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How to maximize e-commerce to grow your business

by Ana Lopez
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DIRECTOR, National Retail Solutions (NRS). NRS POS, NRS DIGITAL MEDIA, NRS PAY, NRS FUNDING and NRS PETRO: helping independent retailers succeed.

For small businesses, it is a challenge to compete and survive in a world of fierce competition in today’s digital age. Small businesses need to be strategic and smart in their marketing efforts, investing time and money in e-commerce, social media marketing and content creation to reach a wider customer base.

As the deputy mayor (and former mayor) of my city and an entrepreneur myself, I’ve seen stores come and go. It is inherent in establishing and maintaining a store with challenges. Store owners are routinely faced with high costs associated with marketing, refurbishing, upgrading and purchasing/maintaining inventory. Covid-19 turned the retail model upside down. Stores that relied heavily on foot traffic found their primary source of income dried up. Many big box operations have moved to neighborhoods and online trading venues are becoming increasingly popular.

While setting up an e-commerce platform can seem daunting for a busy store owner juggling the day-to-day operations at their brick-and-mortar location, it’s almost a requirement in today’s market trends, with many customers accustomed to shopping online since the pandemic.

Register your domain name.

The first step in setting up an e-commerce business is choosing and registering a domain name. There are tons of websites available to help store owners, such as Panabee, Shopify, and NameMesh, that offer an extensive range of domain names. Remember that the domain name should be relevant to the company’s brand and easy to remember.

For example, if the store specializes in makeup, include relevant words such as immaculate, glamorous, sparkly, etc. To register the name, store owners can use sites such as NameSilo, GoDaddy, and Instant Domain Search. If a domain name isn’t available, consider a slightly modified variant, but keep it as short and easy to spell as possible.

Select a hosting package.

You also need to select a hosting plan to make your website live. Hosting company examples include Bluehost, HostGator, SiteGround, and more. Some hosting companies provide backup services, security, and malware protection. It is important to look for these plans in order to have safe backups and prevent any failures if the site goes down.

Choose a user-friendly e-commerce platform.

When building a website, many companies use a content management system (CMS), which is responsible for its design and functionality. Using a CMS simplifies the creation and maintenance of a website, allowing users to customize their websites without having to understand the underlying code. These platforms include WordPress, Wix, Shopify, and GoDaddy. There are many options to choose from, but it’s up to the shop owner to decide which one is best for their business based on their budget, experience, and needs.

It’s not just important that the site looks good; it should be functional and easy to browse. According to a study, 76% of consumers look for an online presence before you physically visit a business. Your website can mean the difference between success and failure.

Select your payment methods.

After the website is online and up and running, research payment methods for your website. This can include accepting major credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Klarna and PayPal, and giving customers the flexibility and convenience to choose the payment option that works best for them.

Similar to accepting payment at a retail checkout, most solutions for accepting online payments are secure and designed to minimize data theft and fraud. When choosing an online payment acceptance system, carefully examine the company’s integrity by checking reviews. Payment acceptance providers can be notorious for charging hidden fees and/or locking customers into long-term contracts with high early termination fees. It is important to choose a fair service with transparent rates and a painless contract.

Set up a referral program.

According to McKinsey, 63% of Gen Z consumers rely on word of mouth from family over all other forms of advertising. This statistic reflects the power of word of mouth and is a reminder of how influential it can be for businesses.

When creating a refer-a-friend program, store owners can include monetary rewards such as discounts or loyalty points and offers such as “Get 20% off your next purchase when you refer a friend!” Post on different platforms such as newsletters, your website or social media. You may also consider using referral program software such as Referral Rock or Ambassador to see how successful the program is.

Get started with SMS marketing.

Another effective way to increase customer loyalty is through SMS marketing. SMS marketing helps build relationships with customers and allows businesses to send personalized messages directly to their customers’ mobile devices.

However, keep in mind that there are laws that prohibit sending text messages to customers unless they choose to. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), marketers must obtain permission before sending promotional messages to customers. When sending these texts, please state the company name, general terms and conditions, data rates and sign out instructions. Compliance with SMS marketing rules can help you avoid legal issues that can be extremely costly to mitigate later on.

Ask for ratings and reviews.

Finally, it is important that a company can be found online. You can use the Google Business Profile tool, a simple application that allows customers to search online for the business’s address, website, phone number, hours of operation, store description, ratings, and reviews. All of this information appears when a customer searches for the business on Google.

Customers can also leave reviews on Google, Yelp, Trustpilot or other review web platforms. It is up to the store owner how he wants to deal with these customers to ensure they have an enjoyable experience. Think of responding to reviews, answering questions and giving advice, or offering a personalized shopping experience.

While it may seem like setting up an ecommerce store takes a lot of time and effort, the investment can be well worth it. Store owners can now reach potential customers around the world, helping them grow and expand their customer base in ways that traditional brick-and-mortar stores couldn’t. It’s never too late to start building your ecommerce store!

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