Over the past few years, you may have noticed a bit of a surge in the number of successful online businesses popping up in Ireland…
Well, we certainly have anyway. Since launching Irish Parcels, we’ve noticed that a huge portion of our customers are online retailers, spanning an infinite amount of industries. We have gluten-free snack companies, artisan dog treat retailers and a bespoke crystal gift website (to name just a few) sending their parcels with us.
And although the level of eCommerce retailers in Ireland, does not exactly match that of the UK and Worldwide just yet, we are definitely catching up.
Online retail presents huge opportunities for new budding Irish entrepreneurs with a bright business idea, as well as for already existing off-line stores in Ireland who want to reach new markets.
Among many other benefits, selling online is the best way for Irish businesses to profit outside the small domestic market. In a study, reported on by the Irish Times earlier this year, the author noted that among online retailers in Ireland “an average of 33 per cent of revenue came from international customers.”
So, with that in mind, we’ve put together some top tips for anyone out there who is currently running, or thinking about running an eCommerce business.
1. Hire specialists
Even if you’re pretty sure you could build an eCommerce website yourself and do an OK, job of it – JUST DON’T EVEN BOTHER. Consumers are very selective about buying online and are more likely to purchase from a website that looks good and functions well. Prepare to spend at the start in order to save in the long run.
In addition, freeing yourself from the design and set-up also allows you to focus other important aspects of the getting the business off the ground.
2. Your process is more important than your product
Related to the above point – your purchasing process must be absolutely, completely and utterly straightforward and user friendly. If you have a complicated and unsecure shopping cart, you will cut your online customers in half, at least. The functionality of your eCommerce website is the most important part of your online business.
3. Carve your niche
The most successful independent online businesses are the ones that have a specialist product or service that serves a very distinct cross section of the community. There are a few reasons for this; the more unconventional your business is, the fewer competitors you will have and you will therefore rank higher in Google for your search terms. Businesses that appeal to everyone – for instance an online clothes store that has products for men, women and children of all ages – will be competing with ASOS and other high street brands, making it harder to stand out and succeed.
4. Find out if the demand exists
Once you’ve carved your niche, assess the market size and value. This can be a real turning point for a lot of potential retailers. Some will find that the market they want to target doesn’t exist or is too small to generate profit and others will find that their market is double the size that they expected. There are a few ways to find your market size. You can use Google’s Adword Keyword tools and you can also use Facebook’s advertising tools to get a rough figure.
5. Know your customer inside out and back to front
Once you are sure there’s a market for your business, get to know that customer as well your husband or wife. Know their age, their gender, where they are from, their hobbies, interests, what websites they like to visit, what their job is, their online purchasing habits and how many times a day they go to the toilet. This will make it so much easier to market to your customers. And with that in mind…
6. Accept that you will have to spend money on marketing
If your business, product or service solves a big question that is currently unanswered, your customers will find you. If not (which is the case for most small businesses) you will have to go in search of your customers through marketing. You will need to spend money on advertising, PR and email marketing etc, if you want your business to grow.
7. Focus on SEO from the start
Make search engine optimisation a priority from the beginning because if you’re not visible online, you’re not found. Good SEO helps you reach the customers who are looking for you – these are your most valuable customers as they have an already existing need/desire for your product. If you’re not clued in on SEO, hire an expert, as mistakes can often damage your website and brand.
Having a blog section of your website is hugely beneficial. For one, it allows you to relay more information about your product or service to your customers. It also allows you to build an audience that you can convert into customers. If you write on topics you’re knowledgeable about, you will be trusted by readers and potential customers, and as readers share your blog posts across social media, you will reach a much wider audience.
9. Set up your social profiles ASAP
If you intend to run an online business, you need to have a presence on all the main social media channels. Sign up and secure your business name as soon as possible. Social media is a way to engage with your audience and share information with them on a constant basis.
Advertising on Facebook can help you reach new audiences and acquire new customers. Social media allows businesses to be creative and show personality, which for a customer, could be the difference between you and your a competitor.
10. Set up a review system and listen to the feedback
To have longevity as a business, you need to be fulfilling your customers’ needs and evolving with them. If you’re not listening to their concerns and adapting to suit them, you will stay in the same place as your customers move forward and into the arms of a competitor. To best understand your customers, set up a review platform. There are so many ways to do this – you can ask them to leave Google reviews on your Google business profile, you can ask them to leave reviews on Facebook, or a comment on your website after purchase. The best way, however, is to use a platform like Trustpilot which is independent and therefore more open, honest and credible.
And of course…
11. Don’t waste money on shipping
Every business person knows that it’s the small expenses that add up and prevent you from making a profit. For the majority of eCommerce businesses in Ireland, shipping represents a huge portion of overall expenses – especially international shipping, as prices are simply not competitive and there’s no choice but to fork over hundreds of Euros. To help you cut back on shipping expenses, switch to Irish Parcels. We have helped businesses save as much as 60% on their shipping costs. We compare major couriers and bring you the best price and fastest delivery time for your parcels. For more information on how Irish Parcels can help you, click here.
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