The first business of Alibaba Group, Alibaba.com is the leading platform for global wholesale trade serving millions of buyers and suppliers around the world.
Through Alibaba.com, small businesses can sell their products to companies in other countries.
Sellers on Alibaba.com are typically manufacturers and distributors based in China and other manufacturing countries such as India, Pakistan, the United States and Japan.
There are several reasons e-commerce businesses are popping up all over the web: Setup is simple and inexpensive, you can reach customers anywhere in the world, and more and more consumers are shopping online. In fact, 80% of internet users have made at least one purchase online, and U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to hit $523 billion in the next few years.
While this all sounds great, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll be the next internet retail sensation—there are plenty of e-commerce businesses that are not profitable, due to ineffective marketing, products consumers just don’t want to buy, poor business operations, or scores of other possible reasons. But, savvy entrepreneurs can improve their chances for success by planning their launch and beyond carefully. If you’ve got a great product line and you’re getting ready to start an e-commerce business, here are seven tips to consider before you launch.
1. Research your target market. This is an essential step for all small business startups, but it’s one that many e-commerce entrepreneurs ignore. While your products could theoretically reach every internet user in the world, reality is, most of them won’t want to buy your products. Trying to market to everyone is a recipe for disaster, so your first step should be determining that there’s a market for your product—and then learn everything you can about that market.
2. Discover what makes you unique. Businesses that survive have identified their Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What’s yours? Some companies are on a social mission, like TOMS, which has distributed over 60 million pairs of shoes in the last 10 years to needy children all over the world. TOMS’ USP is they give away one pair of shoes for every pair they sell. Apple is unique in that they maintain their own operating system and focus on design. Every successful company has a USP, even e-commerce sites.
3. Make it convenient. No one wants to create yet another account or navigate through pages and pages of nonsense to get to the ultimate goal: buying something. Don’t make it difficult for your customers to buy—help them! Make the checkout process as streamlined as possible. Default to the cheapest shipping option, allow guest checkout, and remove the pages that act as barriers to the sale.
4. Focus on the launch. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so spend time planning your launch to ensure its success. You won’t have absolutely everything set up at the start, but the basics should be solid before you open for business. Set up your automation and analytics, plan your initial launch marketing campaign and have processes in place before the launch—it will make everything much easier going forward.
5. Learn the basics of social media and marketing. There’s no question social media marketing is effective—65% of adults use social media, according to a report from Rutgers. Social media is also one of the best tools for advertising and building brand awareness. Digital marketing can make or break an e-commerce business. Even if you decide to outsource your digital marketing, you should know the basics. No one will find your site unless you tell them about it, and you need to be ready to participate in social media, content, and other types of digital marketing. You can’t afford to leave the all-important marketing to someone else without knowing how it works.
6. Optimize for mobile. Mobile device usage is increasing rapidly, and no e-commerce site (new or established) can afford to ignore mobile optimization. It’s not difficult to build a responsive website, but it’s something you need to do before you launch.
7. Treat it as a business. Because there’s no physical storefront, no lease, and fewer risks than those associated with a brick-and-mortar location, many e-commerce entrepreneurs treat their businesses as a hobby. If that’s what you want, that’s fine, but if you really want to create a successful business, you need to treat it like one.
Have Patience and Tweak When Necessary
Launching an e-commerce site is exciting, but after the launch, it’s easy to get discouraged by sluggish sales. Remember to be patient—building a successful business takes time! You also have to be willing to change your approach when necessary. Not everything is going to work, and you’ll need to get a feel for when it’s time to make some changes. Never stop learning and growing—the e-commerce industry isn’t going to stay still.
This post is adapted from a post by Ryan Ayers that originally appeared on SmallBizDaily.com. Ayers has consulted with a number of Fortune 500 companies as well as with start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs. He maintains a keen focus on data collection and analysis. You can find more from Ryan on Twitter at @TheBizTechGuru.
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