5 Secrets to Running a Successful Ecommerce Business

If you want to turn your online store into a massive business, the only thing getting in the way is you.

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By Thomas Smale

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There are many entrepreneurs whose greatest desire is to build a business that allows them to live a lifestyle of their choosing, and have it run more or less on autopilot. Ecommerce tends to be fairly complementary to those desires.

However, if you want to turn your ecommerce store into a massive business, the only thing getting in the way is you. The potential is always there, and you have to make a decision to start putting in the time and effort it requires to scale up.

Here are five top secrets to running a successful ecommerce business.

1. Treat your ecommerce business as if it were a thriving offline business.

How do you treat your ecommerce business? Do you see it as a hobby? Something fun to do in your spare time?

It might be easy to see it that way, especially if it isn't earning you millions of dollars yet. However, if you sincerely have the desire to grow it into a massive business, you need to act as if it is already.

Related: Selling Online: Art, Science or Just Hard Work? What's Your Experience?

"Your ecommerce store is a real business, and it should be treated with the same respect that the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies treat theirs," says Anton Kraly from DropShipLifestyle.

A lifestyle business is nice to have, but realize that you can create even greater wealth by focusing on the ongoing growth of your business. Don't wait around for your venture to feel like a big business. Think about the decisions you would make if it already was.

2. Find the right software for your business.

As a business owner, you need to have the depth of vision to see potential issues before they even come up. For many ecommerce business owners, software is something that needs to be addressed and evaluated on an ongoing basis, because it's really foundational to the entire operation.

Security concerns, scalability, usability, marketing tools and other factors have to be taken into account when you're looking for the right software to rely on.

"The real growth killer is when an online store owner is not running the right ecommerce software for their business," says Susan Delly of Zippy Cart. "Your ecommerce software should be scalable, secure, user-friendly and have a solid set of conversion and marketing tools."

The right tool depends largely on what needs you have. Make sure to identify your challenges and do your research to find the tool that matches your requirements.

3. Figure out where your customers are.

This is business 101. Know who your target audience is, and figure out where they like to hang out. Many business owners don't take this step seriously, and end up wasting a lot of their time and resources on marketing that doesn't convert.

"We started off promoting on social media and that got us nowhere fast. After about six months in business we were connected with someone at a deal site, ran our first deal and it was a success," says Jessica Geier of Raw Generation. "After that I spent an entire month searching out every deal site I could find and contacted all of them until we got on their calendars. That was the catalyst for our early success and I have no doubt that is the reason we are still in business."

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that you should go after deal sites as well. It really depends on what your business is centered on, what products you offer and who your target market is.

However, you do need to take this principle seriously. If you can figure out where your marketing dollars are going to produce the greatest return on investment, you'll have an easier time bringing in a steady stream of leads.

If you still need to determine who your target market is, take a read through 10 Questions to Ask Before Determining Your Target Market.

Related: 4 Signs Your Site Traffic Is Being Hijacked by a New Type of Malware

4. Allow your customers to be your brand ambassadors.

There's nothing quite like the glowing testimonial of a satisfied customer to add credibility to your business. By collecting and sharing testimonials and reviews on a regular basis, you can encourage more sales from your website visitors.

"The most powerful tip we could give in growing your ecommerce business is allowing your customers to be your brand ambassadors," says Michelle Michalak from Slyde Handboards. "Make it easy to compile and share testimonials and reviews from your customers."

You can talk yourself up as much as you want, but it's ultimately what people say about your business that's going to have the biggest impact on buying decisions. Your customers are the greatest assets you have, so learn to leverage them.

5. Remove friction from the checkout process.

If you want to sell more product, you have to ensure that your visitors aren't getting frustrated, abandoning their carts and leaving your site to find another store where they can purchase a competitor product.

Friction is one of the biggest challenges for most etailers, especially as we move into the mobile age. You have to find a way to make checkout so simple and easy that anyone could do it.

"My biggest tip to grow an ecommerce business is practically common sense, but I rarely see websites taking it as seriously as they should: remove friction from the checkout process," says Nick Eubanks of SEO Nick.

Eubanks goes on to suggest several ways of achieving this end:

  • Eliminate the need for account creation.
  • Reduce the number of screens the customer has to go through.
  • Make sure your default shipping option is the cheapest, unless there's a faster option for the same price.
  • Use as few form fields as possible, and use auto-fill where applicable.
  • Save billing, shipping and payment information when and where possible.
  • Provide several ways for your customers to pay for their order, including common payment options such as PayPal and Amazon.

If you're looking for more great tips, take a read through How to Grow Your Ecommerce Business: Experts Reveal Secrets.

Ultimately, you can grow your ecommerce business to whatever level you see fit. It depends entirely on how ambitious you are, and what you want out of it.

Remember to learn from the mistakes others have made, so you don't have to learn the hard way. Take a look at The 7 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Launching an Ecommerce Startup for more.

Related: 5 Tools to Help Your Online Business Realize Its Full Potential

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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