Should I buy or build from the ground up? Well, if you are like most of us, you have probably thought long and hard about your options when it comes to having an ecommerce website. There are tons of pros and cons for each option. We did our own research on the options available to us and settled on purchasing an already built website. Here are some of the lessons we learnt on our journey to building a successful online business.
Needless to say, there are tons of good ecommerce websites for sale on many platforms. We started by defining what we wanted. This helped us to narrow down our choices from the endless pool of resources available to us. We started by defining the following.
• Why do we want an online business as opposed to any other business model?
• What do we enjoy doing? What is our experience and skillset?
• What are we knowledgeable in and/or are willing to learn?
• What are our resources and competitive advantages?
• What are our buying parameters and appropriate sales channels?
• How much money do we want from the business?
• Do we have the resources needed to maintain the business’ profitability?
Once we figured out what we want from the online business we wished to purchase, we were able to stay focused on what we could do. Evaluating ourselves and our resources was extremely important in purchasing a business we could comfortably run.
Now, to help us further sort through the list of potential online businesses for sale, we decided to come up with a list of preliminary parameters. This was important in pointing us to the businesses that would be viable and profitable. Here are some of the questions we asked.
• Why is the ecommerce website up for sale?
• Who owns the website and what has been their experience running the business?
• What is the history of the business?
• What other businesses does the owner run?
• Are the business statistics provided accurate and truthful?
• Why is the business’ niche trendy? Is it profitable in the long run?
• What are the traffic statistics and how much of that is organic?
• What is the quality of the website’s traffic?
We encountered countless websites whose traffic statistics were over the roof. However, on close examination, we realized that a percentage of the numbers are from paid promotions, spam sites and bots. The trick is to examine how much of the traffic can generate viable leads and eventually, paying customers. If the current quality of traffic has little to offer when it comes to viable leads, that could be a bad investment.
Every successful ecommerce business must have several features. Each website is built uniquely to best achieve its goals. We realized that trends are not always a guarantee of great user experiences or conversions. However, despite each website’s uniqueness, the following features cut across the board for all successful businesses.
• The website design should be simple to navigate and optimized for mobile use
• The content should have high resolution visuals and easy to understand text and descriptions
• The website content should load easily and fast
• User generated reviews gives an idea of the business’ reputation
• Special offers and wish lists for customer fulfillment
• Security features that guarantee safety for all payments made on the platform
• Easy to use, advanced payment options
• Well detailed, easy to understand shipping information and instructions
• A clearly articulated return policy
• Highly responsive contact features
• Suggestions for related items for each search or purchase
These are some of the essential features of a successful ecommerce website. We cannot overemphasize the need to have an easy to use website where purchases can be made from either a PC or a mobile device. You need to be aware of your target customers’ online shopping habits. You will realize that a good percentage of online searches and sales today are via mobile devices.
Here is the fun part; the numbers! Like all other businesses, you cannot make a purchase without evaluating the numbers. Here are some numbers you need to look at very carefully.
• Traffic – to determine quantity, quality and source
• Financials – to determine profitability, sustainability and growth
• Trends, competition and marketing costs – to determine the business’ future performance
Traffic statistics say a lot about the history, present and future profitability of the business. Here is the trick; do not rely on an already prepared list of traffic statistics. Instead, we realized that it is best to look at the Google Analytics report for the website. This report details the demographics of the visitors and their behavior on the website.
We learnt that it was important to look at the financial performance of the business as well as the current marketing efforts and trends. The market trends show you why specific items are popular and if they will remain popular in the long run. The sales report will show you whether or not the business is worth its cost of acquisition. If you are not an expert at evaluating an ecommerce business, it is advisable to hire a professional to help you. You cannot afford to purchase a business whose numbers you do not fully understand.
Purchasing an ecommerce website proved easier for us. Not only did we get an already established business with a customer base, we got a niche that has been tested and proved to be profitable and scalable.
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