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Everybody has at some point thought about starting their own business. With the explosion of e-commerce, attaining that dream is easier than ever. While there is no “roadmap” that guarantees e-commerce success, there are several characteristics every e-commerce entrepreneur possesses that help them get started.
Just wanting to be an e-commerce entrepreneur is not enough. You must have a general idea of where you are headed. The only way to do that successfully is with a business plan.
Map out what you are offering, who your core customers are, sales forecasting, and who your competition is. Explain how you plan on financing your endeavor and any other pertinent company information that can help you attract support for your efforts.
If you are unfamiliar with how to create a business plan, many online resources can help you. Do not limit yourself to a single resource. Casting a wide research net will return solid results.
A business plan is a must but it is not the only plan your online business needs. Several plans are associated with and backup your general business plan. Those include, but are not limited to:
Your business plan is a view of your efforts from “30,000 feet.” Each component of your business plan needs backing up with individual plans. Those secondary plans are the “on the ground” strategy and tactics that will make you, your business, and your business plan successful.
Your e-commerce venture will have competition. If you are starting an e-store, you will be competing against other online stores run by e-commerce entrepreneurs like yourself and giant online retailers. If you are offering a service, you are guaranteed to have both qualified and unqualified competition.
The more you know about who you are up against, the more prepared you will be to beat them. Your research should tell you:
All of that information can help you counter their efforts, break into new territory, put pressure on your competition, and ensure you maintain your competitive advantage with your target audience. It also can help you make financial decisions like when to launch an advertising campaign, whether to lower prices or offer discounts, etc.
The last few years have taught most people that nothing can be taken for granted. Very few people, for instance, had contingency plans for logistics during worker shortages because of a pandemic in 2019. Now, it is a pretty good bet most retailers do.
While a pandemic contingency plan might be extreme, having plans for when things go south is not just a good idea, it is imperative. For example, what happens when a shipment of your product goes missing? How about when your website goes down? The more you plan the better prepared you will be for the unexpected.
Your business will not get noticed if it does not make at least the first page of any Google search results. Above and beyond that, the higher you can go, the better off you will be. If you do no other marketing efforts, you must manage your online presence.
This includes creating an engaging website, providing timely, SEO-enhanced content, joining appropriate business groups, and ensuring all online customer interactions are user-friendly. Depending on what you are selling, you should also consider having a pertinent blog page as well as up-to-date news and information pages.
You can measure your success by how much money you make but that will only tell you so much. More advanced data analysis will let you formulate your customer profiles, cost centers, product performance metrics, and much more. With the right metrics, you can make informed decisions that help you capitalize on an opportunity, avoid pitfalls and maximize your profit.
Social media is an omnipresent entity in the lives of most people. To get an idea of how powerful a medium it is, write a list of family and friends and their preferred social media format. The chances are good that just about everyone on your list has some social media presence.
An active social media presence is virtually free advertising. It lets you reach people you would not ordinarily be able to reach. You can create a YouTube channel and share Instagram Stories or Facebook posts, to name a few. Additionally, social media lets you inform customers and other interested parties of what you are up to with zero filtering or interpretation issues.
Even if your online business is just you, customer service must be one of your top priorities. That does not just mean answering the business phone professionally or responding to email inquiries politely. It means making sure your fulfillment processes work flawlessly, addressing refund requests promptly, and resolving customer complaints in a friendly and timely manner.
As you grow, you cannot forget about customer service. It is the best way for you to keep tabs on your customers, gauge their support and figure out what is not working as planned. It also puts a human touch on your e-commerce efforts, which can separate you from your competition.
Regardless of your plans, you will not be competing with the big box stores, or at least offer as much as they offer, any time soon. That said, you do have a great opportunity to perfect your offerings and position yourself as an expert with one or two products or a specific service. Establishing a niche can help you beat out your competition and coral sales.
Your niche does not have to be product or service-related. Many companies have specialized in a facet of what they offer or a specific business process. Some stores excel in matching customers to the right products. Others have mastered responsive, helpful, and friendly customer service.
Figure out what you do best and get good at it. Your customers will thank you and if you are good enough, you can even corner a market.
Some growth for a successful business is uncontrollable. To this extent, you can plan for growth. Your efforts will make the process flow smoother. Growth planning can include:
This list can serve as the foundation for growth planning. If an e-commerce entrepreneur excels in these areas, they will avoid the growing pains that tend to affect new businesses.
Your e-commerce business must do all it can to get its name and products out there. That means maintaining an active SEO practice and utilizing every conceivable advertising method, including digital, print, and electronic. Do not underestimate the power of traditional marketing. There are still a lot of folks who prefer to conduct business this way. While electronic advertising will not be feasible immediately, a new company can use digital marketing effectively and inexpensively.
These characteristics, attributes, and tools can help a fledgling e-commerce entrepreneur get off on the right foot. Each of these attributes helps establish the business as responsive and successful. The level of competition in this field is extreme. Understanding what has been laid out above should help to ensure success. If you are an aspiring e-commerce entrepreneur, make sure you read up on each of these points individually.
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