6 Must-Have Marketing Goals for eCommerce Stores

The right marketing goals are necessary to scale your ecommerce business faster. Check out these six actionable tips.

There’s no better time to get into ecommerce than today. The market for online goods and services is growing rapidly, and technology is getting better at meeting the needs and expectations of consumers.

But as profitable as ecommerce can be, you can never do away with competition. That’s why as an entrepreneur, it’s always wise to have  goals that can get more visitors to your shop, convert these visitors into customers and ultimately grow your .

It’s easy to get lost in the din of ideas about ecommerce, so I’ve listed six marketing goals that you should definitely adopt for your store.

1. Optimize product pages for search engines

As more and more people hop onto the ecommerce bandwagon, it’s becoming more urgent for brands to invest in SEO or search engine optimization. Having the right optimizations in place, especially on your product pages, makes it easier for search engines to find your store and show it in relevant search results. Ultimately, this will lead potential buyers to your store and help establish its name in the niche it falls under.

It makes good business sense for many important reasons.

Gaining organic rankings offers long-term value. However, there’s a quicker way for your store to show up on the search results, and that is via paid ads. For a price, your store can get a high placement on search results and get a traffic boost — a great complement to your organic SEO efforts.

2. Capture leads through social media

 has become an indispensable part of the new normal, and businesses that use multiple social channels ultimately sell more products than those that don’t.

A great place to start  is . It’s a business-friendly platform, especially with its features that let sellers tag products on their posts. With Instagram, brands like yours can easily turn ordinary browsing into a convenient shopping experience for users.

You can also capture leads through other social media sites like  and . But before you settle on a platform, check first if your target audience uses it. It wouldn’t be wise to stretch your time and resources on several social media sites if your ideal customers use only a couple or so.

3. Collect email leads through signup forms

It’s normal to have store visitors who may eye certain products but aren’t ready to make a purchase. These visitors usually need a little more convincing or nurturing, and this is where a signup CTA and email sequences come in handy.

With a signup form, you can collect people’s information and then send them messages and deals that could persuade them to buy. You may use a mix of different signup forms, such as popups and static opt-in boxes.

When someone fills out your form, they’re basically giving you permission to contact them. You should take advantage of that by having email sequences ready. Your emails should aim to nurture your leads, counter any buying objections they might have and eventually lead them to make a purchase.

4. Boost sales through upselling and cross-selling

Upselling and cross-selling are powerful tools to increase the value of a customer’s purchase. Plus, they could help customers know more about your offers even if they don’t immediately buy.

Upselling is when you offer a better and more expensive product than what the customer is looking at on your product page or checkout page. Meanwhile, cross-selling is when you suggest an additional product that can improve the customer’s experience with the product they have in their cart.

Let’s say you’re selling bags. On every bag product page of your store, you can try to offer upsells by displaying one or two more expensive bag designs close to the main product’s images. This way, shoppers will have more options and could decide whether to go for the cheapest bag or the one with the best features.

For cross-selling, an example is offering travel accessories, like a sanitizer bag tag or a neck pillow, that go well with travel bags.

 is one of the most popular platforms that actively offer upsells and cross-sells. Next time you shop on Amazon, pay attention to their product recommendation sections packaged as Frequently Bought Together, Similar Items and Top Picks For You.

5. Reduce abandoned carts

It’s common knowledge among online entrepreneurs that up to 97 percent of store visitors are there simply to look around and click away. That’s why it’s not surprising that abandoned carts are a common problem for ecommerce. In fact, cart abandonment rates could go as high as 87 percent, which should spur your goal of reducing these incidents.

You must assess what could be stopping shoppers from completing their transaction. It could be due to a complicated checkout page, limited payment methods, lack of trust badges or other issues.

You can minimize potential problems by displaying badges and logos shoppers can easily recognize, such as those of cybersecurity companies like Norton and .

You can also offer multiple payment options on your checkout page to accommodate shoppers’ preferences. Consider , Google Pay and  options like Visa and .

6. Build customer loyalty

Did you know that it’s far less expensive to sell to a past customer than acquire a new one? This is why brands invest in customer retention, and one way to do this is through a customer loyalty program.

Rewarding loyalty can benefit both your customers and your brand. With it, you can give customers compelling reasons to purchase and repurchase from your store. And if your rewards are one of a kind, they’ll likely spread the word to their social circles and help you with word-of-mouth marketing.

Rewards can come in the form of discounts, freebies, waived fees or exclusive items. The key point is to create offers that can inspire loyalty and increase your customers’ lifetime value.

As an ecommerce business owner, setting goals and taking action — especially for marketing your brand — are what will help you scale. You can’t go wrong with the goals listed here, but be sure to keep track of your niche, monitor your progress and adjust your strategies as needed. Hopefully, the six insights I’ve shared have helped you understand how important marketing is and the many different ways you can strengthen your ecommerce brand.

Source: entrepreneur.com  ~ By: Steve Tan ~ Image: Canva Pro

11 Essential Ecommerce Marketing Strategies

Which ecommerce marketing strategies are worth the time and investment?

Whether your online retail company is just starting up or has reached the point of maintaining a well-established customer base, it’s important to stay up to date with the most current ecommerce marketing trends and techniques for your business. Structuring and finally launching an ecommerce website is a milestone achievement for your brand. Therefore, it’s crucial to invest in an effective website structure and ecommerce marketing strategy. Apart from all the structure, it also helps and builds trust with your customers when you protect your traffic with SSL encryption.

If you’re interested in finding out the best tried-and-true methods, as well as the newest techniques of marketing for an ecommerce business, pay attention to the 11 tips below.

1. Produce original content

The first step in setting up an ecommerce website is creating the content for it. Creating high-quality and original content will set you up for success because it will resonate with your customers in a way that makes them want to interact with you, purchase from you, and maintain a following.

Be creative. Be original.

Promoting original content is a great way to make a statement, strike a compelling idea, and make a mark on the user’s mind. There is a fine line between content that engages users and content that deters them.

Why not take an extra step, put in a little effort, and create something that will be genuinely compelling? It’s an ecommerce marketing strategy with lasting effect. One or two well-written pages can drive revenue for years to come.

What should you write?

First, add informative content to your primary site pages – your homepage, about, policies (warranties, shipping, etc.) at the bare minimum.

Then it’s important to populate your online store’s product content. Start with individual products, prioritizing by your best sellers or highest earners, and write unique descriptions. Don’t just drop in the manufacturer’s boilerplate language. Explain what it is, why it’s better, and its key features.

Look also to category pages. These also pose great SEO opportunity (more on that below). Here’s where you can explain a type of product (e.g., men’s athletic shoes) and provide paths to other products, to help the user find what they’re looking for. FAQs are often handy on category pages to answer questions related to the segment (e.g., “how to choose men’s athletic shoes”).

Now, it’s time to get proactive.

Spawning from your ecommerce company’s authority (e.g., shoes), publish blog posts that will attract new audiences while informing and engaging existing fans.

Add rich content to your website, too – in ecommerce, product demo or explainer videos are a supreme fit.

If you’re coming up short of ideas, ask your customers. Use a user feedback tool offering pop-up chat interactions to ask, for example…

  • What are you looking for?
  • What do you want to learn more about?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What brought you here today?

Your goal is to zero in on content topics that your audience cares about – because they tell you so. More on content beyond core “money pages” below as we talk content marketing.

This online fireworks company added informative content to their category pages that answers common questions about specific types. Not only did this drive SEO performance, it increased engagement, conversions, and order value.

2. Optimize your ecommerce website’s layout

After launching or redesigning your ecommerce site, it’s important to test your website’s layout, language, and placement of conversion elements. When customers visit your website, you want to make sure it’s easy and simple to check out, that they feel naturally inclined to purchase your products, and that it’s abundantly clear how to do so.

You should test the language displayed on your landing and product pages, the language in your conversion elements, and even the strategic placement of icons and elements. You can use various usability testing methods for this.

One really nifty tool is Mouseflow’s heatmap software that reveals valuable patterns in customer behavior on your website. One of their most popular heatmaps, the movement heatmap, reveals the most attractive parts of your website — based on visitor movement data to your website.

With a color guide, Mouseflow will tell you where your customers spend the most time, and the least amount of time! If a specific area of your page receives more attention (in white), you should consider moving your conversion elements to those more attractive areas to increase click-through rates (CTR).

You’ll also want to set up a conversion funnel analysis and optimization tool. With this, you can assign pages on your site to a funnel and analyze how users move through the journey.

You’ll find that certain pages and funnel journeys perform better than others. You can also watch session recordings of users that dropped and converted, to better empathize with their experiences.

Test it for a week and see how your conversions change. Take your ecommerce marketing strategy to the next level with an ecommerce conversion rate optimization strategy using these methods.

Mouseflow’s affordable, scalable pricing plans gets you started for free and grow with you as you become an ecommerce power player.

3. Content marketing

Proper ecommerce content marketing can attract more positive attention, interaction, and sustainable conversions in a way no other marketing method can. By creating and promoting original content, you are ensuring that your audience is receiving new information that matters to them on a continual basis.

Content for your website, like mentioned above, includes home page, category pages, product pages, and the like. Content marketing on the other hand is content specifically geared to attract customers and is promoted to get their attention.

Brainstorm with your team to create a list of the different types of content you wish to create. This can be blog posts, videos, and newsletters. Also, make sure you are utilizing your marketing budget by consulting with experts, outsourcing work when necessary. Invest in high-quality software, subscriptions, employees, and training for your team.

You will also find that if you work with the right people, many of the things you’ve paid for in the past can be done internally. Create diversity within your team and listen to everyone’s ideas.

And in the spirit of listening to everyone’s ideas, deploy a user feedback tool to collect questions, thoughts, and topics from your audience. Or, “listen” to their behavior – use heatmap tools to identify the parts of your website, and even parts of specific pieces of content, that get the most interest. then expand on these topics, and link them within the content’s “hot spot”.

We also suggest that you create content based on Pareto’s 80/20 rule, which means that your promotions should comprise of 80% informational content, and 20% promotional content. All of the content you publish should be relevant, interesting, and unique.

4. Social media marketing

Social media ecommerce marketing is a very powerful tool. It allows you to communicate with your industry, customers, and market in a personal, public way. You can utilize social media to generate engagement and interaction, boost traffic to your website, and develop a larger base of customers.

Utilizing different social media platforms for different purposes also creates a rich presence for your company that diversifies your abilities and efforts. This will ultimately help you cater to your customers’ needs in a way that grows your business over time.

Maintaining a solid tone and personality of your company through social media is very important because consistency is what will create trust within your audience. In order to develop and maintain brand recognition and authority, make sure your outreach efforts are unified by ensuring your team is on the same page with your company’s communication style.

Just as important as being present and engaged on social is monitoring this channel’s performance. To do so, you’ll want to use your web analytics tool to…

  • Monitor the performance of the social referral journey on-site with a funnel optimization tool.
  • Review user session recordings to understand why customers abandoned the journey, what compelled them to convert, and what caught their interest along the way.
    • Bonus tip: look at the full on-site journeys of your converted customers and consider how to adjust your pre-defined funnel to better meet these needs. You may have forgotten to consider a customer’s affinity for visiting your reviews page, and can identify this as a key conversion-journey touchpoint.
  • Analyze the behavior of the distinct social segment via heatmaps. How deep do they scroll? What sections get the most interest? where are they compelled to click? Use this to inform campaign and strategy tweaks.
  • Ask the audience for user feedback via pop-up chat tools at key moments in their journey, such as when they stay on a page for long enough or have exit intent.
  • Run through your forms with a fine-toothed comb via form analysis tool. You may find that social audiences are more or less inclined to give up information, and can adjust your form fields to suit them.

Form Analysis

5. Email marketing

One of the most effective forms of reaching out to your customer base is through email marketing. Although you have to be very careful about the content within your emails and who is included in your outreach, the reason email marketing has been around for so long is because it works.

In order to reach your audience most effectively, provide useful content within your emails.  Make them as personal as you can, offer valuable promotions, and use it as an opportunity to socialize.

Open up about what your business is doing, any events you are attending, new features or products, and be transparent about your company. You want to relate to your customers on a level that gauges their interest and keeps them engaging with your emails.

As always, make sure you are monitoring the analytics of your email marketing efforts, and any ecommerce marketing strategy elements, for that matter. Remember to follow email design best practices to serve up a satisfying message and experience.

You can also track users who entered your website from your email campaigns with Mouseflow. All you have to do is set a custom URL that users “visit” when entering your site, and their entry page will contain that unique URL. A great way of doing this is to append UTM variables to your URL.

You can use Mouseflow filters or the search feature to find users whose sessions contained your custom URL. From here, you can save and export the list, perform analytics, and watch how they interacted on their site.

You can also filter your heatmaps for this data to analyze how they engage with each page of your site, which elements they find most attractive, and more!

For Level Two of email marketing, consider how triggered emails can be leveraged to recover lost conversions, such as abandoned carts.

7. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC for ecommerce)

There are three basic elements to any pay-per-click marketing campaign: the ad, the offer, and the landing page.

All three must be in good harmony and synchronization if you want to maintain the interest of the lead. The landing page must be a continuation of your ad, delivering what was promised as the reward of clicking on the ad, in order to take the visitor through your convesion funnel.

It must also be customized for keywords to appear somewhere near the top of search engine results. Likely, these keywords will play into the rest of your ecommerce marketing strategies, too.

Keep the landing page free of distractions and unnecessary bells and whistles. Also, keep in mind that your landing page is the most appropriate place to boast your product benefits to the customer.

To measure performance, use your web analytics tool‘s filters to identify the UTM-coded audience.

8. Optimize for mobile

It is absolutely crucial to make sure your website is responsive to any user layout. Mobile users are starting to dominate the sea of internet use, especially in ecommerce, and it’s important to accommodate their needs to provide a good user experience (UX) for everyone.

Mobile funnel example

People who visit your website do not want to be redirected to an app or web version of your website, they want the full-meal-deal. So, make sure you deliver what they are expecting and make the investment to enhance your website so that it’s fully responsive. UX strategies are often the most essential ecommerce marketing strategies you can have — a user that bounces isn’t worth much!

You can also use mobile marketing techniques to target mobile users specifically. One of the most popular marketing trends is called geo-targeting, which advertises to mobile users based on their location. This technique enables you to reach out to customers who are within a specific distance of your business, and provide them with an incentive to stop by or make a purchase.

Then, leverage geo heatmaps to audit the effectiveness of your regional campaigns. You can even use these geo heatmaps to strategize which regions to target, either chasing what works or breaking into untapped markets.

If you head into a new region, consider multilingual marketing to speak to the audience on their own terms.

9. Target wearable and VR

Targeting wearable and Virtual Reality (VR) technology is a trending technique that grabs users in a new and exciting way. People are still getting used to this technology, and are not yet overwhelmed by or habituated to advertisements.

Your target audience for these mediums will be very refined, as these users are the part of the population that carries the latest technology at the palm of their hands at all times, keeps up to date with trends, and doesn’t mind dropping some extra cash for items they desire.

Although creating campaigns that are designed for these technologies can be expensive, the right approach can be worth the initial investment because a filtered audience is more likely to convert.

This isn’t one fo those ecommerce marketing strategies that will work for every business, either. Be sure wearable and VR tech are familiar to your audience before making the investment. enter , another opportunity to gauge customer reception by using a survey tool.

10. Humanize and personalize

Consumers have become the power player in the ecommerce industry. Which means your business needs to stand out in a unique way. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to customize your user experience (UX) to cater to the needs of your audience. This is just as much a crucial part of your ecommerce marketing strategies as it is a total brand strategy.

Make your outreach efforts personal by taking the time to learn about your customers. People love it when they feel special, and if you make sure to add personal touches like addressing your prospects by name, sharing videos and pictures of your employees, and being transparent about your company processes and procedures, you will reap the benefits of a loyal customer base.

All of this adds to the overall ‘face of the business’. This will hopefully make its way to the hearts of your customers.

11. Retargeting

Customers who have already shown an interest in your website are more likely to make a later purchase.

Retargeting is a technique that tracks customers who have visited your website and displays ads to them while they’re browsing the internet with the intent of getting them back on your website. When these visitors enter your website again, they are far more likely to make a purchase.

To effectively manage a retargeting campaign, make sure your ads are as specific as possible. Was the customer looking at a specific product? Make sure the ads displayed to them are ads of that specific product and link to the page of the product. Just like with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing, it’s important to display the information the user is looking for the instant they click on your ad.

If they click on an ad for hiking boots and are redirected to the home page of your camping website, they aren’t going to be thrilled. But, if they are directed to the exact hiking boots they were considering, or even had added to their cart, before leaving your website, they will be much more likely to continue with a purchase.

Although retargeting is getting more difficult due to the demise of third-party tracking cookies, there’s still opportunity to be chased.

Which ecommerce marketing strategies will you deploy?

Staying current with the latest marketing trends and techniques is crucial for any successful eCommerce website. It’s important to deliver relevant, interesting and valuable content and products that truly suite the needs of your target market.

Reach out to your customers in a variety of ways and make sure you are working with a team of experts with varying skill sets. If you listen to everyone’s ideas, you may find new ways of improving your current campaigns and outreach methods.

And, as always, make sure you are monitoring your website analytics to examine trends, keep your website optimized, and track your results!

With the right mix of marketing techniques, you can improve your conversion rate and attract sustainable business that will continue growing over time. Sharpening your skills as an ecommerce website marketing manager will help you level-up and become more attractive in the job market.

How to Start an E-Commerce Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

These seven steps can help you learn how to start an ecommerce business and sell products or services online.

Much like starting any business, learning how to start an e-commerce business isn’t always easy — but setting up, launching and maintaining sites where entrepreneurs, designers, and creators of all sorts can sell their wares is more attainable now than ever.

Ecommerce businesses — which are businesses that transmit goods, services, and funds over the internet — vary in size and scope, from retail behemoths like Amazon to Etsy craft sites. Online shopping is just one of many areas that have seen extensive growth over the past five years. According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, in the third quarter of 2019 alone, U.S. e-commerce sales amounted to approximately $154.5 billion, accounting for 11.2% of all retail sales in the nation.

Depending on your goals, it might make sense to start an e-commerce business. After all, without the need for a brick-and-mortar location, e-commerce businesses offer greater flexibility, affordability, and opportunity for many entrepreneurs. So how exactly do you start an online business? This guide is here to help.

We’ll break down how to start an e-commerce business in seven simple steps — so that you have all the information you need to get your online business up and running in no time.

How to start an e-commerce business

Although there are notable differences in starting an e-commerce business compared with starting a brick-and-mortar business — there are also a number of similarities. As we’ll discuss below, many of the planning and legal steps you’ll need to take will follow the same process (more or less) than any other business. However, once it’s time to start your operation, you’ll see how different starting an e-commerce business can be.

Step 1: Research the e-commerce space and find your niche

The first step in learning how to start an e-commerce business is performing the necessary research. Just as if you were starting a restaurant and looking into different locations, food options, and themes, you’ll want to investigate the e-commerce area you’re interested in and make some decisions with regard to your specific business.

For example, you’ll want to consider what exactly your e-commerce business is going to offer. Will you be selling products or services? If you’re selling products, are they physical or digital? Where will you source your products? Along these lines, you’ll also want to think about the type of business model you want to employ — will you offer single products, packages, subscriptions, or something else?

Additionally, you’ll want to think on a broader scale during this process as well: How will you get your products or services to your customers? What will your startup costs look like? Are there legal or other regulations on your product or service that you need to keep in mind?

These lines of questioning, among others, will be integral to the beginning of your business and will help you start to create and write your business plan. This process will give you a better sense of your specific goals and how you’re going to reach them. Particularly in the e-commerce space, an important part of this step is finding your niche.

Although the growth of the e-commerce industry is a great benefit for those looking to learn how to start an e-commerce business, it also means more competition. You’ll want to perform competitor research and find a space where you think you can establish your brand and find success in selling products and services.

Step 2: Select your business name and choose a legal structure

Once you’ve solidified the plan for your e-commerce business, the next step is to choose a name. Like any other business, you’ll want to choose a name that’s unique, but also that clearly indicates what your business is or does. You’ll likely want to consult your local secretary of state’s website, as well as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure that you’re not choosing a business name that’s already claimed by another company.

Although you won’t want to invest too much time on a website quite yet, it will be worthwhile to check to see if your potential business domain name is available. If your domain name is currently being used, you may consider a different business name, or a different structure, such as “yourbusinessname.co” instead of “yourbusinessname.com.”

Next, choose your business’s legal structure. The business entity type you pick will have important legal and financial implications for your e-commerce operation. Generally, you’ll choose to create a sole proprietorship, general partnership, LLC, or corporation. There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these entity types, so you may decide to consult an attorney or another legal professional for advice on the best option for your business.

If you choose to start a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you won’t actually have to register in the state where you’re operating. Instead, your business will be associated legally under your individual name, meaning if you want to operate under the name you’ve chosen, you’ll need to need to file a DBA or “doing business as” application with your local government.

Step 3: Apply for an EIN

Next, you’ll want to apply for an EIN, or employer identification number, for your e-commerce business. Although not all business entity types are required to have an EIN, this nine-digit number can be useful to help you separate your personal and business finances. Plus, you can apply for an EIN from the IRS, for free — either online, by mail, fax, or phone. Since you’re learning how to start an e-commerce business, you’ll very likely want to apply for this business tax ID online, and once you do, you’ll receive your number instantly.

Step 4: Obtain business permits and licenses

After you’ve applied for your EIN, you’ll now want to obtain any business licenses or permits needed to operate legally within your city and state. As we mentioned above, if you’ve established your e-commerce business as a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you don’t actually need to register your business with the state — unless you’re filing a DBA to legally operate under a specific business name. For the other business entity types, however, you will need to register your business with your state and receive a general operating license. Depending on where your business is located, you may also need to acquire a local operating license as well.

Generally, because most e-commerce businesses are home-based, they do not require as many business licenses and permits as brick-and-mortar stores. However, you’ll want to determine what the specific requirements are in your area — you can usually find this information online via your state or local government website. For example, most locations require that home-based business owners receive a home occupation permit to legally operate. This type of permit simply shows that by operating your business out of your home, you aren’t adding traffic, noise, or problematic conditions to your location.

Some other types of business licenses and permits that you may need include:

  • Professional and trade licenses for certain industries.

  • Sales tax permits.

  • Health, safety, and environmental permits.

  • Signage permits.

  • Building and construction permits.

Step 5: Choose an e-commerce platform and create your website

At this point, you’ve completed the paperwork required to register and legally start your e-commerce business. In this way, the majority of our steps thus far have mirrored the process of starting a brick-and-mortar business. Now, however, instead of searching for a location and preparing to set up up your physical store, you’ll start creating your website and online store.

Like a physical storefront, this website will be the face of your business — it’s what your customers will see first and what they’ll use to browse and purchases your products or services. With this in mind, creating your website will be one of the most important parts of starting your e-commerce business. You’ll want to consider a few different points as you develop your online storefront:

First, you’ll want to think about your domain name, as we mentioned above. You’ll want your domain name to (at least closely) match your business name. Along these lines, and perhaps your most significant decision will be choosing an e-commerce platform. Whether an all-in-one software, like Shopify, or an open-source platform, like Magento, your e-commerce platform will be the base you use to build and develop your online store.

Most e-commerce platforms not only allow you to create and launch your online store, but also customize your design, add your domain (or purchase one), manage inventory, take and ship orders, receive payment, and more.

Although there are hundreds of these platforms available on the market, you might consider any of the following popular solutions for starting your e-commerce business:

Shopify

Perhaps the most well-known and popular e-commerce software out there, Shopify offers an all-inclusive, user-friendly solution with a variety of add-ons. You can purchase a Shopify subscription in one of four plans, starting with Shopify Starter at $5 per month (this plan doesn’t include a full online store).

WooCommerce

If you already have started a WordPress site, or are familiar with the platform, you can download WooCommerce to start selling on your WordPress site. This plug-in is open-source, free to download and includes the full range of e-commerce features. Compared with Shopify, however, WooCommerce is best-suited for business owners who have some technical knowledge to take advantage of its open-source nature.

Squarespace

Most often thought of as website builder, Squarespace also offers e-commerce capabilities and is known for its modern templates. You can choose from two eCommerce-specific plans from Squarespace — Basic at $26 per month or Advanced at $40 per month.

Like Shopify, Squarespace is user-friendly and can accommodate business owners of all technical skill levels. However, as a website builder first, Squarespace may not offer as many features, tools, or add-ons as some other alternatives.

Magento

Finally, if you want to be able to customize every aspect of your online store, you might choose to use the open-source version of Magento. With this e-commerce platform, you can manipulate every element and customize your site — but you also must have the technical skill (or pay for it) to do so.

Although it’s safe to say this platform isn’t typically suited for e-commerce beginners, if do have the technical skill needed, or the budget to pay to work with a developer, you’ll find that Magento likely offers the most of any open-source solution on the market — plus, it’s free to download.

As you can see, there is a lot involved with this step and a variety of important considerations to take when choosing the right platform for your e-commerce business. You’ll want to think about cost, features, usability, and more — ultimately, as the backbone of your e-commerce business you’ll need a functional system that allows you to get up and running and manage your operations on a day-to-day basis.

Once you’ve decided which solution is right for you, the next thing you’ll need to do is actually work on customizing and launching your site. You’ll want to think about how you want your online store organized, what you want the design to look like, what colors you want to use, etc. Depending on your platform and budget, you may decide to create and launch your website yourself, or you might invest in a professional designer or developer for assistance.

Step 6: Source or develop (and list) products

After you’ve chosen your e-commerce platform and started your website, you’ve almost reached the end of the process. At this point, you’ll need to actually source the products you’re going to sell. You should have already thought about how you’re going to go about this process when you performed your research in step one. You may make your own products, source them from distributors, or — if you’re selling your own services, like as a consultant, for example, you may simply have to describe and list these services on your business website.

If you’re selling products, as you might imagine, this step will be more complex, as you’ll need to consider the inventory you want to start out, as well as what these startup costs will look like. You’ll also want to make sure that you take the time to list your inventory on your online store — thinking about the customer experience, SEO, and the way the process will work from when a customer purchases a product to when they actually receive that product.

Step 7: Market your e-commerce business

There you have it — you’ve learned how to start an e-commerce business. Now that you have your products or services prepared and listed on your online store, your website is up and running, you’re ready to start serving customers. In order to do this, of course, you’ll need to properly market your e-commerce business.

There are a variety of marketing strategies you might decide to utilize — Google ads, social media ads, word of mouth, and more. At the most basic level, you’ll want to optimize your business website for SEO and take advantage of any online marketing tools that are included within your e-commerce platform.

As your e-commerce business is up and running and you start to receive orders, you’ll want to keep track of which marketing tactics are working and which aren’t — especially if you’re investing money in them. As time progresses, you’ll be able to adjust and change your marketing strategy to find what works best for your business.

How much does it cost to start an e-commerce business?

So, now that we’ve gone through each of our steps involved in how to start an e-commerce business, you may still be curious about one important factor: cost. As you might imagine, by starting an online business, you’ll be saving on a variety of costs that are associated with brick-and-mortar stores — rent, property insurance, furniture, and more.

However, although it’s perhaps easier to fund an e-commerce business on a tight budget, there are still a number of different costs that will be required to get started. As is the case with any business, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much it will cost to start your e-commerce business. Your startup costs will largely depend on the type of e-commerce business you’re starting, the software or platform you choose, how you’re sourcing your products, among other factors.

With this in mind, you’ll likely want to think about your budget carefully as you start out and keep track of all of your expenses along the way. Specifically, you’ll want to consider the following costs:

  • Business licenses and permits: Depending on your entity type, location, and what you’re selling, you can face a range of costs for licensing and permits — some states charge low fees, anywhere from $10 to $50, where others can charge a few hundred dollars for incorporating.

  • Ecommerce software: Although it may be free to download an open-source platform, there will be other costs associated with this type of solution (developer fees, hosting, add-ons, etc). For an all-inclusive platform, on the other hand, you’ll be able to find some of the most basic options at low prices ($12 per month for Square Online Store, for example). More advanced and expansive solutions will require greater costs, with Shopify Advanced capping at $300 per month.

  • Domain name and hosting: Some e-commerce solutions will include a domain name or hosting within the cost of the platform and some will allow you to purchase your domain name through them. If you need to purchase your own domain name and hosting, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1 per year for the domain to around $15 per year and an average of $30 per month for hosting.

  • Payment processing: To accept payments online, you’ll need to work with a payment processor like Square or Stripe. Once again, some e-commerce software solutions will include their own payment processing with the platform, whereas others will allow you to integrate with your preferred system. Generally, you’ll pay around 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction that is made at your store.

  • Inventory and shipping: Depending on what you’re selling, your inventory and shipping costs can range drastically. However, of all the costs we’ve discussed thus far, your initial investment for inventory will likely be your greatest. You’ll want to purchase inventory carefully, especially when you’re first starting out — you don’t want to spend too much money on products you won’t be able to sell. Your shipping costs, of course, will depend on your sales, the shipping services you use, the size of the products you’re sending, and the shipping speed options you offer to customers.

  • Marketing and advertising: As a general rule of thumb, it’s safe to budget about 6% or 7% of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising. As you’re starting out, this can be difficult to estimate, so you’ll certainly want to take advantage of any free marketing and advertising options you have available. Then, once you have a better idea of what works well for your e-commerce business, you can start exploring paid options for promoting your store.

You might also incur additional costs for things like equipment, business insurance, employees, consultants, and more.

Ultimately, as Roxanne King, owner of The Holistic Mama e-commerce site, tells us, although it may be tempting to choose cheaper options for e-commerce builders and other tools, some additional fees are unavoidable and some are worth investing in. As an example, King uses additional apps with her Shopify store, like an auto-ship feature and up-sell pop-ups that cost an extra $50 per month, which she feels are worth the investment.

Tips for starting an e-commerce business

As with launching any new business, starting an e-commerce business can, at times, feel overwhelming and stressful. As part of the online selling community, you’ll have access to a variety of entrepreneurs and business owners who will very likely be willing to offer their tips and best practices to help you as you start out. When we talked to Roxanne King, owner of The Holistic Mama, we had her share three of her tips for success:

1.  Start simple

Back in 2011, King — already a prolific healthy living blogger — began creating and refining her own natural skincare products at home in the wake of a pregnancy and years of issues with preservative-laden commercial products. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that she made the transition from giving out her homemade cleansers as gifts to selling them in farmer’s markets and online — this was her beginning to starting an e-commerce business.

“I would hardly call it a marketplace in the beginning. It was a page on my blog that I named ‘Store’ and I sold only one product for a few months,” King said. “There was a button for people to pay with PayPal only, which I got using PayPal’s site and copy-pasted onto my WordPress blog.”

Although she credits her small start as part of the reason for her future success — she was able to refine the process of selling and shipping before moving on to larger-scale selling — and eventually, she needed a more usable and secure platform — she now uses Shopify.

2. Share your business across multiple channels

King credits “accidentally” having a blog two years before opening her store with helping jumpstart her business, and recommends others do the same.

“I had so many followers already that when I offered a product for the first time, customers already trusted me,” she said.

In this way, sharing your business, or brand, across social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat can be particularly useful when you’re just starting your e-commerce operation. These kinds of early marketing are free and can be used to drop hints and build excitement about upcoming launches or product reveals.

3. Invest in multichannel selling

King’s Holistic Mama products are now carried at Whole Foods as well as on her expanded store site. She also carries some of her products on Amazon as a third-party seller. Small-business owners who have their own site but also sell on Amazon — often seen as a competitor — are simply covering every corner of the market.

“Amazon is a very small percentage of my sales, but it’s important to be there because some people only shop on Amazon,” King said.

Plus, there are other benefits to selling through a larger outlet like Amazon, including the ability to test whether your product will be as popular as you predict, lower shipping rates if you frequently use Fulfillment by Amazon, and a built-in trust factor that often facilitates purchasing by customers on the Amazon marketplace. Some consumers are still wary of online shopping, but trust that an Amazon-vetted seller will fulfill their order in a timely manner.

Although maintaining your own store and vision is paramount to starting an e-commerce business, you also shouldn’t rule out using larger platforms to help elevate your sales and brand name.

The bottom line

There are plenty of advantages to starting an e-commerce business instead of a brick-and-mortar one — the initial investment is much lower, you can begin big or small, and your online store can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for customers all over the country (or the world, if you’re willing to ship that far). It’s also much easier and less costly to expand operations if need be — all making starting an e-commerce business all the more worthwhile for aspiring entrepreneurs.

There are, however, important steps to take and investments to make if you want your business to emerge as an internet success story. You should treat your e-commerce website like any other business — stay compliant with tax laws, obtain the necessary permits, invest in customer retention and communication, and don’t forget about building a mobile-friendly platform: King says 60% of her sales come through mobile devices.

Ultimately, King gives future e-commerce business owners this final word of advice:

“With e-commerce, you really need to build up trust, because people aren’t seeing you in person … so they could be skeptical. The good thing is, with blogs and social media, it’s easier than ever to build that trust. Give them an inside look at your life and your business, and they’ll want to support you.”

Source: nerdwallet.com ~ By: Eric Goldschein ~ Image: Canva Pro

How to Write the Ultimate eCommerce Business Plan

Writing an eCommerce business plan is one of the first steps you should take if you’re thinking about starting an online business. Whether you’re opening an online-only shop or adding an eCommerce component to your brick-and-mortar store for an omnichannel retail experience, there’s never been a better time to sell online.

The numbers don’t lie: since 2014, the number of digital shoppers worldwide has grown from 1.32 billion to 2.14 billion. That’s a 62% increase! Currently a $4.28 trillion market, eCommerce is forecasted to make up a fifth of all retail sales by 2024. If you want a slice of the climbing profits, now is the time to get involved.

An eCommerce business plan can help you steer your online shop in the right direction. Fortunately, you don’t need a business degree to create one. Read on to:

    • Learn what a business plan is and why your eCommerce company needs one
    • Discover how an eCommerce business plan is different from business plans for other business types
    • Learn how to write an eCommerce business plan step by step
    • Get access to our free eCommerce business plan template

What is a business plan and why does your eCommerce company need one?

A business plan is a document that outlines the goals of a business and how the business will achieve those goals. While there is no standard format for a business plan, such documents typically cover what the company will do, what problem it will solve, how the business is structured, who the target market is and how the product or service stands out from the competition.

A business plan serves as a roadmap for your company and helps you stay focused. Having one is also useful for attracting investors and business partners, as it shows you’re serious about your business, have done your research, know your industry and have considered the challenges you may face along the way.

How is an eCommerce business plan different from a business plan for other company types?

While the structure of a business plan for an eCommerce business won’t differ much from a business plan for any other type of company, the business strategy at the core of the plan may differ greatly from that of a traditional retail store.

For example, a traditional retail business plan might describe plans for leasing and designing a storefront. An eCommerce business plan, in contrast, would focus on the company’s digital storefront: its website. One of your business goals for the first year might be identifying the best eCommerce software, rather than finding the perfect space to lease.

Another notable distinction: while a traditional retail business plan might include an organizational chart with many front-of-house staff members, an eCommerce business plan would emphasize roles in online customer service, fulfillment and marketing.

Now, if you already run a brick-and-mortar business and are adding an online selling component, you’ll want to cover all of the topics listed above.

How to make an eCommerce business plan

Now that you understand what a business plan is, why you need one, and what differentiates an eCommerce business plan from a traditional retail business plan, it’s time to get into the good stuff. Read along to learn exactly how to write an eCommerce business plan.

Summary

This section concisely introduces everything that you’ll be covering in your business plan. Write it last, so that you can source inspiration from the rest of the document.

Company Introduction

Explain what your company does and what makes it stand out. Use the company introduction to answer the following questions:

    • What does your business do?
    • What problem does it solve, and how?
    • What is your business model? (i.e., Who are you selling to and how? Are you a B2B or B2C eCommerce business? Are you direct to consumer, or do you sell products from other manufacturers? Do you rely on a subscription service or traditional sales model?)
    • What is your mission statement?
    • What are your values?

Going through the exercise of considering these questions and putting your answers into writing will sharpen your focus as a business owner.  When opportunities that don’t align with your values or help you solve your customers’ problems, you can say no without doubts — or, conversely, you can enthusiastically accept opportunities that align with your vision.

Market research

Get to know your customers and competition. Do some soul searching and conduct market research to uncover:

    • Who your ideal customer is. Make this specific. When your brand is distinct enough to “repel” a certain type of customer, it’s also strong enough to make your ideal customer really excited about your products, and to turn them into lifelong customers.
    • How big your market is. While there are various ways you can research this figure, rough estimates will go a long way. Let’s say you wanted to start an online care package subscription business for U.S. college students. A quick online search indicates that there are nearly 20 million college students in the U.S. If the average student spends four years in college, that means there are roughly 5 million new students every year who could be receiving care packages. That’s a large market!
    • Who your competition is. What other companies are offering similar products and/or to a similar audience?
    • What makes your business different from the competition?
    • What advantages and opportunities do you have to be more successful than the competition?

Company structure

Now it’s time for the less sexy stuff. In this section of your eCommerce business plan you should explain:

    • What the legal structure of your business is. Is it an LLC, an S-Corporation, a partnership or something else? If you haven’t incorporated your business, do you have plans to do so?
    • Who is in charge of the business? List founders and officers and their contributions (in terms of both capital and expertise) to the company.
    • Who works for the company? Include an organizational chart that illustrates who currently works for the business, and the roles you plan to hire for.

Products and services

Explain what makes your eCommerce shop shine: its products and services. Describe, in detail:

    • What products and services you sell.
    • How much you charge for these products and services, and your profit margins on them.
    • Where and how you manufacture and source your products.
    • How you plan on fulfilling orders.
    • Intellectual property you have ownership of (if any), including trademarks, patents and copyrights.

Marketing strategy

Having great products is fantastic, but that in itself is useless if people don’t know about your products. Include your marketing strategy in your eCommerce business plan to show your team and investors how you’ll get your products in front of customers.

Your marketing strategy should include:

    • SWOT analysis that explores your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
    • The marketing channels and tactics you plan to use. Some useful strategies for eCommerce businesses are search engine optimization (SEO), social media commerce, email marketing, partnerships and influencer campaigns.
    • Marketing goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure them. How will you measure growth?

Finances

This is the juiciest section of your business plan. It helps you set sales and fundraising goals that will let you explain to investors where you stand financially and why you need their investment.

If your business is pre-revenue, include:

    • Revenue projections
    • Funding information
    • Expected costs

If your business already exists, include information like:

    • Historical and forecasted revenue
    • Investments
    • Debts
    • A profit and loss statement
    • Expenses (supply chain, labor, website hosting, etc.)
    • Budget vs. actuals

The ultimate eCommerce business plan template

Now that you know everything there is to know about how to start an eCommerce business, it’s time to craft your business plan. Follow the template below to set yourself up for success.

Executive summary

Company name:

Founders/leadership team:

Products/services:

Target market:

Marketing strategies:

Goals:

Company Introduction

What does your business do?

What problem does it solve, and how?

Business model:

Mission statement:

Company values:

Market research

Ideal customer:

Market size:

Competitive analysis:

What makes your business different from the competition? What are your advantages and opportunities?

Company structure

Legal structure:

Leadership team:

Organizational chart:

Products and services

Product/Service 1:

Product/Service 2:

Product/Service 3:

Pricing, positioning, and profit margins:

Manufacturing/supply chain:

Intellectual property claims:

Marketing strategy

SWOT analysis:

      • Strengths:
      • Weaknesses:
      • Opportunities:
      • Threats:

Marketing channels:

Marketing strategies:

Marketing goals and KPIs:

Finances

Revenue (projected or actual):

Profit or loss:

Expenses:

Debt:

Investments:

Budget vs. actuals: 

eCommerce business plans turn dreams into action

When you record what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it, you’re more likely to turn your vision into a reality. Take the time to think about your business, find out what makes your products different, and be thoughtful about how you’re going to find customers.

Source: lightspeedhq.com ~ Image: Canva Pro

Newsletter, 8/9/22 Living Your Best Life

The Joy of Living Life on My Terms

From the Desk of Michele C Foster

Ahh! The Joy of Living Life on My Terms . . .

If that sounds easy, it’s not always been. If that sounds trite, I can assure you it’s not. To be responsible for myself first has been the greatest gift of love and self-respect I could have ever done.

If I am asked to do something for another – two things happen;
– I see how it benefits me or doesn’t.
– Yes means yes, and no, means no.

The reasoning behind this is simple, desiring to feel good about my decision comes quickly when I evaluate the situation and see how it makes me FEEL. Then, if I say yes, I honor that commitment, and if I say no I honor that too.

There is a great story told by Oprah Winfrey. When we all found out how “rich” she became, her dear friend Stevie Wonder came to her and asked her to donate to something he was orchestrating. She thought of how if she said no, (and he knows she has money) he may never talk to her again or be her friend anymore. However, she decided to stay true to herself and she declined the “opportunity”, and Stevie Wonder said “ok”! It was that simple . . . get it? READ MORE

8 Ways to Choose Joy Everyday

One day many years ago, I was taking a shortcut through a car park. A sudden spontaneous thought came into my mind with such force that I actually said the words out loud, to no one in particular: “I’m so ANGRY!”

Hearing those words stopped me in my tracks. I knew I’d said them, but I couldn’t figure out why. Nothing had happened that morning to make me angry, and there was no specific incident the anger was about.

In that moment I saw myself as if my mind had taken a photographic snapshot. There I was, standing in the middle of the car park – jaws clenched, brows knit in a frown, shoulders tensed.

I knew then that anger had become my default state. My most spontaneous thought was one of anger. Until now I have no idea how I’d gotten that way, though I suppose it was the result of allowing the cares of the world to shape my subconscious. READ MORE

Why Is Saying ‘No’ So Important?

Do you consider yourself a people pleaser?

Do you find yourself saying “yes” to people only to regret it moments later?

Do you tend to put others’ needs before your own?

If you answered in the affirmative to any of the above questions, it may serve you to become better at saying “no.”

William Ury, in his book The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship—and Still Say No, suggests the dilemma we encounter in saying “no” often stems from an internal struggle between plugging into our own sense of power and a simultaneous desire to cater to, or foster, a relationship. Ury says we often find ourselves doing one of three things in response to a request… READ MORE

How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

As human beings, one of our deepest-rooted desires is to have a meaningful and happy existence. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Live your best life.” It’s good advice.

We all want to feel connected to both ourselves and others. We want to feel that we’re part of something important and that we’re making a difference in the world.

We want to look back at our lives and our achievements and be proud. In short, we want what the saying says: to live our best lives.

But what does it really mean to live your best life?

You are a unique individual, so living your best life is exclusive to you. Your best life will reflect your true values. It will be made up of what makes you happy and will be colored by what making a difference means to you… READ MORE


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