Even as businesses everywhere are struggling or even closing as a result of the lockdown measures implemented to arrest the spread of COVID-19, one industry remains relatively unaffected: online retail.
Though e-commerce is suffering somewhat due to production and supply chain issues, demand is higher than it’s ever been, and many merchants are doing as well as they were before the outbreak — or even better.
That said, if you’re interested in entering the e-commerce world, this might not be the right time for it. Consider that the restrictions that seem set to remain in place for quite some time will make it almost impossible to meet with suppliers, inspect products, and negotiate new deals.
Better to wait until this all passes, then move into e-commerce with a blank slate and all options on the table — but that doesn’t mean you can’t get ready for that. While you’re stuck at home, you can develop some e-commerce skills that will serve you well down the line. Here are four key things you should put some time into:
1.Designing a store
This might sound intimidating, perhaps leading you to imagine pursuing a programming career, but I chose the wording carefully: designing a store, not developing one. You don’t need to have any development skills to produce an online store these days. The existence of easy-setup store builders with included templates makes it quick and easy to get a decent store running.
What you do need, though, is an understanding of what makes a great online store, and the ability to tweak your chosen template to deliver an optimized experience. Start by looking closely at your favorite online stores to see how they arrange their sites. What do their menus look like? How do their homepages work? How do they use colors?
The more comfortable you feel designing a store, the easier you’ll find it whenever you want to create one in the future. It’ll be a big help in the long run.
2.Running a secure setup
Working in e-commerce means handling data online, and that poses some major security risks. If you’re working throughout this crisis then you should already know (or be learning) how to stay secure online, but if you’re not then you should be aware that it’s a key component of online retail. Consider that customer data — even financial data — is at risk.
You need to know how to run a proxy server to protect your connection (here’s how to use one), choose strong passwords, handle the most common e-commerce content management systems (here are some general security tips), and — very importantly — store and process customer marketing data in a way that’s fully in keeping with post-GDPR standards.
It’s not impossible to sell online with mediocre products, but it’s obviously not ideal. The better your items, and the more competitively you can price them, the easier your job becomes — and while pricing often depends on how heavily you can invest, you can at least ensure that you only stock and sell items you genuinely think are worthwhile.
The best sellers periodically update their stock to get rid of things that have lost popularity (seasonal items after those seasons have ended, for instance, or fad products that were only in demand quite briefly), and that requires them to stay on top of the latest supplier updates. Start reading supplier and wholesale blogs, pay attention to trends, and start to develop an instinct for choosing products that are going to rise in popularity.
4.Writing marketing copy
If a hundred different stores all sell the same product, what makes a shopper buy from one instead of the others? Sometimes it’s familiarity: they’ve bought from a store before, so they feel comfortable buying from it again. Sometimes it’s a lower price (factoring in shipping). Very often, though, it’s the quality of the presentation — and copy plays a big role there.
Beyond product descriptions, though, there’s email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, influencer marketing, offline marketing, social media marketing… all these different avenues with one thing connecting them: copy writing. Knowing how to write great copy that suits the context is a very valuable skill, not only for e-commerce but also for business in general.
The skills we’ve looked at here are important for selling online, and each one of them can be acquired relatively quickly and easily through some straightforward online study. What’s more, the benefits will extend past e-commerce, so why not start using your lockdown sourced downtime to improve your skills?
This article was first published on Fuzu.
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