“If you build it, they will come” may work in the movies but in e-commerce sites this is rarely the case. It takes some careful planing from the start to create a web site that will attract and maintain a customer base. Here are 5 tips that can help you develop your site, particularly if you’re on a limited budget.
1. Do Your Research
Have you done enough preliminary research into the niche you’re attempting to enter? If it is already dominated by a single big site, several mid-sized sites, or thousands of other small sites you will want to narrow and maybe even totally redefine your target market. I’ve seen several people throw good money away trying to be the next Amazon or trying to sell the same thing that everyone else who saw that late night informercial is trying to sell. Look for ignored, but critical, sub-markets that you can exploit. Take advantage of weak customer service by larger companies. If your target market is crowded, find things that can make you different from the rest of the pack.
2. Consider Seasonal Operations
Make sure that your product will sell well enough year round to justify the expense of running a full service e-commerce site. If your product is seasonal consider using a temporary store front like eBay Stores or other Internet mall site rather than maintaining your own site. Another alternative would be to change the type of merchandise you sell from season to season. This is a bit tougher to do but can work in some market niches.
3. Check Out Your Competitors
Take the time to visit your competitors’ web sites. See how they operate on a look and feel basis. What works, what doesn’t. If you were them what would you do to improve the customer experience. Write down your ideas, rating each feature on a scale of 1 (must have) to 5 (nice, but don’t need). Then take them and use them to chart out the site you want to develop. Be prepared to drop the weaker, more difficult, or less important ideas. Pretty soon you’ll have a good, basic, specification for your own site.
4. Pick a Good Domain Name
Pick a web site domain name that fits your business. Generally 1 to 2 word names with a .com extension (aka TLD or top level domain) work the best. Try to stay under 25 characters total. If your business is cutting edge, consider dropping vowels or other clever tricks to invent a new name. If your idea needs a business professional touch, you may want to stick with something less whimsical. If you can, buy several domains that make your final cut. That way you’ll have some flexibility in which name you use. You can always resell your unused domains.
For some help brainstorming about a name, try DomainsBot. This is a very good interactive tool where you can try out names and check the availability at the same time.
5. Get Help If You Need It
If you’re not a web designer/developer yourself you may need to seek some help in developing your site. Today you can buy offshore help for a low price that can help you do this. It is best to work through an established broker agency since they will help make sure the work gets done and you’re not being scammed. Another source might be a local technical college where a student might be willing to work cheaply in order to build their experience.