Starting an online business is an exciting time and challenges come at you quickly. In the early days, it’s easy to make snap decisions and choose okay-for-now options. But these quick moves can become roadblocks that take time and money to overcome. Here’s a look at 3 common issues and ways to speed right past them.
Roadblock 1: Being on the Wrong E-commerce Platform
Successful online businesses of all sizes embrace multichannel selling, and you can too, right from the start. Most top e-commerce platforms allow sellers to list products and accept orders on their own website, plus on sales channels like Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and more. Even better, all of your sales are managed in a single system.
Choosing a modern, multichannel-ready e-commerce platform gives brand new sellers the ability to expand when the time comes. If you start out on a platform that doesn’t have built-in multi channel selling, you’re bound to face time-consuming and costly integrations down the line. Or worse, be forced to move your website to an altogether new platform. That task is a major roadblock indeed.
But multichannel selling is not all you should expect from your e-commerce platform. Here’s a checklist of features that the top online store platforms provide:
- Ability to connect with Amazon, Ebay, Facebook and Google Shopping
- No transaction fees
- Unlimited products
- Responsive website
- Single-page checkout
- Shipping label discounts
- Real time shipping quotes
- Professional reporting tools
- Product ratings and reviews
If your candidates don’t offer these at the very least, move on to one that does. You’ll be happier in the long run.
Roadblock 2: Not Understanding Your Fulfillment Options
Order fulfillment is the operational lifeblood of any online business that sells products that ship to customers. It’s a relatively simple logistical process, but there are several moving parts along the way. To avoid roadblocks occurring, you need to have a firm understanding of the process, and your options for getting it all done.
First, let’s explore the main elements of the fulfillment process:
- Inventory Storage — this includes activities related to goods storage and the process of counting and transacting the products as they move through the warehouse. Design a storage system that works for your current manufacturing and distribution needs.
- Order management — this includes tasks related to organizing the order fulfillment process. Make sure your order management system has up-to-date information on orders, inventory levels, and sales forecasts.
- Packaging orders — this includes steps related to order preparation. Make sure your packaging strategy will protect the integrity of your brand as well as enhance your customers’ unboxing experience.
- Ship orders — this includes tasks related to delivering the product to your customer. Make sure your store’s shipping strategy fulfill orders quickly and within budget.
- Update customers — this includes customer service and follow ups. Send updates and reply to customer queries promptly to help ensure positive customer interactions.
It’s a lot to consider if you haven’t shipped orders before, but rest assured, shipping even 10-15 orders per day is quite doable even for a one-person shop. At some point, hopefully, sooner rather than later, you’ll be busy enough to need help. When that time comes, you’ll need to decide how you want to handle your online store’s fulfillment as you grow.
Let’s take a look at the 3 different ways you can handle order fulfillment:
1. In-house Fulfillment
As a small startup, it’s likely that you’ll decide to fill orders yourself, at least at first. This is a good choice for many reasons. In-house fulfillment is the best way to truly understand the fulfillment process. You can watch shipping costs and control exactly how orders are packaged and shipped, but it’s a time-consuming process.
After you reach a certain order volume, your time may be better-spent on marketing, product development, and other business-building tasks. When that time comes, outsourcing your fulfillment may be the right move.
2. Third-party e-commerce fulfillment
If you choose this fulfillment model, you need to purchase or manufacture your products and store them with a third-party logistics (3PL) company, also called a fulfillment center. You promote the products on your website and other sales channels. When orders are placed, your fulfillment provider picks products, packs orders, and ship them to your customers. Using a third-party solution frees up your time so you can focus on marketing and other business-building tasks. Plus it can lower your shipping costs, shorten order delivery times, and improve operating efficiency.
With this fulfillment model, you won’t keep any product in inventory (neither in-house or third-party). You simply rely on wholesalers or manufacturers to actually ship the orders to your customers. You will serve as the middleman, only focusing on marketing the product and making sales. Drop shipping increases your cash flow and reduces starting cost as you don’t have to pay for the goods until they’re sold.
Generally, the right fulfillment solution for you will depend on what type of products you sell and the stage of your business. No matter what you choose, you should pay attention to the following to make sure your fulfillment option is effective:
- Speed – make sure on time product delivery every time.
- Accuracy – make sure you deliver the exact goods that were ordered.
- Scalability – make that your ability to fulfill orders can grow with your business.
Roadblock 3: Not Making the Most of Every Site Visitor
The internet is a busy place and it can be a huge challenge to get shoppers into your virtual door. That’s one reason many online sellers rely on multi channel selling to list products where their buyers already shop. Even if you decide to sell on different channels, you still need to make the most of the search opportunities to attract buyers to your own website. Then be sure to deliver the goods with clear navigation, descriptive copy, and great images.
Here are some top tactics to bring buyers to your online doorstep:
Rank High in the Search Engines
As an online business, ranking on the first page of Google can really help boost your sales. You want someone to find your website when they are searching for a product they want to buy. However, getting your website to rank on the search engine results page can be difficult, especially if you’re in a competitive market. If you’re new to e-commerce and are selling in a competitive industry, you will need to work really hard in order to stand out.
So be sure to do these 3 things:
1. Have a properly optimized website
Just because you have a unique website and sales portal doesn’t mean customers will come to your store. You need your website to rank highly on search engines to bring in natural traffic. Make sure your website is SEO-friendly. Understand which keywords buyer use to find what you sell and incorporate those into the natural language of your site content, as well as tags, titles and meta descriptions
2. Be active on social media
While it is important that you have pages on multiple social media sites, it is even more important to be active on all those accounts. If you don’t have enough time or staff to monitor and engage followers on social media, then simply focus your efforts on one or two networks.
3. Get listed on online review sites
Build your online reputation by generating positive reviews. Make sure to register and claim your business listings on the most popular review sites. Then monitor your online reviews regularly so you can take responsibility for any negative feedback, and offer a fix where necessary.
Once they’ve arrived at your website, don’t disappoint them. Be sure your website is attractive, easy to navigate, fast-loading, and, perhaps the most important feature of all: mobile-friendly.
Here are 7 ways to make sure your website welcomes new visitors and keeps them coming back for more:
- Create clear navigation — make sure your website’s design and structure are logical and intuitive.
- Use a clean, fast-loading design (often called a theme) — make sure your site’s design and layout look professional as well loads fast on desktop and mobile devices.
- Don’t go overboard with ads, offers, and sidebars — be careful with your monetization efforts as too many ads could annoy or overwhelm visitors.
- Use clear, high-quality product images — use high-resolution images to help build trust among potential customers.
- Make sure the copy is large enough to read — choose a legible font style and make sure that all texts are readable.
- Make key information easy to find (include contact info, shipping, returns, terms, and customer care information here) — Make your website easy to use with well-organized information. You can dedicate specific pages for your contact details, FAQs, terms, and other important information and include them in the menu bar.
- Have a simple 1-page checkout process and don’t require registration — make the buying process as simple as possible. Inconvenience and frustration will cause shoppers to abandon their carts.
Your journey towards digital sales success won’t be easy and you should be ready to face challenges along the way. But with the right attitude, determination, and strategy you can definitely stay on top of your competition.