How to Start an Ecommerce Business: 6 Easy Tips

For most of my life, I have dreamed of being a business owner. I grew up in a small town where the single location, “mom and pop” stores were the norm.

As a young girl, I went back and forth between wanting to run my own clothing store versus my own book store. Although my town had a few of these niche-type shops and a couple of department stores already, I still held onto my dream for many years.

But then I graduated from high school, went off to college, and have lived in larger towns ever since.

However, even in my small hometown, the entire concept of shopping has changed dramatically over the past two decades. The town I grew up in now boasts a “super” Walmart and a Kohl’s store, for example. I’m glad that some of the original independent stores continue thriving though.

In today’s hustle and bustle world of franchises and mega-stores, the small, family-owned businesses seem to have become more of an exception than not.

There is also the ever-growing popularity of online shopping, which is yet another form of competition that many small business owners find they must now contend with. People no longer have to leave their homes at all to buy almost anything they want or need. And online shopping continuously becomes more sophisticated and convenient in order to keep up with consumer demand.

How about you – are you a startup or small business owner with products and/or solutions to sell?

If so, there has never been a better time to consider starting your own ecommerce business, especially if you want to reach consumers who are outside your local bubble.

Here are a few things to consider when starting an ecommerce business

In a recent article for Entrepreneur, The Top 5 Reasons You Should Start an Ecommerce Business, Thomas Smale explains why now is the “right” time:

  1. Worldwide, ecommerce is expected to grow by as much as 13 to 25 percent (forecasting $1.6 trillion in profits for online merchants this year, and $2.5 trillion in profits by 2018).
  2. The ability to earn as you sleep (Time zones are no longer a factor – your shop is open 24/7/365).
  3. It’s easy to get up and running (I talk about this more below).
  4. Eighty percent of the web population has made a purchase online.
  5. You can sell more to customers down the line.

If you’re new to the concept of ecommerce, you may feel initially overwhelmed by all the options out there.

However, once you choose an ecommerce platform, you’ll find that most online storefront builders provide all the resources and tools you need. Most of them will walk you through, step-by-step. This helps you to set up your shop and start selling online quickly and easily.

From the giant ecommerce sites such as Amazon and eBay, to smaller, niche online storefront builder/platforms such as Spaces, there is a site for all types of budding ecommerce business.

How to start an ecommerce business: 6 easy tips to help you plan out the basics

I found a helpful post on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website about starting a successful ecommerce business.

The author of the post, Caron Beesley, obtained advice from real business owners who have hands-on experience and first-hand knowledge.

Here is a list of the easy tips and helpful hints they provide for starting your own ecommerce business:

  1. Decide what you want to do and define your niche

Knowing what you are going to sell, how, and to whom is a critical part of your business plan.

  1. Have a plan

Just like any other aspect of sales and marketing, you must start with a strong foundation – i.e., a plan – from the get-go.

A plan provides you with the goals and focus you need, as well as a budget to work with. As well, having a plan allows you to anticipate and be prepared for all situations – positive and negative – that may arise.

  1. Fund your business at a low cost

Fortunately, most ecommerce builders and platforms let you get started at a low cost. Some even let you start for free.

That way, if you decide that an ecommerce business is more complicated or time-consuming for you to maintain, you won’t lose much money.

  1. Build a website

Just like having an attractive and findable website is important for your other inbound marketing activities, it is essential that you have one for your ecommerce activities as well.

Your website is where your potential customers can learn more about you and your products as they begin researching and making their purchasing decisions.

  1. Drive traffic to your site

Having a great website is not enough these days, especially when you’re building an ecommerce business. In order for people to find you online, you must also implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques such as regular blogging and making good keyword choices for your evergreen content.

Being active and engaged on social media is also essential. Social media platforms allow you to have online conversations and develop relationships with current and potential consumers.

When your ecommerce business is more established, social media can provide great opportunities for you to reward loyal customers (with coupons or special sale notifications), as well as provide customer service. These help with customer retention and a good reputation for your ecommerce business.

  1. Don’t forget to follow the “rules of the road”

In other words, make sure you read and fully understand all of the terms and conditions for the ecommerce platform you choose to go with. And, just like starting a brick and mortar business, you will also want to follow all the legal steps involved in starting an ecommerce business.

The SBA provides information for starting a business here.

They also provide a thorough guide and checklist for entrepreneurs who are specifically interested in starting an ecommerce business here.

 

Are you in the process of starting your own ecommerce business or have you considered it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

5 Easy Ideas for Creating Content Your Audience Craves

5 Easy Ideas for Creating Content Your Audience Craves

Are you responsible for creating and publishing the content for your business’ website and/or social media pages? If so, then you already know that creating content for your specific audience involves time and commitment – not to mention a reasonable amount of creativity.

As I mentioned in a post from earlier this year, content marketing should be a top priority for your company by now – if it isn’t already. The percentages of businesses that are experiencing success from their content marketing strategies has increased dramatically over the past couple of years.

Creating content that prompts engagement and builds loyalty within your audience is not always easy. For starters, content creation requires research, strategy, and skill…not to mention trial and error, with a good dose of frustration mixed in.

However, once you get past all those necessary activities that help you eventually determine the content your audience really wants, you can then focus on creating the content that wows and wins them over.

Here are 5 ideas for easily creating content your audience craves

1) Provide them with what they need most – value and education

Regardless of your business’ industry or geography, there is really one main thing your audience wants more than anything else: valuable information.

In his recent article for todaymade.com, Garrett Moon suggests aggregating information as a useful way of creating content that provides value to your audience. Moon says the following:

Job listings, or important upcoming events surrounding a certain industry can be aggregated using a single Twitter feed or Facebook page. Your audience will value your effort in collecting and organizing content that matters to them. This one is very easy, but you will have to stay at it in order to build a reputation of trust.

2) Infographics

As Mandy Edwards pointed out in one of her recent posts, infographics are useful for condensing and displaying information and data into a visually pleasing format. Infographics convert your numbers and stats into stunning visual content. As well, they grab your audience’s attention because they are often quicker to read and easier to absorb than some blog posts.

On the flip side, quality infographics can also benefit you. As noted by Victor Ijidola in his recent article for The Next Web, infographics are effective for increasing traffic to your website and are powerful in regards to SEO.

3) Lists

Writing a list post is another easy way of creating content. Lists allow you to give your audience the valuable information they crave in an easy-to-read format.

For example, you might consider compiling a list of trustworthy, industry-relevant tools that you know your target market can use. Another idea is putting a list of resources together that your audience can bookmark for future reference.

The possibilities are endless for the types of lists you can create, and your audience will appreciate them, too.

4) Interviews

Take the initiative and reach out to influential and knowledgeable audience members and your current clients. Chances are good that they are more than willing to share their expertise with others in your industry.

As Ann Smarty suggests in her article for Tweak Your Biz, “Ask the Right Questions: Creating Awesome Blog Content by Interviewing Others,” ask questions that provide thought provoking answers, or which give you a glimpse into the expert. Include those questions, along with the industry specific ones that will inevitably be a part of the list.

In this same article, Smarty suggests that you offer other members in your audience the opportunity to submit questions for the interview. This option can certainly drive engagement and help get more of your audience involved.

5) Create original content by using your own photos, images, and videos

Brett Relander provides the following impressive stats about visual content marketing in his recent article for Launch & Hustle:

  • Tweets with images or photos can generate as much as 150 percent more retweets than those posts without images, according to research from Buffer.
  • When it comes to Facebook, posts with photos generated the most action, an impressive 87 percent of total interactions, as reported by eMarketer.

Online design tools such as Canva make creating attractive and unique visual content easy, even for people who are not designers by nature.

Creating, editing, and sharing videos has also become easier (and more affordable) than ever with apps such Windows Movie Maker, Magisto Video Editor & Maker, and WeVideo.

Over to you

Are you creating content that attracts your audience and keeps them coming back for more? What types of content drives engagement for your business? I would love to hear what works for you – please feel free to leave a comment below.

The 5 Best Resources for a New Entrepreneur

The 5 Best Resources for a New Entrepreneur

Are you thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or solopreneur? If so, then you are certainly not alone.

There are thousands – if not millions – of people who dream about pursuing their passions and becoming their own bosses. And indeed, thousands of people in the U.S. strike out on their own each year.

Taking those first steps towards becoming an entrepreneur and starting a new business may seem a little scary to you. This may be especially true if you’re choosing to leave a secure job with a decent paycheck and benefits.

For the most part, though, an entrepreneur who is ready to take that leap of faith is also more than ready to exchange his or her cubicle and commute for flexibility and fulfillment.

If this sounds like you, keep reading!

How to get started as an entrepreneur…even when you have no idea where to start

A person who wants to become an entrepreneur in today’s modern world has one key advantage: the internet. There are thousands of places where you can go online and find information about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business.

I’ll get to some of those resources soon.

When you are first getting started as a new entrepreneur, though, you’re usually in a nebulous state where you have all sorts of various ideas running around in your head (or on many pieces of paper).

One of your first steps involves organizing all of those thoughts and narrowing them down. You also need encouragement and motivation to take the next step(s).

In her article for Entrepreneur, “So You Want to Be Your Own Boss…” Tamara Monosoff shares eight more excellent tips to “get you going, even if you don’t know where to start.”

Here are those eight tips:

  1. Take a stand for yourself.
  2. Identify the Right Business for You.
  3. Business Planning Improves Your Chances for Success.
  4. Know Your Target Audience Before You Spend a Penny.
  5. Understand Your Personal Finances and Choose the Right Kind of Money You Need for Your Business.
  6. Build a Support Network.
  7. Sell By Creating Value.
  8. Get the Word Out.

So you’ve gotten organized, you have a business plan in place…and you’re ready to be an entrepreneur?

Just like most other significant choices you make in your life, being an entrepreneur doesn’t end with making the decision to become one. Nor will you become an overnight success just because you have something that everyone needs.

It’s important to note that most entrepreneurs experience constant growth and learning. One reason is because it’s important that the entrepreneur keeps up with trends in his/her industry and target market.

Staying on top of the trends that matter most requires access to excellent and trustworthy resources. As I mentioned above, there are literally thousands of websites and articles that you can learn from. And each site offers value to a budding entrepreneur, at least to some extent, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there are trustworthy sites which can provide a new entrepreneur with the basics, as well as more detailed information as he/she grows.

Here are five reliable online resources for a new (or even a not-so-new) entrepreneur:

  1. Entrepreneur

By its name alone, you know this site is going to be a good one to bookmark. This popular go-to resource for entrepreneurs provides current news and articles which are well-written and entertaining as well as informative. Entrepreneur also hosts educational live events and webinars which any business owner – whether just starting out or seasoned – may find useful to attend.

  1. Entrepreneurship.org

This is a fantastic site designed specifically for entrepreneurs. This free online resource is hosted by the Kauffman Foundation which is a private foundation which provides grants for education and entrepreneurship.

The site’s library shares abundant information about the following topics:

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Marketing & Sales
  • The Entrepreneur
  • Business Operations
  • Products & Services
  • Human Resources
  • Public Policy

 

  1. Noobpreneur.com

I wanted to include this site since it’s one of my personal favorites. Are you asking yourself, “What is a “noobpreneur”? The founder of Noobpreneur.com, Ivan Widjaya, defines it for us:

It is a term I’ve coined to describe myself as – Noobpreneur = Newbie Entrepreneur. I define a newbie entrepreneur as someone who is ALWAYS a newbie (first-timer) in his/her entrepreneurial journey. In other words, a noobpreneur is someone who is not afraid to learn new knowledge and try new things.

If you’re a noobpreneur, too, who is short on time, but who also wants to stay in-the-know, then this multi-authored blog site is perfect for you, too. The authors from this site share their knowledge through relevant and informative articles. The result is an invaluable resource for any entrepreneur, “newbie” or not.

  1. Shopify Business Encyclopedia

This site offers a wealth of free, easy-to-access information to help new entrepreneurs “learn everything there is to know about running a business.” You’ll find dozens of definitions and current articles covering various topics which include “how to start a business,” and “how to sell online.”

  1. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency which provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Since its founding on July 30, 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration has delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses.

Their site offers a wealth of information related to starting and managing a business, as well as an extensive “learning center.” The SBA Learning Center covers other important topics for entrepreneurs including marketing and financing.

 

Are any – or all – of these resources on your list? Do you have others you would add? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Why You Need a Website That Delights Your Audience

Without a doubt, your most powerful marketing tool, hands down, is your business website.

And, as you are probably well aware, some websites are designed better than others.

Have you ever visited a website and been disappointed? Or worse, tried to visit a website that failed to load within a few seconds?

Of course you have. We all have. And, more likely than not, you have probably moved on.

Their loss…or maybe it’s your loss.

The simple truth is that every business needs a website that wows its visitors.

In a nutshell, your business website can either:

  1. Help you stand out from your competitors or
  2. Drive people directly to your competitors.

These days, savvy business owners must consider the fact that their audience seeks more than just a place to go online to purchase products and/or services. Instead, they crave a unique and highly visual online experience that entices and delights them.

And this is where good website design comes in.

Here are 3 good reasons why you need a business website that “wows” your visitors

1. You only have one chance to make a first impression – so make it count!

Website visitors often decide whether they want to do business with you within a fraction of a second, based on how they perceive your site. They may not even be aware they are judging you.

In her article for Design Shack, Carrie Cousins says the following about the importance of visually pleasing website design schemes:

The visuals that will grab the most attention the quickest include a strong image or illustration, sharp contrast or something unusual on the screen, and a phrase or wording that is memorable.

The better “first impression” you give, the more likely your visitors are to stay and/or return to your website. Good website design definitely makes a difference when it comes to attracting and retaining potential clients.

2. Your business website is a direct reflection of YOU

Along with that all-important first impression a website gives to its visitors, your website design also gives them an idea (perceived or realistic) of how you conduct business. For example, shoddy web design may inadvertently give your visitors the impression that your products and/or services are also inferior or low quality.

On the other hand, a well-designed business website can go a long way towards building trust. And trust is a big factor in sales. An organized website with a strong visual component creates a sense of legitimacy for you and your business.

As I mentioned above, your business’ website is also your most powerful marketing tool. Consider a good design as yet another way you can successfully stand out from your competition.

3. Your website is an essential component of your business branding

As well as being a valuable marketing tool, your business website also serves to promote your brand. Brand exposure is valuable for all businesses, of course. However, it’s especially important for new business owners and/or startups that need to establish a positive reputation from the get-go.

What are my options for building the best business website?

Now that you understand why you need a well-designed business website, you are ready for the next step: building one.

You’re going to find that there are dozens of website builder platforms and sites currently available.

Perhaps you’re strapped for time, or design isn’t your strong suit? Many startups and new entrepreneurs find that it’s easier to hire someone else who has the time and the talent.

Unless you personally know or have received a trusted referral for a web designer, consider us to help you with all of your web design needs without breaking the bank.

On the other hand, if you are more of a “do-it-yourself” type, you’ll find many affordable options as well.

In his article for SteamFeed, “All Websites are Not Created Equal: How to Choose the Best Option for You,” Tim Griffin shares pros and cons of some of the more popular website builders.

Griffin reviews the following do-it-yourself options for building websites:

  1. Wix
  2. SquareSpace
  3. GoDaddy

Regardless of who designs your business website, these are some of the primary aspects you should consider when designing your business website:

  • Logo and branding
  • Simple typography that is easy to read
  • Defined color palette
  • Easy user interface tools and elements that work in intuitive ways
  • Navigation that moves users through the site
  • Strong images that showcase your brand
  • Concise and targeted copy
  • Easy to understand calls-to-action
  • Your brand story told in a way that connects with users
  • Modern design techniques and interface

Source: Design Shack

 

Are you in the process of designing or redesigning your business website? Do you agree that a well-designed website is critical for successful online marketing? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

If you are looking to have a new website rebuilt or are just starting and need one, visit our website design page and contact us to get started!