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How Small Businesses Can Compete with Big Business Using an Online Store

Small businesses have always competed against big business for a piece of the pie. In most cases, small businesses have to be satisfied with what they can get rather than what they actually want. This is no longer the case, thanks to ecommerce sites and the ability to sell to a global market. Less capital is needed, you can get by without employees, and you don’t have to be a website developer or designer. Sound crazy? It’s easier than you think. You just need a little savvy and careful planning.

Start Your Store from Scratch

small business competing with bigh businessAccording to Wired, it’s easier than ever to start an online store. Premium ecommerce solution providers help make the process of starting an online store relatively hassle-free. You don’t need to be a programmer to design and build an online store. As long as you have an idea of how you want your site to look, you can find plenty of programs that make it easy to design your website, thanks to templates and plugins. Most build-your-own sites come with a variety of templates to fit any need or industry, and many are somewhat customizable, too. Just take into consideration how other sites in your industry look to see what works and what doesn’t. This will help you pick out an appropriate template and design and customize it appropriately.
Keep in mind, too, that templates make it easy to alter the look of your website whenever you want, so don’t feel locked into your design. With that said, it’s best to stick with a design for a while. Changing things up on a regular basis can draw negative attention to your online store. Remember, you may be a one-man-gang, but you want to look like a big company – and big companies don’t change their designs all the time. You can also find some free templates here which you can modify according to your needs.

Start Listing Your Products

Now it’s time to display your products, but you have to go beyond listing everything off. Again, look at other websites. The good ones really play up their products with photos and good descriptions. Photos are vitally important because online shoppers don’t get to touch, feel or smell your product, Entrepreneur points out. Use a good camera to take photos of your products and make sure you have good lighting.
The product descriptions, meanwhile, should be short but still contain plenty of details to pique your customers’ interests. If you make the product, you should already know all of these specifications. If they’re produced elsewhere, then you need to make sure you have as many details as possible. Make careful use of compelling adjectives and phrases, Entrepreneur says, but don’t get too carried away. You’re not writing a book, just a short product description.

Avoid Out-of-Stock Items and Bad Payment Options

Make sure you add new products as soon as possible, and take down the ones you’re no longer selling. There’s no quicker way to lose a customer than to include products that are no longer in stock or being sold.
And make sure you’re clear and upfront about all costs associated with your products. Nearly 68 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned. The biggest reason? Unexpected costs. More than half – 56 percent – of shoppers said the biggest reason why they abandoned their shopping cart was unexpected costs when it came time for checkout.
You should also have several payment options and an easy-to-use shopping cart. You can find plenty of plug-ins that make this process easy for customers. Common payment options include Paypal, Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

Keeping Up with Your Customers

One thing small businesses have over their bigger competitors: customer service. As a smaller business, you can develop better relationships with every customer. Send personalized messages to each buyer whenever they purchase something from you, follow up to see how they like what they bought and handle disputes as quickly and fairly as possible.

Remember that the individual approach is not something you have to discard as your company grows. This can be one of the distinguishing characteristics of your company and why people keep coming back. Emails, text messages and social media are all great ways to maintain contact with all of your customers and to make sure they feel connected to your company.
However, as a small business, you’re literally involved in every aspect. So there are some things that are easy to overlook but still vitally important. Business2Community pinpoints five customer service mistakes small businesses often make, including:

• Being hard to contact
• Slow response times
• Failure to speak to customers over the phone
• Failure to train the staff (if you have employees)
• Not seeking out feedback

In spite of your best efforts, there’s no guarantee that your online store will be a success. One thing is certain, however: failure to follow these relatively simple tips will make it a lot harder to turn your online store into a money maker.

Written by Shahbaz Saleem

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