The concept behind ecommerce is quite simple, set up a site that will allow people to view and buy products online. Though the idea is simple, making an ecommerce site work as a business isn’t. There are so many factors that are outside your control. Your competitors, suppliers and of course Google can all play a deciding factor in how successful your web-shop is. As there are so many factors that you cannot control it’s even more important that you make the most of what you can control.
The key to any web store are the products you sell. The decision here is do you want to stock a product range that will have mass market appeal or will you choose a set of niche products. Choosing mass market products means you will face stiff competition from established players. Falling margins is also a constant threat and unless you can differentiate yourself from all the other competitors you will find it difficult to see any traction in this market. On the other hand if you are successful the rewards will be tremendous.
Targeting a specific niche will hold a number of advantages, you will usually find that margins are not degraded as easily, only a small amount of your competitors will be considered as players in that market place. It can be easier to differentiate yourself from your competitors. For instance something like free next day shipping which is common place in most niches maybe a new sales technique in yours which may be enough to set up apart from your competitors.
The downside of choosing a niche specific webstore will mean that you are servicing a relatively small customer base and you may find that there is little room for movement in this niche. Distributors and wholesalers can be difficult to source if you have a very specific product range, stock shortage can also seriously affect profits and revenue.
The software package you use to launch your ecommerce site is another important factor. There are countless programs now available, even wordpress can be easily transformed into a fully functional web-shop. Open source software can also be an attractive option. Different members of your team will have different priorities when it comes to deciding on which platform to use, the marketing team may consider the ability to easily export data feeds as being an important element. The admin team may feel that an extensive range of plugins that will increase the usability of the site is important. While the accounts department may want a system that can easily integrate with your existing accounts system. Finding an off the shelf system that can accommodate everybody needs may be difficult. My suggestion would be to sit each department down and then collectively decide the essential elements of the webshop, then put together a list of suitable candidates and ask each department to review.
Once your product range and webshop are in place the next thing to address is a marketing strategy. It makes sense for an ecommerce site to focus their attention on the web, in most cases organic progression through the rankings will be a slow and often monotonous affair. To offset the initial slow uptake it is best to focus on paid forms of advertising. Google Adwords and affiliate programs will all help drive traffic and sales in the short term. As the age and authority of your ecommerce site grows and your link building strategy has started to produce rankings that are driving sufficient organic traffic, you can then begin to wean your site off the paid traffic that you have used to sustain your business in the short term.
You should also begin to look at some of the more traditional forms of adverting like niche specific publications, which again will help to drive targeted traffic to your site. Your sites marketing strategy should grow and evolve as your site does and you should look to take advantage of any opportunity that arises.
When the idea of ecommerce was in its infancy, almost every niche was wide open, sites like Amazon were still finding their feet and there was an opportunities in almost every market. This has now changed and many markets are cut throat. To succeed you and your ecommerce site will need to excel.