Ecommerce 2020 Guide
Your guide to sell online for SMBs: 2020

We had a customer, XYZ, who launched his online store because he heard about how ecommerce is the new shopping trend. He knew he had to get online. After setting up his ecommerce site he was disappointed when he didn’t meet his expected target. 

There was another customer, Nature Foody, an Instagram seller with a customer base of over 10k. When he created his online store, his sales accelerated.

Why things worked for Nature Foody and not for XYZ: 

  • Nature Foody already had a strong online presence.

  • They shared a lot of testimonials on Instagram through which customers were convinced to place their orders online.

  • They participated in various tradeshows and exhibitions thereby creating massive publicity in the local market.

  • All they needed was a medium that made it easier to manage orders and expand their target market.

This is why you always need to develop your own perspectives. If you are new to ecommerce, let’s start off with the downsides of owning an online business:

1) It takes time to build a profitable business. You cannot expect immediate results

2) Customers take time to trust your brand

3) Too much competition

But the common negatives end there. If you are ready to get your hands dirty and work on building your online store, the potential is there.

Now, here are some of the pros:

1) Low cost: Your store is open 24/7. If you are selling physical products, storage spaces are much cheaper than in retail spaces.

2) Ease of use: Easier to expand your customer base and track your website and marketing performance.

3) Content marketing: Customers research their products online before they make purchases. Provide more information on your products and how to use them through web pages, email marketing, blog posts, and videos. These types of content attract more visitors to your website.

Before we go any further, prepare answers to the following questions:

 1) Who are your competitors?

Every business has competitors. Look at their product descriptions, website layout, email marketing campaigns, and product reviews. Make a list of what they’re lacking and to determine which areas to invest your energy. If you’re having trouble finding something to help you stand out, concentrate on providing the best customer experience and marketing content.

2) Who is your target market?

Find out:

  • Who will be interested in purchasing your product

  • Which form of media does your target market spend most of their time on

  • When will there be a need for your target to use the product

  • Which features will be more attractive to your target audience

By focusing on a specific customer segment, you can save money and achieve better RoI, since you can optimize your spending for your target segment.

3) What are your sales targets?

Set a target sales number that you hope to achieve for the first 6 months and plan accordingly. Calculate how much you should price each of your products. Research how much your competitors charge for similar products.

Choosing the right medium

To sell online, you have three options to choose from.

1. Marketplaces

2. Social media channels

3. Your own online store

 1. Selling on marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy

If you’re new to the online space, and you have no idea how your products will be received by your customers, marketplaces can be used to test the waters.

 Pros of selling on a marketplace

Marketplaces will have higher traffic, so you could get orders on a more regular basis. All marketplaces will have payment gateways and fulfilment centers to handle shipping and delivery services on their own.

Downsides of selling on a marketplace

You will be listed among the top players in the market, so you will have a lot of competition. Marketplaces handle your inventory and other services but you will be charged a substantial commission from the sales you make every month. Marketplaces follow a privacy policy where they cannot share the customer’s information to the seller, so you won’t have data on who your customers are. You’ll have difficulties scaling up your business when you don’t know who your customers are and where they are located.

2. Selling on social media

It’s possible to sell on social media without spending any money. If your target segment is between 18 and 30 years old, social media can be the perfect platform to start selling.

That being said, if you want to drive traffic to your page, you need to stay constantly active and publish posts that engage your customers. You will have to maintain your own records of customer details, address books, inventory, and orders. There are chances of you missing out on minor details that will eventually lead to chaos.

3. Selling through your own website

 Why do you need your own online store?

  • You have complete control over your business.

  • It makes your brand look more credible and professional.

  • It’s easier to expand your market and reach out to customers.

  • You can run your own marketing and re-targeting campaigns for your products.

Option 1: Open-source platforms like Magento and WordPress 

You can code your website from scratch, which can be time-consuming and won’t always get your desired results. Once you are done with the website, you will still need applications and plugins to manage your orders, inventory, and payments. The recurring payments will never end.

Option 2: SaaS ecommerce platforms 

With online store builders, you don’t have to be tech savvy. They allow you to showcase your products and manage your entire sales and inventory processes faster and easier. You can automate mundane processes and focus on areas that need more attention. Online store builders often have pre-built templates and page layouts that are extremely mobile responsive and customizable. 

Each online store builder will have its set of plans with respective pricing. If you’re not sure which one to choose, make a list of the must-have features and then shortlist the platforms that fit your criteria.

Your checklist of the key things you need to get started in ecommerce

□ Product images with descriptions: Use high-quality images and with similar image dimensions. If you have variants of different colors, make sure that you take product images for each variant and map them accordingly. Frame the descriptions using the key words for each product.

□ Shipping rules and carriers: Irrespective of the medium you pick to sell, you will still have to choose your delivery method.

Your shipping charges may vary for different reasons:

> If you’re selling internationally

> If your products come in different weights and sizes

> If your customers expect express delivery

If you’re using an online store builder, you can set multiple shipping options for different regions. They often include built-in integrations with region-specific shipping carriers, making it easier to set up your shipping.

 □ Payment methods: Offer a wide range of payment options for your customers, including mobile wallets if needed. If you want to provide COD as an option, you can set a minimum and maximum order value and provide the option only to specific pin codes. Online builders are already integrated with multiple payment providers and local mobile wallets. This makes it easier for you to choose from and saves a lot of time.  

Choose your payment option based on transactions fees, limitations, countries covered, and ease of use. The easier your mode of payment is, the better your success rate.

□ Inventory management: Every ecommerce store needs to manage and keep track of their inventory. You can see which products are selling fast, and which aren’t. Only when you know your stock in hand, you can channelize them accordingly and deliver to the customers as promised.

 □ Terms and conditions: Terms and conditions are not mandatory. Terms and conditions is otherwise called as Terms of business, Terms of service agreement or Terms of use or Disclaimer. You can list out rules and guidelines that your customers need to follow and what happens if they don’t. For example, you can ban them from using your website. If you have no clue on how to frame one, there are ‘Terms and conditions generator’ available online to help you out as you cannot copy and paste someone else’s.

 □ Privacy policy: They are mandatory by law. If your business collects information from your customers, be it an email id, or their phone number, you take responsibility for protecting their privacy. It’s a practice followed all around the world to show them that you can be trusted with the information.

 □ Business license and taxes: It is mandatory to have licenses and permits to start any business. If your products fall under taxable goods, make sure you register with the taxing authorities as well. Without filing the paperwork, you will end up paying a hefty fine.

 □ Security: Picture this. You are on an ecommerce site, and you are ready to make an online payment. Suddenly there’s a pop-up that says, “This page is not secure, are you sure?”. Will you still go ahead and enter your card details on the website? If yes, boy you’re gutsy! If no, I can resonate with you. It’s always important to make sure that your website is ‘Https’ secure and ‘PCI DSS’ compliant.

For online store builders, they offer this as a freebie to the pricing plan along with other features.

 □ Customer Support: Don’t let your customers dig through your website to contact the company for support. Customers come with expectations. Offer them multiple options like 24/7 chat support, email support, or a phone support line. Mention the frequently asked questions related to delivery, availability and return policies on the product page.

If you’re a large organization, you will obviously have numerous emails and calls to handle. In this case, you can hire and train a few people on your own. Integrate your store to a support portal, so that you can keep your team and your tickets organized.

Online builders have integrations with chat bots where you can feed in your FAQs. This way, it reduces a lot of manual work and your support personnel can focus on something more challenging to handle. The greater your service is, the longer your customers will stick around you.

Marketing must-haves when launching a new online business

 □ Email marketing: Ensure your online store has a newsletter box for your visitors to fill in their email addresses. You will also be collecting emailers when they place the order. This way you can re-target them by sending out coupon codes for your store, interesting updates, or products you think they might like. If you have just launched your online store, you can build your email list through social media or blogging.

 □ Abandoned cart recovery: Abandoned carts are basically products that your customers intended to buy but for some reason they “mentally” disowned it. To win them back, you can send mailers to customers reminding them of how awesome your products are. It is less expensive and has a higher conversion rate.

 □ Social media: Social media especially Facebook and Instagram create advertisements that converts leads to actual buyers. You can create advertisements that can be viewed only to a specific demographic.

 □ SEO: The keywords used in your product descriptions, blogs, product reviews and ratings will help you to rank your site higher in search engines.

Online store builders have an inbuilt SEO tool for every product that you upload. Most of the store builders provide a dashboard with detailed analytics on your store’s performance.

Irrespective of where you want to sell, make sure you have set your financial goals, target audience, business model and your industry. It makes it easier for you to discover what you exactly need for your business. Hope this guide helped you to understand the basics of setting up an online store.

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