Ok, so you have finally made up your mind to test the waters and sell products through an e-commerce store. Fair enough! But are you sure if a product will actually fly off your shelves or just gather dust in your warehouse? Learn the Step-by-Step guide for launching an ecommerce business through this post.
Worry not, you can actually find out how well a product will do in the area you wish to sell it before featuring it in your e-store thanks to the Google Adwords Keyword research tool.
Following are the steps for launching an ecommerce business-
Use the Google Adwords Keyword tool to know product demand
Let’s assume that you are planning to sell “Air Conditioners” in Chennai on your e-commerce store and you want to find out if there’s a sizeable market for Air Conditioners in that geographical location.
This tool will tell you the monthly volume of online searches for the term “Air Conditioners” and related terms/phrases by your prospective customers in Chennai.
So without further ado, let me show you how you can leverage this tool to reveal the demand for a product (in this case, Air Conditioners).
Here are the steps
- First, log on to this tool using your Gmail id and password. If you don’t have an Adwords account already, you can create one for free.
- Once you are successfully logged in, you will be taken to this screen (check the below screenshot). Then, click on the first option ‘Search for new keywords using a…” in that screen.
- Enter your keywords (‘Air Conditioner’) in the following screen and select the correct target location (in this case, Chennai).
(NOTE: Selecting the right target location is very important else it will show the monthly demand of a keyword for the whole world.)
The tool allows you to narrow down the search by changing the ‘Keyword options’. To change it, click on the edit icon, which then opens the following screen, where you can change the options by turning then ON/OFF.
For instance, if you turn all the options to ‘On’ and hit ‘Save’, the Keyword options section will look this.
If you only want specific keywords to appear in your search then click on the ‘Keywords to include’ option (check below screenshot), then a screen opens, where you can key in the keywords.
You can exclude certain keywords from the search result by entering the keywords in the ‘Negative keywords’ screen under Targeting.
Once you have selected and saved all your options, click on ‘Get Ideas’ button.
- This will take you to the next screen that shows you the average monthly search volume of the targeted keywords in the targeted geographical location. The left top corner displays the location that you are targeting.
- Now let’s take a closer look at the ‘Keyword Ideas’ tab (screenshot below). The first column displays the targeted keywords (Air Conditioner) along with the other search terms related to your target keywords. The second column shows the average number of searches carried out in a month for the keywords in your specified geographic location and the third column shows their competition.
So essentially the tool has revealed that that the term ‘Air Conditioner’ is being massively searched and the product is in high demand in Chennai.
But the third column ‘Competition’ also points to the fact that ‘Air Conditioner’ is a costly keyword to run ads on Google Adwords Pay-Per-Click (PPC) platform, which means many people are running ads on this keyword and advertising is going to be tough and expensive with it.
But on the flip side, you will be pleased to know that the additional keywords (with lesser competition and high search volumes such as air conditioning unit, ac unit, and central air conditioner) are equally useful for your e-commerce business.
These keywords offer a vast array of additional keyword ideas that you can utilize to run cost-effective, profitable Adwords PPC ads as well as generate content around it on your blog to drive a decent amount of traffic to your product pages.
Importance of E-commerce Platforms for launching an Ecommerce Business
The type of e-commerce platform that you choose will have a huge influence on the bottom line of your business as well as its sustainability.
Although there are several ways in which you can classify the e-commerce platforms, there are primarily two major types
- Self-hosted e-commerce platform
- Hosted or SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) e-commerce platform
Self-hosted e-commerce platform
This type of e-commerce platform can get expensive, as you will need developers for carrying out timely updates and maintenance of your e-commerce website.
In this type of platform, the e-commerce store owner has to find the hosting provider, perform the installation, and carry out the updates from time to time to the site. However, you have more control over your online store platform, its data analytics, and data security.
But this type of e-commerce platform is only recommended for highly intricate businesses that can afford higher expenses and lower profits.
Recommended self-hosted e-commerce platforms
Magento: Magento is arguably the best and robust self-hosted e-commerce platform out there that you can choose. However, this platform requires some basic web development experience; hence it is not recommended for the first-time e-commerce store owners with no coding experience.
This is more suited for professional businesses than beginners with zero experience.
WooCommerce: If you are comfortable with self-hosted WordPress (WP) sites, WooCommerce is the perfect fit for you. Essentially, it is just a ‘Free’ WordPress plugin that you can install on your WP site.
Even though it’s a WP plugin, it’s not less potent than any other self-hosted platforms. It also has a responsive helpdesk to have your technical queries answered.
It can power e-stores of any size, so it is appropriate for both beginners and experienced store owners alike.
PrestaShop: This may not be as popular as the previous two platforms, but this is an extremely easy-to-use, free open-source platform that powers more than 250,000 e-commerce stores across the world.
It has powerful features to build a full-fledged e-store and a user-friendly interface. So, if you are looking for a free, open-source platform for your first e-commerce store, look no beyond PrestaShop.
Hosted or SaaS e-commerce platform
This option is much simpler than the self-hosted model because you outsource the responsibility of managing your online store to a SaaS provider. And it also turns out to be a much cost-effective option as the development costs are much lower.
Every aspect of managing your e-commerce stores such as hosting, updates, maintenance, security and other tasks are the taken care of by the SaaS provider.
Recommended Hosted or SaaS e-commerce platforms
Some of the leading names in hosted platforms are Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion. In fact, these three are collectively known as the ‘The Big Three’ in e-commerce world.
Of course, the quality comes at a price, which means all these three platforms are paid ones.
But they are suited for stores of any size and it’s needless to mention that they offer the best ROI (Return-on-Investment) thanks to their powerful and intuitive features and user-friendly interface.
However, if you are on a shoe-string budget and just starting out, then a free platform like Storenvy would be your best bet. But here’s the trade-off. Unlike the e-stores utilizing The Big Three platforms, your products will be featured along with the Storenvy products in their marketplace.
But there’s an advantage too, your products will get extra visibility from the Storenvy customer base. Although it’s free, the Storenvy platform cannot be discounted. It powers more than 100,000 online brands to sell their stuff. It also offers a remarkable developer API.
And if you can spend $5/month, you can get a custom domain on this platform.
Is your e-commerce store tapping mobile customers?
With more than 50% of the internet users accessing the web on their mobile devices, you are leaving money on the table if your e-commerce store is not primed for the mobile audience.
With an unprecedented increase in mobile phone purchases in recent times, you will lose out on a huge chunk of revenue by not making your e-commerce mobile-friendly.
In 2017, 62% of web users bought products online on their mobile devices and 80% used it for product research. Hence, apart from being merely mobile-compliant, your mobile e-commerce site must be geared to offer the BEST user experience to your customers.
Remember, mobile buyers, are a fussy lot. They will instantly switch to your competitor when faced with even the slightest hassle in their shopping experience.
That’s why I’ve listed some useful tips on how you can give the best mobile e-commerce (a.k.a. m-commerce) experience to your visitors.
- Highly Adaptable – Your mobile e-commerce site must be designed to adapt and provide a rich user-experience on any mobile device that it’s accessed on.
- Appropriately-sized Elements –Make sure all the buttons, links, and calls-to-action are of the appropriate size, easy to locate and tap.
- Easy to Access Phone Numbers – Your m-commerce visitors must be able to easily tap the phone numbers provided on your m-commerce site to give you a call or to copy and paste to share it with a friend.
- Use more Graphical Content – As mobile e-commerce sites are accessed on a much smaller screen and on the move, people prefer more visual content than reading blocks of drawn-out text.
- Easy Navigation – Provide navigation items that are easy to read and tap.
- Easy–to-fill Contact Forms – Make form fields appropriately sized and easy-to-fill for the users.
Why are product reviews important for an e-commerce site?
Studies reveal that 20 to 50 percent of all buying decisions are influenced by product testimonials and customer ratings. Research also suggests that 87% of buyers choose a local service after reading online reviews.
Hence it’s quintessential for your e-commerce site to have a mechanism to record and display customer reviews and ratings of your users. And how do you achieve that? By installing a product-review or customer review software (e.g. G2 Crowd, TRUSTist REVIEWer, Bazaarvoice, etc).
Apart from gathering valuable customer testimonials, customer review software programs have some cool SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefits as well. It helps in improving your site’s search engine rankings thereby increasing online visibility and traffic.
Your e-commerce store visitors love to hear the opinions of others who have already bought and tried a product. Their purchasing decisions are hugely influenced by the user-generated content and online WOM (Word-of-Mouth) found on your website.
That’s why social proof indicators, customer reviews and product ratings on your website play a vital role in converting a cold visitor into a loyal, repeating customer.
People trust a website with good reviews and ratings – it’s as simple as that.
If there are numerous positive feedback and reviews, your site appears popular and genuine to the visitors. Your e-commerce store will be perceived as a place that only sells high-quality products. And best of all, it eliminates the apprehensions of a first-time buyer.
How to write product descriptions that SELL!
Here are some useful tips to make your product descriptions persuasive.
- Be focused and directly address your buyer and write it with a personal, conversational tone. You must be well aware of the tone appreciated by your target buyer. You must know if they appreciate humor or they are outright formal. Most importantly, you must answer the queries that your target buyer has in mind through the description.
A great example of such conversational description is this LED Flashlight description that I found at ThinkGeek.
- List out the benefits NOT features and specs. Your buyers are not interested in wasting time by reading the monotonous features of a product. They just want to know how a product is going to benefit them or solve a problem.
This antibacterial cleaner sold at MethodHome.com nails it perfectly,
- Be as specific as possible and avoid generic phrases like “Great Quality Product”. For instance, if you are selling a pair of shoes, list out the technical details and its benefits instead of just describing blandly as an excellent pair of shoes. It tends to come across as cheesy and less persuasive.
This Item Information of at Zappos.com is worth following
- If you are using superlatives like “excellent”, “Most outstanding”, “The best” and the like, make sure you also justify them.
Here’s how Amazon justifies why their ‘Paperwhite’ is the most high-tech e-reader in the world!
- Try to stir the imagination of your visitors through your product description. Studies reveal that if a person can feel and hold a product before buying, it increases the desire to own it. But since you cannot offer tangibility through an e-commerce store, try to evoke imagination in your visitor through your product descriptions.
The folks at ThinkGeek.com pull that off beautifully in this Toaster description
E-Commerce SEO Do’s and Don’ts
- Add Unique Product description – You must provide a unique product description for each product. Apart from the SEO advantage, it dramatically improves the overall user experience. Just an image of the product is not sufficient for the search engine bots to identify a product.
- Add Product Review Feature – If your site has no mechanism to record and display product reviews of your customers, it affects the trust factor or brand equity. Search engines love user-generated content and give higher precedence to such sites with plenty of user-generated content in the search results pages. Most importantly, people find those sites more reliable that has product reviews of customers who have actually bought and used a product.
- Make your Site Faster – Faster loading sites get ranked higher in the search results pages. So make sure that your site loads quickly when it is accessed by a user.
- Search Accuracy – Make sure you have a robust search algorithm in place on your e-commerce site. This will not only improves the user experience but also helps in improving the search ranking. Make your product data as accurate as possible. This improves search relevance, which is an important SEO signal for enhancing the search engine ranking.
- Never Copy Product Descriptions – Copying product descriptions on your e-store can be the kiss of death for your site. Your site can get blacklisted by search engines for plagiarism, and get weeded out of the search results.
- Never duplicate your Own Content – It is equally detrimental to duplicate your own content on several pages. Search engines see this at par with plagiarism.
- Never go overboard with Pop-ups – Get rid of intrusive pop-ups. It affects your search ranking. Yes, you can add pop-ups on your site, but only on relevant pages. Unwanted pop-ups can also affect the whole user experience of your visitors.
- Don’t use Automated Description Generators – This may save time in the short term, but in the long run, it is going to affect the overall user experience of your site. Google frowns upon those sites that offer poor user experience to their users, which ultimately affects your site’s position in the search results.
Market your e-commerce brand on social media prior to the launch!
It is always a great idea to obtain some visibility and fan following for your e-commerce site prior to its launch. What better way to do that than through social media!
Yes, social media if rightly leveraged can offer great exposure to your e-commerce brand and help create brand awareness among your target customers.
Choose the right social media
This is paramount! Not all social media will work for your brand, so choose the one that best suits your brand. If your e-commerce site is all about visual appeal, then photo-centric social networks like Instagram and Pinterest are ideal.
Instagram or Pinterest?
Instagram allows you to capture and share your own photos and videos.
So if you are looking for a visual marketing platform that allows you to give an up-close and personal view of your business, then Instagram is the best, whereas if you are mainly looking to curate content created by others for your audience then Pinterest is the perfect marketing tool for that.
With Pinterest, you can also curate the content of your own blog posts or web pages and direct users to your landing pages. But with Instagram, you can provide a link only in your Bio section.
If your target customers are females then Pinterest is the right place to promote your stuff. Women comprise 70 percent of Pinterest users.
Among these users, 56 percent are in the age group of 18 to 34 years. Instagram has a global demographic with an even representation of men and women on their platform.
With more than 50 percent of users outside the United States, two-thirds of the users are in the age range of 18 and 34 on Instagram.
Leveraging Videos before launching an ecommerce business
You can also harness the power of YouTube by creating video reviews of your products before the launch. Having said that, managing social network accounts is time-consuming, so only choose the ones that you can devote time and manage properly.
Animoto, GoAnimate, Powtoon, Sellamations, and VideoScribe are some of the cool video creation tools that you can try out to create engaging online videos for your target audience.
Prepare your social network fan page
Once you have created your social network page, deck it up with a profile, profile pic, and photos. Publish some relevant posts on it so that the visitors will have something to check out when they first land on your page.
Here’s a neat yet simple marketing-bait idea to increase the number of followers or likes on your social media pages.
Offer a 20% discount on the first purchase for following your page or liking it. And once they do it, reveal the coupon code that your follower/fan can avail the 20% discount on their first order.
You can run this as a Pay-Per-Click ad or as an ad on your own site or 3rd party sites.
Start building followers
To be frank, this is the hardest part of all! Acquiring your first hundred followers can be the most daunting task. But believe me; if you are ready to approach this task with discipline and put in some quality time to your social media accounts every day, this task is not insurmountable.
In order to build the followers, you must promote your pages. If you have a friend who has a popular blog or a social media account you can ask him to share your page there. You can also share it on your own social media pages, blogs, or run online ads to build a fan following.
Here are a couple of positive social media testimonials
Here’s a Facebook testimonial of a happy Ford customer who switched to a Ford model from a different brand due to its space, safety, and security features.
Here’s another FB testimonial of a satisfied customer of an apparel company.
Steps to set up your first Google Adwords Ad campaign
- Go to http://adwords.google.com and log into your Adwords account using your Gmail id and password. You need a Gmail account to use Adwords.
- Once you are logged in, you will see the following screen. In the first two sections of the screen, you can specify your daily budget, target locations where your ad will be shown, the networks where you want the ad to run on, and the target keywords that will trigger the ad.
- The third section is about setting your bid strategy. A bid is nothing but the maximum you are willing to pay for a click on your ad. You can let Adwords do the bidding automatically for you or change it to “I’ll set my bids manually” option, where you can set the bid by yourself. Please check the screenshot below.
- This is where things get exciting! In this step, you will write your first Adwords ad. In the first textbox, you have to key in your landing page address. A landing page is where the user will land upon clicking your ad. The remaining three fields are self-explanatory. You can instantly see how your ad looks in the Ad Preview. (Check the below screenshot)
Let me conclude
Right from the keyword research and types of e-commerce platforms to product reviews and marketing your e-commerce store, every element discussed in this post has a vital part to play in creating a sustainable online store. They are pieces of a puzzle that you cannot ignore!
However, the goal of this post was to give you a general overview of how to get started with your e-commerce business. And I’m sure I was able to accomplish that and shed some light on some of the fundamental points of starting an e-commerce store, although I just scratched the surface.
Read this also: 6 Questions You Should Ask Before Starting Ecommerce Business