Many people today are forsaking the idea of running a business the traditional way, such as buying or renting store space on the local high street. Instead, they are choosing to work from home by setting up a virtual store on the Internet. Not only does this keep costs down, such as rental space, it also provides a much wider market space of potential customers. More people than ever are shopping online, so it is important to keep up with the times.
Here are a few helpful words of advice for anybody interested in setting up a business online.
Set up a website
As with any business, it isn't going to work if people can't find it. The first thing you should do is set up a website. This isn't as complicated as it sounds as there are many web building sites online, such as Wix. They are relatively simple to use and give you the tools you need to set up a website that is both attractive and relevant to your business. Within hours you will be up and running online, armed with the tools you need to sell your products.
As you work on the website, focus on its design. First impressions count so as with any high street store, you need to attract customers with a tidy and attractive layout. If not, your potential customers will move on and spend their money elsewhere. So grab their attention. Use bold colors, have interesting content, and provide eye-catching photographs. If you were to walk into a physical store and couldn't find the things you wanted, you wouldn't stay for very long. Therefore, make sure your products are organized well, placed in the proper sections within your site.
Ensure your website is relevant. If you have a passion for vintage cars, but your business is selling greeting cards, your site shouldn't be embedded with your favorite car videos from YouTube. It would be confusing for your customers and a pointless exercise for you. Set up another website for your personal interests, keeping your business site free of unnecessary clutter.
Use social media
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are a great way to drive custom to your business. For starters, set up separate business accounts on social media, and provide a link to them on your website. In the same way, from social media, direct your existing friends and followers to your business. Considering the millions of people who use Facebook, the potential for making a successful business is vast. Make sure you post regular updates and tweets about your business and encourage your followers to spread the word about you, too. People are fickle beasts who tend to migrate to the next big thing, so never let them forget you exist by posting daily.
Write a blog
From your website, set up a blog page. This is your opportunity to be creative and to share interesting and relevant content with your customers. For example, every time a new product comes in, write something about it. Say you are selling DVDs. You could write a blog entry about the top 5 films starring Tom Hardy and contain links to the products from the post.
Keep your blog updated regularly and make it fun and interesting to read. If your writing skills aren't great, there are opportunities online to hire freelance writers on websites such as Upwork. For a fee, they will provide any relevant content as to your instruction.
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. You need to do whatever it takes to maintain their custom. Other than social media updates, go one step further and send out a relevant newsletter through email. Tell them about the latest products you have to sell, and include one-click links straight to the items you are talking about. If a customer has bought something in the past, send an email with recommended products relevant to their last purchase.
Don't send too many emails as they can be the equivalent of junk mail. Ensure they are interesting and relevant to your customer, but respect their decision if they wish to unsubscribe from receiving them.
For good word of mouth, you need your clients to be satisfied when dealing with you. Give them a bad experience and not only will they take their business elsewhere, but they may share their grievances about you online. Customer service quotes should be inspirational, not derogatory.
From your website and social media channels, allow feedback from your customers. If they have a question for you, answer it within a reasonable period. Should they buy a product but don't like it for a particular reason, or it has been damaged in transit, have an effective return policy. Consider free shipping on your products, another guaranteed way to attract more sales. Treat people with respect and they will treat you the same way, by giving up their hard earned money to buy from you!
People enjoy having new things, but they don't always enjoy spending money. For that reason, many stores offer items on discount and have special offers, such as a two for one deal. So if you are running an online DVD store, consider selling tactics such as buy 3 for £10, or get one and get another half price. Of course, you need to make a profit, so there are two ideas at work here. Firstly, having a sale may make you run at a small loss, but customers may stick around long enough to buy other items from you. Secondly, it may seem as if you are offering a good deal, but you may not be. Many stores have winter and summer sales, but cleverly they put their prices up before the sale and bring them down to their usual cost and call it a discount. It's cheeky but if the big boys are doing it, so could you. After all, you are running a business and not a charity shop.