Online commerce is becoming a bigger and bigger piece of the pie for retailers of all sizes.
A recent survey of Chief Financial Officers at retailers across the country by the professional services firm BDO USA, found nearly three-quarters expect e-commerce sales to increase by 6.9% this year.
If you’re a small business retailer, are you prepared to take advantage of this growing market trend? As the strength of this market segment grows, you need to be positioned to take advantage of it.
Here are six tips to help you make online business big business for your small business:
1. Create a plan
Just as you would do for any business, you need to create a plan for your e-commerce site. Is it going to be an extension of your brick and mortar retail strategy or do you plan to sell only online? How will you price your online products? How will your market your site? Make sure you set realistic expectations and goals.
2. Choose the right web host
You wouldn’t want to run your retail business in an unreliable, dilapidated old building would you? So make sure you select a web host that is reliable and cost effective. Determine what features you’ll need to run your site then do your homework. Make sure your provider can handle traffic spikes and is equipped with back-up resources in cases of an emergency. Also inquire about the level of service and technical support the host provides. If potential shoppers have a bad online experience, you’ve probably lost them forever.
3. Decide how to accept payment
Online stores can accept a variety of payment types the most popular of which is credit cards. If you don’t already have a merchant account you’ll need to establish one with your bank to accept credit card transactions. Make sure your e-commerce provider is equipped to handle such payments. The key is security. Although sending a credit card number over the Internet is extremely safe, customers still worry. Make sure your customers know their information is absolutely secure.
4. Market your website
Don’t assume your online site will automatically draw traffic. You’ll need to create a marketing strategy to make sure customers know you’re there. Leverage social media to spread the word. One-third of CFOs in the survey cited email marketing and social media campaigns as a top strategy in 2012. You should also optimize search engines by making sure your content is rich in relevant keywords. Embed Google Analytics code on every page of your site so you’ll have information about where your customers come from, where they go on your site and how long they stay. This is all important data for marketing your business and building your customer base.
5. Make customers happy
Remember, just because you’re on the Internet doesn’t mean you can ignore good old-fashioned customer service. Make sure you provide information on your site about how customers can contact you directly and respond promptly when they do. Also ship merchandise in a timely fashion and make returns easy.
6. Don’t rest on your laurels
Once your online store front is up and running—keep refining it. Give your customers a reason to come back. You wouldn’t return to the same store time and time again if you knew you’d only find the same stuff you saw the last time.
Are you planning on bringing your retail business online? Already online? What tips do you have?