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Tips on starting an Online store

  There are many people who dream about starting an online store. It seems so easy and requires such little effort. That's both true and false.

This is what I would focus on if I started an online store today (and wanted to avoid all the mistakes I've made for over ten years as an internet entrepreneur with annual sales of about six million.)

1. If you are going to sell something, sell things that you like yourself. There is no such thing as ”stuff people want”. “People” are simply you and me. ”People” are your best friends.

2. A web shop platform is important, but not so important that it should steal focus from what to sell and to whom. In fact, you don't even need a fancy platform to begin with. It may well be enough to receive regular e-mail orders from customers. When the orders start rolling in, you can spend more time and money on developing the technology.

3. Investigate the market carefully before you start. Rosy dreams are fine, but they never pay the bills. If you find that many others are already selling what you intend to sell, study them carefully and see where you can find your special place in the group. You will have to compete with other things than just the price (you will never be able to beat the major players by competing solely with prices).

4. Offer something specific within a narrow range. It's better to have a deep assortment than a broad one. It's better to run a dog store with 1 000 items than a general pet store with only 100 dog related items. We as customers want to know that your store is the only one we need for our shopping purposes.

5. You must treat your online store as seriously as if you had a shop on the street. Customers are for real, even if you only have contact with them by e-mail.  Give them answers to questions as quickly as you can. Give them great information on what you sell. Make sure people can order by phone, fax and snail mail, too.

6. Use the profits to make the company grow in a way that will make the customers satisfied. Write or buy articles and other smart content that will make your web shop more than a store. You want to create the obvious place for a purchase. Always try to think one step ahead in fighting the cold impersonal online world. You never meet your customers – therefore try to make an extra effort to make your store as personal as possible.

7. Be sure to start a newsletter that gives visitors added value (and more contacts to you). That way it will be easy to contact people with the same interests as you and you get the chance to show that you are worthy of their business.

With these points, you will avoid the most common beginner mistakes.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.