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13 tips for launching a new ecommerce business

If you’re planning to launch a new ecommerce business, you need to think ahead, save money, and make it profitable as soon as possible.

I’ve launched two ecommerce sites, and I’ll soon launch another. Here are 13 tips for launching ecommerce sites that I’ve learned along the way.

1. Do Your Homework

Make a list of inclusions for your new shopping cart platform, such as search-engine-friendly product copy and image titles, seamless shipping integration, mobile device responsiveness, blogging, customization, and accounting software integration. See how much you can automate from the start so you don’t have to manually enter sales in a spreadsheet, type out separate shipping labels, or add a mobile site.

Check whether gift cards, promotions, and up selling are free cart features, optional plug-ins at extra cost, or have to be coded from scratch. Determine which are non-negotiable and which are you happy to pay for as you grow.

2. Bundle Cart, Design, and Hosting at First

Before sales roll in, your traffic will be modest. For ease and low cost, look for a cart that includes hosting. You can (and probably will) go ahead and spend thousands on your next design and hosting once you’ve started selling successfully.

3. Use Free Trials

Many shopping carts provide a free 7-, 14-, 21-, or 30-day trial. Use these free trials, for sure. But before you do, make sure you’ve got your logo, rough home page design, product categories, and customer fields, as well as a range of products with accompanying copy and images ready to load. Don’t waste a day. Ask friends and family to test the shopping process for you.

4. Determine What Sells before You List It

What do customers want? What’s going to sell well? Terapeak, for example, lets you access eBay sales data for free from the last 365 days. You could also list a few products on eBay directly, or even Craigslist, to help determine their popularity.

5. Avoid Complex Products that Require a Sales Force

New website businesses lack the money and profile to hire, train and maintain a sales team. If people can’t understand your products without seeing them in person, you could take a long time to make regular online sales.

6. Watch Your Average Order Amount

Do you plan to sell high-priced items, such as wedding dresses or furniture online? If you’re starting out, you may have to launch with inexpensive stock. For some credit card processing providers, honoring a four-figure sale is high-risk, requiring a reserve of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars as a safeguard against chargebacks and fraud.

7. Plan for Fraud Detection

As you grow bigger, you come to the attention of scammers, and fraud grows ever more likely. Invest in an anti-fraud screening service to detect bogus orders when sales are regular.

8. Plan to Expand

Look for products you can sell on your own website, as well as (a) on marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, (b) on a drop shipping basis, (c) via a wholesale to bricks-and-mortar shops, or (d) through specialty venues, such as hotels, schools, hospitals, to broaden your sales channels. Are international sales in your future?

9. Avoid Unresponsive Potential Suppliers

You can tell a lot about a company’s future responsiveness from your first interaction. If the company doesn’t return your “Contact Us” query or phone call within 24 hours, it may not be timely for regular customers either, which could cost your online reputation dearly.

10. Renegotiate Often

If your sales are growing quickly, challenge your ecommerce provider to provide you with better rates. Don’t just “set and forget” the credit card fees you’re being charged; renegotiate a better rate at least every 12 months.

11. Pay Early for Lower Rates

Save money by creating agreements with your suppliers to receive a discount for paying early.

12. Invest in Customer Service

Make your website business look bigger than it is with call forwarding telephone services like MagicJack and Grasshopper.

13. Save or Win the Sale on Social Media

Invite your customers to post product queries on Facebook for a fast reply. Other fans may have been unsure about the same issues but they’ll feel reassured when they see your swift response.

Elizabeth Hollingsworth
Elizabeth Hollingsworth
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