As entrepreneurs look to get new businesses up and running quickly, many are heading straight online.
New e-commerce sites are popping up each day. Recent research shows that there are more than 100,000 U.S.-based online stores. However, that doesn't mean they are all successful.
A study from ReferralCandy discovered that less than half of all e-commerce websites are generating more than $25,000 a year.
Nikole Haiar, director of marketing, retail and partner services for cloud, managed and hybrid hosting services provider Hostway Corp., said if you're getting ready to take the plunge as an e-commerce entrepreneur, there's a world of opportunity out there.
"If you create the right business strategy, running an online business can be one of the most rewarding career paths you can choose," Haiar said. "But it pays to know what the challenges are ahead of time, so you can make plans to address them."
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To help business owners, here are the several tips Haiar offers for launching an online store.
- Mobile is the future. Since many of your potential customers use their mobile device as their primary gateway to the Web, it's essential to optimize your e-commerce site for mobile viewing. Purchasing products and services from a mobile device must be fast and easy. You don't have to be a development expert to create a site that is optimized for viewing across all device types – your hosting provider can give you pointers for getting a mobile-friendly site up and running quickly.
- Big data isn’t just for big business anymore. Today, e-commerce platforms can give you the insights you'll need to identify new trends and supercharge sales. Data analytics lets you predict customer demand and manage resources efficiently. An analytics solution that is fully integrated with your e-commerce site can enable seamless inventory management and real-time resource planning. Big data is transforming the way companies of all sizes manage their businesses and create strategies, so don't miss out.
- Customers expect a hyper-personalized experience. Everyone who has made a purchase from a big e-commerce site, like Amazon, knows that these companies use your purchasing and browsing behavior to make relevant offers the next time you visit the site. Personalizing the customer experience drives sales, and consumers have come to expect relevant offers and personal touches online. Make sure your e-commerce platform allows you to deliver a personalized experience online so that you can compete and win.
- Social media can be a huge business driver. Until recently, traditional companies considered social media a trendy marketing tool. Now, a new generation of customers is using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as their primary channels of communication, both in their personal lives and as consumers. Make sure you integrate the social media tools your customers are using into your e-commerce strategy to develop new leads and address customer service issues. It's an affordable way to engage customers and compete for business.
- Data protection levels are vitally important. Hacking is on the rise, as evidenced by high-profile incidents like the Target breach, which compromised the personal data of tens of millions of customers. If you're planning to operate your e-commerce site on the cloud, it pays to identify the applications that require elevated levels of security. It's also important to fully understand your obligations as a merchant who deals with sensitive data like credit card numbers and personally identifying information. A security lapse can result in a hefty fine – and a long-lasting deficit of consumer trust.
"By following these tips and finding the right partners, you can set yourself up for success in e-commerce," Haiar said.
Originally published on Business News Daily