Just because you decided to build or have an e-commerce site built for you, does not mean that the customers will come pouring in. There is a lot that goes into building an e-commerce site but don't be discouraged, there are also programs that help to make this process a little easier. Most hosting packages come with free pre-installed shopping carts, and there are also e-commerce hosting packages available with plug and upload features for easy product integration. During this time and period i would say surround yourself with good creative and like minded people to keep the creative juices flowing and read up on online marketing and some creative marketing techniques.
Online marketplace option: If you decide to go with the online marketplaces be prepared to pay ridiculous fees and take a cut in your profits. Just know that each online marketplace has it's own fee chart usually based on final sale value. This method is easier and will get your products in the face of prospective customers. Sometimes that isn't enough, and the competition can be too great. That is all you need when starting up, to have a big dog try to shut you down with a price war. The big dog is probably paying less for the product than you are basically because they have a proven track record with the manufacture and or distributor. This means that they have already established themselves as a sure profit maker for the manufacturer and or distributor. Not always the best method for starters. If interested in this route which can be very profitable if you decide to use this as a method of advertising your online store and making a little money as well. Some great sites that I have personally used to make money and drive traffic to my online shops: eBay (www.ebay.com), Sell (www.Sell.com), Amazon (www.Amazon.com), and Half.com(www.Half.com)...
The Niche/ Affiliate Route: Not necessarily building and running an online store, there is an easier way to make money online and still call yourself a store owner. The process is easy... Follow steps 1-3 (How to Start an Online Store) up until this point, purchase B.A.N.S. (Build A Niche Store) Script, and create your sites and make money off of other people's auctions. A quick and easy way to get rolling with making money online.
Online Store: This option is ideal and can save you money if you have experience with building and developing websites, if done right you can save a ton on overhead and still have a great site that converts visitors into sales. This option can also be the most expensive aspect of your setup, second to marketing, if you neglect to do your due diligence and research hosting costs, domain costs, financial software costs, ect. Know where your money is going at all times. If you go this route, i recommend that you do, you still have the option to utilize the online marketplaces, this too is recommended. Remember, your online store does not have to be pretty or look as if it cost you a significant amount of money, after you begin to pull in profits then upgrade your store if you feel the need to.
In the part one I recommended MiCAH7 for their services, well they also offer Domain Naming Services, so if you need assistance with selecting an effective domain for your site and or online store, they will help you out for a low cost. Also, don't forget to check out their site design packages which may be helpful, especially when you are just getting started and trying to save money.
Recommended hosting companies: Once your site is designed you will need a place to host it online for the world to see and find via your domain name. These are just some companies that I recommend some are on the high end and some are in 'Just Right for what i need' end. Regardless, picking a hosting company is like picking a date to the prom. You never want to judge the site based on the design, instead look for any awards which can be found online, do some research Google search the company, speak to the customer service, and ask questions (as many as you need to have a clear idea of what you are getting into. There is nothing like having your site grow and the hosting company that cannot support the traffic or that over sales shared hosting accounts accounts. Do your research before making a decision and be hesitant to pay annually, yeah you get a discount at most hosting companies but would you pay and tip the waiter before your meal ordered? It's kind of like that...
Recommended Domain & Hosting Companies:
- Host Gator Web Hosting - (Here's 25% off)
- Bounce Web Hosting
- IX Webhosting - (Here's 20% off)
- GoDaddy Web Hosting - (Here's 50% off)
- Media Temple Web Hosting
- Domain.com - (Here's 50% off)
Recommended Shopping Carts:
7. Advertise your Products
There are so many ways to advertise your products and 'New' online shop. Before i get into in the resources available to you, let me stress to you the importance of understanding SEO (Search Engine Optimization). There are companies that will charge you tons of money for just a few hours of work. Yes, this is something you can do yourself and with time on your hands you can make site adjustments as you learn more about SEO. Some great resources that helped me and that you can use to get you started are Aaron Wall's SEO Book, SEOmoz Blog, Graywolf's SEO Blog, The Search Engine Guide and a ton of other resources that may work well for you.
Now, back to advertising your Products... This is a very important process, i guess now i should tell that every process is important as it contributes to your online success and to putting money in your pocket. This is a no brainer, the more your products are out there in the faces of potential customers the more sales you are going to make if all of ducks are in row (price, image quality, content, site design, ect.), in some cases even ugly sites (eFufChairs.com) have made people significant amounts of money. The key here is advertising.
If you have a unique product then word of mouth advertising may just be the perfect solution for you. The more people are talking and the more satisfied customers you have the more customers you will gain. Do not hesitate to ask customers to talk about your site to their friends and co-workers. Chances are they are already talking but it never hurts to ask, this is business, most people will feel good about helping advertise new products that they enjoy. Just remember to thank them with a card, or even a special coupon or maybe even a free product.
Utilize the online product comparison shopping sites. Sites such as Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Pricegrabber, and Dealtime (There are a few sites that i purposely left out, these are the ones that have worked for me and three of my online shops) can prove to be very lucrative to a new online store. Keep in mind that when you sign up with one of the previous mentioned comparison sites your products will also be listed in their subsidiary sites. This is a great way to get your products up close and personal with the 'Big Dogs,' although your prices may not meet that of the large discount stores, that is ok, in most cases customers will value quality and will be willing to pay the price. Be competitive in other ways, think creatively, some great resources that helped me think outside the box were, Purple Cow, The One Minute Sales Person, Good to Great, SPIN Selling, Internet Riches, to name a few. The idea is be an innovator and to utilize the avenues that your competitors have yet to or will never dare to tread. Being a startup with little to no overhead you have nothing to lose by thinking creatively and acting on it. There are a ton of ways to keep our costs low while improving profits.
Another great method to utilize, which I'm sure you have all heard about, when advertising your site and products is the PPC (Pay Per Click) arena. Why do i say arena? Because in this arena if you do not know what you are doing you will find yourself hundreds in debt before you even make one sale. This is very costly but effective when done right. Of the PPC field the dominant resource stands tall above the others but is not perfect. In fact, Google Adwords is not always the way to go when advertising your new site. Most of your competition has already entered the arena and is possibly paying large for the top keywords in your niche ($1-$5 per click).
Trying to counter that is a recipe for disaster. Instead of telling you what not to do, let me tell you that you have options: 7Search, SearchFeed, Yahoo! Sponsored Search, Google Adwords, Adengage, Adbrite, just to name a few that are available to you. Imagine, making 10x what you pay per click, each PPC campaign that i run for a few of my online shops has returns that resemble 5-10x what I'm currently paying per click. Word of advice, when running a PPC campaign it may be in your best interest to 'unclick' content network. This will help minimize the chances of you becoming a victim of the costly PPC terrorism known as 'click fraud (learn more).' A quick free resource that will help you out can be found in the 'Freebies' section of this site or you can click here: Free report.
Eve of the Beginning
This is just the beginning of your online success. I can go on and on about advertising your online store and improving your sales and marketing techniques that surely work, but i believe I will save that for another time.