As more and more businesses are moving online, starting the e-commerce journey can be daunting for many small business owners. If you’ve already amped up your platform to include online sales, congrats! You have successfully adapted to the times and are on your way to a profitable future. However, if you’ve yet to undergo the transition, there is an abundance of money you’re leaving on the table. This ocean of business is only going to continue its upward trajectory, with or without you.
Online Sales in the wake of COVID-19
Let’s get one thing out of the way and establish an incontrovertible fact: brick and mortar stores are never going to go away. Even so, any small business owner denying a shift away from in-person sales is simply nuts. There are now popular online apps and services boasting the contactless sale of cars and even houses. If people are willing to purchase a home online, do you really see them driving to the store and risking their health to wait in line for a pair of socks? The switch was already underway, yet the advent of COVID-19 has accelerated people’s preference in favor of shopping online.
With online sales becoming so prevalent, here are a few tips for successfully getting started in e-commerce.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Occam’s razor is a principle that often gets neglected in today’s times. When faced with multiple options, the simpler one is more likely to be the right choice. You’re entering the brave new world that is e-commerce and are no doubt going to be in over your head at times. Don’t fight this fact! Similar to how you don’t need to know how a car operates in order to drive somewhere, you really don’t have to know how web sales work in order to list your products and start making money.
Adopt an Existing Platform
Don’t make the rookie mistake of running out and hiring an expensive web developer who is going to cost you a lot of money building you a custom platform from scratch. Several prominent e-commerce platforms already exist that have their own hosting. They will install a user-friendly interface on your website that you can easily customize to suit your brand. You might even be shocked to hear that some 7 and 8-figure retailers use these platforms too. Shopify and Big Cartel are a couple ideal examples you’ll want to explore. For a monthly fee, you’ll be set up and ready to go in hardly any time at all. Consider the technical support these platforms often come with, and it’s a no-brainer.
Use Existing Online Marketplaces
Etsy, eBay and the godfather of all online sales, Amazon, are a few ripe examples. Many e-commerce giants – including Nike, Adidas and thousands more – use eBay and Amazon to host their own stores. Their products are often the same as you would find on their own website, yet the additional reach allows them to compete with the independent resale market. Again, you are getting into e-commerce because you don’t want to leave money on the table. Listing your products in as many places as possible will increase your sales that much more.
Leverage Social Media
According to the Pew Research Center for Internet & Technology, 72% of adults actively use a minimum of one social media outlet. Devoted followers of a brand are eager to connect in as many ways as possible. In numerous cases, your customers will give you free advertising by posting pictures of themselves using your product, and they’ll want to tag your brand in the process, leading potential customers right to your storefront page on the social media platform of choice. At the bare minimum, make sure you have your main pages set up. You can also task one of your more tech-savvy employees with monitoring Facebook reviews and seeing who tags your company, maybe even having them post some pictures of your own.
Thoroughly Track Inventory
It’s never good to have to refund money because you can’t fill an order. If you’re drop-shipping product, this won’t be too much of an issue for you, barring you know your supplier has the listed product readily in stock. Most e-commerce platforms have options in place where you can easily set quantities of how many of each item you have available. If or when the product does sell out, the website will list that the product as unavailable. Be responsible with updating your inventory on the digital side!
Invest in High-Quality Photos
Nothing will ever replace holding a product in your hands in real time and deciding if it’s something worth purchasing. This is why photos are so important for all products sold online. Put yourself in the customer’s position when creating the online user experience. Be sure to upload multiple angles of each item so customers can get a great representation, then entice them to want to order it.
Data Is Key to Increasing Sales
If a baseball team can win a World Series using analytics, why can’t you run a successful small business online following the same path? The term KPI, which stands for Key Performance Indicator, will become your friend as you wield data to measure your sales results. Spreadsheets might not be sexy by nature, but after they start translating into increased sales, you will probably begin to feel differently!
The path to successful online sales isn’t exactly easy. The good news is that e-commerce is more accessible than ever if you’re willing to put in the effort. With technology evolving and social distancing looking like it isn’t going away anytime soon, your business depends on the e-commerce side. Make sure you do everything within your power to give your customers the convenient option they expect.