It takes more than just a good website to run a successful online store.
Being an entrepreneur is exciting as it allows you to take control of your future. Start-ups are expected to have an online presence, and many operate online stores. The challenge of running a commercial operation on the internet is fundamentally different from those of a brick-and-mortar store. Some guidance on what works and doesn’t in this domain can increase your store’s chances of success.
Here’s a 10-step checklist to help you along:
* Offer a product you’re sure of and test its quality and appeal with a test audience first. It will be helpful if you ensure that your test audience is objective and reliable enough to give you honest and critical feedback, and not just admirers.
* Find a trustworthy, convenient and scalable way to source your product. Either a local source you can have more direct oversight over or an overseas supplier known to be reliable both with quality and deadlines. Make it a point to pay them a visit or speak to them, either face-to-face or through digital channels like Skype or FaceTime.
* Be useful to customers and add some level of uniqueness or customisation to your offering. If you ask people what their problem is and how your product can resolve it in a unique way, you are setting the stage for a great marketing plan and ultimately great product sales.
* Deliver on time, because it builds confidence in your brand, enhances your reputation in the market, helps give you a reason to streamline your own operations, and is the basis of a mutually beneficial long-term relationship with customers.
* Follow up on your initial sales personally and then incorporate a post-sale communication plan as you grow bigger so as to keep the connection with your customers. You could also use this opportunity to check if the product is achieving the desired result, and get feedback that you can use to improve your product. A store that listens to customers is always special and enjoyed.
* Use social media to engage with your customers as well as with potential customers. To make it easier on yourself, pick a platform or application with which you are familiar and would find convenient to update; you can create an automatic link to update other platforms.
* Encourage people to add reviews and testimonials, as prospective buyers are very likely to go through reviews before buying products, even with all the skepticism about paid reviews. Don’t we check out ratings and reviews as customers ourselves?
* Build authority in the product space and build a supportive community. This has less to do with the volume of your updates or the language of your post and much more to do with presenting your expertise in a professional manner. Providing solutions to problems through your products, letting your customers know about the latest industry development or even little tidbits of relevant information of value to the community will set you apart. For the best results, adopt an inclusive and supportive tone for all your online interactions.
* Don’t be afraid to get some help. Whether it is hired staff, virtual assistants, or vendors. This isn’t as expensive as you imagine. These assistants get paid by the hour, saving your valuable time and money relative to hiring full-time staff.
* Practice a certain level of detachment. While it is necessary to be passionate about your product, failures and setbacks shouldn’t drain you of your enthusiasm. Conversely, enjoy your success but don’t let it go to your head.
(Anurag Avula is Co-founder and CEO of Shopmatic. The views expressed are personal)