As with any business, it takes a lot of planning and hard work to make an e-commerce business a success. First, you need to have a reason for your business to exist. It may be to fill a need for a product or service, or it may fulfil a dream you’ve had for a while. Next, you have to decide on your business model. You have many more choices than you did 20 years ago. Do you want to sell products on an established online marketplace or have your own standalone e-commerce site? If you’ve decided on the latter, here are the key factors you need to consider to make your e-commerce business viable. Even if you’re already online, you can use these factors to tweak your business model or include new products or services.
Know who your customers are
To succeed, you need to have a good idea of the target customers you want to serve. You also need to know how those customers typically search for products they wish to purchase.
Choose the right products to sell
Obviously, there needs to be a demand for your products. If you have competitors, there must be a means you can use to differentiate your product.
Make it easy for potential customers to find your products
It takes time and patience to generate enough organic traffic to have your site ranked by search engines, so an effective paid marketing campaign will be essential if you are starting a business from scratch or adding a product line substantially different from your current offerings.
Differentiate your products from those of competitors
You need to clearly define why your product is better value than those of your competitors, including differences in quality, price and availability. Your advertising campaigns should clearly reflect your value proposition and not just emphasise free shipping or per cent off promotions. Make it easy for your customers to make product comparisons and provide compelling reasons for them to purchase your products.
Understand the economics of your business model
If you’re going to succeed, you need to understand the economic factors that drive your business. What are your expected costs, revenues, gross margin and profitability? What are the major risk factors you might face? Be sure to account for the negative events that could affect profitability, including chargebacks, price increases by suppliers and lost shipments.
Get the help you need
Regardless of your business size, you need to have some skills in e-commerce and digital marketing. If your business is not at the stage where you can hire employees with those skills, contract with professional firms that have the expertise to help in those areas.
Constantly tweak your site
You will never have a perfect site. Market conditions change, so there is always room to make improvements based on what you learn from your key analytical metrics.
Have enough cash available for unexpected events
You never know what the future will bring, so be sure you have enough cash available as you grow your business.
Remember, not every e-commerce idea is successful, so be prepared to change your focus if your initial idea appears not to be working.