Wednesday, February 18, 2009

10 Rules of Building a successful ecommerce website

Building and running a successful ecommerce website is not easy. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and time to make money over the internet. And the competition in the web is enormous. But we can still make big money if we follow few simple rules. Let me tell some of the must follow rules to build and run an ecommerce business.

1. Plan for it: Many failures of ecommerce startups can be attributed to lack of planning. Before you jump into the ecommerce bandwagon, you need to prepare a plan for it. Do some research on the products or services you are going to offer, their acceptance level with your potential customers, cost of running the business and how to finance it and a target timeline of achieving break even.

2. Set a Goal: Starting up in your ecommerce business without a goal is like set out to the big sea in a ship without a map, compass and a destination. If you do not have a goal, you cannot measure your progress and cannot take corrective action. There should be a long term goal and short term goal. The short term goals, like the monthly sales and quarterly sales should be measured against the actual sales made and re-setted for the next period.

3. Know your products/services: Online business is fundamentally no different from a physical store selling products. As a good salesperson you need to know what you are selling. Customers might have queries and they might call you or email for more details and you have to gain their confidence by resolving their queries.

4. Know your customers: Before you start your ecommerce business identify your potential customers. Do a small research on their online purchasing behavior and find out what motivates them to buy any product. Knowing your customers is very important for you to reach out to them successfully.

5. Plan for marketing from the beginning: Plan for the marketing from the very first day of your operations. Marketing an online business is entirely different than a conventional business. The website design has to be search engine friendly. Also professional SEO and SEM professionals can create the visibility for your website. You need to have the time and fund allocated for this absolutely necessary item. At the end you have to remember that "how will they buy from you if they doesn't know about you?". Without a plan for marketing you are surely going to fail.

6. Make it easy: Many a times web masters or website owners try to fill their website with too many information, advertisement etc. When a buyer lands on an ecommerce website, he/she primarily have two purposes; to search the product, know more about it and buy it. If it is too difficult to find a product in your website and ordering is not easy, then the website can very easily disappoint the customer and they can just go to some other website. So the mantra is make it easy to find and buy.

7. Keep your customers engaged: Keeping your customers and visitors engaged is very important for future sales. Send monthly newsletters to the registered members, create a competition with a prize to win, allow members to collect points for each purchase which can be redeemed later. The principle is, give your customers something to come back to your website.

8. Remove all technical issues: Any obvious technical issue with an ecommerce website is a complete no no. Users will be scared to buy from an website which throws errors. So test the website thoroughly and remove all technical issues as soon as they are found.

9. Know the analytics: Keep a tab on your website's heartbeat, that is the analytics. Check the visitor numbers and conversation rates on a regular basis. Any fall in the visitor number need to be investigated. Try to understand the visitor behavior and it will give you a lot of information.

10. Promote, Promote, Promote: This is perhaps the single most important point. Promote you website through any and every channel possible. Take help of search engine optimization professionals to get high ranking in search results. Promote through social networks, blogs, print media and word of mouth. Promotion is a continuous process and very important for the success of the website.

Hope the points above would help you to develop a successful ecommerce website. If you have any suggestions/comments/criticism, please feel free to write a comment. Also I am interested to know your experience with ecommerce websites and invite you to post your experience.