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6 Fundamentals for Succeeding at Online Marketing Establishing an online business is simple. Getting the basics right and building from there is more complicated.

By Erica Riegelman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Today, it's easier than ever to start your own business. Anyone with a URL, a good product and a PayPal account can make a go of it. But if it's easy for anybody, this also means it's easy for everybody. The world of ecommerce is teeming with competition. So, how do you make your company and its products stand out? Here are six tips to help your small business succeed in today's online marketplaces.

1. Pick the right ecommerce platform for you.

There are a variety of marketplaces available to sell your goods, but each has a different mission, target audience and fee structure. Make sure to select the marketplace that aligns well with your brand and makes you feel comfortable. Read through cancellation policies and reviews from other users, then narrow down your options to the best fit for you.

Product manufacturers should consider sites like Amazon or Ebay. On the other end of the spectrum, my site, aftcra, targets artisans and crafters who want to sell one-of-a-kind handmade products.

2. The importance of branding.

Your brand is your promise to customers and the home of your reputation. Do everything you can to protect it. First, create a Brand Overview (your company's values, vision and mission) that is straightforward and free of industry jargon. Next, build a Brand Guideline document (logo, color scheme, tagline and messages) that is easy to understand and replicate, so you can house your organization's details in one location. This will help inform everything else you do, as well as provide a cohesive company overview for existing and new hires.

Related: It's Not You, It's Your Story: Why Branding Matters

3. Product photography.

In the online world, shoppers make a decision from one photo. To create a solid product photo, take photos that inspire potential buyers to think, "If I buy this product, I/my home/my life will resemble these images."

Eliminate distractions in the photo (i.e. patterns or unnecessary decorative items). Use natural light and display the product in a natural setting (i.e. clothing on a person, towels in a bathroom). Take a variety of pictures (i.e. detail shots or size comparisons).

4. Customer service.

Customer service is one of the most influential drivers of a purchase, especially online where personal experiences are diminished. Potential buyers will often filter for companies that have good reviews and ratings. They're looking for real voices and opinions to help them navigate an impersonal world. That's why it's so important to create a human connection whenever possible.

Add personal touches to shipments, like a personalized thank-you note or a product sample to showcase your collection. This helps build customer loyalty and relationships while encouraging referrals and strong reviews.

Ensure the customer service throughout your organization is prompt and consistent. Train employees to handle criticism, complaints or suggestions from customers with consistent, positive messages and tone of voice.

Related: It's No Longer a Question Whether to Use Social Media for Customer Service

5. Product name and description.

In some marketplaces, your product name and description are major factors in search engine queries.

Many marketplaces add product titles into the URL, allowing search engines to find your goods. Make your product title descriptive. "Car Seat Canopy" lacks descriptive words and is less likely to turn up in a search query than "Baby Car Seat Canopy Navy Blue Nautical and Chevron." The more descriptive title will show up in searches for "nautical," "chevron," "navy blue," etc.

Keep product descriptions simple and informative. Include any important detail (i.e. dimensions, color options, care instructions, shipment timeframes). Also describe what the product is and how you use it. This may seem apparent to you, but don't assume it will be to the potential buyer.

6. Get social.

Executed correctly, social media can be your biggest ally. It requires more time and energy than most people think. But when used effectively, social channels help you nurture relationships with customers and are an excellent way to connect with other online sellers to share best practices.

Each social media outlet caters to a different audience. Beautiful photographs of your product belong on Instagram and Pinterest, which will lead to orders. Customer service compliments will be shared on Facebook, and can lead to referrals. Use Twitter to share product promotions and company updates with your followers.

Related: How to Choose the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business

Erica Riegelman

Co-founder and President of aftcra

Erica Riegelman is the president and co-founder of aftcra, an online marketplace where you can buy and sell handmade goods made in America. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband and daughter.

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