.
- Make your navigation clear and simple, and the same on every page.
- Only use graphics, audio or video if they enhance your message.
- Include an opt-in offer so you can collect e-mail addresses to build up a customer base and contact for further sales and promotions.
- Ensure your site is interactive and customer friends. Include your contact information so customers have the option of reaching out to you and your product.
- Make it easy to buy–no more than two clicks between potential customer and checkout. Also make sure you provide multiple & convenient payment options.
- Use search engines to drive targeted buyers to your site – always include a link to your site with each tidbit of information. Provide that information for free to other sites, and you’ll see more traffic and better search engine rankings
Go Digital. Use Big Data and Metrics to Analyze Customer Behavior
Did you know that sales and marketing data – information that you may already hold – can give you a lot of insight into your customer base. Big data provides valuable analytics that can be used to predict purchases and analyze customer behavior.
Use analytics to measure engagement and service usage with the goal of predicting future customer behavior. Analyze trends and gain more visibility into customer loyalty. Analytics will allow you to align resources and prioritize accordingly.
Your business would also need to implement and use metrics to effectively quantify performance and proactively identify opportunities for improvement. Some common metrics that your business might consider utilizing are activation rate, adoption rate, churn rate, resolution rate, close rate, up-sell/cross-sell rate and average revenue per customer. Use these metrics to come up with health scores for all your customers.
Remember, starting your own business can be an exciting adventure. If you follow the rules, are willing to take risks and yet stay firm to your commitments, your business will not only be off to a great start but in time you could be looking into the possibilities of growth, expansion and scaling up!