It is no secret that many business owners are taking the online route to start and grow their business. Even for those with physical stores, e-commerce is providing them the chance to scale their customer reach without necessarily having to worry about the extra costs that come with having outlets in every state.
This is a step-by-step guide on how to start and grow a profitable online store within 12 weeks. These steps work whether you are starting out fresh, or already have a physical outlet, but want to extend your reach to the online audience.
Pick a Viable Niche and Define Your Ideal customer
Once you have picked the niche, and your product(s) of choice, it is also important that you draw up a customer persona. This will help you target the right audience instead of simply assuming that everyone is your prospective customer. Defining the age, occupation, interests and gender of your ideal customer will help you through the other steps.
Choose your Product line based on data
Getting accurate data on search trends will also help you in your product choice. Are your target audience searching for things like ‘dark-head remover’ or ‘how to smoothen your face in 10 days”. You get the idea? It is not just about selling products that you are passionate about. But about selling products that your customer needs right now! Also make sure that you have the space to accommodate your product. Imagine if you decided to start selling industrial generators when you barely have a 10ft space in your room to accommodate them.
Create your brand name and assets
If you already have a physical outlet, you can just stick to it. But if you are starting out fresh, you have to decide on a brand name. You also need to create brand assets like your logo, brand colors and feel etc. Remember the customer persona? It will come in handy here, Naturally, the colors to appeal to children and teenagers will be different from that of a brand targeting men in their 40s. If you speak to a brand manager or a creative designer, you will get great advice on what your brand assets should look like.
Register your business name
Formerly, we could say that this was an optional step. But in today’s world, it is not. The internet is like a sea with a million fishes that look alike. If you do not lay legal claims to your brand name, do not be surprised when someone else goes to register your name. Even if you have all the social media handles verified with your business name, it does not qualify as legal registration.
Choose an E-Commerce Platform and set up your e-store
There are a number of good e-commerce platforms to choose from, but maybe not all of them would suit you. Check out features like affordability, capabilities, visibility and user-friendliness. Some may offer a free signup and take percentage commissions on every sale you make. Some others may offer paid packages and added value like promoting your business. Take your time to decide which works best for you.
It may be wise to consider setting up your own e-commerce website which you control, so that you can maximise your advertising spend. For instance, customers who visit your e-store on another platform might also stumble across recommendations from other vendors. But if you have your own e-commerce website, you can be sure that every product they see on that website is from you. If you do decide to do this, you should check out Startweb Africa. It is a website builder with already made templates that you can easily modify with your products, prices and colors. There are also options to integrate payment gateways so that you can receive payments right on your e-store.
Optimize Your e-store
It is very important that you realise that listing your product on an e-commerce platform or setting up your own e-store is not a guarantee that internet users will find it. You have to optimise it, so that the search engines can find your page/website. Use clear, relevant and descriptive title tags and meta description on your page. Also add alternate text on your product images so that they will pop up in image searches as well, and use descriptive headers. Don’t forget keyword tags as well.
Spread the word
Don’t understand the power of word of mouth. Tell your friends and family. Share it with your online community and followers. Get friends to reshare and repost and watch your business gain visibility. Add your brand to online directories. Set up a Google My Business profile, and use content marketing to help your site get found online. Create social media profiles and become active on them.
A good way to spread the word is to join online conversations. For instance, if you have a skincare product, you can locate those threads and comment sections where skincare routine and products are being discussed. Be mindful not to just spam such discussions by dropping your links and expecting people to check you out. Contribute something of value to the conversation, before sharing your product or e-store link. If you have the means, you may also try influencer marketing. Don’t joke with reviews from your first few customers, especially where they are family and friends. You may even offer a reward for the tagged reviews online and referrals. More on this in the next step.
Set up a reward system for marketing
Once your online store is up and running, you can set up a reward system. For instance, you may have a loyalty program where you give customers a gift when they have bought goods worth a certain amount from you, or another where customers who patronised every month of the year get a Christmas hamper from you, can help you retain customers. What if you have a program where customers can refer a customer, and then get 5% off their next purchase?
Try a few different methods and see which ones work best for you.
Once you get all of these in motion, you need to keep oiling the wheels of the last three steps. Keep your product in the face of the customers. Keep researching current search trends among your customers, and see how your products may meet those needs.
With these steps implemented step by step, you should have a profitable store up and running in 12 weeks. If you have picked a platform like Startweb Africa where you can receive payments directly on your e-store, then all you need to concern yourself with is the logistics of packaging and delivery. Best of luck.