By Zev Herman
True or false? Online retail stores grow at a fast pace. Online retail stores provide opportunities to people who have clear visions and stay ahead of the curve. Online retail stores give business owners the opportunity to find their own niches and paths to success.
All three of these statements can all be argued "true" or "false." Online retail stores can grow at a fast pace, but they don’t always. Online retail stores can provide opportunities to people with clear visions, etc. However, just like brick-and-mortar stores and any other type of business, online store owners must understand who their customers are and what drives their customers to purchase products in order to succeed. Ultimately, the way you perceive e-commerce businesses depends on what you think running an online business is like. Do you think it’s easy to do, or do you think there are a lot of ropes and pulleys to manage in order to get the job done?
In the last eight years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to operate a successful online business. Perhaps it’s obvious, but running an e-commerce business requires adaptability. In some ways, it's similar to owning a brick-and-mortar store. Here are just a few misconceptions about running an online business that I’d like to reframe.
You Have to Sell a Unique Product
This misconception makes me laugh, because if you look around at super successful businesses in any type of industry you can see that a lot of businesses are similar. Just think of Uber and Lyft. Sure, the companies have their differences, but the idea is the same. Nevertheless, to run a successful online business, you do have to differentiate your business from its competitors in some way. For example, you can offer superior products, more successful marketing tactics, or exemplary customer service. Do whatever you can do to make your business better than the next.
You Have to Use Social Media
The first online businesses didn’t have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat to use for their advantage. Therefore, I can’t agree that social media is crucial to running a successful online business. However, social media outlets do provide online businesses the opportunity to receive customers’ feedback, introduce new products and advertise upcoming sales. The great thing about having social media accounts for your business is that customers will probably provide feedback without you having to ask them for it. A lot of people willingly leave Yelp and Facebook reviews, and we all know that one person who tweets to businesses for free stuff. Simply setting up the accounts for your business will bring you to a new level of exposure and introduce you to a wider audience. But in order to accomplish something with your social media accounts other than merely existing, I suggest responding to customer feedback, whether it is positive or negative, every chance you get. Using different social media platforms for different purposes is a great way to target a variety of audiences. For example, a business might use Facebook to share relevant articles, Instagram to introduce new products, and Twitter to respond to customers.
Money Is the Only Way to Measure Success
You can measure the success of an online business with click-throughs, conversion rates and bounce rates. If you think offering the lowest prices for products will automatically win your store more customers, think again. Online shoppers take into account many factors other than price alone. Inventory, brand popularity, loyalty, customer service, and website design can all affect a person’s decision to buy from an online business. Increase brand popularity and loyalty by determining who you customers are and catering your company site and services to them.
To run a successful e-commerce business, you need a strategy and a business plan. It's that simple.
Zev Herman is an entrepreneur focused on growing wholesale light bulb and lighting business, Superior Lighting.