Today’s growing online marketplace includes businesses for nearly every niche. The beauty of an online company is that you can reach customers around the country or even around the world from a simple, well-maintained website.
Done correctly, an online business can give you the opportunity to make a neat profit even without a store front or traditional office space.
Build a Website You Can Use
In an online business, your web page is your storefront, and it’s somewhere you’ll spend a lot of time. You’ll find conflicting opinions as to whether you should work with a budget-friendly template or invest in more distinctive design elements from a web developer. Regardless of your approach, the most important thing is to create a web page you can update and manage easily on your own. If you sink thousands into a sleek website on a platform you don’t understand, you won’t know how to make simple day-to-day edits and updates easily.
There are several shopping carts you can choose from for your web page that are relatively simple to set up and maintain. An option like OpenCart gives you extensive shopping cart features like automatic image resizing, shipping weight calculations, and sales reports within an intuitive template that you can easily customize and update. Other similar options include X-Cart and PrestaShop.
Set Up Your Finances for Success
Before you make your first sale, research the rules and requirements for operating a business in your area. Some communities require special licensure to operate a business out of your home. A sales tax number will help you charge the appropriate state taxes on your items, while an IRS tax ID number lets you deal with vendors and other companies securely without using your social security number.
Online accounting software will help you organize and track your sales from the very first purchase. Look for a program that will help you create professional looking invoices, generate reports and financial statements, and simplify tax preparation. You can enjoy basic features like these for free with a simple accounting solution such as Sage One that’s designed for online small business functionality.
Know Your Audience
Get to know your target audience and develop a marketing strategy tailored to their needs, wants, and habits. Conduct keyword research to find out what people are searching for and the terms they’re using to find it. Optimize your site around the right words and phrases, but make sure to work them in organically as you craft content with real value.
Hit the social media scene and cultivate a strong presence on the sites your audience uses most. Facebook and Twitter are versatile options, but there are some less-used choices to consider as well, particularly in certain markets. If you’re a B2B company, a strong presence on LinkedIn is essential. Pinterest is wildly popular for cooking and crafting.
Perfect Your Back-End Sales Strategies
Back-end sales are those that target your existing customers rather than new ones. These strategies are incredibly important because 36 percent of shoppers who have purchased from you before will buy your products again if you follow up. Suggest complimentary products on your shipping confirmation or follow-up emails. Track customer purchases and tailor your marketing emails to each segment of your audience so they’re seeing items of the most interest to them. Provide coupons for subsequent purchases to encourage a prompt return.
Back-end sales should always focus on products that are related to what the customer already purchased. Follow up on an order for cast iron skillets with a cookbook of related recipes or an offer for other cast iron cookware. If a customer purchases infant clothing, follow up in a few months with an offer for items in the next size up. These tactics help you give your business a personal touch, even when you reside outside a brick and mortar location.
While running an online business is very different from operating a more traditional storefront, it gives you unparalleled flexibility and reach. Tailor your strategies to the online marketplace and you can enjoy great success from behind your computer screen.