So you want to build a successful online store, huh…
How do you go about building a successful online store? Are there any special tricks? Special codes? Perfect platforms? Or all the above?
Or how about none of the above?
Of the course of your research into online stores, you are going to come across a lot of advice. Some advice is good. Some advice is absolutely baseless.
As someone that specializes in WooCommerce, you would probably expect me to sing the platform’s praises. Don’t get me wrong, WooCommerce is an incredible platform. I use it in every e-commerce site I build. There is a reason why WooCommerce is one of the most widely used e-commerce platforms on earth along with Magento.
But that’s not what this piece is about.
What this piece is about is giving you five tips that will lead on you on the right track to e-commerce success. These five tips are based upon my personal observation as well as testimonials from various online store owners across the web.
So, what are the five things you need to know when building a successful online store?
Rule 1: Know your industry
When I talk to clients, I ask them about ongoing trends in their industry. What’s going on in their respective industry in terms of e-commerce? How are the most successful companies engaging their consumers? Turning visitors into converted sales? This isn’t a field of dreams, folks – there’s no “if you build it, they will come.”
If you’re going to jump into e-commerce game in your industry, you will need to have near encyclopedic knowledge of how your industry handles e-commerce. What works? What doesn’t? Where did others fail and where did others succeed?
Rule 2: Know your market
I cannot stress enough that there is a massive, Pacific-wide difference between knowing your industry and knowing your market. When you aim to build a successful e-commerce website, it is important to learn what competitors are selling and what consumers are buying.
And I don’t just mean product, either.
What experience is being sold to the consumer? And are consumers responding? Is there even a market for not only what you’re trying to sell, but what you’re aiming to do online?
For example, it may make perfect sense for an online retailer to sell custom made shirts online. However, it may not make any sense for a boutique tailor that makes custom clothing for hundreds and thousands of dollars to follow suit.
Learn what’s working (and not working) in your market. That will give you a strong foundation as to what direction your online store needs to go in.
There is even a chance that, based upon your market, a full-blown online store just may not be practical.
Rule 3: Don’t over extend yourself
When setting up a successful online store, make sure you are aware of your limitations.
For example, you may craft your business model after a retailer that makes hundreds of thousands of dollars online. Ambition is great! However, starting out, you may not have logistical and/or marketing capability to be that ambitious early on.
Know the types of orders that you can fulfill. I always instruct clients to start their store(s) with products that they can sell with ease. This gets their name out there as well as provides the client with an early guide about how to best manage their store.
Rule 4: Don’t necessarily graduate into a full-blown storefront
This may be surprising to some of you, but this is something that I have told a few clients. While there are many platforms out there like WooCommerce, Shopify, Big Commerce, and so on that make e-commerce easy, it doesn’t mean you must start off with a storefront right off the bat.
If you are just starting out – and I mean, just starting out – you may want to begin with a marketing site that talks about your product. If they wish to purchase from you, have the consumer contact you directly. This will give you an idea as to what kind of purchasing process you can handle.
Rule 5: Communication
This is by far the most important rule. And it starts with the development phase.
I always ask a bunch of probing questions when it comes to online stores. Sometimes, I’ll ask the client the same thing in multiple ways. Why do I do this? Because the first step in building a successful online store is making sure you, the client, communicate your goals. Are you wanting to list 10 products or 100? What kind of shopping experience do you want to give your customer?
As I’m putting together the store, you should be developing or have already developed your various policies, such as terms and condition, privacy, returns and exchanges, and purchasing. I usually require clients to have all their policy pages written before I even make the website live to the public. This is really to protect you, your business, and your brand.
By communicating clearly with your developer (hopefully, me) and your consumer(s), you are giving your store a chance to be a success.
The bottom line on building a successful online store
Knowing your industry, your market, what you’re able to do, when to have one, and communication are the five key elements of a successful online store.
Sometimes, the spontaneity that you see in some commercials such as the ones for GoDaddy paint an unrealistic picture. Building an online store is difficult. Building it in a way that will grow with you and lead you to success is an even tougher climb.
But it can be done. And there are plenty of success stories out there.
This is not necessarily about platforms. I can build you one hell of a site in WooCommerce. But I can also link to a store you created in Big Commerce, Shopify, or Magento.
If there must be one golden rule, it is this: make sure you research, learn, and apply what you learned. When you do so, you’re giving yourself a shot at being successful at building and running an online store.