E-commerce is touted as one of the most viable online business opportunities on the Web today. In comparison to traditional brick and mortar businesses, e-commerce site requires minimal start-up cost and is relatively low-risk. However that does not imply creating an e-commerce site is a simple process, neither does it guarantee your future success. The purpose of this article is to walk you through the necessary steps and plans you would need in order to set up a successful e-commerce site.
Un-earth Your Niche
The very first thing to do is find your niche. Examine your hobbies and interests for potential business ideas. If you love soccer, consider selling soccer supplies or team uniforms, online. Focusing on your expertise or something you have great passion for would give you an advantage over competitors who do not have in-depth knowledge of that niche.
Research Your Niche
Once you've whittled down a few ideas, explore each one further. Ask yourself these questions: How many people are looking for your services? Where do they go and find people like yourself? How many searches are created for your product or service on Google? You may not have a budget to create demand, so it's safer and cheaper to go where the demand already exists.
Scope out Your Competitors
Research your competitors inside out. Spend time to check out their websites and compare their products and services. Give yourself an idea of what you’re up against, so you can create your e-commerce site as professional as, or even better than theirs.
Write Your Business Plan
You want to have a foolproof business plan for your business. Work out a detailed formula - including your site theme, goals, business strategies. It's also a good idea to keep a record of expenditures, sales, profits etc. Your business cannot just be a 'me-too' business online. Develop a powerful USP (Unique Selling Position) that sets you apart from your competitors and makes you stand out from the crowd!
Create Your Website
Register a good domain name as marketing tactic. Name that ends in *.com is best of all. Try to include relevant keywords that properly describe your business or product if possible.
A well-designed website creates a good first impression with your prospects. Get yourself a professional website template at an affordable price and customize it to suit your need. Most templates can be easily customized using common HTML editors and simple graphics software.
You’ll want your website content to target specific keywords for high search engines ranking and traffic flow. This can be done by creating informative articles, product reviews, descriptions and comparisons. If you're short on time, many SEO (search engine optimization) experts are willing to help you out for a reasonable price.
Host Your Website
Find a dependable hosting company to host your website on their servers. A quick search on Google for “web hosting” should bring up hundreds of companies ready to do business with you. Select a reliable web host that provides adequate disk space and bandwidth with e-commerce scripts supporting features. Domain name-specific email accounts must also be available to give a professional image.
Your website files can be uploaded using a simple FTP program or file uploading service in your hosting account. Technical support personnel from your hosting company should walk you through the steps to upload your files and launch your website.
Implement a Shopping Cart
An e-commerce site is never complete without a secure shopping cart. The best option you can consider is a remotely hosted shopping cart which takes the burden of maintaining security and credit card numbers off your shoulder. Most remote shopping carts can be configured to look similar to your website so your customers may not realize that they have left your website when making a payment.
If a remote shopping cart is not within your budget, there are still lots of third party credit card processing companies that are ready to process your credit card orders using their merchant account for a small fee. Some popular ones to you can check out are ClickBank, PayPal and 2CheckOut.
Marketing and Promotion
You have identified your niche, set up your e-commerce site and you are good to go. Now comes the most crucial part - promoting your site! This could be a full-time career option for most people. Either you can learn to do this yourself or you can have an expert do it for you.
Begin by submitting your site to major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Dmoz, etc. You also need to optimize your site using profitable keywords and keyword-rich content. There are lots more business promotion strategies such as advertising, link exchange, e-zine promotion etc. which you may need to explore to create your online presence and build traffic.
Setting up your e-commerce site is sure a lot of work, but it's just the first step. Making it successful is even more work, but the pay-offs can be rewarding. Remember, success can be yours provided you work hard and smart