Running an e-commerce startup in today’s crowded online marketplace is not easy, to say the least. How can you manage to catch attention when there are zillions of online stores selling all sorts of things right from hand-crafted baby dolls to rare spirits?
Differentiating your business and giving it a unique identity is the biggest problem faced by startups.
If you are planning to set up an e-commerce store, you need to choose products with care. Being a new startup selling women’s clothing will take tons of work, a brilliant social media strategy, celebrity support and innovative products to succeed. If you are in a more niche category, then you may have less of competition but you will have to really sweat to build a customer base and create an online brand presence.
Here are a few tips for you to steer your e-commerce startup in the right direction and drive a profitable growth.
1. Plug-in Social Elements
It is essential that you master the art of social media and learn to get conversations going in the right way.
Social media profiles need to be actively managed. They are not something that you can set and forget.
The nature and type of your business also decide the effectiveness of your social media campaign. A Facebook page may not do a great lot if you are in B2B businesses with a customer base that rarely interacts on Facebook. But if your target market is active on Facebook, then it is a channel that you cannot afford to oversee.
Products and services that count on emotional triggers need to have a visually stimulating online presence. If you are a tour operator, you would like your customers to see the beauty, charm and excitement of destinations. Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are great options where you can not only make it clear why everyone should have travel on their bucket list but you can also curate user-generated content to keep things personal, human and aspirational.
Social share buttons on e-commerce sites make it easy for users to connect, share, like and heart products and images. Also, remember that videos often make for great and viral content, so do not ignore video sharing platforms like Vine and YouTube.
2. Invest Time in Marketing
E-commerce companies need to build a buzz around them to get noticed.
Many of the biggest startup successes you see around you have been built on back of years of hard work, non-stop networking, brilliant social media marketing and continuous innovation.
All startup founders know that overnight success is a myth. Years of struggle, failures and pain have gone into creating ‘overnight’ successes like AirBnB, Twitter and Pebble. If you have famous friends who can speak for you, then it will help you get initial traction.
Getting mentions in top magazines in your trade, celebrities sporting your designs or putting up a stellar and entertaining performance on social media are all ways in which you can market your brand.
Networking is critical for all professionals and more so for entrepreneurs. It opens you up to new ideas and help you learn about unique marketing methods. Most entrepreneurs say that they feel isolated in their jobs as they set out in lonely pursuit of their dreams. Attending networking events, conferences, seminars and debates keeps you involved and in touch with the wider startup community.
Kickstarter campaigns help startups raise funds, and if you have backing and proof to show that you can deliver what you promise, funds will not be hard to come by. Pebble had one of the most successful campaigns in the history of Kickstarter and the fact that the company and product were in the limelight from day one helped its marketing cause.
Startup founders cannot sit idle. You have to reach out and get noticed.
3. Team up with Influencers
The Web has changed the way in which we do business. The world of advertising has been revolutionized and the channels through which a company can reach out to its customers have increased multifold.
As a startup founder, you obviously don several hats and may find it difficult to man the vast social media landscape. Ensure you have an onsite blog where you can put up quality content. Regular and timely blogging is essential if you want to build a user base. There is a marketer in all of us and all good marketers know what their customers want to hear/read/see. You may not take to blogging like fish to water, but you will learn with practice.
Curate a list of blogs and websites that you read regularly. Follow the blogs of people you admire and connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn. The more you are attuned to trending content and topics, the better you will be able to perform at your blogging duties.
You can also team up with influencers in your niche. Influencers are to be found on all social media platforms. They are celebrities in their own right and have considerable and loyal followers who enjoy, trust and appreciate the content dished out by their favorite online personalities. If your e-commerce startup sells outdoor gear, team up with the avid adventurers, explorers, travelers and sports enthusiasts who have made a name for themselves by providing valuable content to their followers. SoCal Hiker and Modern Hiker are two blogs that have found a great following among hiking enthusiasts. Getting a mention on these blogs can get you the attention of their thousands of fans.
4. Ensure You Have a Great Website
E-commerce startups need to give a flawless user experience to customers. Most e-commerce websites run on full-fledged integrated e-commerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce.
But if you want full control over your site in the initial stages, and want to focus and build other parts of your website like pages and, importantly, the blog then WooCommerce plugin is apt for you. Integrated payment systems and advanced inventory systems are better supported on dedicated e-commerce platforms, but if you are comfortable with technical aspects, then even WooCommerce will satisfy your requirements.
Go for managed WordPress hosting as it will free your time from managing website performance to concentrate on other important things. Keep in mind that loading speed of your website decides whether your visitor will stay or leave your site. Studies show that loading speed any more than 2.4 seconds will drive away customers.
An e-commerce startup has opportunities as vast as the Web itself to grow and expand. Do not let the initial problems deter you. With cost-effective and well-planned marketing strategy and customer awareness, your startup will be able to attract and retain a growing customer base.