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13 Essential Tips on How to Start an Online Retail Business

21 min read
13 Essential Tips on How to Start an Online Retail Business

Planning to get into eCommerce? After all, most people opt to shop online nowadays thanks to the convenience it offers. Why travel for miles to the mall and risk not finding what you need when you can simply order things on your phone?

That said, starting an online retail business isn’t simple. Most businesses already shifted to focus on eCommerce so the competition is tighter than ever.

Don’t worry, we’ve got 13 crucial tips to help you get started on the right foot. Follow these steps to launch an eCommerce business successfully.

1. Have a Business Plan

Your first step to launching a successful online retail business is to have a business plan. Your plan should include a marketing plan, financial goals, products you aim to sell, shipping strategies, and your budget.

Even if you’re not inviting investors, it’s good to have a business plan. It’ll give you a step-by-step process you can follow for a year or two, ensuring you’re never lost amidst the chaos of running an online business. You can always go back to your plan and check if you’re on track or if you’re behind your financial goals and need to make adjustments.

2. Pick a Platform Wisely

You’re likely using WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. All three of these platforms allow you to use eCommerce plugins/tools like Shopify or WooCommerce. These tools aren’t cheap so take time to read reviews, check features, and determine which one suits your needs.

You should prioritize customization freedom, implementation on social media, better inventory management, cart management, and marketing freedom. Scratch out the ones that don’t fit the bill and then narrow down your options according to your budget.

3. Mobile-Friendly

It’s no secret that the mobile crowd is quickly taking over the online landscape. More people use a smartphone to access the Internet than desktop users. Google acknowledged this shift and, in 2015, released the mobile-first algorithm update.

This update favors mobile-friendly websites. Fortunately, platforms like WordPress automatically implement responsive web design. On your end, you have to work on mobile-appropriate font sizes, link and button designs, graphics, and colors.

Not sure if your site is 100% mobile-friendly? You can use Google’s dedicated tester to check.

4. Improve the User Experience

Ever been to a retail site and had to check out only a few minutes later because navigating around was a nightmare? A good retail site shouldn’t be too difficult or annoying to explore.

For example, visitors on your retail site should be able to go back to the top of a page or back to a product page without hassle. They shouldn’t have to jump through loops and multiple pages simply to edit what’s on their shopping cart.

A clean and easy to navigate User Interface plays a large part in improving the user experience.

5. Minimize Checkout Process

Did you know almost 70% of people who go online shopping abandon their cart before they push through with the transaction?

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There are a lot of methods to prevent this.

First off, make sure you minimize the checkout process. The longer it takes to checkout, the likelier people will leave before paying. If you have to split the checkout process, make sure you label them clearly.

You can follow Amazon’s example. They split their checkout process into very few pages and each one has a central focus: one is all about filling up forms for the shipping address and another is for the payment details.

It’s also important to have a summary page. This lets people double-check everything before they pay.

6. Pick a Niche

Consider for a moment you’re still a small business still starting to make a stamp on the online landscape. It’s better to become a trusted authority on one topic instead of a Jack-of-All-Trades, King-of-None. Pick a niche and run with it.

If you want to sell baby clothes, then prioritize baby clothes. Don’t muddle your site with makeup for adults, men’s running shoes, and toys.

If you sell Nintendo Switch units and games, prioritize that. You can get away with selling Switch accessories but don’t suddenly dabble in selling eSports gear or PC parts.

7. Develop a Shipping Strategy

Got a solution for stocking products? Do you already have a decent site with all the important eCommerce plugins and tools?

Great! But now you need to figure out a shipping strategy. Remember that shipping each product out is your responsibility.

First off, you need to plan a specific schedule for shipping. Some small businesses only ship out orders on the weekend, for example.

You also need to partner with specific logistics companies. Get familiar with the couriers in town. Know their prices, restrictions, and schedule because you’ll have to inform your consumers about them too.

8. Use Photos and Videos

Having great product descriptions and reviews is important to boost purchase rates but you’ll get nowhere without photos and videos. People need to see what they’re buying since they can’t physically inspect the products.

Make sure you present photos and videos in the highest resolution possible. This can potentially slow your website down but there are workarounds. Use tools like SMUSH to compress photos while still maintaining their quality.

For videos, take advantage of YouTube! It’s a free platform and you can easily share videos on your site, on product pages, and social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

9. Keep Blogging

We’re going to tackle Search Engine Optimization a bit more later down below but to supplement your campaign, make sure you keep blogging. Blogging ensures your site always has new content even when you’re not adding more products to sell. Blog posts also inform and entertain your visitors, giving them more to do and engage in while on your site.

Blogging is also important for SEO purposes. Good content helps build a strong backlink profile. Both count as the top-ranking factors on Google. Good blog posts might even convince visitors to purchase or subscribe to your newsletter.

10. Test Landing Pages

One of the most important conversion rate optimization tips for eCommerce businesses is to test your landing pages!

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Your landing pages can make or break your business. A poorly designed landing page leads to a higher bounce rate — the rate of site visitors leaving without performing some kind of action, like purchasing or subscribing.

Fortunately, there are tools like OptinMonster and Simple Page Tester that allow you to A/B split test your landing pages. Run a few trials and see which designs produce better results. Don’t forget to run a survey with the people involved in the trials and ask why they preferred one landing page over the other.

11. Email/Newsletter Approach

Keep the main goal in mind: your eCommerce site should prioritize increasing sales. One good method to achieve this is to improve your email/newsletter approach. You want to gain more leads and communicate with costumers.

Always have a sign-up/register link visible. Keep the forms simple and quick to fill up. Quicker and easier forms guarantee more sign-ups.

Why are newsletters important?

You can use them to inform people about new products or promo deals. These can convince them to come back to your site and purchase.

12. Use AI Chat Services

It’s impossible to have enough people to answer every chat inquiry. You might end up with hundreds of people sending questions about certain products, order details, and shipping.

The best solution is to use AI chatbots. You can pre-program them and implement advanced machine learning to let these chatbots answer most questions for you. Now you can allocate human customer service representatives for the more intricate concerns.

Some chatbots allow you to create choices people can click on. This reduces the need for AI to understand and interpret personal messages. It’s similar to programmed answering services on phone lines.

13. Invest SEO

Last, but certainly not least, is the need to invest in SEO. A good SEO campaign can boost your site to the top of Google search results. This guarantees you gain more traffic and thus, more sales.

Hire an SEO consultant for this. They’ll start by auditing your site and then work on optimizing each page and content. They’ll then do the workload of conducting keyword research, content curation, and link-building.

Of course, SEO isn’t the end. You might want to invest in a PPC campaign too.

Don’t ignore the value of social media marketing either, especially if you use tools like Shopify. You can allow people on Instagram or Pinterest to buy your listed products without ever leaving the social media platform.

Launch an Online Retail Business

Starting an online retail business goes beyond simply launching a pretty website. You need to plan and work on improving customer convenience. The better your site is and the easier it is to shop, the likelier it is people will keep coming back.

But this is only the beginning. If you’re looking for more ways to boost your retail business, don’t hesitate to read more of our articles here. We offer a wide variety of guides to help you improve!

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