We live in an increasingly digital age, with more and more of our lives spent online – whether that be responding to emails, watching streaming services or browsing social media. And of course, for many of us, it’s where we do a lot of our shopping.
Online retail is proving ever-more popular and the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated that trend. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows how internet sales as a percentage of total retail grew markedly in 2020, as businesses across all sectors were forced to close their physical premises and target an online audience.
In the UK, the progress of the vaccination rollout has given rise to optimism that we may soon return to some form of normality. However, the added convenience of online shopping – and the increased capability of eCommerce enterprises – means we are likely to see a continuation of the digital-first approach.
All of which points to now being a good time to launch an eCommerce venture. But having the product in place is one thing; there are further steps you need to take to turn your dreams into reality.
Conduct market research
Before you can even think about launching, you need to conduct thorough research. You need to get a feel for your industry: Is there a gap in the market that your product can fill? Who are your competitors, and how do they position themselves within the sector? Are there lessons you can learn from them, and have they missed any opportunities that you think you can capitalise on?
Identify your audience
Part of your research will cover the identification of your target audience. Who are they? How old are they? What are their shopping habits? What are their pain points? How do they interact with eCommerce sites? If you can answer these questions, then you should be left with one or more personas around which you can tailor your business plan and marketing strategy.
Build a business plan
So, you understand your market and you have an appreciation for your audience and what they want. You might think you have all you need to get started, but it’s important to create a solid business plan that outlines your mission statement, your objectives and your brand values. And it’s one thing to set out your goals, but you need to put in place a strategy of how you’re going to achieve them. That’s what your business plan is for.
Set up your online store
How you present your product is everything, which is why it’s paramount that you create a site that is visually appealing, easy to navigate and offers the consumer an easy route to the point of purchase. You can build the site using well-established eCommerce platforms like Shopify and if you don’t possess the time or skills to design it yourself, you may look to hire an external agency.
Create a marketing strategy
Having a stellar product and a slick website is all well and good but if nobody knows about it then your eCommerce enterprise will struggle to get off the ground. You need to create a strategy that tailors personalised content towards your audience – whether that be through search engine optimisation, email marketing, social media, pay-per-click advertising or a combination of multiple tools.
Prioritise customer service
Once you’ve persuaded your customers to visit your site, it’s absolutely vital that you look after them. Introductory offers are a great way to attract new business, but the secret to success is retention and that means doing everything you can to connect with your audience and cater to their needs. Answer their questions, respond to them in a timely manner, be transparent in your communications and generally treat them as you would like to be treated. A positive reputation can go a long way and could prove the difference between success and failure.