For many online business, 2020 has been a year of treading water. Between the coronavirus pandemic, the resultant restrictions, Brexit and a recession, the UK economy has really taken a beating over the past few months.
Despite this year’s upheaval, some businesses have been doing very well out of our new way of life. According to Edge Retail Insight, the pandemic has seen £5.3 billion added to UK e-commerce sales this year, making up a total of £78.9 billion. These huge figures are not all that surprising when you consider how housebound consumers have had no option but to do their shopping online, but they also form part of a trend that is longer in the making. The Great British high street has been struggling for many years now, and whilst COVID-19 might have been the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’, it’s also the case that a physical retail presence simply hasn’t been paying off for many of the businesses that still have one.
Whether your business already sells online or if you’ve not yet made your way into the world of e-commerce and want a slice of the market, here are the top five steps to successfully launching (or relaunching) your online venture.
1. Don’t compromise on website development
You wouldn’t scrimp or settle when deciding purchasing physical premises for your business, so why do so when you’re setting up an online store?
Remember that when you’re selling goods or services online, the quality of your website is tantamount to the standard of a high street shop. Make it a pleasant and welcoming place to shop and the customers will flock in, but let standards slip and the site could fail completely. The key is to make sure that every aspect of your online presence is user friendly. From well set out menus to clear pricing and product descriptions, only businesses that invest properly in their website stand a chance of rising to the top of the pile.
There are lots of options out there when it comes to e-commerce site building, too. From WordPress and WooCommerce through to Shopify and even an Amazon store, find one that works for you and take the time to make it look good. After all, if you take pride in your physical premises why should your online base be any different?
2. Make your site mobile-friendly for online business
Whilst this is an extension of the above, it’s crucial for online businesses to make their sites mobile-friendly. This is because modern-day consumers are just as likely (if not more) to visit your site from their mobile phone as they are from a computer.
If you want to attract customers 24/7 whilst they’re on the go, you need to make your e-commerce website as accessible as possible and that means optimising for mobile. Most web management platforms now include options for this as standard, but if yours doesn’t it may simply be worth getting a developer in to help. It might seem like an unnecessary cost at first, but it’s a step that will ultimately pay for itself as customers are able to make purchases easily and more frequently.
3. Secure a reliable payment solution for online business
A shopping experience can only ever be as good as the checkout process, and if you don’t have a reliable payment solution then you stand to lose serious credibility with your customers. In the world of online shopping, consumers are all the more wary of inputting their card details and parting with their cash, so it’s vitally important to run with a system that leaves them confident as to the legitimacy of your store.
One option is to partner with a merchant services company such as UTP Group, who offer a reliable eCommerce Payment Gateway. This service allows customers to make payments online using a credit or debit card, and can seamlessly complete transactions from all over the world. Taking this route not only stands to keep your online store open 24/7, but also could see your business spreading its international wings and taking orders from a wider global client base. With strong security measures and PCI Level 1 compliance, an eCommerce Payment Gateway is among the most dependable and sophisticated tools that an online business can make use of.
4. Know your margins
Retailers are generally pretty good at keeping a tab on costs, but it’s easier than you might think to let money run away with you when setting up an e-commerce store. Just as you would with any other form of business, it’s essential to keep track of your margins so you know exactly how much you need to sell in order to break into profit.
The more specific your revenue goals, the more granular you can be when making tweaks to your online store. Not making enough profit on a particular line of products? Consider changing your order fulfilment and delivery solutions. Not getting enough hits on your leading items? Consider whether your site is search engine optimised so customers can find you easily.
Running an online store can be exciting, but it’s also easy to get detached from the reality of the situation, and that’s why it’s so important to monitor the money.
5. Make marketing a priority
Unlike a physical shop or office, you simply can’t count on business from local footfall when you run an online store. To succeed in e-commerce, you need to make sure that your offering is getting in front of the right customers – and that means marketing.
From Facebook and Google-based ad campaigns through to influencer endorsements, you have to be proactive if you’re to secure conversions. Remember that the internet is saturated with eCommerce stores, so you need to stand out if you’re to succeed.
Don’t wait to start
No matter how you go about relaunching your online business, there’s no time like the present. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards.