Up until a few years ago, building a new business meant setting up a shop and having to deal with all the costs involved – land, buildings, office rentals and many other expenses. There’s no doubt it took a lot of courage to make that leap from your seemingly secure job to the exciting but risky world of the entrepreneur.
But in the digital age that we now live in, entrepreneurship has taken a whole new meaning. World over, the Internet has created a new, wide-open stomping ground for revolutionary new businesses that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime.
Fuelled by competition, mobile payments, and an increasingly tech savvy population, online shopping in the Middle East is estimated to have grown by 300% over the past year.
The momentum has given rise to a number of regionally focused e-tailers. Indeed small businesses in the region are tapping into a dynamic platform that is providing a one-stop eCommerce solution.
Getting started with online entrepreneurship can seem to be a simple thing to do, but it has a lot more to it than buying a few e-products from a Chinese manufacturer and throwing them together on a website and selling.
For an aspiring e-entrepreneur, there is much to consider. Like any new e-business, setting up an e-Commerce store involves an abundance of research, strategy, planning and business savvy.
Here are six things to consider once you decide to start an e-Commerce business:
1. Research. Start by researching products you love, relate to and wish to sell. Also don’t forget to assess your competition. Think about your chances of succeeding in a particular market and begin to locate suppliers that will reliably provide a good product for a cost-effective price. Ensure also that you can retrieve information when you need it; while running a business, entrepreneurs tend to encounter unpredicted challenges, and so it’s important that once you face an issue to add to your knowledge base.
2. Invest time
For your e-commerce business to be successful, time is your biggest investment. The more time and effort you put into your business, the greater the chances of your success. However, depending on your model, once it’s set up, an e-commerce business may need less resources than a traditional brick-and-mortar outlet, as long as you spend your time effectively.
3. Website design is important
One of the key ways to turn one-time clients into loyal customers is by ensuring that the online experience for your customers is a pleasant one. Before choosing a web designer to work on your e-Commerce website design, make sure you try out several existing e-Commerce stores yourself, so you have a good handle on what works and what doesn’t. Make your needs clear to your web designer to ensure your customers have a pleasant and easy user experience. Doing this will make them talk about your business to their friends and hopefully bring in customers for you.
4. Use Social Media
Social media is an essential (and free) way to market your new online business. Since you’re more than likely going into a heavily saturated marketplace, social media gives you a way to reach a large base of people, and have them spread the word for you. Think about having a blog, which is linked to your Facebook and Twitter, so that people can share your content and get the word out about your new e-Commerce business. Social media is a great way to promote your business before you’ve even officially opened.
5. Target Everyone
Make sure that your e-Commerce website works in all browsers and across all mobile devices. Many people are now browsing the Internet (and even making purchases) from their mobile phones and tablets. If they can’t properly view your website and go through their entire purchase from their mobile device, they will get frustrated and give up, likely never returning to your website again. It’s important to discuss responsive design with your web developer.
6. Analyze and Optimize
For your new online business to grow, its weaknesses must be translated into strengths. Start by ensuring that the right analytical tools (i.e. Google Analytics, Site Meter etc.) and integration capabilities are available. Thereafter, adjust and optimize your marketing efforts accordingly.
By Zulekha Huseni