5 Essentials for Building a Lucrative Ecommerce Site

The business opportunities online are enormous but taking advantage of them is a painstaking process.

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By John Boitnott • Feb 2, 2016 Originally published Feb 2, 2016

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ecommerce is on the rise. Back in 2014, the ecommerce industry grew by 15.7 percent. This translates to hundreds of millions of dollars, and in 2015, the number increased yet again. Even though there are certain industry segments like DIY stores and dollar stores that are resistant to the advance of ecommerce, there are no signs of overall growth slowing down.

Nevertheless, you can't set up a website and expect an endless supply of customers to come by themselves. You need to build a site that attracts people, keeps them, and gets them to convert. Here are five ways to achieve this.

1. Clearly outline your business plan and marketing strategy.

You can't expect to build a highly effective and popular ecommerce site if you have no idea what you're selling, how you're going to sell it or how you're going to build customer loyalty. This part of the process doesn't require a long business planning document detailing every little thing. It just has to answer the key questions:

  • What are your primary products?
  • What is your unique selling point to stand out from the crowd?
  • What are your primary methods of marketing?

Your answers may change over time, but the answers you give now will determine what direction your ecommerce site takes.

Related: 5 Marketing Strategies That Don't Involve Social Media

2. Position products the right way.

You have to position your products the right way if you are going to make any money from your site. Yes, you need to put the products that people want front and center, but you also need to display other big earners and include huge mark-ups.

Amazon does this immediately, and well, with their "also bought" feature. You (and your wallet) have probably experienced its effectiveness first hand. It introduces customers to similar products. They often have big mark-ups. It's how Amazon makes a chunk of its revenue.

3. How will you gather customer information?

Customer privacy is a big issue, but at the same time, you have to gather a certain amount of information for marketing purposes. First, be upfront about the information you want and only request the bare minimum. The more information you ask for the less likely a customer is to give it.

Swap.com is one company that did this in an effective manner. Juha Koponen, CEO of Swap, says, "We used a simple light box on the front page and only asked for a first name and a customer email. It led to a 300 percent increase in the number of email signups we had."

Customer information and what you do with the information is integral to your overall strategy. It's necessary for marketing purposes and loyalty, but when done wrong it can completely ruin the experience on your eCommerce site.

Related: The Best Ways to Do Market Research for Your Business Plan

4. Remove barriers to entry.

First, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to demand everyone sign up for an account before they can buy anything. It's absolutely imperative that you have a guest checkout. It's more work for the customer to sign up, and that makes for a bad experience.

There are dozens of studies showing that the more steps you have to take to make a purchase the less likely you are to complete that purchase. It's why companies including Amazon have all the necessary information condensed into one or two pages.

In this business, simplicity will always win the day.

5. Create a social experience.

Social media is an important key to driving traffic to any website. To maximize your potential you must create a social experience. This includes linking any new and existing products with your various social media feeds.

Every page of your website should have a place where someone can share what they're seeing. If you haven't created this, you're probably missing out. You should also encourage comments, sharing, liking and any other type of engagement.

To further enhance the feeling of a social experience, you should consider:

  • Putting a face to a brand.
  • Using endorsements from reputable organizations.
  • Grabbing reviews from real people.

It takes time to build both the trust and the credibility to generate that positive social experience, but if you set up a strong foundation now there's no reason why you can't get the results you want.

Building a lucrative ecommerce website isn't something you can do overnight. Yes, it takes only a few hours to build a site from scratch, but it takes months to constantly refine and tweak it. A/B testing will become an integral part of your business's routine as you try new things and experiment.

Remember that the best focus group you have is your customers, so ask for their feedback regularly and take to heart what they are saying.

Related: In the New Golden Age of Ecommerce, Social Collaboration is Key

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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