Opening an online shop is becoming a trend these days, and it’s not hard to see why. After all, the number of digital buyers is anticipated to grow to 2.14 billion by 2021.
Fortunately, this means your potential online customer base is constantly growing. But it also means that your competition is growing too. If you don’t want to get left behind, you need to learn how to play the game in an online space. So here are five tips to help you start a successful virtual storefront.
1. Have a business plan that covers the online space
Before jumping into the online world, you need to have a proper business plan in place. Even if you’ve already drafted one for a brick-and-mortar location, you should re-plan, as the online atmosphere is drastically different. Plan how you’ll finance your online venture, choose the right product or service to sell, and set your business goals.
If you have any big ideas or stretch goals for the future, get them down in writing too. It’ll make it easier for you to reference and reassess as your company grows.
2. Pick the right domain name
Once you’ve got a solid business plan, it’s time to find the right domain name. Here are three tips to keep in mind as you pick your URL:
- Don’t overdo it. Long domains can be hard to follow, giving potential customers more room for error. Stick with clarity over cleverness.
- Match it with your business name, if possible. This helps customers remember your site. If someone else has already registered your business name as a domain, consider adding your city name after it or a “the” in front of it as a differentiator—just don’t get too complex.
- Choose a name that is easy to spell. Amazon is a good example. It’s easy to spell and easy to remember. Do the same thing with your online shop. Avoid numbers and hyphens, too, as they are difficult to remember and may lead to typos.
3. Find a hosting setup and address security
Plenty of services offer domain hosting, web hosting, a content management system, and e-commerce options all in one, while others cater to a more piecemeal approach. WordPress has two options (differentiated by a .com and a .org domain) to let you go the route you’re more comfortable with.
Whichever way you go, make sure your host has strong security and a good reputation, especially if customers will be entering sensitive data or financial information through your site. You should also take steps on your end to learn what you can do to secure your site against potential hacks.
4. Do some online market research
To succeed in online marketing, you must understand what your customers want. Do some digging into these three key marketing strategies:
- SEO: Invest in Search Engine Optimization to boost your rankings in Google and help customers find your business site effectively.
- Social media marketing: Get your business onto the social media platforms where your customer base is most likely to be.
- PPC: Bid on relevant keywords to appear in the ads at the top of searches for those terms.
An investment into all three of these areas will help your storefront gain more traction with new customers, often for less than traditional advertising efforts.
5. Invest in reliable tech
When you move into the online space, make sure you can promptly and efficiently field any issues that arise, including updating your store offerings and handling customer service requests. To do that, you’ll need a reliable tech setup, including a computer, modem/router, and a solid internet plan.
The exact models and plans you pick should depend on your budget and needs, but there are a few guidelines: The computer should have solid reviews and a support plan that will keep your device up and running. The modem/router should be advanced enough to handle up to whatever top speeds your internet plan can put out. And as for an internet provider, you’ll want to decide between a business or residential plan—the former offers benefits that the latter doesn’t, like a static IP address, better upload and download speeds, and more accessible customer service, but you may be fine with a residential plan if your operation is still small.
Ready to Open Your Online Business?
Given how many consumers now do their shopping on the internet, having an online storefront is a great way to meet your buyers where they are. Just make sure you follow these five steps first—and you’ll be on your way to making sales and beating out competitors.