Selling Online

10 Things You Must Do to Grow Your Online Business in the First Year

Guest Writer
Startup Advisor, Freelance Writer and Marketing Specialist
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Business forecasts indicate that ecommerce is exploding, which means now is the perfect time for startups to firmly establish their online stores. There are numerous tactics for nurturing a new online business. If you're just getting started, now's the perfect time to make sure all the elements for your online success are in place.

Let’s review 10 crucial steps to capitalizing on this trend:

1. Carefully target the online audience. 

Ecommerce depends largely on a reputable, accessible online presence. To be recognized as such, businesses must make themselves available to those who are most likely to notice. Identify the demographic characteristics of consumers who will benefit from relevant products and services, and base marketing strategies on these details.

2. Create high-quality content and deliver it at high speed.

High-quality content is described as relevant and engaging information that encourages site visitors to return in the future. Content should reflect the given brand in tone and style, and include the company’s mission statement, services and policies. It should also offer industry education and urge interaction with consumers. This may take the form of asking questions, answers to which can be provided in online comment sections. Interaction can also take place via surveys and contests.

Related: The 3 Critical Elements to Selling Online Like a Pro

But Internet-based businesses live and die by their online visibility and credibility, and they’re judged by more than just consumers. They’re also judged by search engines, which play a major role in bestowing that credibility and visibility. In the wake of recent security vulnerabilities making national headlines such as the HeartBleed bug, secure web hosting which thwarts vulnerabilities is essential for maintaining credibility, and speedy website load times are essential for delivering a positive user experience, maximizing sales conversions and optimizing from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective.

Amazon reported a 1 percent revenue increase for every 100 milliseconds improvement in load time. Furthermore, Google has stated that fast load speeds are indeed a factor in the ranking algorithm. In response, VPS hosting is quickly becoming more popular among new businesses looking to maximize site speed, as opposed to traditional, shared hosting services.

3. Personalize content.

Visitors know that unique, individualized web experiences are possible, which is why they expect such features. Take advantage of available technology that can generate shopping selections based on personal preferences. While some of the larger websites (Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.) have apps built into their system that identify users and track their online movements, small businesses might focus on smaller CRM solutions. Batchbook, ContactMe, and Zoho are perfect CRM software solutions for small businesses, each costing less than $20 a month.  

 4. Invest in mobile capabilities. 

Consumer use of mobile devices is greater than ever before, which is why a robust mobile ecommerce platform is crucial. Available solutions include mobile sites, responsive sites, apps, click-to-call tools, maps and real-time notifications.

5. Integrate sales channels.

Enable consumers to experience the brand similarly across all channels of interaction and methods of shopping. Promotions, products, services, company information and policies should be available both on and offline.

Related: 10 Lessons From Special-Ops That Could Help Your Business Win

6. Consider subscription. 

Subscription commerce occurs in various forms. For instance, the replenishment model allows for a product to be sent to a customer every month or other regular basis. The discovery model provides for new and exciting experiences with each delivery. These may include customized or rare items. It’s up to the company to decide which form of subscription works best for them, and to implement that into their sales and marketing strategies. Most CRM software and programs organize consumer data that can be used to delineate and track which model each customer prefers and whether the customer has subscribed or not.

7. Remember logistics. 

Scalability is integral to growing a business. To accommodate growth, third-parties such as UPS, Nippon Express, or DB Schenker can be depended upon to manage large and complex transactions. Costs will vary based upon the size of the transaction, the size of shipments, the distance that products need to be shipped or the complexity of the transaction. Third-party logistics become more cost effective as a company grows and handles larger transactions. Reverse logistics -- the efficient handling of product exchanges and returns -- is significant as well.

For Internet-based businesses, website speed, security and infrastructure are important foundations of not only logistics, but also SEO. These aspects of online business translate to better search engine visibility, resulting in more traffic, leads, brand credibility and sales. Speeding up your website is crucial for online logistics.

8. Skip the middlemen.

Thanks to the Internet, small businesses can reach consumers quickly and easily. Also, manufacturers are increasingly eager to work directly with small businesses because they realize small brands are likely to bring new and innovative products to the marketplace -- they are less limited by minimal shelf space and complex supply chains.

9. Sell Internet-only merchandise.

Although essential to maintain continuity across multiple sales channels, it is still possible to offer products via the Internet only. Doing so builds an exclusive brand with ecommerce as the core distribution channel. By offering certain products in only one arena, it is possible to maintain greater control over margins.

10. Curate a proprietary selection.

Proprietary selection refers to a strategy dedicated to “curating” a deep but narrow array of exclusive products in a specific segment. These areas give the relevant merchandise the allure of distinction due to original characteristics and the difficulty of locating such a selection elsewhere. 

One of the main goals of any business is consistent growth. Through careful strategic planning, quality marketing campaigns and a healthy combination of the steps outlined above, conversions are likely to increase steadily. 

Related: 5 Steps for Creating a Long-Term Plan for Your Startup

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