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Today's digital economy is a key driver for innovation and competitiveness, leveling the playing field for Small to Medium businesses. This makes the business landscape very interesting and disruptive. We have learned from experience that transformation comes not from only within, but several market forces and drivers, including competitive measures, regulatory environments & prevailing economic conditions. SME's and Corner Retailers in particular need to leverage digital strategies and tools to gain a competive edge versus their larger competitors. While being Small helps being nimble and agile, ability to adopt and drive digital technologies is paramount in gaining a competive edge and level the playing field !!
So you want to start an online retail store to expand your brick and mortar establishment? Often, the largest obstacle that business owners face is being unfamiliar with the how and process of executing it: they are trying to figure out not only how to start an online retail business but what needs to be done to get there.
So here are ten easy steps to learn how to open an online store, whether you already sell products in a brick-and-mortar location or you're starting an online business from scratch:
> Step 1: The Business Plan: Would you open a brick and mortar business without a business plan? You should not attempt to start an online retail store without one either. A business plan for an online business should include the approach that will be used for financing, marketing, and advertising of the business.
> Step 2: Choosing an Online Retail Business Structure: After establishing a plan for your online business, you will need to choose an appropriate business structure. If you are unsure of the structure that is best for your company, consider the tax benefits and requirements of each.
> Step 3: Choosing the Products You Will Sell: While your business plan probably outlined the general types of products you want to sell, this step entails a much more thorough list of your offerings. You should include the different products, as well as their unique colors, sizes, or other features. Also diligently choose the fast moving versus slow moving goods you want to feature on your site.
> Step 4: Getting Bar Codes for Your Products: To efficiently manage inventory, you will need UPC bar codes for each item you are selling. Does your product come in different sizes, colors, or patterns? You will need a separate barcode for each product, with each combination of features.
> Step 5: Building Inventory: If you are just establishing yourself online, you will need to have a decent sized inventory of products. This is true regardless of whether your ecommerce store is your only storefront or if you have a physical location as well. Nothing can make an online business lose money quite like having a surplus of backed up orders.
> Step 6: Choosing a Domain Name and Hosting a Website: First, you must choose a hosting provider (ApneDukaan can assist here). You also have the option of purchasing a domain name and setting up a site yourself. However, this requires an understanding of technical processes that many business owners may not have. ApneDukaan can provide you this affordably and quickly.
> Step 7: Building the Commerce Application: You will need to choose a Mcommerce provider for your website & application. This includes setting up the theme, headers, product categories, and more. You will also need to organize your products into categories, and decide whether you want to include sections such as About Us or a company blog to attract customers to your site.
> Step 8: Setting up the Shopping Cart: If you choose to go with an ecommerce platform (ApneDukaan) to help you with your online retail business, setting up the shopping cart should not be difficult. Choosing a secure, reliable and feature rich platform is paramount.
> Step 9: Launching, Advertising, and Marketing: Once your business has been established, your products are ready for sale, and all the bugs have been worked out of the site, you are ready for the official launch. After the launch, you will need to work hard on your ecommerce marketing and advertising strategies to grow your base of loyal customers.
> Step 10: Maintaining the Business: Once everything is up and running, the final step actually this is a step you'll do every day for the whole life of your online business is maintaining your business. This includes continuing to manage the company inventory, make decisions about new and discontinued products, and providing customer service that will keep customers coming back for more. Finally, this will require you to market using techniques such as promotions, sales, emails, and more so that your business continues in its success.
For years, a lot of learned folks have tried to answer this one question: What do small businesses that achieve sustained growth do differently from those that do not grow?
As a senior consultants, we speak to thousands of business owners each year. We've learned that there are no silver bullets or 17-point checklists that will lead to guaranteed growth. There are, however, seven specific areas in which growth companies concentrate their efforts.
Here is a list of the top 7 domains Small Business need to concentrate to succeed:
> 1. Strong sense of purpose: Most leaders of companies that have achieved growth discover that it takes more than the promise of increasing financial reward to fuel their aspirations and ambitions. They find a higher calling than simply the pursuit of "more money".
> 2. Outstanding market intelligence: This is an organization's ability to first recognize, then adapt, to fundamental changes in the marketplace. Many times, small-business owners become too myopic, seeing only a limited view of the markets in which they compete. Growth leaders see the bigger picture.
> 3. Effective growth planning: This is the best predictor of whether or not a business will grow. To be effective, a plan for growth does not need to be overly formal or complicated. However, it does need to be written, well-communicated and regularly updated.
> 4. Customer-driven processes: These days, every company we talk to believes it is customer-driven, when actually very few really are. Take a look at all of the business processes from a customer's perspective. Are they in place to make it easier for the company, or to help deliver on the promise of faster, cheaper and better for the customer?
> 5. The power of technology: Successful leaders don't let the boom and bust of technology cycles give them the excuse to ignore that we live in an information age. If a company is in business, it is in the technology business.
> 6. The best and brightest people: Growth leaders recognize that they are only as good as the people with whom they work. The ability to hire, train and retain the best and the brightest people is often the difference between success and failure.
7. Seeing the future: Few organizations take the time to regularly consider the future. Growth leaders learn how to diligently monitor and interpret the macro forces of change affecting the world in which they live.
Consumers today have more places and ways to shop than ever. And they have increasingly shorter attention spans. So if you have an ecommerce business, and you want online shoppers to buy from you, you need to be able to quickly attract their attention and make the shopping experience pleasant and easy.
So what can ecommerce businesses do to help ensure that the online shopping experience is a pleasant one? Following are 12 ways to create a customer experience that will have consumers buying from you and coming back for more.
> 1. Make sure your site loads quickly, whether on a computer or a mobile device. Aim to keep website load time to [a few] seconds or less.
> 2. Focus on navigation and don't forget about site search. Customers should be able to easily navigate an organization's website.
> 3. Remember that a good photo can be worth a thousand words. Don't underestimate the power of high quality photographs of products.
> 4. Less is often more when it comes to content. When it comes to content online, the 'less is more' adage often holds true.
> 5. Include customer reviews. Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than a marketing piece from an organization
> 6. Use color psychology. Pay attention to color psychology when planning your color scheme.
7. Let customers know if an item is in stock, or what the backorder date is, right on the product page. If you're selling a tangible product, make sure your shoppers know early on about stock availability and delivery options.
8. Make it easy for customers to contact you, get a quote or sign up for email. Make it easy to find contact information on your website.
9. Offer live chat. One of my top tips for improving the online customer experience is to allow customers to real-time chat with you.
10. Provide a self-service option or FAQ page. According to Aspect research, 73 percent of consumers said they should have the ability to solve most product or service issues on their own.
11. Make checking out simple – and allow shoppers to save their carts. One of the most important things that most online retailers fail to do, which greatly affects CXM, is not making the cart process streamlined and easy.
12. Offer free shipping where possible. Customers love free shipping. As long as you can absorb the cost, offering free shipping is a must to stay competitive nowadays as an online store.
Statistics show that, on average, most companies lose half of their customers every five years. It's true that acquiring new customers will help your business grow.
However, your current customers are the lifeblood of your business and keeping them happy should be your highest priority. Here are a few ways to make sure your customers keep coming back.
> Many business owners mistakenly believe that customers choose to patronize other companies solely because of better prices. While pricing can be a concern, customers often head to the competition when they don't feel valued. A change of lifestyle may have also created a situation where customers no longer need your product. By staying in touch with their needs, you might be able to adjust your offering to continue servicing them.
> Know your customer's top priority. Maybe it's reliability or speed or cost. Your company should know your customer's No. 1 priority and consistently deliver it. Remember, customers' desires change frequently, so ask yourself this question every six months.
> Acknowledge the lifetime value of customers. The lifetime value of your customers is the income you would gain if a customer stayed with you as long as they could possibly buy your product or service. For example, the lifetime value of a customer employing a financial adviser could be several decades and could span several generations. Treat the parents well and you could win the children's business.
> Create a positive first impression. Good first impressions tend to generate loyal customers, and you get only one chance to make a positive first impression. Appearance is important. The exterior and interior of your business should be neat and clean.
> Listen to the customer. Employees should listen actively to customers. Reassure your customers that you genuinely want to help them. Customers will judge your business based on the politeness, empathy, effort and honesty of your staff.
> Address and resolve complaints quickly and effectively. Inevitably, your employees will encounter unsatisfied customers. Whether they're returning an item or changing a service, customers expect a fair policy. If you cannot offer a resolution immediately, let the customer know when he or she can expect an answer.
In today's market, not only is change happening quickly, it's forcing businesses themselves to change quickly. It's a constant flow of innovation, disruption - and sometimes chaos - that is moving us ahead, even faster than we ever imagined. Many say agility is the key to surviving in the age of technological hairpin turns. In fact, 68% of companies identify agility as one of their most important initiatives. But what does agility really mean? And how can it help you survive in the current landscape, moreso while transforming with the digital economy?
The definition of transformational agility is "the ability to move quickly and easily through digital transformation". You might wonder, in a business sense, how well your company is achieving that definition? Lots of things go into creating an agile work environment: Size - Shape - Culture - Governance - Technology Readiness. And all must align with your vision if you want to succeed in a meaningful way. A few key qualities of agile businesses, and tips for incorporating them into your company are described beside.Contact our analysts to start your Transformation Journey
> Focus On Continuous Improvement
The proverbial nail in any business coffin is in bold words, "That's how we've always done it." The most successful companies today are ones that are constantly seeking to improve their processes, most specifically the ones that deal with customer journeys. Change, than be stubborn to move ahead to succeed in the here and now - much less the future.
> Be Obsessed With Customer Experience (CX)
Continuous improvement doesn't just mean making processes faster. It means making every interaction that you have with your customer - be it on social media, through a chat bot, or via marketing drip campaigns - a positive and meaningful one. Even more, it means that you're constantly thinking of new ways to use technology to keep your customers happy, knowing that their expectations are changing by the minute as they interact with other businesses throughout their daily lives. Being obsessed with CX means being proactive and anticipating your customers' needs while thinking of new and better ways to meet them.
> Be Fast
People aren't just improving products quickly in today's market. They're creating new products and services that are turning our world upside down, often in what seems like the blink of an eye. Small startups have a definite leg up on larger corporations when it comes to moving quickly simply because they have less "stuff" or legacy (i.e. processes and people) to move around. Large companies have found that DevOps can help them trim the fat when it comes to real-time responsiveness in today's marketplace. That means breaking down silos and focusing on both feedback and collaboration to move more quickly through development and design.
> Pay As You Go
Why pay for third-row seating when you only ever drive alone? That's the question modern companies need to ask as they begin to utilize new technologies like cloud / on-demand computing and other aaS models. The most agile companies don't lug around the kitchen sink; they take what they need and take more only as their business expands. I'm not just talking virtual space. I'm talking on-demand office space, contingent workers, remote workers, and more.
> Stay True To Your Vision
Agile companies do not adopt every new trend just because they can! They use down-time to carefully consider what new technologies fit their customer base the best, and how they can use them to work smarter. Agile companies don't throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks; they think of smarter ways to make spaghetti.
> 6 Steps to Digital Transformation
1: Identify your transformation objectives.
2: Study technology enablers in the market.
3: Envision the future platform for digital business.
5: Organize for digital business innovation.
6: Execute an agile journey to the future platform.
The chinese proverb "we live in interesting times" has never been more prophetic or real. The recent outbreak of the Corona Virus in China has plunged the economies of the world in, to say the least turmoil. Now, more than ever we dont have a choice but to digitally transform or be irrelevant. Whether it be remote working or employee management, innovation in customer support, omni channel approaches to sales/marketing and leverage digital & social distance marketing to be ready for the new paradigm. Many believe that this will be the new realm, pandemics or not !!
There are 3 key elements that we need to consider when working in such challenging times a)Maximise and Motivating our Workforce (remotely in extreme cases as we face now) b)Continue the transformation journey or start now (it is now or never) c)Toolize. Read on beside, how we can accomplish that assuredly.Contact our analysts to start your Transformation Journey
1. Get organized - Set a strong set of norms and operating procedures to quickly assemble a capable remote IT team, or transition into one.
2. Select a strong leader - Choose a team leader that possesses a high level of social intelligence and collaboration skills (not the CIO or CTO).
3. Create a functional strategy - Agree on scope, time and quality with the team and ensure you receive at least weekly updates.
4. Build tight coordination - The remote team should be presented with a clear set of goals that all parties can understand and support.
5. Use a common collaboration platform - Select a collaboration platform that meets team members' needs and encourages vigorous interactions such as Zoom or Slack (most popular).
6. Don't neglect security - An important first step is deploying commonsense remote access safeguards such as VPN's.
7. Optimize communication - Dont work in isolation, routinely exchange information and use Video cameras during collaborative session to keep the personal touch.
> Having the right, digital-savvy leaders in place
> Empowering people to work in new ways
> Giving day-to-day tools a digital upgrade
> Communicating frequently via traditional and digital methods
Key Factors to Take into Account
> Management team established a clear path/story towards transformation
> Digital tools implemented to make information more accible to relevant teams
> Self-serve tools implemented for Employees / Partners
> Organization/Senior leaders sense of urgency on Tranformation projects
> Tighter collaboration between teams engaged in Transformation projects
> SOP's should include new digital technologies implemented
> Leadership encouragement to bring new ideas
> Continously Challenging old ways of working
> Traditional Web Technologies - XHTML, JAVA, JSON, XML ... (85%)
> Public/Hybrid Cloud Based Services ... (81%)
> Mobile Internet Technologies ... (68%)
> Big Data & Big Data Architechtures (data lakes etc) ... (56%)
Tranformation Leaders Adoption %
> Industrial Internet of Things ... (45%)
> Design Thinking ... (44%)
> Artificial Intelligence Tools ... (31%)
Tranformation Pioneers Adoption %
> Robotics Process Automation ... (21%)
> Advanced Nueral Machine Learning (deep learning) ... (17%)
> Augmented Reality Technologies ... (15%)
> Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing/Modelling) ... (13%)