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The top 5 things to consider when starting your eCommerce business

[AD-GIFT] Girl Tribe Gang has received packaging from noissue free of charge to deliver our #FiercelyBrave tees. In her guest blog for us, Beth Owens, Copywriter and Content Strategist at noissue, has compiled a hit list of the most important areas to focus on as you work towards making your passion a reality.

So, you’re starting an eCommerce business. First off, good for you! Taking the plunge is always the hardest step.

But where to start? This is always the biggest question that would-be entrepreneurs have. With so many different considerations in the planning phase, it can feel pretty overwhelming trying to work out what the biggest priorities are.

1. Refining your brand story

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

This quote from marketing guru Seth Godin really sums up the current eCommerce environment. In the past few years, the online marketplace has become extremely crowded. It’s no longer enough to build your brand solely off the products you are selling. Why? Because there’s a high chance that a dozen other online brands have very similar offerings to you.

With this level of saturation, it’s very difficult for any one vendor to stand out from the crowd.

Think of your brand story as the foundations of a building. There’s a certain way we always go about construction – the foundations have to come first! Adding in walls and flooring onto unstable ground is nonsensical.

Your brand story is no different. This is what anchors everything together – how and why you got started, what motivates and inspires you, and how you express this through your offerings and aesthetic. This should be your number one concern, before you even start thinking about your product range.

So, what is it that you bring to the table? What makes you different from other eCommerce vendors? These questions are the key to unlocking your brand story.

For example, being a female entrepreneur might be a key part of your brand identity, but the buck doesn’t stop here.

There are now many woman business owners in the eCommerce space (yippee!) so this alone doesn’t make you distinct. But it will if you combine this with a larger back story. Focusing on the passion that led you into launching your business is a powerful statement about your brand’s ethos!

Lauren OSullivan Manchester GTG

2. Your (digital) storefront

We might associate the idea of ‘storefront’ only with a physical store, but the concept still holds true in eCommerce. How your site looks and functions is incredibly important to the customer experience you offer.

You need to think about your online store in the same way you’d think about an in-store retail experience. After all, your eCommerce store isn’t just a website; it’s a place where your customers make direct transactions and purchases. So, your design considerations need to be geared to this end.

These are basics that any eCommerce store should have, regardless of what you are selling:

  • Being mobile-optimised – responsive design is a must if you’re going to capture that lucrative market of smartphone shoppers. With 79% of smartphone users having made a purchase on their device in the last 6 months, this is an audience you don’t want to miss out on.
  • Strong product photography – customers are on your site to buy stuff, so your products should be front and centre in your visual materials. It’s also important that they function as links to specific product pages, so you can take customers directly to what they are interested in.
  • Search functionality – we’ve all been onto an eCommerce site that doesn’t have a search bar, and it’s frustrating to say the least! You need to make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they are looking for, or your bounce rate will be way up.
  • Reflect your brand aesthetic – when it comes to branding, consistency is key. Elements such as your colour palette and motifs should be in tune across your site and other marketing channels. Otherwise your site will look chaotic and disorganised, which is not a great look to your customer!

3. Getting personal

The convenience and global reach of eCommerce are massive advantages for would-be entrepreneurs. But it does present some challenges too, the biggest being the lack of direct engagement with your customer. This is especially difficult for small businesses, who usually build their following through offering a more personalised customer experience.

Online, it can feel that much harder to make a positive impression. But there are still many touch points available to eCommerce vendors. If you are going to build relationships in the online space, you need to be visible where your customers are.

  • Social media – For eCommerce brands, social media is king. It’s provides a consistent point of contact with your customers. This makes it a vital strategy for customer retention as well as for growing your audience. After all, you don’t just want your customers to buy from you once; you want them to keep coming back over and over again! The key here is authenticity. Encouraging your customers to share their experiences with your brand through hashtags and campaigns is a great way to build trust with your audience at large.
  • Blogs – An on-site blog is your stage as a small business owner! It’s a powerful content marketing strategy to tell your customers what makes you tick, both as a business owner and as a brand. This is important, because people often expect more transparency from small businesses. As well as showcasing your products, a blog is a platform to show that you are a knowledgeable and trustworthy vendor. For SEO purposes, it’s a sign that you are an authoritative voice in your industry. This helps to boost your organic reach, introducing your brand to potential customers whose searches match your offerings.
  • Email marketing – Some business owners consider email to be an outdated tool, but it’s an incredibly important one for eCommerce. Email, unlike most content, can be totally personalised to suit your customer. You can include product selections based on previous purchases, loyalty programs, online specials, links to your top-ranking site content, and more. The key to success is making sure you that aren’t too intrusive. A weekly email strikes a good balance, allowing consistent updates without ‘spamming’ your customer.

4. Your shipping strategy

If eCommerce needs one thing, it’s a solid shipping strategy. Whether you are sending your goods domestically or internationally, you need to figure out these processes early on in your planning.

Offering free shipping, for example, is a great way to boost your conversion rate because it indicates a higher level of service. According to the National Retail Federation in 2015, almost 60% of online transactions included free shipping.

After all, if a customer is deciding between two brands and one offers free shipping, it’s no secret which one they will choose! So, it’s definitely worth considering whether you can absorb these costs yourself.

But it’s important to evaluate your shipping strategy over time and its effect on your profit margins, especially as your operations grow. Fulfilment services such as ShipStation and ShipBob are a great way to centralise your inventory and shipping, as they integrate directly with major eCommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.

This will save you a lot of stress and time as a business owner, so you can focus on other aspects on your operations.

5. Dressing (your products) for success

Customers no longer only expect their purchases delivered in swiftly and good condition. These are the basics! Increasingly, consumers want their experiences with brands to be exciting and memorable. This is where your packaging design comes into play.

We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Yet in eCommerce, this is exactly what happens. So, your packaging serves a bigger purpose than getting your goods safely from A to B.

As a new business, you need to maximise every opportunity to get your brand seen and talked about! Bespoke packaging is a great strategy to help your brand stand out from the crowd.

Which do you think is going to be more memorable to your customer: A generic cardboard box, or one that is custom-branded?

The answer is pretty obvious! For this reason, packaging has fast become a powerful marketing strategy in the age of social media.

According to Dotcom Distribution, 40% of online shoppers are more likely to share product images on social media if they come in branded packaging , and 61% were convinced to buy a product after looking up images and videos on social media. The takeaway here? The ‘unboxing’ phenomenon isn’t just a fad. It’s a proven strategy to leverage the desire for ‘shareworthy’ retail experiences.

Custom packaging sounds like a massive expense, but it doesn’t have to be. There are branded options out there which are scalable to the size of any business. Smaller packaging elements such as custom stickers and tissue paper are a fantastic way to add a stylish and bespoke twist to your online orders, without breaking the bank.

ecommerce store packaging Girl Tribe Gang

Starting an eCommerce store is a big decision that comes with many considerations. As we mentioned earlier, the most important thing is to get the foundations of your house down first.

The most important thing? Be YOU! You are the essence of your own brand, and this is the key to offering something unique and different to consumers. So get out there and start brainstorming!

Author bio: Beth Owens is the Copywriter and Content Strategist at noissue. Her main areas of expertise are eCommerce retail trends, sustainability for small businesses, and the art of excellent branding. Her articles have been featured by the likes of Vend, BigCommerce, ShipStation and RetailMinded.

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