online store ecommerce

Embarking on a journey as an ecommerce entrepreneur? It might not be all that you expect it to be, but it will certainly be one hell of a ride. Here are 8 things about running an eCommerce store that may surprise you.

You don’t need a huge budget

Setting up a business means going to loads of scary meetings with a big bank manager, right? Wrong. Nowadays it’s totally possible to set up a viable business on a shoestring budget with some clever planning and budgeting. Here’s how:

  • Take advantage of your lack of overheads and keep it that way for as long as you can – don’t be too ambitious and grow too fast
  • Save on photography and take the product images yourself. Good lighting and a neutral setting will allow you to create some really cool and unique imagery for your store
  • You can spread costs by paying for your ecommerce platform and social media management tools monthly
  • So much is automated and managed these days – from invoices to generating terms and conditions – don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to
  • You can hire a remote VA to help you keep store management costs low

You don’t need to handle any stock

The days of huge product warehouses and long lists of product inventory are over. Now you can use dropshipping and pass on all the packing and delivery to somebody else. Dream come true? We think so.

Though it’s tempting to go for the lowest offer, you are better off going for a supplier who offers a great service and is easy to deal with. You don’t want to be dealing with an irate customer whose package has gone AWOL, whilst sitting on-hold to your supplier for 20 minutes!

Users never do what you expect them to

You can only plan so much – the real test case is people – and they never do what you expect them to.

  • Conduct some usability tests with a focus group to see where your site breaks down in terms of usability
  • You will find that users will use your product tags, search functions and other features in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways – listen and learn
  • Be sure to keep an eye on the data that is streaming back to your analytics dashboard daily – react accordingly

You need more content than you think

Product pages, product categories, blog posts, landing pages – have you tried writing unique content for 400 different product pages before? I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s hard work.

To have a successful store with good SEO potential, you are going to have to write a lot of unique and optimised content. No shortcuts or copy-pasting manufacturer’s copy allowed! If you decide to use freelancers for this task, make sure that they are adequately briefed before you let them loose on your store.

Also – and this is an obvious one, but it’s amazing how many sites contain typos – check your spelling and grammar! Poorly written copy makes you look deeply unprofessional. I like the Grammarly proofreading tool for those last-minute checks and corrections.

Updates must be frequent

To run an ecommerce store is to deal with one of the most dynamic web environments imaginable. Offers end, products run out, and product descriptions and reviews need constant updating. Just managing a big site and dealing with its 404s can be a huge job in itself!

If all this admin is becoming a major time-sap – consider hiring someone to take over the updates and content management tasks for you. It probably won’t be an issue with a smaller store, but a lack of updates can quickly spiral out of control and seriously damage your SEO and user experience.

You will still rely on the outside world

It’s nice to imagine yourself in a little digital bubble – but that’s simply not the case! Being an ecommerce entrepreneur is still being a business owner and you need to interact with the world around you in order to build a solid brand.

  • Networking within the local business community is a great way to find contacts and potential collaboration opportunities
  • Doing the occasional retail gig might be worth it – remember that omnichannel selling is very lucrative

Conversion rates are low

Conversion rates are a direct correlation between the traffic your site gets and the number of people who take an action on your site (make a purchase, fill in a product enquiry form, download a resource). Since a lot of websites get non-buyer intent traffic (referral spam, unrelated search queries, social traffic), the proportion of actual customers is often quite low. The accepted ecommerce baseline is usually around 2-3 percent, but some stores report significantly higher results (in the double figures) – some conversion rate optimizers say that people settle for far too less.

  • Don’t be disheartened by low conversion rates – act on them! Focus on bringing in quality web traffic and optimising your user experience
  • Cart abandonment emails are one way of tackling low conversion rates, as are pop-ups that are triggered by a hesitating user or somebody copying a product name – a sure signal they will be looking it up somewhere else!
  • Running PPC campaigns? Create high-converting landing pages to get the most out of your paid traffic

It’s tougher than you think

Running a successful eCommerce venture takes a lot more than a cutesy domain name and some artfully framed photos.

  • You must commit to putting in a lot of hard work and serving customers constantly – bad reviews and customer service disasters can easily sink a fledgeling brand. Focus on quality service, but use tools like live chat to help you manage the time spent dealing with customers
  • It’s crucial that you have a robust promotional plan in place that extends far beyond the store launch date to build a solid foundation for your business. Factor in seasonality and buyer habits and only go hard on promotion when you’re likely to get more out of it
  • You have to be hungry for sales, and willing to court the press for media attention. Get your products reviewed on influential blogs and share your philosophy

Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also super rewarding. What first surprised you about the world of ecommerce? Check out http://the100kfactory.com for other brilliant entrepreneurial ways to advance your career.

Written by EcommerceTips
Patrick Foster, ecommerce coach & entrepreneur.