I thought long and hard on ways to improve my business. I researched, spoke to friends, colleagues, and yes, even “Google”, my ever dependable companion when i need to get answers. Because all i ever wanted, was get my business to the proverbial “next level”. And of course, having an online store seemed like the next logical step.
Choosing to have an online store made a lot of sense because it was cheaper to operate with reduced overheads, increased my potential customer base, allows for 24/7 operations, among other things, would give me that ability to relax and probably retire early.
How naive must I have been. No one ever told me that having an online store required me to do some “work”. I am not lazy but i thought that all i needed to do was to simply setup an online store (maybe get a free online store from www.strorefront.com.ng), upload my products and the world would come flooding my store. I also dreamed about being sold out 2 days after launching my store and yes, smile to the bank.
So, why do i have all these beautiful products online and nobody seems to be buying them?. Simply put, why am i not selling online?. Are there things i did not factor in and ought to have done?.
SO, NOW THAT I HAVE AN ONLINE STORE – WHAT’S NEXT?
These questions led me to some reasons attributed to poor online sales. The reasons are sometimes fundamental issues we ignore before launching our online store but critical in achieving success.
Some of the problems i had and dealt with include:
- Understand that making money isn’t easy (even online)Starting an online business requires a lot of time and dedication. Many people think that starting an online retail business is going to be a piece of cake. The truth is, the only difference between starting an online retail business compared with any other type of business (like starting a pure water business), is that you can do it on a cheaper budget.My advice, there is no short cut to progress….be ready to work hard.
- ProcrastinationMany new online retailers complain of having too little time to get started. This is perfectly understandable; most of us do have busy lives, trying to juggle all our priorities. However, if you want your business to succeed, you are going to have to quit procrastinating and make your business a priority.
To improve, start organizing yourself better by setting aside a time each week that you will work on your business. If you are just getting started, you might only need 20 minutes per day, or 2 hours per week to focus on it. During this time, set mini-goals that you want to achieve. For example, commit to taking photos of 5 of your items. In your next work session, write item descriptions for those items that you have photographed and get them listed on your online store.
If you are overwhelmed by the work that needs to get done, small, bite-sized goals like this will help you get started. Once the orders start rolling in, you won’t need to motivate yourself as much; it will just come naturally!
- Uniqueness of product / serviceAlways answer these questions, Is what I’m doing unique? and what is my brand or store doing that is different than my competition?.Always have that unique selling point. It may not be anything substantial but having something unique to your business or product or service (even if it is very little) may make all the difference in the world.Once you have that, you can confidently open your doors to the rest of the world through your online store.
- Poor market researchTaking the easy route of selling the ‘hot selling’ or ‘most popular item’ may not always be the best approach. And it’s not just selling something because you know a lot about it: It’s about crunching the numbers and finding a market that isn’t over-saturated.Having a proper market research helps with your forecasting and ties pretty loosely to the question about being unique.The bottom line is that it’s easier than ever for people to start brands and stores. With that ease, there are now hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of stores making and selling the same product.In other words, you must plan properly on what you intend to sell and go for it. Its been said, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
- PricingIs your product / service cheaper somewhere else?. If a customer can get the same product for cheaper than what you are selling it for, chances are they are going to do so.Think through what you can you do to make sure the customer picks your product. This can be an extra gift, coupon code for a future purchase, handwritten note, etc.
- CompetitionRate yourself and compare your business or brand with your competition. This may be the toughest thing to do objectively as a brand owner but you have to do it. Simply research your competitors by looking at other online stores that are selling the same or similar products. Gather as much information as you can about their marketing tactics, technical solutions and the way their business works. Now look at your business realistically and ask yourself if you can compete with that.Areas to review include overall branding, product photography, product titles, product description etc. Always remember to Keep your product titles descriptive and creative without including random keywords for the sake of showing up in search. Be sure that for inspiration, you look at how major brands use product photography and ensure you are giving your customer enough information to feel confident in making a purchase from you.Product description will influence your conversion rate. These descriptions are your sales man. You don’t have a sales representative to answer your online store visitor’s questions. Everything about your product that a customer might ask needs to be there, organized well so it can be easily found.
Having an online store (like any other business) is about selling ‘trust’. You build brands based on relationships you have acquired over time through ‘trust’.
The best thing you can do is truly be honest with yourself and your business. Find the weak spots in your business and do more to make them strengths.
Selling online is not an easy business and it takes a lot of time and continued effort but if you stay strong, look for ways to constantly improve, learn as much as you can, and ask questions, your first sale is right around the corner.
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