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OTHER ITA SITES:
10 Essentials Of Starting And Operating A Successful On-Line Retail Busines - Part I
1) Don’t over-analyze your competition. This is in contrast to a lot of advice you’ll read. However, in my experience, looking at your competition too much can be overwhelming. Obviously, you need a general idea of what they’re doing – but remember not to compare your business to theirs and don’t let them intimidate you. A business is a journey – your competitors will usually be on a different stage of the journey. You need not have the best store, the best product or the best price to succeed.
2) Choose a very specific product at first. Choosing a specific product has many benefits. It’s usually easier to gain higher search engine positions, you won’t need to stock as many products and you’ll be able to focus on something you like. For example – my online retail business – Pyle Mountain Holsters sells only handgun holsters (i.e. shoulder holsters, hip holsters, etc.). Also, choose a product you enjoy – something you’ll enjoy working with every day.
3) Does the business have a good name? Look for a domain name that includes your product name – this helps with search engines and name recognition. It doesn’t need to be fancy – but try to find a name easy to remember and easy to type. For example, although my store’s name is Pyle Mountain Holsters – I chose a domain name - holsterss.com – easy to remember and contains the word ‘holster’ – then I added a slogan to help it make more sense – HOLSTER Super Store (i.e. holsterss).
4) SEO or Search Engine Optimization should be the foundation of your marketing strategy. At present - Pyle Mountain Holsters receives 99% of its business from search engines. Don’t let SEO scare you – if you’re willing to read a little and apply what you learn – you’ll do fine. A great place to find helpful SEO information is at SEO Chat. You’ll find numerous free tools and articles.
5) Do you have a professional looking store? Heard about first impressions? The look and feel of your website is your businesses first impression to potential customers – it must be good or they won’t buy your products – it’s that simple.
6) Is your business fun? You need to be doing something you enjoy – otherwise you won’t invest the effort needed to push your business through the down days (there will be down days). Obviously successful business requires work – but if you’re going to put time, effort and money into your store – you need to design it in a way that will be fun to run.
7) Customer service – don’t underestimate its importance. In all honesty, I would rather have a lower profit margin – with satisfied customers than a higher profit margin with unsatisfied customers. The reason is simple – in my experience – providing good customer service keeps me going emotionally – makes me feel good – gives me that feeling of accomplishment and energizes me on a day to day basis. Just the opposite – unhappy customers drain me – cause a distraction and keep my business from being fun. Think of providing good customer service as an investment or business expense – don’t quibble over little things – they’re rarely worth it.
8) Do you offer straight-forward, fair shipping prices and policies? Please don’t play games with shipping costs – you’ll lose many customers. Think about it – how many times have you filled your online shopping cart with some item you spent hours seeking – only to press the checkout button and realize shipping will cost more than the item? At Pyle Mountain Holsters – we offer free shipping. We aren’t suggesting you do the same – but at least be fair about your shipping costs and practices – it will help your business.
9) Research, analyze, persist and repeat. As the internet continues to evolve and take new directions – you’ve got to keep up. There are a number of resources with interesting news on the net – one I use is Digg. Stay informed - keep your eyes open for new developments. Analyze your results – look for ways to improve your store’s performance. Then do it again and again.
10) Expectations – what are yours? Online retail isn’t usually a “get rich quick” business – if it were I wouldn’t have any fun. The money is nice but I really do enjoy the process of molding something into success. Keep your expectations in line with reality. Expect to succeed, expect to make money and expect to sell products, but also expect to work hard, expect to have challenging days and expect to spend time molding your store into success.
To be continued….
E Lawrence Welch
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