The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales may have announced this morning that we’re heading out of recession, but the stark fact remains that it’s still a difficult time for small businesses.
It’s even tougher for business start-ups, which face more obstacles than usual when trying to enter their chosen market, particularly when it comes to borrowing money. However, against this backdrop, the eCommerce sector still appears to be thriving — new online businesses seem to be popping up daily, whilst established firms are investing more heavily in their digital operations.
There’s a lot of sense in this approach. Digital businesses have much smaller start-up costs, and workers may have the flexibility of working anywhere that has an internet and mobile connection.
As a digital consultant, it is great to see this trend occurring and evolving. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to see the death of the High Street, but I certainly do want to see the growth of the effective eCommerce store.
Despite all the positive signs, one issue that I’m increasingly witnessing is the fact that many eCommerce businesses lack a properly structured strategy that makes the most of the opportunities available to them. I put this down to two things:
- Not planning at the outset for major success and rapid growth
- Not having a business plan that is any more detailed than “Set up, launch and make money”.
It doesn’t matter what your business sells, who comprises your audiences, or how competitive your market is — to thrive, your eCommerce business needs strategy. That’s why I’ve put together six key factors you need to consider when putting together an effective eCommerce strategy.
1. Your Business
Before investing in your new eCommerce business you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your business relevant to the online market?
- Is it a unique business or are you entering an already-saturated market?
- Who are your competitors and can you compete with them?
- Is your branding appropriate and will it appeal to your audience?
- Do you have people with the necessary skills for the digital platform?
- Can you deliver what you will promise your customers?
Simple I know, but the answer to all the above should be ‘yes’. It’s not a definitive list of questions, but if you can give a positive answer to each one, then you are well on the way to online success.
The recent growth in eCommerce business is a hot topic, and one that is helping to shape both new and existing businesses’ route to the market. To learn more about how the online world is becoming and integral part of business, please visit my post on The year online and offline became one.
2. Your Products and Services
Your products and/or services are what your business is all about.
If you want to be successful, you need to evaluate your offering objectively — and the best way to do this is to research your competitors thoroughly.
You also need to draw a distinction between who you would like your competitors to be, and who they actually are — if you sell DVDs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Amazon.co.uk is one of your main competitors.
Also make sure you have a plan of action in place for future product/service development, or for entering new markets. Product/service development is crucial in delivering an up-to-date offering to your audience. Entering new markets can always be a lucrative strategy, but you do need to make sure that the fresh market you plan to enter is related to your existing operations — you don’t want to alienate your present customer-base.
3. Your Website
It’s hard to think of a more crucial element to your overall strategy — your website is your High Street store, your digital catalogue, your business. Before launching, make sure your site is fit for the job, and that there are no irritating glitches or errors. If you’d like more advice on how best to build your online presence, please read my earlier post, How clear web design wins customers.
Tomorrow, I’ll continue this post with advice on your online visibility, your marketing opportunities and tackling your competitors.