ECommerce has opened a whole new world for small businesses when it comes to selling their products and services. While eCommerce may fit your business model, and you may be able to reach customers across the globe, it creates a lot of competition for your business. It's estimated that there are 12 - 24 million eCommerce websites worldwide. This means that you not only need to be found within a crowd, but you also need to prove that your product is the best option.
It is important to plan ahead and get a leg up on your competitors for your eCommerce business to be successful. So, to get that necessary head start, here are 5 things you should know before getting started with eCommerce.
1. Know you still need a business license
While you do not have a traditional brick-and-mortar company, eCommerce businesses are still required to have a business license.
Depending on your business, you may need to apply for licenses and permits with different levels of government. You should check with your local municipality for licensing requirements, but here are some of the licenses and permits your eCommerce business may need:
- General business license
- Federal business registration
- Registration with your province
- DBA (Doing Business As) license
- Sales tax permit
- Health permits
- Environmental permits
You will also have to register for GST/HST if you provide taxable products and services - unless you are a small supplier. However, even if you don’t have to register for the GST/HST, it may be beneficial for your business to register regardless.
2. Know your customers and your competition
Before starting your eCommerce business, you must know your customers and your competition. Researching them can help you develop your products and market your business in a way that appeals to your customers and helps you stand out from the crowd.
Look up businesses in your industry that offer similar products to you. What are they doing to market their business online, and what does their eCommerce site look like? You will be able to see what is and isn’t working for your competition so you can fill in the gaps they have unknowingly created.
When it comes to your potential customers, you want to understand them to appeal to them and address their problems. You can better sell to your customers if you know them. When it comes to your customers, they are just looking for someone who understands their problems and can provide a solution. If you do not have current customers you can interview directly, you can create personas. Personas are fictional characters which represent your ideal and not-so-ideal customers. What is their education level? What do they think is a selling point when they are shopping?
So before you start developing an eCommerce site, do your research.
3. Know your business and marketing plan
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” With the amount of competition you face online, you must have a plan for starting and running an eCommerce business. Without a business plan and a marketing plan, your eCommerce business has no direction. This could lead you to implementing ineffective tactics.
An eCommerce business plan includes outlines of how your business will work, how you’ll fund it, who your audience is, and how you plan to succeed, all based on research and strategy.
As well, if you do not have a marketing plan in place, your eCommerce store could be lost in the crowd. You want to be able to drive traffic to your eCommerce website and then convert those visitors into paying customers. Your marketing plan should include your objectives, your core content and marketing tactics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media.
4. Know what eCommerce platform will work best for you
ECommerce isn’t a one size fits all platform. While you may instantly think of popular eCommerce sites like Shopify, Ecwid, Lightspeed and Squarespace, you have to weigh your options. You need to find the eCommerce platform that will meet your business’ unique objectives. When you are researching eCommerce platforms, there are several factors that you should try to look for.
This may be one of the first things you look for when reviewing eCommerce platforms. Of course, these fees have to align with your budget but still offer the features your business needs.
While you may be just starting out now, you need an eCommerce platform that can grow with your business. You should be able to scale your site.
If you are building your website right on the eCommerce platform, you should be able to integrate Search Engine Optimization and hopefully increase your ranking on search engines. SEO features can include custom URLs, adding meta tags and even reviews.
Did you know that 54% of people browse the internet from their mobile devices? So when you review eCommerce platforms, confirm that your customers can view your website on their computers and mobile devices.
You want your customers to feel safe shopping on your site. Ensure that your eCommerce platform protects your customers by providing features like SSL certifications, data backups and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance.
5. Know how to optimize your eCommerce site
As you already know, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses you have to compete with within the eCommerce market. Before you get started with an eCommerce business, you should know how to optimize your eCommerce website to stand out and have you rank better on search engines. Now, you don’t have to be a marketing expert; instead, we have a few simple ways you can optimize your eCommerce site.
Make it easy for your website visitors to navigate through your different pages. If they can find what they need quickly, they are more likely to stay on your website; the longer they stay on your website, the better Google and other search engines will rank you.
You should research keywords that your customers would use to search for your product or service. Even take a look at what keywords your competition is using. You can then use these keywords in your website content and SEO tools.
Photos & videos
Include plenty of photos and videos of your products to share with your customers. Photos are a great way for them to better understand what you have to offer.
Both search engines and your customers will appreciate having content on your website. You can build up your content through product descriptions, frequently asked questions or informational blog posts.
Bonus: Enlist the help of the Digital Service Squad
Whether you are just starting out your eCommerce business or you are looking to move your business online, you can enlist the help of the Digital Service Squad (DSS).
Digital Service Squads guides businesses through their digital transformation. Small businesses can apply to participate in the program, free of charge.
DSS is open to home-based or commercial businesses registered in Alberta with less than 50 employees.
If you would like to find out more about the Digital Service Squad can help you successfully transition into the world of eCommerce, contact us today.