Despite the poor economy there has never been a better time to start an online business. Technology allows people of all backgrounds to put up a web site in a matter of days, if not hours. Doing this requires minimal technical skill (actually none if you pay someone to do it) and very low overhead. With such ease of entry, low cost and low risk involved I don’t see any reason not to get in the game.
However, you will have a lot of competition.
As of January, 2011, there were over 127 million active domains registered, with over 92 million of these being dot coms.
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Statistics show that the average web surfer spends mere seconds on any given website to decide if it has what they’re looking for. If your website doesn’t catch their attention quickly they will move on to your competitors.
I’d like to highlight some things you can do to attract more customers and keep them on your site so you can achieve online success.
This is the most important aspect of online business (actually any business). If you don’t know exactly what the market is looking for you will be shooting arrows in the dark. You want to fill an existing need, not try to create a need. The more precise and detailed you can be in targeting your customer base the more of an edge you will have over your competitors.
Most online businesses gloss over market research with the mistaken idea that any product will sell if you get enough traffic. It can be tedious and time consuming but it’s a must if you want to succeed.
A good way to analyze a market is to leverage the power of eBay and Amazon. These are two of the largest and most visited sites in the world and sell several hundred thousand items per day! You can use these sites to search for the bestsellers in any category to find out what is selling.
You can also do keyword research to see what people are searching for.
- Go to Google and type in a keyword of the type of product you’re looking to sell.
- Use a buying keyword and put it in parenthesis like “buy baby crib”. This will give you an idea of how many sites are selling similar items.
- Then you can use Google’s free keyword tracker to get other keyword ideas for what people are searching for related to your product.
Another good way to analyze a market is to spy on your competitors.
- Visit their websites to get ideas of what you like and don’t like about their sales approach.
- You can even purchase items from them to test their system.
- Is it easy, safe and enjoyable to buy from them? Did they have an easy and accessible customer service line? Did they follow up on the status of your order? Did your order arrive on time and in good condition? Do they have a refund policy and was it easy to get a refund?
Answering these questions can give you some ideas on how to get an edge on your competitors.
Building a Quality e-Commerce Store
Once your market research is complete you can move on to putting up your store front. You should choose e-Commerce software that fits your current needs while giving you room to grow. It should be easy to use so you can spend your time selling.
Things to look for are:
- A search engine friendly design
- A customizable layout
- An efficient and secure order processing system
- A simple inventory and content management system
You want to design your site with your unique brand and your unique selling position in mind. What sets you apart from your competition? What will make them remember you after they’ve left your site? Don’t be just another provider of a given product. Become your own brand.
An essential part of keeping yourself in your customer’s mind is to get them on your mailing list.
Surveys have shown it takes as many as seven visits to a particular website before most people will buy from it.
Give them an incentive like free coupons to leave you their email address and then follow up periodically with a newsletter. Make sure it has good information and not just a sales pitch or your readers will begin to ignore it.
In order to get people to your site you want to make sure your site ranks high in the search engines. Most people don’t get beyond the first page or two of search engine results so if you don’t show up there all your efforts may be in vain.
- Proper keyword targeting and a search engine friendly website design can be very helpful.
- However, if you aren’t getting the results you want you may consider hiring an SEO company or a consultant to make sure your site ranks high.
This is a basic overview of some tips to help you in your online business ventures. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list and I’d like to hear from you. What have you found to be the most important step in growing your online business? If you’re new to online business, what do you find the most daunting?
John Mak is the publisher of simply1software.com. He usually blogs for pc access software and online backup solutions. In his website you can find gotomypc savings code and get mozy promotional discount. Simple software solutions that makes your digital life even easier.