By Stuart Maclaren of Your Print Partner.
With online sales now comprising over 17% of all purchases in the UK, ecommerce is a big market, and everyone wants a piece. However, setting up a successful online business can be riddled with challenges.
Most people have experienced poor online shops or at least heard horror stories. Having a great idea and business plan isn’t enough to grow a successful online business.
Here are my top six tips to make sure your online business is a success:
- Keep your customer support local
So many online businesses source their customer support from somewhere cheap, abroad and use web chats and email to manage customer service.
It may be cheaper, but it’s likely going to frustrate your customers and partners if they can’t reach someone with the power to actually do something.
Local customer service will reassure customers that any issues will be resolved quickly and easily, and that they will receive their purchase in the expected time-frame.
Top tip: Don’t assume that everyone wants web-based help. Make your phone number prominent on your website and staff your phones to ensure quick, easy resolution to any customer issues.
- Ensure your site is easy-to-use
Too many websites focus on design and branding but are difficult and frustrating to use.
Some sites make ordering so difficult that the customer abandons their basket.
Top tip: The problem gets worse when you consider that most shopping is now completed on a mobile device. So, develop a mobile-first website using lightweight plugins or native interfaces to provide a smooth, user-centric platform.
- Use resellers for rapid growth
If you want fast growth, it’s worth developing solid partnerships with business partners and resellers.
Resellers tend to have established brands and customer bases. By becoming their go-to supplier, you tap into their existing market, growing your sales volume dramatically.
But do remember that resellers value is created through their brand, so they are very protective about it. You must help maintain or enhance their reputation by delivering outstanding service. Products and service need to be high-quality and reliable, while your team need to be flexible when responding to requests.
Top tip: It really helps if you can invite resellers to come and see your products first-hand so they understand exactly what they’re selling and are reassured by the quality.
- Targeting your market
It’s crucial to know and understand your target market. It’s useful for more than just web development. Maximising your marketing and advertising spend relies heavily on well-defined target markets. We used targeted advertising on Facebook across all of our target segments to understand which group had the most interest in buying. We then transferred the majority of our ad spend onto the best performing ads to maximise our ROI.
Product sourcing is also informed by your customer segments. If you know, as we do, that your main customer segment is mums with young children, you can find gifts for kids to appeal to that group.
Top tip: Use available research to develop your customer segments and then test using digital advertising to quickly gain granular detail about each group.
Getting photography right is so important for your website. Although images on a white background makes clear what the product is, lifestyle shots, where the product is being used in situ, activate the imagination and evoke emotions. Customers are then better able to make the choice to purchase based on both rational and emotional reasoning.
Top tip: Lifestyle shots sell the dream; white backgrounds can help sell the product. Use a combination of both for best effect, but always lead with the lifestyle shots.
- Use social media competitions to recruit customers
One excellent way of driving traffic to your new website is by running regular competitions on social media. For example, we emailed customers asking them to share a picture of their purchase on Facebook and tag our page. Their friends quickly became aware of us and began using our service and entering our competitions, growing awareness exponentially for a relatively low cost.
Again, it’s important here to know your target audience and which segment you want to entice to your website. It can also help you select the prize. The prize needs to attract customers that haven’t used your website before but also be relevant to people who have already purchased your products (offering a voucher as the prize, will attract all of your target segments at the same time).
Top tip: Do make your competitions relevant and specific to the platform where it will run. For example, Twitter entries can be text-based, whereas photos and videos work well on Facebook and Instagram.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuart Maclaren is the award-winning Managing Director of The YPP Group, a leading name in the UK wide-format print sector. Your Print Partner (YPP) is a specialist digital print company producing flags, banners, exhibition displays and other promotional products. The company is recognised as the UK’s largest producer of soft signage. YPP is now launching CustomGifts.co.uk an exciting new brand that will supply year-round high quality personalised printed gifts with late ordering and next-day delivery. http://yourprintpartner.co.uk/