In recent years, e-commerce has grown significantly and has become an increasingly important part of the retail industry. Experts have predicted annual e-commerce sales will exceed $8.1 trillion by 2026.
Many people prefer to shop online because it is convenient and often offers a wider selection of products at competitive prices.
We saw that this trend accelerated even more during the pandemic, as businesses and consumers were forced to do business the non-traditional way. Anyone can take their business online and build their own e-commerce store.
On the flip side, as more businesses expand their reach online, competition in the space also increases. Your goal then is to build an online store that stands out from the rest.
We’ll discuss some tips to help you build a successful online store. Please note that these tips are not specific to any niche. Since every product, store, and industry differs, you’ll need to decide what works best for you and how you should approach that. With that said, let’s dive in!
1.) Determine your USPs and communicate them
USPs stands for Unique Selling Points. They are what makes your store, your product, or your service different from others. Understanding your USPs can help you to differentiate your online store and attract the attention of interested customers.
Start by asking yourself questions like: What can I offer that is different from what my competitors are offering? What do my customers need and want more of? What are my customers asking for? What services and products can I provide that are more advantageous than what my competitors are offering?
And what are the answers? Do you offer better deals than other stores? Are you more experienced than your competitors? Do you have better customer service than them?
Once you have identified the answers to these questions, you can determine the unique selling points for your store that will differentiate it from other stores in the same market.
Even more importantly, you need to communicate to potential customers about these strengths. Using compelling and attractive visuals, product descriptions, and informative blog posts are great ways to do that. And make sure that your strengths are clearly visible on your website. Doing so will help make it easier for customers to make an informed decision.
2.) Choose a good hosting provider for your online store
This is an important step in building a functional online store that sometimes is overlooked by business owners.
Your host is responsible for keeping your website up and running. A good host will ensure that your website has high uptime and fast loading speeds, which are essential for providing a good user experience. Not to mention, if a website is slow or goes down frequently, it can be very frustrating for customers and can lead to a loss of sales. In fact, website conversions drop an average of 4.42% after each additional second of load time.
Next to that, your host is (partly) responsible for the security of your online store. Online security is an important topic that any store owners should pay attention to. Since e-commerce websites often handle sensitive information such as customer credit card numbers and personal information, keeping this information secure is crucial. A good hosting provider will provide security measures such as SSL certificates and firewalls to protect the website and its users.
Furthermore, a good host can provide you with plenty of tools and resources to help you build a fully functioning storefront. These resources tend to be included in your hosting package, so make sure to take advantage of them. For example, hosting providers like Bluehost offer tools for managing inventory, processing orders, and processing payments right within their hosting packages. These tools can save time and make it easier for you to build and manage your e-commerce website.
Lastly, technical issues may arise when we least expect them. In this case, a good hosting provider will provide support and guidance to help you get your online store up and running again. So, it’s important to choose a host who has good support service.
3.) Create a stunning design for your store
Any online store needs an eye-catching design to stand out in today’s highly competitive e-commerce market. Creating a visually appealing website that captures customers’ attention and encourages them to make a purchase is essential. We want to note that “visually appealing” is objective, and you should consider your target customer when designing your online store.
Here are a few tips on how to create a stunning design:
- Choose a clean and modern layout: Avoid cluttered designs and stick to a simple, easy-to-navigate layout that will make it easy for customers to find what they want.
- Choose a color scheme: Pick a color scheme consistent with your brand and that matches the products you are selling. Use colors that are easy on the eyes and create a cohesive look throughout your website.
- Be consistent: Use the same fonts, colors, and layout elements throughout your website to create a cohesive and professional look.
- Pay attention to details: Pay attention to things like buttons, hover effects, and animation to create a polished and user-friendly experience.
4.) Stunning images are non-negotiable
Of course, you can’t talk about online stores and not mention the importance of having great images. Stunning images are non-negotiable if you want your online stores to stand out. They can even make or break your website design. About 75% of online shoppers rely on product photos when deciding on potential purchases.
The images on your website are often the first thing customers see when they visit your store, so it’s essential to make a good impression. High-quality, well-lit images can help showcase your products and make them more appealing to customers. They can also help to build brand recognition and trust.
By utilizing a variety of images, such as product shots, lifestyle photography, and branded graphics, you can create an engaging and inviting shopping experience. Next to that, the right photos can be used to communicate key product details, features, and benefits, as well as to highlight promotions and discounts.
If you can, avoid stock photography at all costs. It’s quite easy for shoppers nowadays to recognize stock photos. They won’t feel that your store displays authenticity, which is an important factor for any business.
One thing to note about images, though. While it’s essential to have high-quality images, you need to optimize them. High resolution and heavy images make your pages slow to load, which is not a good user experience. Remember to compress images before uploading them. Plenty of plugins can do that for you if you’re running a WordPress site.
5.) Optimize your online store for organic search
Optimizing your online store for SEO is a great way to drive traffic to your website and increase sales. It works great in the long run, and you’ll have a steady stream of traffic and revenue from people searching for your product or your brand.
First, start by creating an SEO-friendly website structure. Doing this will ensure that search engine bots are able to efficiently crawl and index your site. You should organize your web pages into silos and prioritize optimizing pages on the site with the most relevant, quality content.
Then, research which keywords your target audience will likely use when searching for your products or services. Paid tools like Ahrefs or Semrush can help you do that, but they are expensive to use. If you’re on a tight budget, use free tools like Google Keyword Planner. You can even use Google search itself and see the suggested search results.
Once you have identified those keywords, make sure to include them in your website’s content, titles, descriptions, and meta tags. Additionally, you should optimize the website’s URLs, image alt tags, and internal linking structure.
Next to that, it would be great if you could create a blog. Having a blog associated with your store is a great way to create engaging content that will draw in more customers. Blogging also allows for more opportunities to use targeted keywords, which will further increase visibility in search results. And don’t just write about how great your product or service is. Instead, write content that is helpful to your target audience. For example, if you sell washing machines, you can write articles about how to maintain washing machines. Businesses with a blog see 55% more website visitors than those without.
While ranking high in Google can be a challenge, it is achievable with a well-thought-out strategy. If you’ve just started out, local SEO should be your priority. You won’t be able to compete with more established stores in bigger markets. Instead, focus on optimizing your store to drive potential customers who live (somewhat) close to your business. If they search for local services or products and your store comes up, they will be more likely to click.
6.) Ensure your store has a good technical setup
A good technical setup for your online store will depend on your specific needs and the size of your business. However, there are a few things that are important for most online stores.
Your website must cater to the needs of your users, taking into account the different devices and browsers they will be using to access the website. A well-designed technical setup should ensure the website is intuitive, fast, and secure. This ensures that customers have a positive shopping experience with your store.
It is crucial that the website is fast and mobile responsive. As more and more people shop on their mobile phones, you need to ensure your store can support these customers. In fact, about 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile devices.
Remember to make sure that everything on your website works as intended. Check to see if your buttons, contact form, payment gateway, basket, etc work properly on both mobile and desktop. You should regularly check these features, not just when you first launch.
It’s also a good idea to create a staging site for your website. A staging site lets you test changes you make to your site before implementing them on the live site.
7.) Actively promote your brand
People talk about email and social media marketing quite a lot. While they have their effectiveness, nothing beats word-of-mouth if you’re starting out. You need that initial amount of people knowing about your online store before it can actually take off.
Word-of-mouth is an organic form of marketing that relies on people who already know you or have interacted with your business in some way. Start by reaching out to friends, family, and acquaintances, who can then spread the word to their network.
Follow up with them, thank them for their support, and offer incentives to those who refer new customers. Additionally, reach out to influencers in your industry and leverage their influence to reach a wider audience. This method of marketing is so powerful that Influencer marketing campaigns earn $5.78 for every dollar spent.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
It’s pretty common for businesses to collaborate with influencers to promote their brands nowadays. It makes sense because influencers often have a large and dedicated number of followers who trust their recommendations. Their followers are more likely to purchase products that they endorse.
Next to that, influencers can provide valuable insights and feedback on the products and services offered by your online store, which you can use to improve and optimize their offering.
If you could make it work, leveraging influencers can be a powerful and effective way to promote an online store and drive business growth.
What if influencer marketing is not feasible for you?
If your online store sells niche products or your industry is a niche, finding influencers interested in promoting your products may be challenging. However, you can still do several things to promote your online store and drive sales.
You can try to focus on building relationships with your existing customers and encouraging them to share their experiences with your products with their friends and followers on social media. This can help to generate word-of-mouth buzz and drive more traffic and sales to your online store.
Another suggestion is to try to find online communities or forums related to your niche products and engage with the members there. This can help increase your online store’s visibility and attract potential customers interested in your niche products.
With that said, don’t neglect other forms of marketing, such as email and social media campaigns. Even in the saturated online space of today, they can still help to spread the word about your brand and drive more traffic to your online store. Each form of marketing requires a different cadence and different strategy, but all demand consistency. With the right mix of marketing strategies, you can ensure your online store gets the visibility it needs to succeed.
8.) Use Shipping as a Revenue Generator
While most of the work for your e-commerce store happens online, shipping will likely be the first in-person interaction your customers have with your brand. This impression could make or break your business since 39% of customers say that a bad shipping experience will make them stop shopping at an online store.
However, if used properly, shipping could actually be used as a revenue generator for your online store. Some common examples of this are:
- Offering free shipping: 9 out of 10 customers say free shipping is the top incentive to shop more online.
- Offer multiple shipping options: Giving customers the option to choose expedited shipping along with standard shipping can increase the potential for urgent buyers to make a purchase.
- Make returns easy: 91% of consumers say that an easy returns experience either strongly or somewhat affects their willingness to shop with an online retailer again.
- Use Custom Tracking Pages: Customers look at their order tracking pages over three times per order. You can use that page to recommend similar products and promote upcoming sales.
There are plenty of other ways that you can use shipping as a revenue generator for your e-commerce store, but chief among all of them is to offer cheaper shipping options to your customers.
The easiest way to do this is by using a multi-carrier shipping software like Shippo since they offer deep discounts on USPS and UPS shipments, such as 89% off USPS Priority Mail Cubic and 82% off UPS international services.
Creating a successful online store is definitely not an easy feat. It requires careful planning, dedication, and hard work. However, by following the tips outlined in this post, you can set yourself up for success.
Start by taking the time to identify your store’s unique selling points. Then, create a stunning and technically sound website. Don’t forget to optimize it for SEO. Finally, market your online store through various channels and provide excellent customer service to ensure long-term success.
Good luck with your online store!
This guest post was written by Minal Agarwal, Associate Director of Content Marketing.
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