Selling online represents a viable business model, and one that is pursued successfully by more entrepreneurs than ever. But at the same time, it is worth noting that many online shops fail to get noticed and turn a profit. These failures are not a reflection on the online business model itself, but rather on the failure of the individual entrepreneur to grasp the differences between online and physical sales and the specific techniques that must be used in the online world.
First of all, selling online requires time and effort. There are numerous get-rich-quick schemes available which promise “turnkey” eCommerce businesses, but in fact, there is no such thing. An online business requires as much attention as a physical one.
Before your customer even gets to your website, you must pay attention to two other things, namely what to sell and how to get your customers to your site in the first place. Smaller online shops typically do better with a niche focus rather than attempting to sell everything under the sun. This approach makes your site more likely to be found in an Internet search for a specific product type. Getting your customers to your site requires marketing, just like it does in a physical shop, and marketing may take the form of pay-per-click, search engine optimization, and even off-line marketing in print or television.
Once your customers have arrived, you need to ensure that they have an easy experience while shopping. Websites that are too many layers deep tend to be difficult to navigate, and your customers may have a hard time finding what they want to buy. And again, if it’s not easy, they won’t do it. It is also important to differentiate your website in appearance. While there are a great many templates available, these have the disadvantage of being used by many, many merchants, resulting in thousands of identical websites. If you do use a template, use it as a starting point only, and customize it to make your site stand out. Throughout your design, make sure that the shopping cart is always accessible from every page.
Once your customers have decided what to buy, the shopping cart becomes the center of the customer’s attention, and your choice of shopping cart software will help guide the customer through this final process. It is well known that potential buyers will abandon a shopping cart if it is too difficult to use, does not offer enough payment options, or has not been secured. As such, it is important for the online merchant to retain some element of control over this vital part of eCommerce. Even when using a hosted shopping cart system, it is still possible to choose one with a management portal that allows for some degree of customization and added features such as integration with your accounting and inventory control systems.