E-commerce is the number one area for business start ups. It has huge potential.
However, many errors can transform your e-commerce business into a nightmare.
Here is a list of 5 common mistakes to avoid when you are starting off.
1. Don’t fall in love with the mechanics of your website and lose sight of your main goal.
Of course, when you are selling online you need a good e-commerce website, you need to think of the structure, the color code and whether it is user friendly. All that not withstand the most important element in your project must be your added value and your product catalog.
You can have the most complex and perfect website but, unfortunately, it is worth nothing if you do not have a well-structured business behind it. What you need to focus on is having a good product catalog that makes you stand out, finding reliable suppliers, finding your market and being on the alert for important trends.
2. Don’t forget to delegate.
The e-commerce has become a complex business, requiring a multitude of skills. In other words, you need to know what you are doing. However, it is hard to be a master of every facet of your domain.
To delegate certain tasks may require hiring someone, or perhaps outsourcing. For example: for the technical part of your website, hiring a web developer is not necessarily a priority at the beginning of your project and yet you must ensure a quality hosting so your e-commerce minimizes breakdowns. Using a SaaS e-commerce solution (which means including hosting and technical maintenance) is a good way to delegate the technical part and therefore to focus on creating value.
You’ll have time and money to change solutions if your business takes off well, meanwhile, this does the trick. These tips are also valid for the web marketing part: SEO and Adwords have become tools where you need expertise to be able to fully exploit their value.
3. Don’t underfinance your business.
This is one of the most common problems when you are starting your business: the too tight budget.
The easiest way is to make a business plan (a crucial, but nonetheless often omitted, step). This is an important tool for purchases of products, sales forecasts, website creation, web marketing and most importantly banks and investors. Since there will always be someone you will need to convince at every turn, this is your tool.
A Business Plan is also a way for you to help you plan your budget and build your awareness of what you need. If you start off with a too small a budget, you will quickly come to a stop and this will delay your whole project. Know what you are getting yourself into before throwing yourself into it.
There are many ways to find money for your budget, one of the latest trends is crowd funding. Here are a few websites that could be interesting for you: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Rockethub, GoFundMe.
4. Don’t succumb to ALL the latest “2.0” tools.
Once your budget is established it is important to spend it wisely and take it step by step. A common trap is to succumb to all the different web-marketing tools there is. Remember that your goal is to sell your products and that your budget and time are limited.
No need to waste your time setting up a Facebook page, a Twitter account and using all the latest plug-ins at first. If you have no customers, start by looking for some. Then you will be able to adapt a good web marketing strategy for your followers.
Your initial budget should be used to validate your business model and not to improve the functionalities of your site. In other words: an ugly website but with quality products (at the right price) will convert, but a beautiful website with good designs but with poor product offering does not convert. It is easy to work on the design of a website once you have put in place a solid business. The other way around is much harder.
Of course, in time, the goal is to have both: a beautiful and user friendly website with good quality products at good prices.
5. Don’t neglect your existing customers
Clients should be treated as VIP’s, without them you are nothing. And when you start, you have to take extra good care of your customers.
Do not hesitate to call up the first customers to ask them if they are satisfied, and if not, find out what went wrong. This will enable you to know the problems that they encountered and you will be able to correct them instantly. Your first customers are precious because they are the ones who are going to talk about you and “decide” the destiny of your business.
Now, think strategically: How can I reward my first customers and encourage them to talk about my business? Gifts, recognition, coupons, money; many solutions exist and it is up to you to find the right one.
So, should you go for it?
To start-up an e-commerce is a complex project despite the fact that is seems easy. Do not get me wrong, everyone can do it, but you need the right budget, the time and the expertise in many domains. One of the most precious tools you can have is time. Take the time to set up you project, take the time to plan a budget, take the time to find the right people to help you and take the time for your customers.