Basics of building a thriving online business

The year 2020 has changed the business world in many ways. One of those changes was promoting e-commerce. With social distancing and movement restrictions, many people opted to shop online rather than going to physical stores.

Savvy entrepreneurs have seized this opportunity to maximise their online sales. To the novice, e-commerce seems as easy as setting a Facebook page. But to be truly successful in e-commerce, you need more than a Facebook page with pictures of your products. The competition in ecommerce has become steeper over the years and online shopping behaviour are changing faster than ever before.

To get a considerable piece of the pie, e-commerce entrepreneurs, you have to put more effort into your e-commerce strategy. When you start looking up ways to boost your online business, you will come across hundreds of ideas. But you only have so much time and resources. You might be left with more questions than answers. Where do you start? What do you prioritise?

Well, we have you covered. Here are the top tips for getting your ecommerce business off to a great start:

1. Don’t rush the launch

It’s exciting to launch your online store. But don’t let the excitement push you into a premature launch. Most of your prospective customers won’t appreciate being directed to a website that is still under construction or being sold “coming soon” products.

Take your time in building a good, user-friendly website. Bear in mind that outside your product, your website is the next best representation of your brand. To capture the dwindling attention span of online shoppers, you need a fast, clean and well-designed website.

Pay special attention to the checkout process. How easy is it for a shopper to complete their purchase? Make sure that buyers can easily put items in their online shopping carts, request delivery and make payments.

Launch your website after testing it to make sure all the key elements are running smoothly. Even after launching your website, you have to continuously look for ways to improve user-experience.

2. Partner with a reliable courier

A key part of succeeding in online business is partnering with a reliable courier company. After all, delivering products on time is one of the major elements of online business. Look for a courier company with reasonable rates. Discuss the particulars that determine the shipping cost such as size, weight and distance.

Its advisable to consider the major courier companies first. They already have systems in place to ensure seamless deliveries. When selecting a courier service, don’t forget to consider their efficiency. What are their average delivery times? Do they use cars or motorcycles? Do their clients have any complaints?

Before signing a contract with a courier company, read their terms and conditions carefully. Make sure there aren’t any hidden costs that will further reduce your profit margins.

3. Get high quality images

One of the biggest downsides to online shopping is the inability to let their customers touch, feel, smell and see (first-hand) products before making a decision. To compensate for this downside, make sure that you have high-quality product images and detailed descriptions. Allow shoppers to zoom on images to get a better look on material, colour and texture before making their purchase.

Allowing reviews and ratings might also help shoppers to determine trustworthiness of your company and the quality and usefulness of the product.

Ultimately, you need to have good product quality and services to be successful in business, whether online or otherwise. View the product or services you’re offering through the eyes of a potential customer to help you understand why they would buy or not buy from you.

4. Use social media

While a website is one of the best investments for e-commerce, social media platforms are great for creating brand awareness, driving traffic to your site and converting leads. Some e-commerce businesses have been successful by solely relying on social media.

There are 3.6 billion social media users globally, with users spending an average of 3 hours daily on social networks and messaging. There are various platforms to choose from including Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest but Facebook remains to be the most popular platform among users.

To have the best results, create a social media strategy for your brand. Your strategy will guide you on number of posts, type of content, and how to respond to your audience. Note that 88 per cent of potential customers are unlikely to make a purchase if their complaints on social media are unanswered. On the other hand, 77 per cent of customers say that their perception of a brand improved after an online chat.

If all this sounds like too much work for you or your current team, consider hiring a social media manager. Look for an individual or company that is experienced in handling social media accounts for similar brands. And while at it, consider partnering with social media influencers. The right influencers can be even more cost-effective in advertising your products than traditional advertising channels.

5. Invest in SEO

With well over 2.5 billion active websites in the world today, you need to put extra effort to get web traffic. Search engine optimisation is one of the most powerful tools for e-commerce. For people to find you online, you have to be ranked by search engines such as Google and Bing.

Most online shoppers begin their search with a query on a search engine. However, studies show that 75 per cent of internet users never scroll past the first page of search engine results. If your website doesn’t appear in those results, your target audience may never find you. SEO techniques improve your search engine ranking, making it easier for your audience to find you.

SEO techniques include using keywords, meeting users search intent, making your site mobile friendly, and building internal and external links. It is advisable to hire an experienced agency to develop and implement an SEO strategy for your ecommerce business.