Whether you’re a home-based start-up or an established company, no business can afford to stand still. That particularly applies to your online shop front, which must evolve to reflect the rapid changes in best practice when it comes to SEO, web design and user experience.
Here are 10 tips for transforming your online trading prospects:
- Make your site mobile-friendly
With smartphones and tablets having overtaken desktop PCs as the medium of choice for online shoppers, Google and other search engines now give greater prominence to mobile-optimized sites. Make your pages more mobile-friendly and you’ll rank higher in search results – which in turn means higher traffic and more sales.
- Understand your customer
Take the time to understand your existing and potential customer base. Ask them questions about their age, outlook, interests and preferences during the buying journey and you’ll be better equipped to devise a marketing strategy which addresses their interests and concerns.
- Use quality content
Having defined your audience, post relevant and engaging content – whether on your own blog, social platforms or as guest posts on other media – to burnish your credibility with these customers. Your research should also help you settle on an appropriate tone and style.
- Hire freelancers
Content may be more cost-effectively produced by a freelance copywriter than yourself. Even if you do want to write content yourself, it’s worth getting someone to edit your work to make it punchier, or at the very least, a proofreader to correct any typos.On Sites like Upwork you can filter freelancers according to their areas of expertise, aggregate feedback and hourly rate.
- Personalize your marketing
Amazon, Apple, Google and other major online players now make personalized recommendations based on an individual’s shopping history. Small-business owners can use subscription-based software packages that likewise identify, analyse and track site visitors, building up profiles of their browsing habits and preferences.
Done wisely this kind of targeted marketing should pay for itself via increased sales.
- Social media marketing
Businesses are fast learning how important it can be to have an effective social media presence. However, not all corporate marketers understand how to best use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and the rest.
Social media does not lend itself to hard-sell direct advertising. But – done sensitively and skilfully – it’s a great environment to build a brand image your audience is happy to identify with. Fundamental to getting this right is point two: understanding your customer.
- Expand your range with complementary products
Expand your product range to include accessories and other items complementary to your most successful lines. For instance, if you sell weatherproof clothing you could introduce other outdoor equipment (fishing rods, binoculars, maps, camping gear etc).
This is likely to increase the average number of items bought by customers in a single purchase and overall sales.
- Recruit a partner business
Rather than diversify your own offering, which involves risking your own funds, you could find a partner business which provides products or services related to your own. For instance, a health food storemay develop a relationship with a local fitness club, with each respectively offering discounts and free or low-cost taster sessions to grow their mutual customer base.
- Focus on a niche product
Given that the internet is a global marketplace, some small-business owners abandon diversification and instead specialize in one product niche or customer segment. There might be a handful of Marvel comic book enthusiasts in your local town, but globally there will be hundreds of thousands.
And while Amazon is hard to compete with on books or children’s toys, they might not have a foothold in certain obscure markets.
- Why buy premises?
Whether leased or bought, commercial premises aren’t cheap or easy to extricate yourself from. But if you have a slick online shop front, why get premises at all? It’s much easier to scale your operation up or down as orders grow or stall.
And if you’re lacking storage space at home, then dropshipping is an innovative distribution model, whereby you pay a third party to manage the packaging, storage and delivery of products. You never handle or deliver products yourself, let alone have to store them.
By Bruce Hakutizwi, USA and International Accounts Manager for BusinessesForSale.com, the world’s largest online marketplace for buying and selling small and medium size businesses. Bruce has over 7 years’ experience working within the US business transfer marketplace connecting buyers and sellers.