Avoid the e-commerce mistakes small businesses make

By Hannington Mumo

Kenya: More than 13 million Kenyans have access to the Internet. For many, it has become a necessary part of life, and when you think of the potential, learning how to make money online makes more than a lot of sense.

Success in e-commerce, however, does not come easy. Like with any other business, careful deliberation, calculation, discipline, diligence and planning are required.

However, creating an online presence is a great way for small businesses to increase their customer base, and a great platform for budding entrepreneurs to start great businesses — amazon.com was not always the online behemoth it is today, it started out as a little e-commerce site.

Understand that your website or social media page is your only salesperson, so showcase your products excellently, with good quality photos and engaging descriptions that help consumers virtually interact with your goods and want to make a purchase.

Optimal experience

Your online website or page is an important aspect of your store, so make sure it is as close as possible to the name of your company. Any variations can be a huge obstacle as they may misdirect your audience.

The software platform that supports your site needs to be professionally managed to give visitors an optimal experience.

Be aware of your technical limitations and do not take on more than you can handle. You will need to update your site regularly to keep it current and relevant, so figure out if you can manage this.

Set up a merchant account that ensures your online store has a facility that allows your customers to shop using credit cards or mobile money. The easier and more convenient it is for your customers to make purchases, the more they will transact.

Effective marketing

If your online store is to thrive, you will need to make use of the different marketing tools available in e-commerce. With the proliferation of stores online, the “build it and they will come” mantra no longer holds. Draw up a plan to attract traffic.

Consider using basic e-commerce tracking systems and search engine optimisation tools. Use words that have strategic value so that a Google search gives your store the necessary visibility. Also, contribute to discussions about your products to boost your rankings.

Make use of social media platforms and think about selling some merchandise through third-party websites like Bid or Buy, Rupu and Zetu to create a buzz.

And once you have the customers, give them a reason to keep talking about you. Respond promptly to orders, issues or questions. Do not assign blame when challenged, rather, be courteous and solution oriented.

Lastly, send out updates, reminders or discounts to customers through emails you receive.

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