As more women move into business, those with the entrepreneurial spirit are increasingly turning to the web. E-commerce continues to explode, and online sales accounted for more than a third of all retail growth in 2015. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online industry netted a total of $341.7 billion last year ― an increase of 14.6 percent ― which makes a career in e-commerce more than appealing.
However, like doing business in any industry, e-commerce isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Entrepreneurs should be adequately prepared for this career, which entails understanding e-commerce resources like web hosts and merchant services providers as well as having typical business skills, like leadership, creativity, and grit. This guide will help any woman find a way through the wild (and sometimes weird) world of e-commerce.
Typical Steps for New Businesses
If we can ignore the obstacles of operating a business almost entirely online, it is easy to believe that e-commerce isn’t too different from traditional entrepreneurship. After all, even digital business owners must have products to sell and market in which to sell them. Therefore, the beginning steps of a career in e-commerce are not entirely divorced from typical business practices.
As in regular business, it all begins with an idea. Still, before an e-entrepreneur can open up shop, there are a number of steps to take to ensure that the idea is viable and then to create a business that will be profitable:
- Understand the market. Entrepreneurs need to know their target demographics, their potential competition, the market growth rate, and more.
- Make a plan. A business plan will outline what types of products will be sold, the pricing structure, the growth schedule, and more.
- Obtain funding. E-commerce businesses often require less capital to start, so some entrepreneurs may be able to skip this step.
- Develop the brand. E-commerce thrives on branding, so having a memorable name and logo are essential.
Once the groundwork is complete, entrepreneurs will begin deviating from standard business practices to enter the world of e-commerce. Digital assets like a website and social media accounts are vital to e-commerce businesses ― as are partnering with digital services.
Necessary Web Partners
No e-commerce business is an island. Success depends on strong relationships, and there are several digital partnerships an e-commerce entrepreneur requires to open her doors, let alone be sustainable or successful. Though e-commerce entrepreneurs should strive to establish relationships with physical partners too ― especially those in transportation as reliable delivery is an essential part of e-commerce ― a business that exists on the web must have strong web-based partners. The following three are among the most important for keeping an e-commerce business up-and-running.
- Web hosts. This partner provides online storage space, particularly for websites and stores. It is economical to find a host that also offers a functional e-commerce platform to save time and energy integrating third-party software.
- Merchant services. This partner accepts and processes card transactions so businesses can safely and securely take customer money. Initially, using bare-bones online merchant services might suffice, but most e-commerce business owners migrate to more innovative merchant solutions as their businesses age.
- Publishers. Having positive relationships with powerful online publishers can improve an e-commerce site’s visibility and profitability. At least, it can improve a site’s SEO; at best, it can drive a significant number of new customers to the store.
Online Marketing Tips
After an e-commerce site launches, an entrepreneur’s work is far from done; in fact, the hard work has only just begun. The industry is booming, and the ever-abundant competition requires entrepreneurs to engage in aggressive online promotion. Precious few customers will simply happen upon a web store and make a purchase; nearly every sale is hard-won through marketing tactics, which means entrepreneurs can definitely use the following tips and tricks:
- Pay for social media boosts. Though businesses can use social media for free, it is much less effort and much more effective to buy exposure.
- Try pay-per-click. PPC advertising doesn’t work for every store, but it is useful for particular messages. Usually, it is worthwhile to try it and cancel if it doesn’t provide benefits.
- Be valuable. E-commerce is most successful when it can engage customers, and the easiest way to build engagement is to become a valuable resource.