Build and grow your online revenue stream

If you’re in retail, there’s money to be made online and it’s important your new business finds its place in the online market.

Survey your regular customers

Many retail businesses are now offering online shopping features. Their keys to success involve measuring the market first to make sure their time, money and effort bring about maximum returns.

One way you can find out the information you need to know is through a survey. Ask your regular customers about:

  • Their online habits. For example, if you’re in the clothing retail business, find out whether your customers already buy pants, jackets or socks online. What persuades them to purchase? Are they looking for discounts?
  • The words they search for when trying to find products like yours.
  • Their decision-making process before making a purchase.
  • How easy it is to purchase from you. And whether having online options would make it simpler for your customers to buy more often from your establishment.
  • Mobile app usage. Do they already use apps to make online purchases?

Having a website with online shopping features means you’re effectively open for business 24/7, can streamline sales processes, and retain customers by making it easier for them to shop with you.

Develop a user-friendly website

If your business shows promise for gaining business on the Internet, it’s vital you start to build your online presence – and your first step may be a basic website.

Website-building platforms and services have sprung up to significantly reduce the costs of going online for small businesses.

If you’re considering hiring a web developer to build you a website, first check out the solutions provided by platforms offering standard e-commerce sites based on popular designs, quickly and at low cost.

WordPress – the popular site-building tool for bloggers – can be used to develop your own website at minimal cost.

If you think you need a web developer, be sure that a customized site is something your business needs and something customers will value before you spend any money.

Come up with online strategies to increase sales

Find out what your customers want so you can focus your energies and budget on features and content which have a higher chance of attracting business and increasing sales.

For example, if you operate a small boutique movie theatre that specializes in a variety of cult movies, ask your regular customers whether they would pre-book online if you made that option available. While you’re finding out this information, query whether they would pay extra for popcorn or drinks.

Enhance your site

Whatever the focus of your site, here are some essential tips:

  • Get staff and a select few customers to test the site and report on usability. Try shopping on other sites and imitate the features that make the whole experience as painless as possible.
  • Refresh content regularly. Keep adding new information and resources. Quality content that drives traffic will improve your search engine ranking.
  • Consider improving your site’s search result rankings by using SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. Talk to an expert for advice.
  • Measure the key metrics for your site to discover what needs to be changed to improve results. Get help from Google Analytics or a similar service.

Make a great impression

Some of the best websites typically have certain things in common. They include:

  • A frequently asked questions (FAQ) section. Visitors often browse through the answers before deciding to purchase or not.
  • Customer testimonials. If possible, and with their permission, show names of customers to add more credibility.
  • Clear explanations of steps a customer needs to take to complete a purchase.
  • A privacy statement (many sites have one that you can adapt to identify your practices) and evidence of credit card data security to reassure customers.
  • Easy navigation. Buyers can intuitively see where they need to go to find what they need, such as finding your business’s contact details.

Explore other online opportunities

Once your website is up and running, you might consider:

  • Starting a blog to build interest in your business and position yourself as an expert.
  • Using your website to capture (with permission) customer details by inviting people to sign up for your enewsletter or giving them access to a premium section of the site with special resources.
  • Social media platforms. Where you gather other followers through your customers ‘liking’ or ‘following’ your business.
  • Affiliate schemes, selling through other websites, and reciprocal links.

Finally, treat a website as a work in progress. Create a budget for further development and updating the site to keep it fresh and worth visiting.

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