Starting an online store is a big commitment. Sure, it’s easy to get a website running, but you must also account for marketing, inventory, and maintenance, among many other things, if you want your business to be successful.
Instead of simply launching your website with no strategic planning, you should carefully evaluate all of your options and make sure that you have taken every measure to ensure that you have the site that you want. If you are looking to start an online store, follow some of these tips to have a strong business launch.
#1. Make sure you have the capital
In the business world, you need to have money to make money, and online business is no different. Most experts suggest having at least 3 months of working costs on hand before you decide to go into business. This means that you should be able to cover any bills, payroll, and inventory costs for 3 months before you get started. This can be your own money that you have saved, or you can try to secure capital in a variety of other ways.
Venture capitalists may be interested in funding you if they like your idea, but you will need to have a solid pitch. You can also try crowdfunding by using sites like Kickstarter to help raise capital from interested investors and potential customers. This is used in many cases where the entrepreneur has a revolutionary new product that can help people but doesn’t yet have the funding to get started on production. It is also possible to get a loan from a bank if you have the right credentials and can convince them that your business is poised for success.
In any situation, you don’t want to start without enough capital. It can be a dangerous endeavor and put you in major debt, pushing you further away from the goal that you initially set out to achieve. Make sure that your funds are sufficient and then you can get started on launching your business.
#2. Evaluate your product or service idea
Ultimately, you will need to sell as much product or provide as many services as possible in order to be profitable. If you have an idea for a product, you need to make sure that it is something that people want or need. If you aren’t fulfilling a desire or a necessity, not many people are going to want to buy your product. If people don’t have a use for your product, then you’re going to have a whole lot of inventory sitting on the shelves, and it’s going to be difficult to recoup the costs of the goods.
You can test the market demand of your product in several different ways. One way is to hold focus groups and perform market research to see just how people feel about your idea. You might have to pay people to participate, but it could be worth it to gain valuable insight and prevent you from spending even more money on a product that nobody likes. You may even learn just what you need to do to tweak your product in order to make it more desirable.
A cheaper way to gauge interest is to post on forums and discussions online to see how people feel about your idea. But you want to be careful here, as someone might try to steal your idea. That’s why it’s best to use vague terms and not reveal every detail about your item. If you already have the means of production but haven’t yet spent the money, you can use this as your final analysis to see if there is a demand for your product.
You can also perform industry analysis to see how similar items are performing on the market. This is helpful in more ways than one as you will need to know who your competitors are going to be and what you need to do to beat them in the marketplace. You can learn from their mistakes while you are doing your research, stockpiling ideas to help you set your product apart from the others.
#3. Name your business
Every business needs a name, and that can be one of the most difficult parts of starting. You want something that is original, descriptive, and relatively simple. Lengthy, wordy names will turn customers off almost immediately, and something that is too vague might have difficulty attracting any attention. Consider that your business name is how people are going to identify you, so make sure that you pick something strong and succinct.
Don’t fall for something cliché or unoriginal, either. It can be easy to think that customers will care more about the quality of the product than the name, but the fact is that you need a strong name in order to attract customers in the first place. Stay away from ripping off of other brands or going with something completely irrelevant. You can also test names during your market research to see which ones garner the most attention at first glance.
#4. Find the right sales channels
In order to drive sales, you are going to need to sell to the right people. If you market to groups that have no use for your item, then you are going to have a difficult time collecting any money. Evaluate your options for sales channels and choose the ones that give you the best chance to find new customers and sell product.
You can use services such as Amazon and Shopify to help you understand your target markets. You can set up your online store through them, helping you to sell to people who are already shopping online. You can even put certain items on them, saving your big-ticket items for your own website, driving traffic there and potentially boosting sales even further.
Make sure to analyze your search engine optimization results to help with sales channels. You’ll get a better idea of what words and phrases your target audience is using and you’ll be able to see what clicks are leading to more conversions. Using technology is highly important in this phase, and you should always evaluate any data that can help you create more revenue.
#5. Get your shipping and fulfillment in order
If you don’t have storage or a way to ship your product, how are your customers going to get it? You need to check with your fulfillment providers to make sure that they have the capacity to maintain and store your product and manage your inventory.
This is true whether it is a local warehouse or an Amazon fulfillment center. Many people fail to put effort into the logistics of their business, and they end up failing because of it. Late or damaged shipments make for angry customers, and angry customers often decide that they don’t want to give you any repeat business.
You can even test the shipping ability of your partners by placing a few orders for yourself before you decide to launch. This way you can track your packages and know what to expect when you ship something out in the future.
Doing this will help you to set realistic expectations for your customers as well as give you the ability to look for other options if the carriers don’t perform up to your standards. It is better to take the time to secure your best fulfillment options – if you don’t you may just find that your business is doomed to fail.
#6. Make sure your website is functional
Before finally launching your store, make sure that all of the pages on your site are functioning as planned. One poorly formatted page or dead link can cause customers to leave in a hurry, and that’s the last thing you need in your debut. You want your website to run as smoothly as possible and to steer your customers towards as many purchases as it can. Make it easy to find your products and even easier to buy them. Your customers will appreciate the functionality of the site and may return sooner than you expect when you provide them with a seamless web experience.
#7. Make a fuss!
Hopefully, you garnered a good bit of interest by the time you decide to launch your store. You should have been getting email addresses and contact info, as well as reaching out on social media as you performed your market research. If you have a following, make sure to let everyone know that your store is going to be launching.
Remind them daily through social media updates, email newsletters, and text promotions. You can even offer discounts for the first 100 shoppers, further driving clicks and conversions. Nobody is going to randomly go to a site they’ve never heard of, so you need to make sure that they know who you are and what you are selling. Marketing and promotion is key to getting started, and this is your chance to show your chops and drive sales.