Month: January 2016

How to Start a Successful Online Retail Business

Did You Know?
According to a report on the Forbes website, U.S. online retail sales are estimated to reach USD 370 billion by the year 2017.
Starting a successful online retail business is a lucrative and interesting way to become an entrepreneur. However, you must be aware about certain things which are vital for the sustenance of your business idea. For example, you will require the necessary business licenses to start operations. So, check with your local, state, and federal authorities regarding the same. You will have to create a thorough business plan which will give a definite structure and flow to your idea. You should be completely aware about the costs of starting an online retail business before you kick-start your venture.

Firstly, starting an online business can be cost-effective as compared to starting a full-fledged retail store. However, it will require some serious investment in website development, marketing, advertising, product acquisition, logistics, manpower, etc. It is important that you choose and register a catchy business name and a URL of the same name so that customers will be able to identify your business easily. You must conduct a thorough market research to invest in a profitable product category. If you want to know more about how to start a successful online retail business, read the following points.

Decide the Product/s

» There are several products or services which you can choose from in order to start an online retail business. If you intend to sell products, you can offer clothes, accessories, shoes, digital devices, appliances, books, home decor items, etc.

» You can also offer music or e-books download in various formats which are compatible with specific devices. If you choose to go with the latter, you will require special legal sanctions so that you do not infringe any DRM laws and regulations. Conducting an in-depth market research will help you understand your target market and its preferences in a better manner.

» You can contact a wholesale supplier, high-end brands or handicraft makers for your products. You can also source your products from websites like Alibaba. Also, initially, it is essential that you choose one niche, and then keep adding various product lines as your business expands. This will help manage your business better in the early stages.

Use Inventory Management Software

» You will have to stock up on your inventory even before your online retail store goes live. For this, you will require a full-fledged inventory management software. Such software are usually cheap, and you can interlink them to your website, to keep a direct tab on the stock.

» You will have to hire a warehouse to store all your products. You will have to hire employees to prepare the products according to the order, and hand it over to the delivery personnel with accurate delivery addresses. You will have to ensure that you have stock of enough quantities of all products. If you are offering women’s or men’s clothing, you will have to stock a single item in varying sizes. Similarly, if you are offering footwear, you will have to store shoes of the same make in different sizes.

» Always anticipate the demand, and place an order accordingly. If you are overstocking your products, you run the risk of investing in products that may not sell or run out of fashion easily. Also, keeping an ‘out of stock’ tag on a popular item for too long will drive away your customers.

Open an Online Store

» You have the option of starting a web-store on Etsy or eBay, but it is always advisable that you start an independent website for your business sooner or later. Hire a professional for developing your e-commerce website. Study a few online retail websites to know about the elements that are user-friendly and popular. Most users should be able to find their desired product in not more than 3 clicks. Hence, you should have proper product filters and search options in place.

» The look and feel of the website, its font, color pallet, design, etc., should complement the products that it offers. Also, the products should be attractively displayed with at least 4 different photos. If you want to display the actual size of a piece of jewelry, you can have a photo with the model wearing it. You must mention the product information like materials, measurements, storage, cleaning, etc.

» Hire a copywriter to write down product descriptions that will fan the interest of the customers and help them make a decision. Also, you will have to guide the customer by offering helpful reviews. You will also have to mention the accurate price, modes of payment, days of delivery, provision for a wish list, etc.

Clearly Mention Rules and Policies

» It is important that your online retail store’s policies are mentioned on the website to avoid any kind of confusion. You will have to clearly mention the return, refund, payment, and delivery or exchange of damaged goods policies. Similarly, you can have a quick FAQ section for your customer queries.

» Many people allow a return policy of 30 days, provided the item has been sent back in the exact condition. You will also have the right to decide whether or not the item is in a condition to be accepted back against a refund.

» You must also mention the number of working days after which the order shall reach the customer. If you are levying additional charges for overnight couriers on your products during holiday or festive seasons, then you will have to mention it clearly in the policy section. All this will definitely help you when catering to customer queries and complaints. It will also act as a guideline in case of conflicts.

Prudent Customer Service

» As customers today are more aware, they research about a business or service before placing an order. They will search for reviews on websites, forums, social media pages, etc. If your business has a ‘not so good’ reputation, consider the repercussions.

» To avoid such issues, you will need to support your business with a prudent customer service. Initially, you can personally take calls as hiring a 24/7 service may not be affordable. However, as the business expands, you can outsource this activity to a reliable customer service agency.

» You will also require a toll-free number so that customers can call for product inquiries. You must ensure that emails are answered within 1-2 working days to maintain a reputation among the customers. Also, as the customer service personnel will represent your business; hence, you must lay down guidelines on how to respond to customer queries and complaints.

Ensure Easy Order Placing and Billing

» Remember, the easier it is for a customer to make the payment, more are the chances of him returning to your website. You can visit websites like Volusion and Shopify to get a good e-commerce software which will enable you to customize it as per your business requirement. This will help in deciding the order placing mechanism, shopping cart, and billing.

» You will have to ensure that you accept all modes of payment like debit card, credit card, cash-on-delivery, etc. It is important that you use ‘secure modes of payment’ as it will create a sense of reliability among customers.

» You can also enable payments by creating merchant accounts on PayPal and Google Wallet. Many people prefer to make payments through these websites. Ensure that your customers know that you will be storing their payment details for future references.

Ensure Effective Logistics Management

» You will have to partner with a courier company to deliver products to the customers. Ideally, it will be cost-effective to hire a single agency who can cater to your domestic as well as international logistics needs.

» You will have to negotiate rates with the courier company. It is advisable to call for price quotes from several vendors so that you can benefit from competitive prices. Also, you will have to ensure they pick up products from your warehouse, and deliver them to the customers. The agency should be reliable enough to return the cash-on-delivery money.

» While estimating the cost of the product, you must calculate the shipping and handling charges for the product, which may be higher for international destinations. You will have to add these charges to the total cost. Many people charge a certain amount if the price of the product is low, and allow free shipping if the cost is higher. However, they ensure that the shipping and handling charges are already covered in the total price.

Employ Effective Marketing and Promotion

» You will have to undertake every marketing and promotion strategy to reach-out to your target market. This will include advertising through billboards, online banners, TV and magazine ads, radio commercials, etc. You must ensure that you incorporate various themes like valentines day, children’s day, mothers day, holiday season, etc., in your website design to generate customer interest.

» Apart from this, you should invest in Facebook paid ads to reach out to the numerous Facebook users. You should create interactive pages for your store on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr, etc., and link it back to your website to route traffic.

» You must use SMS and e-mail marketing to inform your existing customers about new stock or offers. You can also offer discounts and freebies to shoppers. Many websites also offer coupon codes, redeemable reward points and discounts to people who shop for a certain amount. As this business is highly competitive, you will have to promote it aggressively to stand out from a plethora of other retail websites.

Keep Track of Business

» To know exactly how your business is faring, and for the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, you will have to understand the analytics. You can use Google Analytics, which is absolutely free, in order to know about the traffic your website attracts and its demographic. You can also plug in to Google’s Ecommerce tracking for better understanding of your online business. You can obtain vital data regarding popular products, bounce rate, keywords that click, through these tools.

» Understanding all this will help you undertake necessary changes from time to time, which will work in your favor. Also, by tagging the right keywords, you will be able to increase traffic to your website. Try to have general as well as specific keywords which will help your website gain greater visibility.

» Apart from search engine optimization of your website, by studying the time spent by individuals on the site will help you ascertain which niche is becoming popular, and thereby, add more products to it. Similarly, you will also be able to determine new visitors, old visitors, and unique ones, and the peak time of visit. This can help you frame your promotional strategy.

Remember that you will have to plan special sales and discounts to do away with the remaining stock. Also, try to convince the bigger brands for joint branding exercises, this will help get publicity mileage as well as save you some cost. Test run your website and ensure that all the tabs are working. The last thing you would want is to go live with a website that has too many “coming soon” tabs. Also, try to create an app for your website so that people can access it easily through their phones. Do not forget to go through the tricks online stores use to make you shop in order to get an insight in some smart marketing tactics. Now that you know about the things to keep in mind while starting an online retail business, ensure that you take your venture to new heights by introducing new product lines from time to time based on customer understanding.

Internet Marketing Business Plan

Internet marketing refers to online advertisement efforts that employ web-based tools, such as emails and dedicated websites, to market and increase the sales of their clients. Over the past decade, the number of Internet users has grown exponentially, and it has today became a very lucrative place for advertisement and marketing. Needless to say, Internet marketing is a requirement for any business or service provider these days.

There are several websites out there presently that provide this service. If you would like to venture into the field of Internet marketing and start your own online marketing business, you need to have a solid plan to begin with. This is one of the most fundamental of its aspects, and is essential for increasing the chances of success of your business. Presented below is a generic business plan for Internet marketing, which you can use to get started in this field.

How to Set Up an Internet Marketing Business

Getting Started
First and foremost, it is imperative for anyone desirous to start this business to have a good idea about several marketing strategies. It is vital to stay up-to-date with the latest case studies, take overs, and other similar activities. They may not all be Internet related, but they are, nonetheless, required to gain an understanding of the market and its components.

Marketing Yourself
Once you have built a good enough marketing knowledge base, you need to market yourself in order to get clients. You need to use online marketing strategies which would be applicable for small businesses and would help promote your website as well. Google AdSense and Google AdWords would work very well for these.

Using Online Tools and Techniques
Next, you need to learn how to set up referrals on Google AdSense and Google AdWords accounts (for potential clients). Before you start working on a project, you should search online (Google) for related and relevant websites and blogs. This can assist virtual participation and increase online visibility. Further, this can allow linking and back-linking as well. Do make sure, however, that the company which has retained you has provided you with the rights to participate virtually on their behalf.

Important Business Tips
1) Start Slow: Many new Internet marketers can be seen working on 10 – 15 projects simultaneously, ultimately ending up completing none of them. Thus, it is advisable to start slow with a limited number or projects and clients, whom you can do justice to. Make sure to finish one project before moving on to the next.

2) Keep it Simple: While making your website attractive by using a lot of colorful images, animations, and effects may help it get noticed, it will also increase its loading time. It is better, therefore, to keep it simple and elegant. One idea that works is to view your website from a potential visitor’s perceptive, and make it such that it is easily navigable and allows the user to quickly find what he is looking for.

3) Strategize Wisely: Before taking projects, you need to study the different online marketing tools and techniques and come with a strategic plan of action. It is important to take note of expert advice, and also use tried and tested methods. At the same time, however, you should also try to come up with an innovative marketing strategy that will work for your purpose.

4) Generate Traffic: Most marketers feel that once they have a good website, the traffic will automatically come. However, unless you make a proactive effort towards attracting traffic, this is not going to happen. For this, you will need to use one marketing strategy at a time, until you see the traffic flow.

5) Stick to the Plan: Even though the initial phases of your marketing plan do not generate traffic, it may happen that the final stages do. Hence, once you have begun implementing a plan, you should stick to it until all its phases are completed.

Ethical Aspects
Business ethics are the secret to running a successful business. Make sure that you deliver to your clients what you have promised. This will make them stick with you for a long time, and will even lead to word-of-mouth publicity.

A lot of organizations these days prefer to market and advertise via the web, simply because that is where the whole world is now. Nonetheless, some businesses will not profit from the Internet as much as they would otherwise. In case of such businesses, you could assist them with online earning options, rather than marketing. This would help you further expand your customer base.

You can use the business plan described above to run your own Internet marketing business. Remember that, for being successful in any venture, be it online or offline, one needs to put in a lot of time and effort. Also, you would surely get there faster if you come up with innovative business ideas. So, go ahead and start working hard on that creative marketing plan of yours, and surely success will follow.

Leading a Local Audience to Your Online Business

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If your business provides products or services to specific audiences or locations, you can improve your sales and business growth by studying how to use Internet marketing to reach those people who will be most interested in what you have to offer. Strategies for Internet marketing to a local audience are slightly different from the methods used for national or global marketing, but they are quite simple to implement and maintain.

To rank high in local Internet searches of engines such as Yahoo, Google, and Bing, your website should use keywords and phrases that are local in nature such as the city your business is located in, nearby communities, neighborhood street names, and local landmarks. Even including your zip code can be important for boosting your search engine rankings.

Internet yellow pages providers including Yellowpages, Yelp, and Superpages contain both paid and free listings, which use your IP address as proof of your location. Register your business name with each of the free directories to give them a try. After a few months, you can then decide whether or not you want to pay to be included in a directory listing. Most industries have trade-specific directories, many of which are free. Do your own research to find and sign up with them. This will also help your rankings on the search engines.

Social networking is a great way to target your business to local traffic. Twitter and other similar networking platforms have specifically designed tools for helping your business develop a following of local customers. Twellowhood, for example, is just one of the tools for locating new contacts who are tailored to your geographical location and/or industry. Facebook also helps connect local people to your business. All you need to do to connect with them is to follow your area chamber of commerce.

Personal recommendations are excellent advertising tools, especially online. Yelp and other directories that allow readers to provide ratings and reviews of businesses can increase your site’s placement in other online search engines. If you have customers who love your product or service, encourage them to write a positive review about your site. You can even include a blog area on your website for customers to write personal reviews and comments about their experiences working with you.

Whether your business is brand new or already established, there are always new ways to market your company. Once you build your site, develop a strong online promotion plan using these strategies, and watch your customer base grow while you succeed in beating your competition.

Fastest Growing Online Businesses

There are various opportunities on the Internet to make decent money, but owing to immense competition, it is not an easy task, so to speak. Remember, there are opportunities, but entering the market at the right time is important for anyone to succeed. Any domain or specific market idea, once captured on the Internet, can be used to one’s advantage to build revenue.

Social Networking
While it is understandable that Facebook is the God of social networking, opportunities in this world are inexhaustible. Some say social networking websites will saturate within a few years, which right now seems a distant possibility. So, can anyone try to make something better than Facebook? Well, possibly, it may come within a few months or years. If not Facebook, ideas revolving around the same concept can be molded and made better to attract users.

Google Adsense
Google Adword and Google AdSense, the concepts of search engine giant Google, are no less remarkable business tools than social networking websites. By understanding effective ways of monetizing money through advertising online, one can make very good income. There are numerous tips and tricks to make money by using Google AdSense. By letting firms advertise on your website or blogs, you can get to earn some decent money.

Blogging
If your blog can generate traffic and your writing is able to attract an audience, you will be able to earn a lot by Google AdSense concept. Many of my friends who have been blogging for the last five years are using Google AdSense to earn some good money on the Internet.

Home Based Business Opportunities
The concepts of multilevel marketing (MLM) has been introduced in the market for quite some time now and it is regarded as one of the most effective ways of making money online. Internet home business is popular owing to the ease in accessing it and the number of possibilities to earn significant money. In home based business, selling and buying products of a firm and thereby becoming a team member of the MLM business, helps in making money.

Search Engine Optimization
The growth in search engine optimization industry has been phenomenal in the last couple of years. Website owners are using this technical tool to attract huge web traffic and multiply their earning potential. In fact, almost every website is now hiring skilled SEOs to help their website increase web traffic. SEO has increased competition in the Internet industry and the better optimized a web page is, more are the chances of its success in generating web traffic. And more the web traffic, better are the earning opportunities.

Content Writing
As an aware user, people all across the globe search for information on various topics. This has given boost to the business of online content writing. While freelancing and ghost writing were already in existence, nowadays, there are many popular websites that hire writers to publish quality articles. It is in fact, one of the best online businesses in the Internet market these days. These websites generate revenue by combining all the fundamentals of SEO, Google AdSense, and improving their content on the Internet.

The Internet is no doubt a platform for some of the fastest growing businesses. So, take some time to understand the Internet market, seek expert opinion of SEOs and those who have been in this industry. Gradually, you may be able to come up with an idea that can help you earn a decent income. Do remember that experience matters in this field.