Small Business Ecommerce: how to go digital in a big marketplace

Written By
January 11, 2024

Have you been thinking about dipping your toes in the vast ocean of ecommerce? There's never been a better time. In the wake of pandemic-spurred shifts and technological advances, the digital marketplace has seen explosive growth. But how does a small business break into this big market without getting lost in the crowd? Let's navigate through this together.

Know Your Why: The Ecommerce Advantage

Why Ecommerce?

Let's start with the why. Ecommerce opens up a world of opportunities. You're no longer limited to customers who can physically visit your store; your potential market just went global! Not to mention, ecommerce runs around the clock. Your online store can be making sales while you're catching some much-needed Z's.

Ecommerce vs Brick-and-Mortar

That's not to say brick-and-mortar stores are going extinct. Physical stores still offer value, like personal customer service and the ability to see and touch products. However, an ecommerce presence is an excellent way to complement your physical store and reach more customers.

Laying the Foundation: Building Your Ecommerce Store

Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform

There are plenty of ecommerce platforms out there, but not all are created equal. Some are perfect for beginners, with easy-to-use interfaces and templates, while others offer more customization but require more tech know-how. Consider factors like cost, ease of use, customization options, payment gateways, and customer service.

Designing Your Online Store

The design of your online store plays a critical role in attracting and retaining customers. It should be visually appealing, easy to navigate, and reflect your brand's personality. A well-organized site with clear product descriptions, quality images, and an easy checkout process can make shopping a breeze for your customers.

Ensuring a Secure Shopping Experience

Online shoppers want to know that their personal information is safe. Therefore, ensure your website is secure with features like SSL certificates, two-factor authentication, and data encryption. Trust badges can also reassure customers that their data is secure.

Making Your Mark: Marketing Your Ecommerce Store

SEO: Making Your Store Search Engine Friendly

You've got a shiny new online store, but how do people find it? This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. SEO involves optimizing your website so it ranks higher in search engine results, making it easier for people to find your store.

Social Media and Email Marketing

Social media and email marketing are great ways to promote your online store. You can engage with customers, promote products, and even offer special deals. Remember, consistency and quality content is key.

Customer Service: Creating a Positive Shopping Experience

Great customer service can set your small business apart in the big ecommerce market. Be responsive to customer inquiries, resolve issues promptly, and consider adding a live chat feature to your online store. A positive shopping experience can turn first-time buyers into loyal customers.

Starting your ecommerce journey may seem daunting, but the potential rewards are worth it. So, dive in and start making waves in the digital marketplace!

Decoding the Ecommerce Jargon: Understanding Key Terms

Decoding Ecommerce Terms

To swim in the ecommerce ocean, you need to speak its language. Terms like "conversion rate," "bounce rate," "shopping cart abandonment," and "retargeting" are just some of the key terms you'll need to familiarize yourself with. Understanding these will help you measure your store's performance and make data-driven decisions.

Ecommerce Analytics: Your Best Friend

Ecommerce platforms typically offer a range of analytics tools. These tools can provide you with key insights about your customers' behavior, your best-selling products, and areas where you can improve. Regularly checking your analytics can help you understand what's working and what isn't, so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Shipping and Fulfillment: Delivering the Goods

Shipping: More Than Just a Postage Stamp

Shipping is an integral part of the ecommerce experience, yet it's often overlooked. Customers expect fast, reliable, and affordable shipping. While, as a small business, you might not be able to compete with the delivery speeds of giants like Amazon, you can still provide a reliable and transparent shipping service. Be upfront about your shipping costs and times, and consider offering free shipping over a certain purchase amount as an incentive.

Fulfillment: Getting Your Products from A to B

Fulfillment involves everything from storing your products and packing orders to shipping and handling returns. While some small businesses handle fulfillment in-house, others outsource to third-party logistics providers. Consider your business's needs and resources when deciding on a fulfillment strategy.

Legal Considerations: Navigating the Rules of Ecommerce

Privacy Policies and Terms and Conditions

When running an ecommerce store, you're dealing with sensitive customer information. Make sure you have clear privacy policies in place and comply with all relevant data protection regulations. Similarly, your website should have Terms and Conditions that outline the rules and guidelines for using your online store.

Ecommerce Regulations: The Law of the Digital Land

Ecommerce regulations can vary by country, so it's crucial to understand the laws that apply to your business. This might include regulations around online sales, digital marketing, and international shipping. When in doubt, consult with a legal expert to ensure you're complying with all necessary regulations.

Taking it Global: Selling Internationally

Going Global: The Ecommerce Frontier

Once you've established your online store in Canada, you might consider expanding internationally. Selling to customers overseas can significantly increase your market. However, international ecommerce also comes with its challenges, like shipping logistics, tax regulations, and cultural differences.

Localization: Speaking Your Customers' Language

If you're selling internationally, localization is key. This involves more than just translating your website into a different language. It also means adapting your content and marketing strategies to appeal to different cultures.

Setting up an ecommerce store is no small task, but with careful planning, a strong understanding of your market, and a commitment to providing a great customer experience, your small business can thrive in the big ecommerce market. So, what are you waiting for? It's time to dive into the exciting world of ecommerce!

Engaging Your Customers: Building Relationships in the Virtual World

In the digital world, customer engagement is key. This could involve engaging with customers on social media, sending personalized email newsletters, or providing excellent customer service.

Consider implementing a loyalty program to reward repeat customers or ask for reviews and feedback to show that you value your customers' opinions. Always strive to provide a personalized experience - remember, just because your business is online doesn't mean it has to be impersonal.

Establishing Your Credibility Online

Trust plays a crucial role in ecommerce. Customers need to feel confident that their sensitive information is secure and that they'll receive the products they order.

Make sure your website is secure (HTTPS), provide clear information about your shipping and return policies, and showcase customer reviews and testimonials. If customers trust your business, they're more likely to make a purchase and become repeat customers.

Ecommerce is a thrilling journey. It may seem daunting initially, but with careful planning and strategic decisions, your small business can establish a robust online presence. So, embrace the challenge and get ready to take your business to new digital heights!

Mastering Product Presentation

In the world of eCommerce, you don't have the luxury of customers being able to touch, hold, or try on your products. So, you need to bring them to life as best you can through stellar product presentation. High-quality photographs from multiple angles, engaging product descriptions, and perhaps even videos can all help potential buyers understand your product and make that all-important decision to buy.

Embracing Omnichannel Selling

While having your eCommerce store is great, in today's digital age, customers love to have choices. That's where omnichannel selling comes in. Besides your online store, consider selling on popular marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram also offer selling features. By being present across multiple channels, you increase your visibility and chances of attracting customers.

Looking Ahead: Preparing for the Future of eCommerce

As with any business venture, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for success in eCommerce. Keep an eye on emerging trends, changing customer preferences, and new technologies in the eCommerce space.

Whether it's adopting augmented reality (AR) for virtual try-ons, embracing AI for personalized recommendations, or exploring new payment options like cryptocurrencies, being open to innovation can give your business a competitive edge.

Making the leap to eCommerce is no small feat, but with the right approach, you can carve out your own slice of the digital market. After all, in the words of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." So, why not take the shot at eCommerce and score a goal for your small business?

In Conclusion

Transitioning your small business into the digital market might seem daunting, but it's a journey well worth taking. The world of eCommerce opens up a world of opportunities, from reaching a global audience to operating 24/7. So, roll up your sleeves, buckle up, and prepare for an exciting eCommerce journey ahead. With persistence, creativity, and a customer-centric approach, your small business can indeed make a big splash in the digital market.