The growing popularity of e-commerce opens the door for individuals wishing to start businesses with low startup costs and overhead. Everyone knows about the big success stories of companies that started small and went on to make millions of dollars, but the reality is that without some key factors, many new e-commerce sites are doomed to fail.
As of May 2011, there are more than 13 billion web pages on the internet. Unless you have a strategy for driving traffic to your e-commerce site, you are in danger of being buried beneath all of the other similar sites on the web. The major strategies for attracting visitors are online and offline advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) and social networking. Of these strategies, advertising is the most expensive, but also gives the quickest results. Success with SEO requires the most technical knowledge, but can eventually yield free, long-lasting traffic.
Once you get people to look at your website, you need to offer a product that they want to buy. Often, niche markets are the easiest to fill, especially if you can offer a product or service that is not readily available on large, well-known e-commerce sites. Catering to local markets, such as a pizza delivery shop that offers online ordering and payment, can also set you apart from your competitors and make you a market leader in a specific geographic area.
If a customer chooses to buy something from your site, it's vital that they are able to complete the transaction easily and intuitively. Online shoppers have a low tolerance for confusion and frustration, so if they can't find what they want or figure out how to buy it within a few seconds, they are likely to try elsewhere. Design your site so that it is clear to a consumer where to find items. Each page should lead them to complete the next step in the purchase process with simple instructions like "click here" or "register now."