What makes a good online store?

online_store

These days you can buy just about anything in an online store from make-up to car parts (Yep, you guessed it , there really is an OnlineCarParts.co.uk !) But if you’re setting up your own online store, here are the most important features you’ll need to consider:

Traffic

Whether you’re selling make-up, car parts or anything else, if nobody knows it’s there then you won’t have any customers! Every online store owner needs a clear plan of how they will get visitors to the store not just occasionally, but consistently every day.

There are many ways of doing this including search engine optimization and social media as well as paid methods such as Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising.

Branding

Having a professional image is essential if people are to trust you with their credit cards, but that’s just one of the benefits of branding. These days you need to have a presence in multiple places online including Facebook and twitter. Having a consistent brand across all of these ‘properties’ allows your followers to recognise you and feel at home with you wherever they meet you.

If your look and style is professional and consistent, then that builds confidence and you’re much more likely to get sales.

Don’t just get customers, get fans

Which would you prefer? People who just buy your products or  raving fans who love what you do and can’t wait to tell their friends about you? Fortunately, with tools like blogs and social media platforms you can build and army of fans.  Use creative campaigns to tell the story behind your brand, what’s new and what’s in the pipeline. Don’t just tell them what you do, tell them (and show them) why you do it. Share insider secrets and what you’re planning next.

Email marketing

Once you have visitors and customers, encourage them to return by emailing them regular updates and offers. After all, it’s easier to sell to someone who already knows and likes your brand than someone who has never heard of it before.

Use your URL

Have a URL that’s memorable and easy to spell, then make sure it’s in all your printed material as well as being on your emails signatures, social media profiles and anywhere else people can find you online.

Test, test, test

Once you’ve got potential customers to your store, you need to make sure they are converting into sales. You need to be continually testing you prices, products, copy and everything else about your store to increase your conversion rate.  In order to do this you’ll need to collect data, so make sure you set up Google Analytics as soon as you can.

It’s got to be mobile

A responsive website is no longer an option. That’s a website that looks good on any device, mobile, laptop or desktop.  According to online store platofrm provider Shopify (in this Econsultancy post) , one third of sales came from mobile devices in 2014.

So there you have it – now it’s time to start your own online store!

 

 

Would you like Richard Branson as your mentor?

shopify_entrepreneur_island

That’s not all, you could also have Marie Forleo and The Four Hour Work Week’s Tim Ferris as your mentors, too!

To have a chance at being mentored by these big names in the business world – plus 5 nights on Richard Branson’s Necker Island – just enter Shopify’s Build A Business Competition.

Here’s how it works…

You’ll need to launch an online store with Shopify. Next, it’s time to get selling. After the eight-month competition, Shopify will calculate your sales. Sell the most during the competition, and receive the grand prize.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain mentorship and ask for insight from these renowned mentors. When else will you get the chance to chat with Richard Branson about your startup on his private island?

For more info and to enter, click here.

(Want to check out Shopify? You can sign up for a free 14 day trial on the competition page too.)

Top Tips For Improving Christmas Sales Online

improve your xmas sales 600It’s that time of year again! Not quite Christmas but not too early to start grabbing gifts. This is one of the most crucial seasons for those who sell online, particularly independent business owners hoping to carve out a significant slice of that Christmas sales cake.

The good news is that if you’re running your own online shop there are countless resources out there to help you make the most of this busy period, but don’t go anywhere just yet because this guest blog from Jamie Pitman of Create.net  is one of them!

Be Prepared

The key thing to do is to start planning very early on. If things go really well on the run up to Christmas you might not have time to work on new plans so it’s best to have these in place in plenty of time. This way you’ll be sure you have all the stock you need when it comes to the busy period.

However, if you’ve just started thinking about planning for Christmas, you’ve still got time to make a big difference to your sales with some clever promotion and quick thinking.

Visit The Ghost of Christmas Past [Read more…]

I started a business with kids: Catherine Graham of Adventure Togs

catherine_graham_adventuretogsAdventure Togs began life in 2004 when my children were still very young, so the company will be 9 years old this October. We couldn’t find new waterproof jackets for them in any of the outdoor shops in Cardiff, I came home that evening and began researching my idea to start a business specialising in childrens outdoor wear.

I didn’t even have broadband at home at the time, and I needed to invest a few thousand of my own money to buy stock. It was tough, starting an ECommerce store on a budget, without the social media marketing opportunities we have today. The business grew very gradually by advertising on flyers, magazines and word of mouth.

I was a part-time pharmacist working 2-3 days a week as a locum, had two young children and a husband who worked long hours. Looking back now, I must have been mad to even contemplate the idea of starting a business. It has been hard letting go of pharmacy to entirely focus on the business, and I have constantly juggled all the balls.

I have never actually used childcare, as I mainly worked around the children and in the evenings. The children have always gone to my parents for their tea once or twice a week, so the longer working days til 6 really help to keep me on track.

The most difficult thing in the early days was drawing the line between work and home, and I became a slave to the computer, not knowing when to switch off. My husband was relatively supportive but didn’t really understand my need to immerse myself into my business. To me, it was my third child, and it needed nurturing so. Over time I have become a better at juggling the work/life thing and really appreciate the balance having my own business has brought.

I outsourced the warehousing in our fourth year, when I started running out of space for stock. This was a real turning point – I only needed to deal with the day to day admin and was able to spend time marketing and promoting the business and seeking out new product ranges.

My day is so varied…..I can be chatting to customers on Twitter, or speaking to schools about outdoor play clothing. I can get up to work at five in the morning and work for a few hours before breakfast if I need to, or catch-up in the evening after a family day out. It is truely a flexible way of working. I have even been known to work 14 hour days when I am in the mood, but it is so different working when you ‘want to’ rather than ‘have to’.

So much has changed about the business since the start. When I hear people complain about the demise of the high street and companies going under, I do empathise with them, but know that retail is ever changing, and you have to constantly move with the times. The retail world has probably changed more in the last decade that ever before, and anyone who ventures into this vocation should be prepared to keep learning to evolve their business to meet changing customer demands.

If I had to advise someone starting out in business – Do lots of research, but don’t feel too bombarded. There is so much advice out there, it is easy to become overburdened without actually taking action. It is the actions you take which matter, not necessarily your knowledge or qualifications, so start quickly and grow as you learn.

You can find out more about Adventure Togs here:

www.adventuretogs.co.uk
facebook.com/AdventureTogs
twitter.com/adventuretogs
pinterest.com/adventuretogs/
youtube.com/user/AdventureTogsUK

Starting a little online shop? You can still learn from the big guys

Starting an online shop is a popular choice for aspiring business mums. Most of us start small, with a tiny budget and we bootstrap our way as best we can, but it pays to be inspired by the big guys every now and then.

Let me give you an example: Zalando is an online clothing store that started in 2008. You might notice that at Zalando, things operate on a slightly bigger scale that most mum-run businesses (revenues for 2011 were $262 million, according to Techcrunch) 🙂

Although it’s now a multinational e-commerce business, Zalando started out with one product range  (shoes) in just one country (Germany) and now sells fashion and lifestyle items in fourteen European countries including the UK. When we start our online shops, it’s tempting to sell a broad range of products to attract as many customers as we can. But if a big business with start-up funding chose to start with just shoes, that’s good evidence that going narrow is better than going broad. There’s plenty of time to add new ranges later on if you need to.

Something else you might notice from Zalando’s progress is that they didn’t have an original business idea. Online shoe stores were around way before 2008. Too many people get hung up on having a radically new and unique business idea when you just need to be better or different than what has gone before. In Zalando’s case they focused on customer loyalty which leads to repeat sales and word of mouth marketing.

Customer service, loyalty and word of mouth are all things that you can do well as a very small business, too.

So even though I focus on starting little online stores here at Business Plus Baby, I recommend you think bigger every now and then.

If you enjoyed this post, why not make sure you stay in touch by joining  my mailing list?I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

 

 

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