Starting your online store: setting the foundation for lead generation

Many entrepreneurs are setting up shop in cyber space. Online e-commerce may sound like the Wild West, but there are things you can do beforehand to make it easier. Crack  the code of discovering the best technology, lead generation strategies and sales funnels before the grand opening.

3 Major T’s to Cross Before Starting Your Online Store

by Toby Nwazor

According to United Nations trade and development statistics, ecommerce is worth more than $22 trillion, and it’s still growing. That’s why we’re seeing a good number of online stores springing up.

Consumers have come to expect the speed, ease and convenience of ordering online; they seem to like  sitting back and waiting for their merchandise to be delivered. What’s more, they don’t seem concerned about the fees they have to pay for shipping, either. Less stress in exchange for a token charge doesn’t strike them as such a bad deal.

So, yes, there’s a lot of money on the table for any aspiring entrepreneur to venture into establishing an online store. But, how does one start?

The best place to start

Fortunately, as more people venture into ecommerce, more materials are becoming available on the internet to help. Unfortunately:

  • A lot of that information isn’t good.
  • You’re likely to suffer from information overload.
  • You’re probably be more confused than  when you started out.

So, first, let’s clear about the obvious. An online store fundamentally is comprised of three components:

1. Your platform

There are many ecommerce platforms to choose from, but make sure you go with the one that is easy to set up and use. Go with something you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to have all the payment options that exist, but you still need to find out from your target audience members the type of payment method that would work best for them. For most people, the best option is to allow the use of major credit cards, and accept bank transfers as well.

2. A functioning payment gateway

When choosing a payment gateway, look out for a processor that will enhance your gateway-user experience, that promises to grow with your business and that easily integrates with your current platform. If it doesn’t offer these things, you may have to change and upgrade your platform to make use of the new payment gateways. The most important thing is to get the one that works best for you and your customers irrespective of their location.

3. An effective delivery process

Whether you’re selling physical or virtual products, you need to make sure that your customers actually receive what they pay for, and on time. According to a survey by Dotcom Distributors, “Eighty-seven percent of online shoppers identified shipping speed as a key factor in the decision to shop with an ecommerce brand again.” To most customers, speed is therefore more important than price.

Assuming you have gone through this initial stage, you should get ready to launch. But before the big launch, don’t forget to cross the following T’s:

Set up a sales funnel. The idea behind setting up a sales funnel is to guide you through the whole process that will convert your leads to paying clients. To generate these leads, start by setting up ads on any of the social media channels. This will create a lot of awareness of your store and the products you sell.

Of course there will be some people who will visit your store and buy nothing. To bring those prospects into the fold, use retargeting ads. What this does is to drop something called a “pixel” into the browser of anyone who visits your store; that will make your ads keep showing wherever this prospect goes.

The aim is to keep reminding those people of your offers. Sooner or later, they will give in and buy your products.

Maintain a connection. According to this study by These Social Times, it is cheaper to retain a client than to get a new one. So, it is not enough to make your website SEO-friendly and get tons of first-time visitors. You also need to turn those visitors into repeat customers. And the key to doing that is to maintain a connection with them.

You can do this by boosting engagement on your various social media channels. People value relationships, and if you engage them, they are more likely to buy again. You can equally send weekly newsletters to your buyers, and talk about your latest offers or share useful tips. The more fun and relatable the emails are, the better the results you will get.

Improve your online review. You might take online reviews pretty seriously knowing that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In other words, you risk alienating the majority of your buying population when you don’t offer online reviews on your site.

Unfortunately, most people don’t leave reviews when they visit a site, unless it is to make a complaint. But that should not discourage you. You would be surprised at how many people will leave a review if they are prompted, especially if they are satisfied with your product or delivery time. All you need to do is ask.

In conclusion, building an online store is no mean feat. But, it is not rocket science, either. These tips should get you started off, running in the right direction.

Toby Nwazor is an entrepreneur and freelance writer that writes for Entrepreneur magazine where the original article appears.