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eCommerce development is booming and the number of online consumers is continuing to grow annually. In an October 2020 report, Statista estimated 1.92 billion individuals purchased goods and services online in 2019.
eCommerce lets businesses reach customers globally without building storefronts, saving overhead costs by marketing to consumers through the Internet instead. As a result, it has serious advantages over brick-and-mortar retail.
As technology continues to evolve, eCommerce and “m-commerce,” or mobile commerce, have only become more appealing for business owners and customers.
The following are the seven best steps (plus a tip or two) you should know if you’re starting an eCommerce store in 2021.
- Determine Your Startup Budget
- Select Your Inventory and Targeted Customer Base
- Create a Web Store that is Mobile Responsive or Has a Mobile App
- Build In an Easy Payment System with a Quick Checkout Process
- Offer Free Shipping on Larger Orders
- Give Discounts for Email Signups and Promote to Your List
- Give the Option for Customer Financing
Determine Your Startup Budget
To start your eCommerce store, you must determine the budget you can invest, as this will affect the business model you can choose.
For example, can you pay for inventory upfront? What can you take on in manufacturing costs? Can you invest in social media ads? These are the questions to ask as you look over your finances.
To start a business with minimum overhead, you should try dropshipping or selling digital products.
In dropshipping, you ship your product inventory to a third party who handles the storage, packing, and shipping to customers when a product is purchased online.
While there’s still startup funding required to acquire your inventory, you save a lot of money by letting a dropshipping company take a commission instead of handling packing and shipping on your own.
Selling digital products involves putting items in an eCommerce store where customers get virtual access to their purchases. Some examples are online training courses, software, and services like business coaching or website designing.
Services, Tools, and Platforms To Consider
If you’re looking to minimize upfront costs entirely and are looking to dropship your products, you could consider having your entire store hosted on Amazon and utilize Fulfillment by Amazon and let them pick, pack, and ship your orders for you.
Another option is to host your site using WordPress and install the WooCommerce plugin. One thing to keep in mind is that even though the plugin itself is free to install, there is a huge variety of add-ons that you can purchase to extend your WooCommerce store. For example, there is a WooCommerce plugin that integrates with Fulfillment by Amazon.
WooCommerce offers essentially everything you need to get started out of the box though, including the ability to sell digital products. It’s what we use to offer our Google My Business Exposure Guide. In our implementation, the only additional add-ons we purchased were the Checkout Field Editor, Google Tag Manager for WooCommerce PRO, and, of course, WooCommerce Zapier, which allows WooCommerce to “communicate” to virtually any other platform such as ActiveCampaign.
While WooCommerce can handle digital products out of the box, there’s also Easy Digital Downloads which has its own set of unique features.
Select Your Inventory and Targeted Customer Base
Narrow in on a specialized niche with inventory that appeals to a specific customer base you can target with content and ads online.
Limiting the scope of your store helps your products get found through search engine traffic.
For example, with a Shi-Tzu grooming store, you can easily attract leads who have Shi-Tzu dogs. You could use ads or provide videos or blog posts giving dog owners helpful information.
With a niche topic, you’re more likely to get online engagement from enthusiastic customers, and you can build an online community around your free content.
Create a Web Store that is Mobile Responsive or Has a Mobile App
With so many retailers today making browsing and purchasing easy from smartphones and tablets, you must jump on the bandwagon to stay competitive.
To create a mobile-responsive eCommerce store, which means it works seamlessly on web and mobile devices, use WordPress with an e-commerce platform plugin like Woocommerce or Shopify, which helps you build a responsive store.
Another thing you can do is create an app for mobile users to shop in your store.
A store app lets you send push notifications to mobile users to promote sales and new products. Plus, an app is easier to navigate and browse using a touchscreen device, and the app store is another place for your store to get found.
Finally, you can incentivize shoppers to browse by creating a wishlist feature, enabling you to capture their email when setting up their account with your store.
Build In an Easy Payment System with a Quick Checkout Process
Customers in a physical shop are unlikely to abandon their shopping carts.
However, online and on mobile devices, shoppers can simply click or swipe away when distracted, interrupted, or have a sudden change of mind.
That’s why your store’s checkout process should be as easy and quick to use as possible.
Online shoppers are easily deterred by stores not providing the payment system they usually use to make online or mobile purchases.
This way, smartphone shoppers can get through the checkout process and complete a purchase even on the go.
Offer Free Shipping on Larger Orders
Online shoppers care a lot about the cost of shipping, knowing it’s the price to pay for shopping online instead of in-store.
So give your customers an incentive to shop and place larger orders with you by offering free shipping on orders above a certain amount, such as $50 or $75.
While you’ll have to cover the shipping costs on these larger orders, you’ll see it pay off with a boost in overall sales.
Another option is to offer free shipping for customers who get a subscription to regularly purchase and receive a product or customized box of your products.
Give Discounts for Email Signups and Promote to Your List
Email marketing enables you to stay top of mind with your customers and leads by appearing in their inbox repeatedly.
Offer a discount for customers who sign up for your email list. This way, you get into your customer’s email inbox not by force during their purchase but with a sweet incentive that tempts them to buy.
Use email to keep your warm leads aware of new products added to your store and further discounts or limited-time promotions.
Publish blog posts to your website consistently and share the links to these posts with your email list. By writing with your list in mind, you can also target new customers who find your brand through a search engine or from a social media post.
Consider Implementing Marketing Automation
Marketing automation usually goes hand-in-hand with email marketing, so most email marketing services have the ability to send “cart abandonment” email reminders.
For example, if someone has added an item to their cart and then leaves your website, you can set up an automatic email to be sent to them to remind them that they have items in their shopping cart!
You can also look into services such as PushEngage which can send notifications via desktop browser or phone in the event someone abandons their cart. For customer support, you could implement live chat with services such as LiveChat.
Give the Option for Customer Financing
It’s not just businesses with high-ticket items or services that are offering customer financing. For example, Forever 21 has the option to checkout with AfterPay on their web or mobile store.
Using services such as AfterPay or Klarna lets customers pay in four interest-free installments, which undoubtedly encourages more spending on the site. In addition, when customers see they can break up their payment into chunks, the shopping they want to do becomes more manageable, with less saving required.
Still, your business gets payment from the financed sales upfront when you partner with a financing company that takes on the risk.
The third-party financer gets a small transaction fee, which is a small price to pay given the increase in sales you’ll see when you offer customer financing as an option.
You can see profit from an eCommerce store much sooner than you could than if you were starting a brick-and-mortar shop.
If you create digital products customers access online, you can start with almost no overhead costs.
Using a dropshipping service for your physical inventory, you can begin seeing sales quickly and turn a profit on your inventory.
Giving your customers perks like free shipping on large orders, a discount for signing up for your email list, and the option to pay in installments helps generate more sales and increase customer retention.
The benefit of having an eCommerce store is there’s no limit to its growth. You can add more products to your store over time and re-invest revenue from sales into marketing strategies.
I hope this outline helps you with your eCommerce strategy. If you want help in building or maintaining your eCommerce store and/or digital presence, schedule your free consultation today!
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AJ Tatum is the Founder and CEO of Tatum Digital Agency. Over the last 20 years, he’s worked in digital marketing, web development & web technologies, and business management. He is passionate about using technology and marketing to empower creativity, new possibilities, and transformative thinking.