October is Small Business Month! This is the last of four blogs to help small businesses reach their goals or at the very least get started on the road to success.
These days not every business involves a brick and mortar store. Currently, there are somewhere between 12 and 24 million online or e-commerce stores on the Internet of things. Not all are successful, however. It’s estimated that only about 700 thousand online businesses actually make more than $1000 a year. Many are start-ups, many may be placeholders for a company that has issues with their supply chain or a simply a business that didn’t take off but still has a web presence.
In any case, there are things you can do as an e-commerce business to help generate awareness and revenue.
Here are the Top Tips!
- Protect your brand’s online reputation. This needs to happen whether you have a real storefront or not. It’s the way things go in business these days. If you’re not protecting your brand online, who is? This level of protection happens in many ways from social media to online reviews to corporate identity theft to blogging to public relations and more. Being responsive and professional in all areas helps consumers feel good about your brand. How they FEEL is your brand after all.
- Meet your customers where they are. Polling current clients on what social media platforms they use can help you target your audience with social media marketing campaigns. This does not mean stalking clients and friending and following them, they may not appreciate that, but it can help you manage your online ad spend.
- Ensure your brand-name can be uniform across all platforms your business uses. With so many people in social media land, it’s possible something very close to your business name is already in use. The quicker you can jump on this the better. Claim the name of your business everywhere you can even if you don’t intend on using them right away.
- Consistent messaging. Online businesses will likely have numerous social media buttons, blog pages, consumer tip pages, support pages, FAQ pages...the list goes on. Ensuring that your brand speaks in one voice, in one tone gives consumers a confidence that you and your team understand the core of your business. Confused or misguided messaging and responses can erode trust and drive consumers to your competition.
- Focus on your supply chain. There are many companies that skip the showroom and simply deliver products purchased online. This can literally be anything from shoes to hardwood flooring. For example, online flooring company, Build Direct, sees themselves as a tech company, not a flooring company (stole the sentiment from the VP himself through a friend;). However, regardless of often no-questions-asked return policies like Amazon carries, an online business needs to be wary of the relationship(s) developed with those supplying your product. Gratitude and empathy go a long way in business relations, not just with consumers.
- Make sure you POS (point of sale) applications are working flawlessly. Make sure there are no issues with credit card transactions or even your web connections with your service provider. If a consumer has a problem ordering your product or service and they have not established brand loyalty, then you can quickly lose a sale. Then they’ll likely post something nasty on your Facebook page...it happens a lot.