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The popularity of online shopping is clearly on the rise, as more and more consumers are coming to appreciate its benefits, overcoming their prejudice, and changing their shopping habits. But this doesn’t mean that setting up an online store guarantees success. As the popularity of this sales channel grows, competition grows too. So, how do you get your online store off the ground? Check out our tips!
How to Launch an Online Store and Make It Successful?
Have you been running an online store for a long time but are not getting enough orders? Or maybe you’re about to launch onto the market and want to be sure that your shop starts bold? No matter what your motivation is, it’s good to know how to attract more customers to your online store. Good sales results aren’t typically a matter of good luck. Success usually comes to those who work for it, act consistently, and approach the matter carefully. This is especially important, given the ever-increasing number of online stores and growing competition on the market. You can start selling online with a few clicks but making your store successful is much more complicated than that.
Below you’ll find some tried and tested ideas for getting your online store off the ground. Of course, you’ll achieve the best results if you combine several different promotional methods. Remember the basics: even the best advertising campaign won’t make you successful if the website doesn’t work smoothly or the quality of your customer service is low. It may generate more traffic but won’t translate into more transactions. Pay attention to the site’s layout, make sure it looks good and has a clear structure. Ensure the best product exposure (include a lot of pictures, provide detailed descriptions, etc.). Think of the things that make your offer special and focus on promoting these features.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) stands for activities that optimize the page according to the requirements of search engines, especially Google. These activities will rank your website higher in search results, attracting more users. Optimization delivers long-term results, but it takes time to notice them. Therefore, it’s best to take care of it first. After all, you see your store as a long-term project, don’t you? 😊 In theory, it’s a free method of advertising your store; it’s enough to work consistently on optimization to achieve better results. In practice, however, achieving good results requires competence, time, and dedication, so SEO usually involves hiring a specialist or using an agency.
Multiple factors are involved in optimising a website according to SEO principles. We can divide them into two groups. On-site activities are performed directly on the website and involve preparing the website to meet the requirements of search engine algorithms. This means adapting the entire structure of the website and its contents. The main on-site activities include:
- filling in missing content (mostly product descriptions),
- eliminating duplicate content,
- saturating content with key phrases,
- choosing the right structure for the content (in terms of length, headlines, paragraphs, and attributes),
- completing metadata,
- applying internal linking,
- adapting the website to different devices (website responsiveness),
- optimization and code structuring.
All these factors impact the visibility of the website. Remember, this list isn’t exhaustive. Positioning is also assisted by offsite activities, which consist mostly of building links that lead to the website. Remember to always implement best practices in your positioning activities. This is important, as algorithm updates have, on many occasions, cut traffic on sites that developed selected areas, such as the link profile, too aggressively.
#2 Google Ads
Systematic and continuous SEO activities, if performed correctly, will let you persistently climb search rankings. Yet, if your industry is highly competitive, you may never reach the top. But you can take a shortcut. Thanks to Google Ads or, more specifically, sponsored links displayed in the search engine, your website can reach the very top of search rankings. Experience has shown that this form of advertising can be highly effective, as long as it is used in the right way. That’s a very simple answer to the question “how to launch an online store fast and make it successful”.
In fact, Google Ads is a very extensive tool. It is available to small as well as large businesses and has been applied by them successfully. Fees are charged per click, which is highly advantageous to businesses. However, it requires a very precise configuration of settings. A good selection of parameters can deliver high profits at a low cost. Sponsored links are unobtrusive. The average user does not associate them with invasive advertising. Moreover, they provide the option of setting specific criteria to determine who will have sponsored content displayed to them, which adds to the efficiency of this solution.
Google Ads additionally allows graphic advertising, which is highly effective when you don’t know how to promote an online store that no one has heard of before. This method is especially effective for increasing brand recognition and building brand reputation. Google Ads displays your store’s banner on various websites that provide advertising space to Google. You can choose the websites to display your ad on, which makes it even more effective.
Remarketing is a similar solution. It is a great tool for online stores that deal with high cart abandonment rates (many customers place products in their carts but never finalize their transactions) or experience other conversion problems. Banners advertising your store will be displayed to customers who have visited the store before. You can make the displayed content dynamic and user-specific. The users will see the products which they had viewed, as well as other, potentially related, items. This form of advertising can achieve a lot!
#3 Social Media
Social media presence is practically a must for every modern business. This is especially true for an online store. Profiles on popular social media sites work like continuous advertising and can be used in a wide variety of ways. By posting inspiring content regularly, you can systematically expand your audience and influence their engagement. When you actively respond to comments, you help potential customers develop a bond with your brand and reinforce it. This is a unique form of two-way communication with the public. You can also receive feedback on your activities and find out what your customers like and don’t like. That’s how you can obtain ready-to-use hints on how to get your online store off the ground.
Furthermore, the most popular social media sites provide access to paid advertising that can help you reach a much wider audience. In the first place, we’re talking about Facebook and Instagram, which offer a wide range of options to advertisers and, in many cases, deliver highly satisfactory results. Still, it’s a good idea to make the best of the advertising potential of all platforms you are active on.
While we’re on the subject of social media presence, don’t limit yourself in this area. Most businesses have a Facebook page but don’t establish their presence on other platforms. That’s a big mistake, as this is where many of your customers will be. Social media presence is a way to reach them directly, especially if you’re targeting young people. Check what YouTube (which lets you launch a campaign straight from the Google Ads panel), TikTok, and Pinterest can offer to your business. There’s a high chance that you’ll find new customers on these portals.
The key principles of social media activities are regularity, diligence, and matching the content to the potential audience. You must know who your target customers are, show interest and be original. If you post things because you feel you have to, do it thoughtlessly and make them uninteresting, it certainly won’t bring the results you expect and may even be counterproductive.
#4 Company Blog
A company blog is the most important content marketing tool. It is seen as one of the most crucial and most effective ways to stand out online. Content marketing has a lot in common with SEO. Publishing high-quality content saturated with the right keywords can significantly improve your site’s Google ranking. It can also attract customers and get them interested. This means it’s a great method for anyone who wants to know how to launch an online store and make it successful.
So, how does it work? Content marketing involves publishing content that is valuable, useful, interesting, and original (remembering format matters, too). We’re not talking just about texts; you can post videos, infographics, podcasts, and many other forms. Still, the company blog is one of the simplest content marketing formats. All you need to do is think of what your customers are interested in, recall what questions about your offer they ask most frequently, and convert this information into blog posts. It’s good to make sure that the posts are substantive and exhaustive. If you position yourself as an expert, you’ll find it easier to build a positive image of your store. Write more about your products, their functions, applications, and key features. You can even describe how they’re made and what they’re made of. That’s how you’ll make your business much more interesting and trustworthy.
You can write the company blog on your own, but most companies decide to hire professionals, such as content marketing agencies, SEO agencies, or copywriters. A specialist can use the information you provide to create unique content. He’ll also make sure that the end product has the best possible format and style, is linguistically correct, and visually attractive. Finally, he’ll take care to use keywords according to SEO requirements.
#5 Email Marketing
Not long ago, email marketing was the main advertising tool for entrepreneurs who wondered how to get their online store off the ground. Nowadays, it’s often pulled back and treated as a supplement to other forms of advertising. Still, it’s worth keeping in the mix. Building your own email database makes you independent of social media services (which can help in case you can’t access your account due to an outage, cyber-attack, or for any other reason) and provides you with an extra communication channel to reach your customers. It’s a good idea to encourage customers to sign up for your newsletter for example, by offering small discounts on their orders. Your email communications may remind customers about promotions and sales or announce new products and updates in the store. The mailing list won’t let your customers forget about your store. It will also encourage them to visit your website.
Remember that email marketing is a low-cost solution. You can commission the content and graphic design from professionals or prepare them yourself. Message sending tools aren’t expensive. If your customer base isn’t large, you can find lots of highly functional free software on the market.
How do you make your email marketing campaign up to date and effective? First of all, focus on graphic design. Make it encouraging, attractive and consistent with your store’s image. Use CTAs (calls to action) to encourage customers to go to your website. Secondly, consider personalization. Let your customers decide what information they want to receive, which product groups they’d like to hear about, etc. It makes the messages much more effective!
#6 Discounts, promotions, loyalty programmes
How to boost sales and drive customer traffic on the website? One thing is certain; price cuts are the most effective way to encourage customers to buy. It may be hard to overcome your doubts and launch a promotion when the store is barely staying afloat but believe me, it’s worth it. Promotions should be frequent and diverse. It’s best to run them at least once a month and make them part of your business model. There’s an endless supply of ideas on how to make a promotion successful.
For example, you can offer discounts on specific product groups and categories on selected days of the week or on weekends. The promotions will be even more effective if you tailor the discounts to the customers’ needs and respond to current events. Some stores offer promotions every day, changing their scope every week. For example, an online drugstore may run weekly promotions on four selected beauty brands. “Buy one, get one free”, “buy one get one half-price” and “free delivery” promotions can be offered as an alternative to discounts. They are highly effective at boosting sales and encouraging more frequent visits and/or subscriptions to the newsletter.
You can supplement regular and recurring promotions with discount codes awarded to loyal customers. For example, you may award a 10 percent discount for the next order to customers who sign up for the newsletter and spend a certain amount in your store. You can also consider cashback promotions, where, for example, 10 percent of the order value goes back to the customer’s account to be used as a discount on their next order. Such discounts should have an expiry date that lets customers use them without haste.
Other types of loyalty programmes are popular with online stores too. For example, a store may promise a gift to each customer who makes their fifth purchase or develop point reward systems where points are converted to discounts and/or gifts. This is how the famous fashion chain H&M encourages its customers to join its customer club. Those who join the scheme get 10% discount vouchers for every $75 spent in the store. Those who collect a set number of points in a year become Premium customers, which gives them certain privileges, such as early access to sales, access to limited competitions, free delivery guarantee, and free returns on all orders.
I consider it my duty to mention loyalty programmes, although personally, I don’t believe in them. They’re usually accessed by customers who would have used our services anyway. Meanwhile, we have to invest the advertising budget to promote them. Whether it is better to direct the budget to customer acquisition instead is an open question. The rationality of implementing a specific loyalty programme is likely to depend on multiple factors. Therefore, you need to test it for yourself. There are no ready answers.
#7 Cross-selling and Up-selling
You’re making a big mistake if you don’t offer your customers products similar and/or complementary to the ones they look up and select. Cross-selling and up-selling are very simple techniques that can help you achieve much higher sales. Has your customer put trainers in the basket? Suggest he should also buy breathable socks. Is the customer buying a smartphone? Then he should see a window showing recommended accessories, such as protective cases, wireless headphones, and power banks. Such operations are called cross-selling.
Some online stores can successfully implement up-selling too, although this technique is used mostly to sell services. If your customer has chosen a smartphone with a 128 GB memory card, ask him if he’s sure he doesn’t want an upgraded model with a 256 GB memory card. Add that he has to pay “only … dollars more” or that he can get the upgraded model with a 10% discount. Sounds simple? Believe me, it’s both simple and very effective.
#8 Make the Best of Sales Platforms
Some online store owners sell on their own website platforms, as well as on services such as Allegro and Amazon which, obviously, charge commissions. The greatest advantage of selling with these e-commerce giants is a large number of users, whom you can reach with your offer, and who may potentially become customers of your online store. Price matching, good descriptions of the products on offer, pictures, and keywords all have a huge impact on the sales results. But there’s more to it. Amazon and Allegro both offer you access to an advertising scheme that will promote your products and maximize your conversion rate.
You may implement all these methods and never achieve the success you expect. Therefore, make sure you never act blindly. To succeed, you need to constantly reflect on your own decisions and watch your competitors carefully. You won’t fix anything if you don’t measure it first. Analysis will let you identify the things that work and the things that don’t work at once so that you can plan your further steps accordingly. Follow these tips and hard times will soon be a distant memory. That’s all you need to know to get your online store off the ground!