Making Your Online Store Profitable

Suppose you have just invested in a super looking ‘all singing all dancing’ store that is meant to be your sole income for the future how can you make it pay its way and be really profitable?

With so many ecommerce options available today it’s not that difficult or costly to set up an attractive fully functioning online enterprise. It is the job of generating sales and making a regular income that can seem like the main challenge. The good news however is that you don’t need to be a big brand name, or even have a huge marketing budget, to start growing your base of loyal customers.

One of the most important ways to succeed in e-commerce is to secure a niche that is profitable but not so over-subscribed that you end up being a tiny minnow in a large pool full of greedy sharks. The old saying ‘get big, get niche or get out’ is nowhere more true than in the world of e-commerce.

Trading on the web means that it is possible to reduce costs to a minimum and enable you to keep prices lower than if you were operating from a high street shop. This said though most small online stores will find it impossible to compete with larger ones on price alone – so it is probably best to not even try. A more sensible approach is to offer something that sets you apart from the competition.

This could include a unique add-on service, a range of difficult-to-source products, free expert advice and a first-rate personal service; in fact anything that adds perceived value for your customers. A good idea for example might be to offer home delivery fresh ‘veggy’ boxes to a local area. Provided the area in question is fairly large a business that is so aimed at a specific targeted niche in, for instance, the Cheltenham or north London area has the potential of doing really well as it is not something that would interest the big players.

You don’t have to spend a small fortune on marketing tactics to build up a loyal customer base. Rather look first for low-cost opportunities which will have a useful outcome. If your business has a good human interest story or offers something unique you will be able to attract free press coverage from local and even national media.

This, coupled with worthwhile word-of-mouth recommendations and good search engine rankings will seriously lift your site visitor numbers for very little time and investment. By being creative and thinking laterally of ways to reach the most accessible customers at low cost, it is possible to build up business quickly without risking poor returns on your investment.

You could consider linking up with prominent newspapers or magazines by offering something for their readers providing that your company gets a full and positive write-up. This is usually worth far more than straight advertising. In media based competitions you could allow people to text their answers and end up with lots of mobile phone numbers which could then be used to offer even more attractive options.

A great example of this is a well known polo school that uses its web site to attract clients from all over the world. There was never any marketing budget available so the family was very inventive and used every available opportunity to use the media to build international exposure. It worked so well that the school is world famous and teaches everyone from royalty to major celebrities.

You just need to have a few unique and compelling ideas to get your business fully launched on the internet. Even if your store is selling average stuff which can’t be vamped up introduce something to attract attention or even make people smile. Just be inventive and more to the point NEVER stop being inventive. One great tip for cost-effective marketing is to buy a copy of The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook; it’s full of ideas for low-cost ways to promote your business.

Just setting up a web site is not the only way to use technology to your advantage. It is often worthwhile taking a stand at an exhibition or trade show, with a large internet display screen, in order to demonstrate to potential customers who are unfamiliar with online ordering, just how easy it is to order online from your range of goods, services or products.

Another way of ensuring that your marketing budget is not wasted is to offer payment by performance through joining an affiliate network. This can drive targeted traffic to your site and all you need pay, after set up charges, is a fixed fee for each visitor, or a small percentage of each resulting sale. This method works very well for all types of companies and there are usually web publishers out there that will suit almost any type of business.

Never forget that a contented customer will come back to your site again and again, so remember the golden rule do everything in your power to make your customers deliriously happy. There are two ways of succeeding in e-commerce either by price cutting or by offering an unmatchable, top-quality service.

If you are a small operation it is always better to concentrate on the latter. Examples of good service include acknowledging and remedying any problems immediately, focusing on customer needs and even sending free samples of other items with every order. Above all demonstrate that real people are behind the computer should anything go wrong, which will help enormously to boost a potential customer’s confidence.

Finally because it is not always easy to see your company as others see it, have mechanisms in place to assess the performance of your business on an everyday basis. If you do not proactively seek feedback, you will only hear from people who have an unusually good experience – or an exceptionally bad one. However hard you try, things will go from time to time go wrong. When a customer does phone or email with a complaint (which they will on occasions) don’t go on the defensive and argue with them. Listen carefully to their problem and then set out to put things right.