Making a start-up business successful takes inspiration, planning and a lot of hard work. If you're starting an online business, you need to do all of these as well as take into account how ecommerce differs from selling in a physical shop.
One of the biggest distinctions between selling online and selling in a physical shop is that your products are sold sight-unseen. You can't try on a dress in an online shop, smell a fragrance or see how fast a computer system runs your favourite game. Visual appearance and trust are therefore absolutely critical to your success in an online business. As well as store promotion. One huge advantage online sellers have over their storefront counterparts is the ability for your customers to buy it now. They don't have to leave their homes to get something delivered to their door. If they know what they want, online is where to buy it.
The store that looks great and makes buying easy to do can therefore be a huge success. Online stores are also great for people selling hard to find items. A retail department store may not stock every size, offer every colour, or sell unusual items that may not have mass market appeal. This is the perfect territory for online stores and where they can really excel.
An online shopping cart is the process of buying online. Just like a in a physical store where customers pick up items off the shelf and put them into their shopping trolley and take it up to the counter to pay, an online store does this in website space. Products are displayed online and customers can select the various options and add them to their shopping cart. When they've finished shopping, they can proceed through a secure checkout process. When shopping for shopping carts, look for features to turn browsers into buyers - like offering wishlists so customers can keep a track of products they might like to buy and come back to buy them later.
Putting in the time to manage and promote your site is an important
consideration online. Getting your site up and running is one thing, but you
will need to keep your products up to date (as your suppliers may change or add
new product lines over time) and keep the products fresh in order to keep
customers coming back. Of the websites that fail online, many do not because of
their products, shopping cart software, or look, but because the store owners
did not have the time to put into promoting and maintaining the website.
Would you try and set up a book store in the middle of the Sahara dessert? Even the best looking site stocked with the best products in the world will not succeed unless customers can find your website. Getting traffic to your website is partly an art and partly a science and relies on you doing a number of things well:
- Encouraging other websites to link to you
- Ensuring the content of your site (product descriptions, supporting pages) are well written
- Promoting your website through as many means as possible.
The art of optimising your site so it has the best possible chance of appearing high up in search engines can take time and repeated effort over time to show results, so in the short run paid forms of advertising and other offline marketing techniques like direct marketing are often used initially by start up businesses.
Auctions are a great way to sell online, which is why auction websites are so
popular in Australia and overseas. The main advantage of having a
shopping cart website instead of or in addition to running online
auctions is that you can sell your products as many times as you like without
paying a fee per listing or per sale - nor do your products expire and have to
be relisted periodically.
Even more importantly, auctions are a temporary sales tool where customers are in the mindset of shopping around for the lowest price. You often have limited control of what you can and can't say in an auction and are creatively bound by the limits of the auction software. But they are good for driving short term traffic. Your own website can help you build your online brand, encourage loyalty, and have a higher return on your sales (as most good ecommerce providers won't take a cut of your sales).
For these reasons many successful online traders operate both auction websites and their own shopping cart ecommerce website.