Editor’s note: This is a guest post by David Campbell who blogs about customer service trends for ClickDesk
There’s no denying that in today’s time e-commerce is the most popular and profitable medium of reaching out to customers. But it isn’t always that easy to set up and establish a name in the market. So many entrepreneurs have faced hurdles while handling their business, but a few decisions and pre-planned elements could help overcome these barriers. When you set off to start your business, you’ll be concerned about inventory, capital, technical issues and so much more. Let’s talk about how we can deal with such hurdles and turn them in your own favor.
Inventory: How much customers really want?
I’ve met so many entrepreneurs moaning about stocking up too much or too little inventory. It has driven many people I know into debt and financial loss, this in itself adds to the barriers while establishing a business. Decide how much you’re going to stock, a little extra is alright, but never too little. Achieving the perfect equilibrium is very tough but possible.
Before you even think of starting your business, research and understand the niche and its demand in the market. This requires observing competition and analyzing what the customers really want and HOW much they need!
Collect charts, graphs, research papers and current news on the market. This is significant in determining how far you could make your e-commerce business work at its optimum point without facing too many obstacles. The more you know about market and demand, you’re more likely to be successful and less prone to facing problems in the future.
Think about it like this, if you have an online cosmetic beauty business that sells all kinds of brands, how will you stock up? First off, you need to observe the online market and that specific niche, try to figure out which age range is attracted to your business and which products do they want the most. Is it skincare items or just foundation and eyeshadow palettes? This will make your business stock up on items in a focused manner where you have more of those products that people demand the most. Instead of stocking up equal amounts of all products and categories, you should stock up in accordance with customer demand. Make sure you always have a little extra backup stock for the most desired items; this will avoid any customer dissatisfaction or complaints.
Capital: Divide and Conquer
Capital is a primary aspect to take into consideration before starting any business. You must have enough capital and savings too. Funnily enough, so many entrepreneurs start off their e-commerce business with huge sums of money and invest in website development and product inventory, but they fail to remember the importance of backup savings. Just like how you must have backup stocks, you MUST have backup savings in case things go downhill or the market experiences a sudden change or new competitors.
Work towards the best by thinking of the worst scenarios. Startups that don’t have funds for downtimes tend to collapse and fail to sustain their business. It’s important to know that profits won’t come easily in the first year of the business, so prepare yourself financially. Division and prioritization of capital plays an equally important part in e-commerce businesses. Learn to divide capital in accordance with what’s more and less in demand by customers. You can spend more money on products that customers are more likely to put in their cart than the ones they won’t. If you’ve done proper research and market analysis on your niche, you should know where you need to invest your money and where you can pull your wallet away.
Technical: How to choose the best
This is an important question and, unfortunately, there is no simple answer to it as best choice depends upon the kind of ecommerce website you want, what options you are looking for and how big are you planning in the first few years and in the long run.
Having a proper hosting is important especially for new startup but what kind of hosting a business should invest in is the real question. Shared hosting is cheap, but the level of risk is very high. One should not go for shared hosting especially when you have the confidential information of your customers with you.
Dedicated hosting can seriously cost you hundreds of dollars each month but the level of risk in this kind of hosting is next to none. There is another option called virtual private server (VPS). There are few people accessing the server so the risk level is lesser than shared hosting, but it’s still not as secure and dedicated.
E-commerce means you will have the confidential information of your clients and if you cannot secure them you cannot secure your business. The best idea is to see how competitive your business is, how big your inventory and customer base and how much is good for you to invest in the start and choose the hosting server accordingly. Besides the cost, always make sure that server is not in the blacklist, has a 99.9% of uptime and there should be no complaints about the down time because hosting downtime can kill your business and reputation within seconds.
SEO: When to involve online marketers
In the last 9 years of search marketing experience, I hate to admit that in the quest of cost cutting most e-commerce businesses take this wrong decision which later bites them in the back. Business theory usually comes up to a logical conclusion that business should include SEO/digital marketing team when the website is ready and live.
Talking from experience, when I received the website for SEO and digital marketing, I had to send it back to the developers as the website is not built as per the guidelines given by search engines. This increases the work of the developer and time and cost.
The best idea is to involve the SEO/digital marketing person from the time of website development so they can help and guide the developers with SEO friendly development. This includes site architecture, URL structure, server errors, redirections, js, implementation of CSS and more.
These development issues can be fixed if SEO consultation can be available at the time of development. This could help businesses save time and money which is more important than anything else in the business.
At workplace depot, we always made sure that the website is completely fixed from the development point of view because any problem on the development side can kill search engine rankings in days. I mean imagine the wrong implementation of canonical tags can de-index the website internal pages, which means loss of traffic, rankings and ultimately business.
SEO/Digital Marketing is important and just add them in the process from day one and you will be able to save big in the longer run.
Welcome to the real world, these are the stats of how customers shop online and why they abandon the website when they are almost done shopping. According to stats:
- 40% of the customers want more than one payment option
- 59% only want to go with their preferred payment method.
- 60% of total web transactions happen via PayPal.
This explains a lot about what you should do when choosing a payment gateway. You have to have multiple options so that customers can trust you more and confidently checkout from the website. Paypal should be one of the options as it’s the most popular payment platform on the internet.
One important reason why I love PAYMILL is that it takes care of all the stats and customer attitudes by delivering a solution that gives lots of choices on the customer end that is PayPal, credit & debit card and, SEPA payments. On the small business owners’ end its less hassle as they have to deal with one platform to control everything.
Customer Services: First and Foremost
Let’s admit it; customer service can shape your entire business in a positive or negative way. One angry customer could tarnish your brand image and throw off other people from buying your product. This article goes into further detail of how to deal with customers and satisfy their needs. I’ve heard my colleagues complain about pesky customers that get excessively infuriated and slightly offensive. What do you do with these people?
Nothing, you just need to listen to them and empathize with your customers. Make sure you make them feel important and that a sense of care and concern is conveyed on behalf of your business/company. If they have a complaint, try to resolve it and later follow up to check if the problem has been fixed. With e-commerce, many entrepreneurs have issues of customers expressing their dissatisfaction through reviews, comments or tweets. So you need to be on top of your game and must address their problems with care and interest.
If your presence on social media and on your website is active and consistent then the customers are bound to acknowledge the updates and activities of your business. This way you can keep constant communication open with customers, which could gain you a few loyal customers in the long run. It also allows you to collect any feedback and suggestions that could help you improve the business and avoid any further hurdles, such as unhappy customers.
Brand reputation: To be or not to be
One wrong step could damage the image of your business and that’s one of the biggest hurdles that e-commerce business owners fear in the market.
The reputation of many e-commerce businesses depends on a lot of social media outlets and customer engagement. All these aspects are interdependent, social media makes communication and engagement easier with customers and this in turn could help represent your brand name. The more you engage and pay attention to customers online, the better chances you have of gaining loyal customers who would praise your brand. If you focus on feedback and suggestions to improve the business, you could get a step ahead of the competition and possibly gain more customers. Remember that a happy and loyal customer could soon be speaking in support for your brand name. So if you keep your customers happy, some of them could become brand advocates that could boost a positive image of your brand through blogs, reviews, and tweets!
Reputation depends a whole lot on how you deal with customers. One viral negative review could bring your company tumbling down, and you don’t want that at all! So remember to stay connected at all times, make sure your team doesn’t run short of skimming through any negative comments, reviews or tweets. Damage control needs to be an instilled skill within your team because it’s the only way you can regain your reputation if something goes wrong.
Are you putting your brand out there? Even e-commerce businesses need platforms like blog meetups or exhibitions to showcase their services or products. So make sure you’re not only present online but offline too.
In conclusion, there will always be several hurdles standing in the way of e-commerce business but you could most surely overcome all of them. Staying updated on research and web hosting will do wonder for your business. Don’t forget to look out for your customers too. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.
About the author: David Campbell blogs about customer service trends for ClickDesk live chat and helpdesk software. He is an active freelance writer and his other interests include organic SEO and growth hacking.
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