The top 5 tips for a successful online shop

Starting an online shop can be a daunting thought - with these five steps it doesn’t have to be

This article is sponsored by Verisign

Opening an online shop can be a great way to reduce expenses and potentially maximise profits when compared to renting or buying a high-street store. Be sure to meet your potential customers where they are shopping – online.

Here’s our top five tips for a successful online shop:

1. Decide on your product(s)

It might sound like an obvious question, but what are you selling? Do you have 10, 20, or 100 products? It’s important to decide early on exactly which products you plan to sell on your online store as it will help you plan, budget, and promote for the weeks, months, or years ahead.

Once you’ve established the specific products you wish to sell, look at the marketing habits in your sector. Is the product you want to sell already in abundance? Or, if they’re not, why not? It’s possible you’ve tapped into an undiscovered niche, or maybe there isn’t a need for that product.

Deciding on your specific products early on helps to establish whether there’s a need or not, and therefore your time and efforts can be diverted to something else. Consider what makes your product different: Is it cheaper, bigger, faster, etc.? If your offering is different, the visitors to your online store might want to buy your item over another.

2. Understand your audience

Having an online shop is an amazing opportunity to reach out to new customers and, hopefully, make a profit. To do this effectively you should understand your audience. By looking at similar products in your sector, the reviews of those products, and listening to what people are saying about them, you can start to build an image of the target audience, which can help when marketing.

For example, selling a new laptop bag with built-in charger or selling a new automatic ploughing machine that can furrow a field at twice the speed of the older version will require a very different approach in the way that you advertise, sell, ship, and support.

In all likelihood, somebody who buys farming equipment will be in a rural environment. This means that the method of delivery, which can be limited when out of major cities, may need more attention from you. Be sure to find a trusted, reliable delivery partner. Selling small consumables? Perfect for standard postal systems and should be deliverable to most parts of the world fairly easily.

Additionally, when it comes to making a decision on where to spend the marketing budget for your products, understanding your audience can prove a real help. That new farming equipment, for example: while it might sell to someone living in a city, you’ll more likely expect to have a buyer in rural surrounds. You can target your advertising to specific audiences, living in, or excluding, specific places – more on that in step number five.

3. Choose the right domain name

Now that you’ve decided on which products and to whom you’re going to sell them to, you should think about registering a domain name so that you can create a website. With a whole host of domain extensions (the bit after the . in a URL) to choose from, one of the most obvious and useful may be the .com extension, as a .com extension is one of the world’s most recognised web addresses and is both trusted and reliable.

To start building your future web address, you should conduct some research into which keywords are being used and searched for online, particularly around your product. Google Trends is a good place to start and details which keywords are being searched for, from which part of the world, and related search terms.

From that insight, type some ideas into a domain name search to see if your .com domain name is available. If so, go ahead and make the registration with our preferred list of registrars, otherwise have a look at the suggestions based on your original search.

4. Design your website

Equipped with your newly registered .com domain name, you’re ready to create a website. There are a number of options available, from building it from scratch (knowledge of HTML code essential), using a site builder tool (many domain name registrars offer this when you register a domain name), or hiring a web designer (professionals can be costly, but take care of everything).

When it comes to design, think of your online store as a physical store. The site should be user-friendly with the aim of making it as easy as possible for somebody to buy something. Poor site navigation is the same as somebody wandering aimlessly around a physical store, before long they’ll get frustrated and walk out; the same happens online.

Due to the nature of online stores people don’t actually see the product, only visual representations of them, which is why it’s important to include lots of high quality photos of your products on your site. Not only can these help your customers make an informed purchasing decision, they can improve the overall appearance of your site.

5. Market

Building a great, glossy site, filled with fantastic products alone doesn’t necessarily equate to sales or page views; you need to market them correctly. Based on step two above, you should by now know your audience enough to know where to best target your advertising.

One way to reach your prospective customers can be by advertising through social media. This is a cost-effective way of advertising that reaches millions of people. For example: promoting your products using Facebook posts/ads can be a good way to target a specific audience. If you’re selling farming equipment, you can specify that your advert only reach people who are interested in farming.

Another way to get your site and business noticed is by making use of online directories – yes, people still use these. Be sure to add your details to local directories like Local.com, Citysearch, and BetterBusinessBureau, as well as search engine directories like Google My Business and Bing Places for Business.

Of course, all the marketing you do should divert customers back to your .com domain website. This in turn can help boost your webpage rankings and improve visibility and should hopefully increase your online sales.

This article is a part of the ‘Getting Online’ series sponsored by Verisign. For more information from Verisign on how to get your business online, click here.