Here are a handful of easy tips and tricks for eCommerce startups!  These concepts may sound simple but they are a great foundation to build on.  Although tailored for intermediate and start-ups, I’m confident veteran online retailers will probably find a nugget or two to chew on in this article.

  1. Love your customers. Every time a customer enters your store or calls on the phone it’s an opportunity to connect with them. Find out what your customers want while spending time with them and kill two birds with one stone. Every interaction your business has with customers need to be positive and personal. Go the extra mile for your customers, treat them like an old friend right out of the gate, and earn their business for life
  2. Make your business a place that people want to be…and you want to be. Create an inviting, positive environment for your staff and customers whether it’s brick and mortar or online. This has been a key element at my shop making customers feel welcome and they spend more time shopping. Employees are proud and excited about where they work when it’s a “cut above” your competitors. This synergy with a high quality environment for customers and employees can be a catapult that really fuels excitement and sales for any new business.
  3. Don’t start a new venture unless you can determine a need in the marketplace. The first thing many entrepreneurs overlook is their business has to fill a need that is currently not being met. Once the need is determined, find out what your competitors are doing well and then doing not so well and start building your business plan from there.
  4. Don’t accept “good enough”, ever. Good enough equals failure or at best the business stays open and you are a slave to something you don’t even believe in, and worse, neither do your customers or employees. From the systems to the services and products you offer having something that is remarkable is paramount and a great start for building a brand and positive reputation.
  5. Don’t assume you will be making money the first year or the 5th year…As a general rule everybody knows you need to have enough capital to operate the company at a loss for at least 3-5 years. If you don’t have the capital to do this wait till you do and spend the time on your business plan. Rushing to market short on capital is a death sentence for new businesses.

Here are a few other general tips for eCommerce startups I want to share.  When setting up a business plan in today’s economy (and I mean today as it’s ever changing) you’ll need something special that sets your business apart. If you are selling a product online…Amazon can probably do it better, that’s scary.  How will you combat that?  What makes you different than Amazon or other huge online retail giants?  Figure out a way you can engage your customers or do something Amazon just can’t do and is too big to accommodate.

Ever order a “special” at your local restaurant and found out when it arrived at your table it was just especially cheap and tired remixed leftovers…yes, we all have. Create something “special” that is valuable and memorable.  It needs to be overboard awesome, something magical that your customers will talk about for weeks and tell their friends. Offer a special that fits these criteria and your customers will talk about it; it’s the cheapest advertising you’ll find.

Determine your consumer access model locally and nationally, electronically and physical. Review the popular hybrid model involving a mix of online and brick and mortar sales which has been up and coming for quite a while now.  This is also sometimes called “omni channel” and there are quite a few webstore services that now integrate and support this. Offering an incredible selection for your local customers and “letting your customer shop your warehouse” is a proven model.  Don’t forget to use utilize your local market for closing out tired DNI inventory as well as private sales and email capture to increase local marketshare.

Creating a website that your customers engage with and buy from can be a daunting task but is paramount and the standard in successful online retail. Find a 3rd party development team you like and work with them to select a platform.  Beware that many platforms have hidden fees and hosting requirements that can hurt you down the road, do your research.  Also make sure your web platform has the ability for reasonable integration with 3rd party software and scalability.

Travis Romine has been in eCommerce for over 20 years and works with retailers from 5m-100m across the nation.  Need some help with your eCommerce project?  Don’t feel like reinventing the wheel?  Travis and his team at Sharp Commerce can fast track your eCommerce operation with comprehensive consulting services.

Travis Romine