One year of lockdown has passed, and the world is slowly starting to come to terms with the new normal.
Businesses are opening their hiring gates to distributed online teams, gig economy has finally found a place at the “real job” table and customers are ordering more and spending less online than they ever have before.
For thousands of people around the world, the pandemic was just the push they needed to finally go digital and learn how to start an online store. GoDaddy, a leading web hosting provider, reported a 48% increase in new paying subscribers and a 141% increase in ordered products from February to April alone.
And you…are reading this article.
BEFORE WE START
If you are thinking about seizing the day, then it is safe to assume you have spent the last few months doing research on how to start an online store.
Unfortunately, while relevant online guides cover everything you need to know about the technicalities of how to start an online store, it does not save you from this virtual omen: almost 90% of eCommerce startups fail within the first 120 days.
In this article, our team will walk you through the six biggest – but not so obvious – pitfalls of building an online store and how to best avoid them.
MISTAKE #1: CHOOSING THE WRONG ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
For the majority of people looking into how to start their first online store, price is the only tell between a good deal and a bad deal.
That’s not an entirely flawed logic: choosing an affordable package could make it easier for independent owners to build an online store that breaks even during those rough early months and leave a bigger margin for fancy marketing tools and ad spend.
But before thinking about the upfront fees of creating an online store, a better play would be to consider the long-term effects that your eCommerce platform will have on your store’s scalability and running costs.
OUR ADVICE 💡 REALLY get to know where your store needs lie right now and visualize how to start an online store so those needs can grow in the first year. This feat could be easily managed using a competitor’s online store for reference within your industry.
MISTAKE #2: SPAMMING YOUR POTENTIAL BUYERS
It has been shouted from the rooftops, it has been printed on cereal boxes.
We get it, content is king.
But that does not mean that more of it is necessarily better. If anything, it might be worse.
Many entrepreneurs fall into this newbie trap as they learn how to start an online store from scratch. They believe the more content they put out on their active channels, the more likely they are to reach potential customers.
Unfortunately, it does not quite work that way.
Each social media platform has different customer usage patterns. These patterns are affected by the user’s interests, location and peak activity hours.
OUR ADVICE 💡 Get to know your industry benchmark and apply it to each platform’s best practices for posting frequency as you build your online store.
By finding out where those touchpoints lie for your specific customers, and how they converge for your market and platform, you can easily identify unique opportunities for your products to deliver meaningful value to your customers.
MISTAKE #3: NOT HITTING THE NICHE NAIL ON THE HEAD
There may be millions of unique reasons why one seller figures out how to start an online store that converts and another does not, but there is one thing that all successful online stores have in common: they all offer a product or a service that is actively and regularly needed by a group of underserved customers.
The key to building a successful online store is – coincidentally – the oldest rule of business: the law of supply and demand.
To do that, businesses operate on niche markets at locations where a demand exists but a supply is yet to be built. This is achieved through two things: thorough market research, and a relentlessly updated keyword strategy.
OUR ADVICE 💡 Don’t spend the next six months tweaking your niche. Over-niching can be just as damaging to your business as commonplace offerings.
While selling snow boots in Utah could be seasonally profitable, building a year-round online business on light-in-the-dark, Frozen-themed red snow boots in Utah is a bit of a long shot.
Instead, pick a niche and stick with it.
MISTAKE #4: FALLING PREY TO THE DATA FRENZY
There is no doubt about it: Knowing how to start an online store using a data-driven marketing strategy is the most efficient way to scale your business.
But sometimes, powerful brand stories can create a small ripple that causes huge waves in that solid data over time.
This is not an invitation to ignore hard facts. Your analytics are your powerhouse – they tell you when to push, where your weaknesses lie and what you need to learn in order to build an online store that makes the cut.
However, the numbers do not tell you what to say, when to speak or how to create value.
OUR ADVICE 💡 Think of your business as a person.
What does that person look like? What are they wearing? What kind of movies do they like? What makes them smile?
This is your brand persona.
Once you are done with that exercise, think about the desired effect you would like your brand persona to have on their community. What’s their vibe? What kind of change do they inspire when they walk into a room full of people?
This is your brand voice.
With a singular vision in mind of how your brand would sound like and act if it were a person, you can make better decisions about your core value messages, build highly-converting loyalty programs, and run powerful community engagement efforts.
MISTAKE #5: LETTING THE HAND OF DESTINY STEER YOUR SHIPPING
Ask anyone who has been looking into how to start an online store that successfully survives its first three months, and they will tell you the same thing: it is a long and treacherous climb to the top of the shoppers’ minds.
Building an online store takes hours of forging trust, sowing seeds of online authority and investing resources to make it stand out from the crowd.
And then it could take one day of shipping delay to lose all of that, forever.
Research cites free shipping as the number one factor online customers consider while choosing a retailer. This is followed by the ease and cost of shipping returns.
But it’s not easy as it sounds. Standardizing the shipping process could take months of incremental improvements in logistics and serious investments in reliable courier services. For dropshippers, choosing a supplier could be an option, but where supply is limited, not much can be done to salvage the product or all the investment that went into it.
OUR ADVICE 💡 Localize your courier services to your markets wherever possible as you build your online store, and be honest with your customers about shipping delays.
The key to learning how to start an online store that cashes in on every possible turn really comes down to understanding how people work – simple gestures go a long way.
Adding a floating banner to your landing page that communicates new shipping times, keeping your customers informed on their order through third-party live tracking or sending follow-up emails to update them about the status of their order can make a huge and lasting difference to your brand.
MISTAKE #6: MAKING IT HARD FOR CUSTOMERS TO GIVE YOU THEIR MONEY
Having done some research on product and target segments, a lot of entrepreneurs looking into how to start an online store forget to give context to their data by researching the target market.
Picture this: an ambitious dropshipper from North America has found the perfect product, and he knows for a fact that a sizable chunk of people need it in Kuala Lumpur.
He pulls up a google tab and reads the first page of results on how to start an online store, then he jumps in and starts to build one. A couple of weeks later, the store is ready to go live and turn some profit. He sets it up with PayPal, credit card and Google payment integration, and clicks “Publish”.
Here’s why our North American dropshipper’s search into how to start an online store will come down to a grand total of zero sales over the next three months: while credit card usage is high in Malaysia, most Southeast Asian countries still depend on cash and online bank transfers as their primary payment method.
OUR ADVICE 💡 Your real customer journey starts before they log on to your website.
To grow your sales, you must first know how to start an online store website that works for you. In simpler terms, the easier it is for your customers to get their hands on your product, the better.
The pandemic has not just affected how many orders people make a month, it has also changed the way consumers think and feel about shopping.
In fact, an April 2020 poll by Slickdeals, a leading crowdsourced eCommerce platform, shows that impulse buys jumped up 18% since the pandemic started, with nearly three in four (72%) respondents saying that buying something impulsively during the pandemic has positively affected their mood.
Once you have your market down to solid funnels, introducing behavior analytics and user feedback to the mix might be a great next step.
Got some starter tricks up your sleeve? Get the conversation going on Twitter and share your top learnings with your peers @GameballCo today!