Business

What You Need Before Launching an E-Commerce Business

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There are dozens upon dozens of ways to make money on the web, but one tried and true approach still beats the rest. Selling products remains a reliable way to earn money, even in uncertain economic times. The web has opened up many more avenues for selling products, making it easy for anyone who has the time and motivation. Ecommerce could be your next big business venture.

Just as in the pre-internet days, selling remains difficult. There might be no more complex task than separating someone from his money. Because of this you can’t simply launch a web page and expect the sales to roll in. You need a plan. Only then can you tap the full potential of the ecommerce revolution.

Products

You surely know that you need products to sell. But where do you get these products? It’s not as though you’re going to manufacture widgets in your home (though maybe one day). That means you need to find manufacturers that will allow you to resell their products. In the internet age this isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

There are two basic ways to sell products you don’t manufacture. You can 1) become a reseller, or 2) become an affiliate. There are subtle differences between the two, and they can make big differences in your ecommerce business.

A reseller works directly with a company to sell products. For example, there is the Intel product resellers, which aims to find resale partners for Intel software. Cell phone carriers work with resellers on a widespread basis, so that they can reach audience segments that their mass market advertising does not reach. Resellers are typically required to uphold certain predetermined standards, as well as attend training and certification courses. There is a strong relationship between the manufacturer and the reseller.

An affiliate also resells products, but with a much looser relationship. Instead of directly selling the products, the affiliate merely refers prospects to the manufacturer’s or retailer’s website. If the prospect completes a transaction, the affiliate earns a commission. There typically aren’t any training courses for affiliates, though the manufacturer or retailer will produce general guidelines. You can read more about affiliate marketing at this TechGyo article.

Interface

Having something to sell is the first step. The second step is finding a way to make the sale. That involves having a website with an interface that makes buying easy. This means getting prospects to the product pages and then to the purchase page as quickly and as easily as possible. The more involved the process, the longer it will take for the prospect to buy. That gives her more time to reconsider.

What makes for a good ecommerce interface?

  • Pictures. Always have thumbnails of products when possible. People might not bother if they can’t see the product up front.
  • Basic info. Next to the thumbnail should be the most basic information about the product. Again, providing as much information as possible without the need for a click can increase the likelihood of a click-through.
  • Add to cart. Make it easy for the customer to not only add an item to the cart, but to keep on shopping. Bringing them to a cart screen after every click can reduce the number of items a prospect purchases.
  • Categories. People love organization. Give them that and more with specific categories for the products you offer.

That’s just the start of it, too. When designing the interface, think about how you shop online. What sites do it right? What sites annoy you? Use that information to create a high quality and navigable interface.

Payment system

This can be a big point, or it can be no point at all. For instance, with affiliate sales, there is typically no need for a payment interface. Prospects are sent to another site and make the purchase there. The onus is then off the affiliate and on the retailer. But resellers have quite and obligation to create payment systems. Thankfully, there are many choices out there.

It is important to thoroughly examine a payment system’s offerings before making a decision. There might be some payment systems that take only a small portion of each sale, but also don’t provide much in the way of support. They might not also accept certain forms of payment. Companies like Intuit offer credit card processing in addition to numerous other physical and online payment methods. Your needs will differ depending on your business, but it’s best to find all possible options and weigh them objectively.

The downsides to picking the wrong payment system can hurt your ecommerce business significantly. You might have to deal with:

  1. Lost sales due to lack of certain payment form.
  2. Lost sales due to failed transactions.
  3. Lost profits due to high transaction rates.
  4. Lost profits due to poor tracking methods.

Don’t lose money because of your payment system. It’s supposed to make your life easier, not make you jump through hoops to get paid.

Content

What does content have to do with ecommerce? These days they have plenty in common. There are only so many ways you can market your ecommerce business. You can buy PPC ads on Google, which will certainly bring you visitors. But you don’t know if those are the kinds of visitors who will convert. Similarly, you can run display ads. But it’s difficult to determine how well those display ads are working and converting into profits.

The most efficient way to market your ecommerce business is through content. By creating content people can find you in more ways. For instance, quality content is more likely to rank in an organic Google search than a commerce page. Content also gives you a platform to talk about the products that you sell — not just the products themselves, but the issues and industries that surround them. If you can educate people, you stand a better chance of selling them something.

With the right tracking software, you can get a good idea of how your content converts into sales. Any good marketing content will point readers to sales pages. That shouldn’t be the sole focus of the content, but it should certainly be a part of it. Tracking software will let you know how many people clicked those product links, and subsequently how many people bought. Best of all, content marketing takes only time and creativity. All other forms of marketing typically cost money in addition to your time.

Oftentimes the best way to make money is also one of the more difficult. While there is some money in other web businesses, ecommerce remains one of the more reliable. Take care of these items beforehand and you’ll stand a much better chance of creating a successful ecommerce site.

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