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12 ways to launch a successful online business

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Launching an e-commerce website is easy.

Find some stuff to sell, buy a website in a box (or just create an eBay account), upload your logo and you're live. You have an e-commerce website.

What you don't have is an e-commerce Business. While launching a successful e-commerce business includes all of that, it also requires much more.

Buy an established website and - should you choose wisely - you'll inherit a business that is already trading and making a profit.  

Whether you've bought an existing business or plan to launch a website from scratch, here 12 tips for building a profitable e-commerce platform:

  1. Do understand your business structure - will you be online only? Are you going to sell only via Etsy or eBay? Or do you have a shop as well? 
  2. Don't try and sell everything on day one. Most successful e-commerce businesses sell a focused range of products, so decide where you're going to focus yours.
  3. Do  identify your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), and make sure it's clear to your customers in everything you do. So if customer service is everything - make sure your phones are manned when your customers want to speak to you!
  4. Don't  buy the wrong website. However big or old your business is, your website needs to be fit for purpose. Don't buy a five-figure site if you're only going to sell four-figures worth of products in year one. 
  5. Do  spend on good hosting. If your website doesn't work or is too slow, your customers won't buy - so don't scrimp on your hosting fees. Plus, site speed will affect how much search-engine traffic you get too!
  6. Don't  assume that just because you have a website you'll get customers. Putting a website live is not the same as opening a shop. When you open a shop you already have people walking by on the pavement. You don't have that online.
  7. Do  create a marketing plan. Even if it's only for three months at a time, outlining your marketing plan will really help you keep focused and give you time to spot the opportunities.
  8. Don't  be afraid to build you business around your strengths. If you have a background in PR then make the most of that in your marketing. If you love writing, then create a brilliant blog, or if photography is your thing make your products look amazing.
  9. Don't  relying too heavily on one marketing method - you have to use a mix of marketing approaches to succeed. Playing to your marketing strengths is great, but very few e-commerce businesses have been built on one marketing tactic alone - so you need to use at least three if not more. Media include email, PR, PPC, blogging, video, direct mail and more.
  10. Don't  forget to capture customer data. On day one you might not be planning on using postcards to drive sales - but you might one day, so start collecting those addresses and the permission to use them!
  11. Do  include an email sign-up form on your website. 
  12. Don't  forget to install Google Analytics on your website, including the e-commerce conversion tracking - you need that data to plan year two!

By following these tips you'll have much more than an e-commerce website; you'll have an e-commerce business.

The author has also written the  eCommerce MasterPlan  and owns online marketing agency indiumonline

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