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With today’s job market being as tight as it is, many people struggling to keep their heads above water are opening up small businesses, either for extra income or to replace their old jobs. The most popular choices and easiest to start are online businesses, that can be set up and operational in a fraction of the time required to get a standard “brick and mortar” business off the ground. Of the many current online business models, the online retail store is one of the most popular. However, there are a few tips to consider before getting started, to ensure that you have the greatest chance for success.
1.) Decide What You Plan to Sell
Although you can find just about anything for sale on the Internet, the most successful online retailers know that you’ll do far better selling products you actually have a lot of experience with or are very passionate about. The more you can say about them, the easier it is to convince your customers to buy them from you.
Another thing to ask yourself is whether you really want to compete directly with the established giants that are selling the exact same product. If you can zero in on a small section of a broader market, the competition will be considerably less fierce and it will be easier to make a name for yourself in the beginning.
2.) Develop a Proper Website
Your website is the portal through which your customers will purchase your products, so the more professional-looking it appears, the more comfortable people will be doing business there. Unless you know a thing or two about website design, it’s probably a better idea to spend the money and have one designed for you. There are sites that offer different plans for different budgets and if you do a little bit of research and look at a few similar retail websites, you’ll get a better idea of what you need.
Another approach is to set up your first online store through eBay so you can start selling right away, while you work out the details and save up the money for a separate online store. Remember, there’s a good chance your profit margin will be slimmer on eBay because of all the associated fees, but it gets your foot in the door while you develop your own online storefront. You may find that it’s best to continue selling through both sites, as many other online retailers do.
3.) Find Local Suppliers
Not having to ship your supplies in from out of town will save you a considerable amount of money, while ensuring that you can also pick up and deliver them in the most timely fashion. Although this may not be possible in every instance, you should always keep looking, in case a new supplier pops up. Remember that customer satisfaction is the cornerstone of your online retailing business and the faster you can source your products, the faster you can deliver them, whether you’re shipping them across the country or taking them right to someone’s doorstep.
4.) Focus on Quality in All Areas
One thing that cannot be overstated is the importance of quality, not just in your product, but in each stage of the transaction. When your customers first go to your website, they need to find quality pictures, informative descriptions and product reviews, to help convince them they’re in the right place. Price comparisons can save them time that might otherwise be spent on your competitors’ websites and online help can answer many of their questions.
When they finally decide to place an order, they need to know they’re on a secure site, before giving out their credit card information. Online tracking will put them at ease, knowing they can just log in to find out where their package is and when they can expect it.
5.) Drive Traffic to Your Website
Finally, you need to drive traffic to your website and let people know you’re in business. Since just about everyone is on social media sites these days, there’s no reason you can’t take the time to set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. It’s free advertising and you can post as many pictures, reviews, related articles and special offers as you like. Other sites where you can share links to your website include Craigslist, Reddit and Digg. You might also consider starting up a blog that’s related to whatever business you’re in and including links back to your site.
Setting up an online retail business is not rocket science, but it does require some research and a bit of effort, to make it succeed and to grow your brand. If you follow these tips and focus on making things easy, safe and convenient for the customer, you have a better chance of standing out among your competitors. When you consider the advantages you have today in terms of free advertising and relatively low start-up costs, it’s far easier to succeed and turn a profit than it ever was before the birth of the Internet.