As a business, having an online presence is not just a good idea—it is a vital part of any marketing plan. Yet the market is becoming saturated. As Forbes reports, there are more than 100,000 online stores earning more than $12,000 in annual revenue. So how can you establish an online storefront that stands out in this saturated marketplace? Learn how to find your niche, attract consumers, and differentiate your business for the long haul.
Choosing A Target Market.
The online marketplace is an ever-expanding outlet for shoppers and retailers. There are niche, boutique-type markets along with markets for handmade goods and second-hand items. Then you have Amazon, the quintessential online department store, that offers a bit of everything. Your goal in going online is to decide which marketplace works best for your audience. Here are some of the most popular markets and what type of audience they cater to:
- Amazon—market for all varieties of new or used items that can be sold directly by Amazon or a third party retailer
- Etsy—market for handmade, vintage resell, or craft supplies sold by third parties
- Ebay—market for new or used items including vintage and handmade goods sold by third-party sellers
- Social media—channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest allow sellers to sell items directly from social media pages
Each market has its own set of rules and processes for vendors that you need to understand and abide by. So while you could sell on multiple marketplaces, start with the one that is most viable for your business type. Otherwise, you can spend a lot of time spreading your marketing efforts with minimal gain across multiple markets.
Related: 5 Hacks To Optimize Marketplace SEO
Once you have chosen a market it is time to set up your online storefront. Rather than being overwhelmed with possibilities, focus on two main areas. First, put yourself in the position of your target consumer. Here are some questions to ask:
- What would you want to know or see when shopping for your goods?
- What information is most important, i.e., product images, how to guides, and product sizes?
- What additional information, such as contact details, social media connections, and business history, would the consumer want to know about?
By setting your online store in a way that is conducive to consumers, you make it easy for shoppers to purchase goods from your business. The other area to focus on is professionalism. Everything from the web design of your site to the photos and product descriptions should be professionally created. Lighting, graphics, videography…all of this creates an overall vibe and experience that consumers want when they visit your business online.
Maintaining Your Online Store.
After your store is established, you can sit and forget it, right? Sorry, but no, you need to maintain your business in a few key areas. To start with, your website will need to be maintained to ensure there aren’t any broken links or misdirected pages. As products are sold out or updated, you will need to update your site accordingly. Also, if you add or delete social media accounts, everything should link up to your website.
You will also need to commit to online marketing in order to drive traffic to your online business. This increases the attention your site receives via search engines like Google, as well as on social media. With solid online marketing, you can bring your business up to the top of online searches, which grants you the visibility you need for organic traffic. In addition, consider the use of paid advertising online to generate web traffic to your online business.
Differentiating Your Business.
To elevate your online business you need to offer what your consumers want. Based on Pew Research here are a few features you should include to set your store apart from the competition:
- Offer an easy return policy.
- Read and respond to all online reviews, i.e., Yelp, Facebook, etc., including the negative comments to show your business cares about consumer feedback.
- Create a chat feature or provide a toll-free number so consumers can contact you immediately with product questions.
By taking these steps you improve the visibility and transparency of your business, both of which can help differentiate your business online.