You can’t just open an online store and expect customers to flock to it. Find out if your niche market is one that you can reach through a website. How? Does your niche market have an identifiable need for your web offering? Do they have the wherewithal to pay for it? Is the niche group sizeable, i.e., will it provide enough business to produce the income you need? If the answers are yes, you have found a good niche. Now dig deep within that niche to understand the consumer behaviors that drive it.
Every e-commerce operator should assume that his or her customers are sophisticated shoppers who demand prompt delivery of a product that is exactly as portrayed on their website. The most common mistake made by inexperienced web operators is to fail to be responsive to their customers’ order processing and fulfillment needs. But those services are the very underpinnings of all successful e-commerce ventures — neglect those areas and you have a business catastrophe.
To help in the follow-through, you and your customers must be able to track the status of each purchase. Most new e-commerce businesses, however, fail to integrate this necessary backend support.
Another “must” is to make certain that your customers know that your web-based business will not only deliver a value online that cannot be found offline, but that it is just as responsive with customer service issues as the most well-regarded offline business.
By keeping customer service and product fulfillment as an immediate priority you can build a valuable relationship with your customer. In doing so, you earn that customer’s loyalty. That helps to stem the natural flow of attrition as customers who pursue the lowest price find that the trade-off is a void in the cut-rate business’s customer service department.
Another common problem for new e-commerce businesses is misinterpreting the power of the Web. Yes, a website with the right infrastructure can economically automate transactions. However, the real power of the Web is its role as a relationship-building magnet — through its ability to provide numerous opportunities for interactivity. If you are careless with automated processes — this very real advantage will vanish.
Use your website to provide not only useful and interesting information about your products/services, but also about your entire niche market. The group that makes up a niche market always yearns for more information. They will return time and again to your website if they are appealed to on the basis of their special interests — detailed articles and content-rich advertising specifically targeted to them.
The dot-com bust of 2000 was a failure of business plans; the concept itself has not failed. And while numerous news articles over the last few years detail how various websites lost sales and customer confidence due to inadequate prelaunch planning, there have also been many successes, especially in the small business arena.