In 2018, consumers in the United States spent over $517 billion on online purchases. This is a 15 percent increase from 2017. Forecasts show this figure will keep rising throughout 2020 and beyond.
As an entrepreneur, these figures mean one thing: business opportunity.
If you want to access a global market, you need to take your business online. However, this doesn’t mean the online marketplace is there for the taking. Competition is fierce, with major e-retailers dominating the market.
Worry not, though. Help is on the way.
Keep reading to learn how to grow your business online.
When you want to set up your online business for success, you should start by identifying a suitable niche. If you sell products or offer services that have little demand among online shoppers, your business will fail.
How do you find your ideal niche?
The key lies in doing extensive market research before you launch your online business. Find out the niches that are not only doing well presently but also likely to keep growing long into the future.
A mistake some newbie online entrepreneurs make is settling on trending niches.
The thing with trends is they always fade away. So, if you decide to start selling a certain product right now because it’s a hot trend, you could make big sales, but once the trend fades, your revenues will drop significantly.
Also, don’t settle on a niche because it has strong growth prospects in the long-term. Ensure you have the capacity to produce or procure the products. For example, if you’ve chosen to enter the pet food niche, ensure you have the expertise and financial resources to produce these products.
Every business, whether online or offline, strives to offer high-quality products that meet customers’ expectations.
Offering stand-out products is one of the most effective ways to grow your online business. When first-time customers try out your products and find that they are well manufactured or produced, especially when compared to competing products in the market, they’re more likely to become repeat customers. This assures your business of steady revenue, which is crucial for business growth.
However, offering quality products is easier said than done. As a small business, you’re probably on a small budget, meaning you might not have the funds to invest in proper research and development, good manufacturing facilities, and quality control.
If you’re in this position, it’s better to hold off starting the business than enter the market with inferior or half-baked products. You’ll ruin the reputation of your new business and you might not be able to salvage it even if you improve product quality later on.
The beauty of e-commerce is it gives entrepreneurs an easy path to starting a business. Just create a website and you’re ready to sell.
What most people won’t tell you, though, is the kind of website you need to give your business the best chance of succeeding in a competitive marketplace. If you DIY’ed your current eCommerce website, it’s probably doing you a disservice – unless you’re a web development specialist.
What you need is an eCommerce site built by tech professionals who understand eCommerce.
Did you know over half of the internet users will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load? If you’re not a web development expert, you might not know this and you’ll probably build a site that takes longer to load.
A good eCommerce website should also have the following features:
Sure, building a professional eCommerce website will cost you a lot more money than doing it yourself, but when you want to build a scalable online business, you have no choice but to hire a pro.
Ever tried to buy something on Amazon only to find the site offline? Certainly not.
Your online business should also stay online round-the-clock. Although downtimes are inevitable and you might have little control over them, they can negatively affect your business. If a potential customer wants to buy from your site but finds it inaccessible, they might not return.
One way to minimize outages is to host your website with a reputable company. Another way is to invest in your own servers (self-hosting your website).
This option is costlier than shared hosting, but your websites will load faster and you’ll have greater control over downtimes. You just need to ensure that your server center has a reliable power supply. It’s also advisable to invest in quality standby generators, such as those sold by Kruger Power.
Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as outbound marketing strategies. It also costs 62 percent less.
To grow your online business without spending a boatload of cash on marketing, you have to embrace content marketing. This involves creating a blog and posting quality and informative content on a regular basis. Blogging is good for SEO and will help you establish your brand as a subject authority in your niche.
Content marketing doesn’t end with blogging. You also need to create posts for social media platforms, as well as videos for video-sharing platforms like YouTube.
Although you can handle your content marketing, consider outsourcing it to a digital marketing agency. You’ll have more time to focus on your core responsibilities and the digital marketing specialists will develop a content marketing strategy that suits your business. With marketing pros on your team, your business stands a good chance of blowing up.
91 percent of people read online reviews before buying from a business. Of these, 84 percent trust the reviews as much as friends. Clearly, if your business has a ton of negative reviews, you’re losing customers.
Monitoring your business’ online reputation is a must if you want to achieve growth. But how do pull this off? At a time when billions of people use social media and business review sites, how can you control what somebody says about your business and its products or services?
In truth, you have little control over what people say about your brands. Even if you put effort into providing excellent customer support, nothing stops anyone from posting negative reviews.
What you can control, though, is the narrative. With social listening tools, you’re able to get real-time updates of user comments and reviews. If a review is negative, you can then take an appropriate step, such as responding to it and telling the customer that you’re ready to address their complaints.
Online consumers like businesses that respond to reviews. These responses show that your business cares, so a potential customer can still choose to buy from you regardless of the negativity of the reviews or comments.
What’s more, most digital marketing agencies offer online reputation management services. If you outsource your marketing to an agency, you might get this is a complementary or add-on service.
If you sell physical products, shipping is a core part of your business. Get it right and your business will grow.
You see, online shoppers don’t want to wait for several days to receive their package. In fact, in a recent survey, 83.5 percent of respondents said they won’t purchase from a business again after a negative delivery experience.
To improve customers’ loyalty to your brand and avoid getting negative reviews, offer reliable shipping. Prioritize same-day delivery, even if it means customers will pay more for it. And when it comes to standard shipping, orders shouldn’t take more than 3 days before reaching the customer.
Now, as a small business, you probably don’t have the resources to handle shipping logistics in-house. The good news is there are established couriers that offer specialized shipping services to small online businesses. Find one that suits your business needs.
The ecommerce industry is always evolving, new trends and technologies emerging every year.
As an online entrepreneur, staying abreast of these trends can help you give your business an edge. You’ll be able to, for instance, adopt new technologies long before your competitors (assuming they don’t keep an eye on industry developments) do.
The online marketplace is promising but intimidating. There thousands of businesses in every niche, so getting a leg up over the competition and taking your business to the next level isn’t an easy task. But with this guide on how to grow your business online, you have most of the information you need to conquer the web.
Keep tabs on the blog for more eCommerce tips and insights.