Creating a successful business that sells online can be a very rewarding endeavour both financially and mentally, but not without serious effort and careful planning. Despite popular belief, becoming successful online takes more than just a couple of hours per week. There is no get rich quick formula here, you’ll need to put in the hard yards to make this work.
Before you start your mission of creating a successful online store you need to ensure that you’re prepared for what’s ahead. Such as; brand formation, marketing tasks, product & quality research & management, store implementation, accounting, ongoing marketing tasks, order fulfillment and the costs associated with all of the above.
If you’re committed to the challenge and ready for the long game then we’re going to save a few headaches by giving you these 9 key mistakes that you are going to want to avoid to achieve success quickly.
1 – Choosing the wrong industry, niche or products
Selecting the right industry, niche or even products is the number one reason why many online businesses fail. Before you jump right into making business decisions and plans you’ll want to know the answers to a few questions such as;
Is there demand for the products you are selling ?
How many competitors are in your niche and why will customers choose your product over your competitors options ?
Given the competition, can you compete with their marketing, SEO, price and quality?
Many of these questions can be answered by completing a quick Google keyword research to see what people are actually searching for and the competition levels of those keyword phrases. If you’re satisfied with the results then the next step before completely committing would be to conduct a SWOT & competitor analysis. Once you have these 3 things you will know a lot more about the potential of your industry, niche and desired product range.
2 – Lack of Planning
As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Every successful good idea starts with a great plan and the same applies to creating online merchandise stores.
The more research and learning that you can squeeze in during this phase the better equipped you will be to handle anything that’s thrown at you and you may save some money along the way by learning skills that you won’t need to pay for. You’ll want to research branding, your competitors, web store technology, digital marketing tactics and techniques, your target market, your desired product range and the costs associated with all of these things.
We won’t go into the specifics of how to write a business plan, google covers this very well by searching ‘how to write a business plan’ or ‘best business plan samples’. What we will say is that whilst you don’t need to have a 50 page business plan, at bare minimum you are going to want to plan for 3 years ahead, address the research items we provided above, cashflow forecast, produce a SWOT analysis and competitor analysis.
If you are unfamiliar with any of these terms then your first piece of homework in the planning phase is to learn what these terms mean and grab some examples via Google.
3 – Choosing the wrong technology
There are so many different ecommerce platforms out there that it can become hard to make the right decision. There are also even more self-proclaimed experts out there that are giving out the information that may not be the best for your business, our recommendation here is don’t go for a marketing person that calls themselves an expert or guru – let their clients & reviews speak for their success.
We could talk about this topic all day, however, to keep it simple there are a few ecommerce platforms that are considered industry standards and currently as of today they are WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento and Shopify. There are other suitable ecommerce platforms that weren’t mentioned but unless you’ve done your research heavily then we recommend you start with one of those 4. For absolute beginners with under 5,000 products then you’re probably going to want to stick with WooCommerce or Shopify, the other 2 we mentioned may be more suited for larger stores, needs and budgets.
Another consideration when selecting a store is what features you may need down the track, during your planning write down all the features you want and then work from there.
Do the research well and you will be set for a long time to come. Changing platforms later can be a time consuming and costly process so it’s better to get it right from the offset.
4 – Not enough stock to fulfill orders swiftly
Once you do have your store selling product you need to keep your customer service levels high with fast response and delivery times.
The last thing you need is to create demand when there is no products to fulfill your orders quickly. If you want repeat and referral business then you’ll need to have the right amount of stock ready to go in case orders come in. If that stock is custom screen printed then you also need to consider lead times.
5 – Bad logos, branding & non-uniform styling
Your logo needs to be memorable, modern, sharp and easy on the eyes, if it’s not something that’s easily recognizable or looks too much like other logos then you are just another brand selling stuff on the internet. Asides from the logo itself, aim for uniform styling and colours across the entire site that sets the tone of your brand and coincides with your logo. A more professional looking brand instills trust with your customers.
6 – User experience
All the best online stores on the internet have spent a lot of time refining their user experience. Their layouts, buttons, product pages, landing pages, shop pages, the sales process and overall website has been tried and tested over and over again on every browser and device.
The difference small adjustments to the user experience can make have to be seen to believe. Some small changes to say the placement of an add to cart button or how it reacts can be the difference between successful and unsuccessful sales. If your site feels clunky, busy or difficult then it can come across as untrustworthy and the visitor will leave the site.
First you need to be measuring everything with tools such as Google Analytics and if you’re looking to take the next step then use a technique called A/B split testing to work out what does and doesn’t work.
7 – Poor marketing
You can have the best online merchandise store on the internet, but without well executed marketing campaigns then all of your efforts can go to waste. Plan your marketing, learn who your target audience is and who will buy your products. If it doesn’t work at first then don’t give in, try other audiences, landing pages, marketing techniques and everything in between.
Online stores’ best friends are conversion tracking, remarketing and analytics. The biggest benefit to marketing ecommerce shops is that you can work out exactly how someone bought your products, this allows you to focus heavily on those methods that are successful. Note that this isn’t set up by default you’ll need to set this up before your campaigns commence. Traditional marketing methods never had this benefit so always make the most of it.
Not every online merch store should be marketed in the same place, you’ll need to learn and test various platforms if you are unsure where your customers are. For the sake of saving some time the best places to start your digital marketing are; Organic SEO, Facebook, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, LinkedIn and even product data feed to shopping search sites. Don’t forget to build your email database using mailchimp, sendinblue, active campaign or similar because you’re going to need this later.
8 – Low quality product photos & information
Since customers cannot physically touch your products when deciding to purchase then they are going to rely on whatever images and information you show them.
Make sure your information is accurate, detailed and easy to understand. Any particulars that the customer may need to know to make an informed decision is what you want to ensure is published for each product page.
Another other major factor is the quality of the product photos. Don’t skimp out on this, make sure all the photos are well lit and the same colour scheme. The more cleaner and high quality your photos are the better your chances are of selling your products. Multiple images are recommended.
9 – Neglecting mobile & tablet devices
A large mistake many store owners make is not planning nor implementing a top quality mobile and tablet experience. Depending on the niche or industry that you are targeting you will see somewhere between 50-90% of your traffic being from a mobile / tablet device.
With this in mind it’s an obvious choice to make sure that you need to create your ecommerce merchandise store to be compatible with and easy to use on these devices
We could talk for hours on this topic, there is so much to it and you will see quite quickly once you start your research, but don’t let that scare you off because it’s well worth it in the end if you’ve done your homework right.
If you need help with any of the topics we’ve discussed in this article then we encourage you to get in touch with our team and we’ll help you along your journey of creating an online merchandise store.