The internet is an exciting, (relatively) new frontier and fortunes can – and have been – made and lost online. Foraying into e-commerce can be an exciting but risky venture, and the only medicine to ensure success is adequate preparation.
In many respects, establishing an e-commerce site shares many of the same requirements as a traditional trading store – market knowledge, understanding of goods and customer needs, and exceptional organisational abilities are all still required. However there are some extra skills specific to online trade:
Ensure you come across as professional
The internet is riven with thousands upon thousands of outdated, slow, clunky, unattractive trading sites that are not fit for purpose. If you want to encourage your customers to have faith in you from just a few clicks in cyberspace, you need to make an impact – and quickly. E-commerce is very different to traditional trading in the sense that there is no human touch and no chance for customers to interact in a meaningful way with you or your staff members. Therefore, your website must speak for itself. Don’t spare any time or expense in ensuring you launch the best e-commerce platform that you can.
Plan, plan, and plan some more
The majority of virtual stores fail within a year. Those are scary odds, and we do not share them in order to scare you – just to drive home the point that preparation is key.
The first thing you need to prepare thoroughly is to understand the specific market you wish to enter; is it technology, beauty products, health supplements? Whatever the case, what exists already on the market, who are your competitors and what can you do better than them? Where is the space in the market for your site, how will you offer your customer base more than what is already out there? Write out a business plan and make a timeline that includes the steps to launch, how much you wish to invest, how much return you would like on your investment and by when. Be realistic and be specific.
One of the best pieces of advice we can offer is to really target a niche market that is currently being underserved. Small niche markets don’t tend to attract big players, and therefore that means there is often room for smaller players to enter.
Let technology be your friend
Just because you do not have the ability to write your own computer programmes or build your own website does not mean you will not be able to run a successful e-commerce site. However, you do need to get acquainted with the technology you and your customers will be using, and you mustn’t be afraid of it. Being familiar with the technology that exists in the market means you can make informed decisions about how you wish to market your site and will help you stay ahead of the curve.
There are already template programmes for e-commerce platforms that may be able to be adapted to your needs straight away; however, certain projects may require greater customisation.
When it comes to payment methods, this is perhaps the crucible of good e-commerce. Your customers need to have absolute faith in the system of payment you offer to them, or your reputation could be tarnished all over the web. There are several payment methods and programmes that already exist and most can be implemented without too many difficult procedures. However, payment security is the key and getting the balance right in terms of protecting both consumer and business can be difficult. For example, be wary of using charge-back in credit card sales.
Get to grips with some of the solutions that exist already before making decisions about how to launch.
Marketing strategy, digital style
Without proper promotion of your website, just putting it up online one day is like dancing in the dark. No one can appreciate it if they can’t see it. Your digital marketing strategy can be just as important, if not more, than the actual buying and selling as without visibility you will have no customers. The internet is growing at a phenomenal rate, and without the right strategy, your website will get lost in the jungle.
All this requires time and money and be sure to not neglect the importance of this part in your planning stage. Digital marketing campaigns can help markedly improve your chances of success, so be marketing savvy. This means, among other things, good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy, use of Google Ads, ensuring you have a high return for key words on Google, ensuring you have social media presence and engagement, developing an online audience and customer base, and creating professional email marketing and other reach-out strategies.
Become an Expert Analyzer
Data is the opiate of this generation’s business sector. It is freely available, easy to source and very addictive once you understand how to use it. The virtual world offers almost unlimited data and information, so you can really get to grips with understanding who you are, how you are perceived by customers, what your customer profile is, and how that may or may not differ from those profiles of your customers.
While there are many tools online that can help track and chart your customers and followers, Google Analytics is a great way to make sense of movement and traffic through your website and social media sites. Once you understand your customer better, you can provide greater services to satisfy their needs.
Create a top team
As most people know, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Create a dream team to support you in your endeavours and you will be much better armed for success. You need your team from the bottom up to be aware of what your goals are and to be incentivized to work hard for you; design courses that help communicate clearly the vision of your e-commerce business and provide opportunities for them to upskill – you will be rewarded with commitment and innovation.
The better the skills of your team, the more likely you are to be able to succeed in the virtual business world.
Avoid common problems
The main complaints from customers about e-commerce businesses is that they fail to deliver what they promised – either in terms of the actual product or in the timing of the product.
Create mechanisms for quality control and assurance, be certain of what you are providing your customer, and have in place clear mechanisms in the event something goes wrong. Will you offer credit or exchange upon proof of faulty product? Communicate these assurances clearly to your customers. By doing this, you create an environment of trust that will really make your customers feel comfortable in their online transactions with you.
Stay on top of the game
Because this online world moves so fast, there is hardly a moment to rest. If you want to stay in the game, it is essential that you remain up-to-date about trends and emerging technology. Make sure you sign up to hot topic websites and news feeds, and follow discussions by experts on social media – this way you will stay plugged in and also have a ready source of ideas on how to evolve before your competitors do!
Doing it by the book
Finally, make sure you are fully compliant with the rules and regulations of establishing e-commerce businesses in the UAE. There are many different ways to set up shop in the country, including through different free zones and with different licenses. We have years of experience advising our clients about how to get trade-ready – let us do the same for you.