Gytis Labašauskas, CMO at Zyro discusses the seven key steps to creating a thriving and sustainable business, while avoiding some of the more common pitfalls.
The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the ecommerce industry forward at a rate that would have otherwise taken years to achieve. The trend is not just a temporary response to social distancing measures, but a deeper shift in consumer habits that is here to stay. Recent research, for example, has shown that 44 per cent of UK shoppers say they expect to shop online more regularly in the long term — even after the world returns to ‘normal.
The turn to online retail is providing an impetus for start-ups with a strong business idea to move ahead and make their vision happen. Launching an online business requires planning and careful execution though. With this in mind, here are seven key steps to help you create a thriving and sustainable business, while avoiding some of the more common pitfalls.
1. Choose the right product
The age-old advice of ‘finding a problem that needs to be solved’ is very much relevant to building a business online. By identifying or developing a product that meets a real-world need, you will ensure that your offer has a ready-made target audience and the longevity to survive.
But while there might be a huge appetite for a given product, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you to sell. There are critical things to consider, such as whether there are restrictions on its sale in your target countries, or if its characteristics are making storage or shipping costs excessively high.
Also think about some of the accompanying products you could sell alongside it, and if there is potential to extend your product line in the future.
2. Identify and research your target market
Finding the right audience for your product will help you create projections for sales and revenue, as well as tell you how to brand your company and product. Your target market will also inform you which marketing channels to use and how to use them effectively.
Create consumer profiles using demographic information like gender, age, location and socioeconomic indicators to profile your potential customers and their shopping behaviour. Try to be as specific as possible when it comes to who your customers will be. Competitor research should cover other companies offering similar products and a review of their market proposition.
3. Select an ecommerce platform
Ecommerce platforms are integral to building your business online. Most of them will allow you to build an online store without any coding or design skills required using pre-configured features and designs.
Spend time thinking about what features you need, what level of experience you have and how much you’re willing to spend to guide your choice.
It’s highly recommended to use an ecommerce platform with a single dashboard where everything, from inventory and product listings to orders, shipping and customer contact can be managed from one place. By choosing a platform that supports omnichannel selling, you will be able to sync up and sell across platforms like Amazon and Facebook, and share your message on multiple social media, search and other ad networks.
4. Brand your company
David Ogilvy described a brand as ‘the intangible sum of a product’s attributes’. It’s what your business looks like, what you say, who you say it to, what people think of your company, and a million other things that add up to a whole.
Your branding should consist of a value proposition (why should someone buy your product), a name (of your company or product), visual identity (a memorable logo, imagery and a colour scheme) and a clearly defined tone of voice.
The key to effective branding is ensuring that every element conforms to a recognisable whole —consistently and at all times.
5. Create a captivating online store
The success of your online businesses will depend on your website’s ability to convert traffic into paying customers. A blank page staring at you can be an intimidating place to start when it comes to creating your first website. This is why it’s recommended to use a website builder with template options, customisation functions and tools. If you’re unsure on the best layout for your site, there are plenty of free tools to help you optimise the design and generate compelling content.
Make sure your website is easy to navigate and designed for conversions and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Display your products in the most attractive way possible and strategically place calls to action to encourage visitors to make a purchase.
6. Start marketing and developing traffic
One of the most daunting moments for any online start-up or entrepreneur is sharing your product or service with the world for the first time.
Approach your launch day with a solid marketing plan that clearly defines your aims, target audience, marketing channels and core messaging. Social media advertising, Google Ads and SEO tools are some of the common elements of an online marketing campaign. Your plan should also include how you’ll capture user data and what insights you want to gain.
7. Monitor and improve
Monitoring results in real-time, making incremental changes and tracking their effects will help you drive sustainable growth. Aim to get an understanding of where your customers are coming from, what influences their purchasing decisions and what should be improved.
Building an online store is a long-term effort, where continuous, evidence-based changes should be applied to optimise your website and grow your online business into a thriving success.