Expanding your SME globally doesn’t mean you need to set up physical shop fronts in other countries. Instead, you can significantly grow your business by launching it into the e-commerce atmosphere and as a result, reach millions of customers worldwide – all from your computer.
Sounds easier said than done, right?
The good news is, it’s never been simpler to set up shop online. The bad news is, the sales don’t just start streaming in – you need to know the smarts.
Branding, Digital Marketing and eCommerce expert, Aisha Hilary-Morgan shares her insights on getting started as an online seller.
1. Get the basics right
You wouldn’t expect a toddler to run before they can walk – and the same mentality applies here. Get your core fundamentals in order before you start your online journey, starting with these basics:
Know your customer
Before you invest, you need to understand your customers’ buying journey and then meet their expectations – or better yet, exceed them. Research their behaviours online vs. in store, and tailor the online experience to complement your other channels.
Build a plan
Create a business plan to get your thoughts down but don’t let this hold you back. Know your ‘why’ and your purpose. Be aware of who your target is, where they are engaging, your message, your market and what your competitors are doing. It’s a good idea to register your domain name as quickly as possible too, so you don’t miss out.
Test your product
Have you tested the waters through low-commitment channels? Have you tried out eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, or on social media? Make sure there is actually a need for your product and that the price is right.
Invest the time in research
Research off-the-shelf packages, e-commerce tools, effective marketing tools, the finance fundamentals, shipping, payment gateways, your competitors and how you can improve the customer experience. Knowledge is king.
A good place to start is with WorldFirst’s ‘Voice of Online Sellers’ report. Here you will find a range of insights and tips from experienced online sellers and gain an understanding of their challenges, motivations, and successes.
Think about your ‘why’
Why have you invested in your product? What problem are you trying to solve? How can you add value to your customer and what makes your product/story unique? Answer that and then you can you make rich, engaging content that will drive people to your site and keep them coming back.
Top tip: Know your customers’ purchasing behaviour, understand your product’s unique features and your why. Then can you create a shopfront that has an amazing customer experience online.
2. Choosing the right marketplace or platform
Before you choose a platform to sell your product on, ask yourself these questions:
- What is your budget for investing in your website and e-commerce platform?
- Have you got any technical ability beyond basic coding?
- How much time do you have to go to market?
- What is the most effective use of your time?
Research is essential before you start. Familiarise yourself with:
- Less sophisticated e-commerce tools, such as Wix, SquareSpace, and Weebly if you are not considering building a very advanced e-commerce website, or selling many products.
- Off-the-shelf e-commerce shop fronts like Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento for more advanced solutions.
- Established marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Red Bubble.
- Sourcing and managing stock – consignment, dropship and holding stock.
- E-commerce/payments facilities, such as WorldFirst
- Automation and how these solutions can streamline your operations, such as inventory management, shipping, marketing, bookkeeping, social media, etc.
- How to optimise for mobile – make sure the solution has a mobile-tailored offering.
Top tip: Choose an e-commerce builder which is flexible and has the potential to grow as you do.
3. Building a site is not enough anymore
Unfortunately, even if you do all the above to the optimum, you will still need to build your brand through various channels, and use SEO and SEM smarts to get the right audiences purchasing.
Make sure you have a good understanding of:
- Your SEO smarts – ensure the right people notice you.
- Search engine marketing – create highly targeted, non-intrusive, action-based and highly effective campaigns.
- Social media–keep the two-way conversation going and bring your audience valuable and engaging content.
- Have a healthy content profile – keep your content working for you in SEO.
- Google extensions – make sure you are using extensions where relevant.
- Your analytics – know your stats: conversion rates, traffic sources, unique visitors, bounce rates, product performance etc.
Top tip: There are no quick wins. It is the sum of multiple touch points and activities that contribute to your success. Be all over search and your analytics, as insights inform optimisation.
4. Keep your customer relationship fresh
If you want your customers to want to keep coming back, give them reasons to need you.
Here are some of the ways you can stay top of mind:
- Build your database – and stay connected regularly.
- Be consistent– with message relevance and frequency. This builds brand awareness, familiarity and trust, leading to desirability and purchase.
- Build a dashboard– continually optimise your efforts, evolve, tailor, personalise and protect your margins.
- Merchandising – what does your product look like online? What products is it next to? Are you making recommendations that are relevant? Know your customer and deliver them valuable recommendations.
- Content– are you adding value with your expertise, advice and recommendations? Are you a destination for insights?
- Serve your customer – facilitate the customer experience. Bundle products, upsell, cross-sell (eg: this item goes with that; frequently bought together; you may also like) and personalise the experience. From the minute the customer touches your brand you should be offering a solution.
- Connect –effectively connect with your consumers, on the platforms that are relevant to their consumption n behaviours. If it is Facebook, have Facebook Shop.
- Have a plan– always have a 30, 60 and 90-day plan of engagement and keeping the conversation going.
Top tip: Reward, nurture, personalise, inform, recommend and delight. Make the effort and give your customers a reason to keep coming back for more.
5. Pay international suppliers with a money transfer specialist
When paying overseas suppliers, many people tend to go straight to their bank to help with international money transfers.
Using your bank to make a transfer, however, is not as cost-efficient.
Although banks are regarded as credible, trustworthy and have a big financial backing, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other providers who have those qualities.
Specialist international money transfer providers, such as WorldFirst, offer exchange rates up to 3 x cheaper than the banks* and have successfully been transferring money worldwide since 2004.
* ‘Up to 3 x cheaper than the banks’ messaging is based on exchange rates publically advertised in the period July 1 – July 26 2018. Banks that were compared include DBS, UOB, OCBC, Citibank and Maybank. Fees not included.
Disclaimer: These comments are the views and opinions of the author and should not be construed as advice. You should act using your own information and judgement. Whilst information has been obtained from and is based upon multiple sources the author believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy and it may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions and estimates constitute the author’s own judgement as of the date of the briefing and are subject to change without notice. Please consider FX derivatives are high risk, provide volatile returns and do not guarantee profits. We have no commercial affiliation with any organisation or commercial interest regarding the venues mentioned in this article. The information is only provided as gathered and should be verified before, using your own judgement.