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Eight top tips for selling online

The world of ecommerce and selling online has come a very long way in the past few years and there's more competition than ever. Chloë Thomas, of eCommerce MasterPlan, offers eight essential top tips to help you sell more online

1. Establish your strategy. Just like any business venture, to sell online well you need to work out what your strategy is and stick to it. This includes your ecommerce business structure – are you online only (just selling via the website) or do you also have a physical store? You'll also need to decide on the product range you're going to stock – are you a specialist in one thing (like trampolines) or do you sell a wide range of goods tailored to your customers' requirements?

2. Think "cross-device" not "mobile". Consumers don't think of surfing the net on their mobile as being any different than surfing on their tablet, desktop or laptop. So you can't afford to either. Make sure you're providing the right customer experience across every platform (including your bricks and mortar shop if you have one).

3. Choose the right website software. There are so many different website options you can choose from it's important to pick the right one for your business. Most businesses are best off starting with a simple off the shelf option - like Shopify or WooCommerce. These are powerful systems which will do everything you need quickly and easily so you can focus on your marketing - getting people to the website to buy.

4. Take pride in customer service.The common factor of all the successful businesses I've interviewed on my podcast is that they are committed to providing their customers with a great service. And that does not just mean having nice people on the phone; it's about putting the needs of the customer in everything your business does - from the products, to the website, to the delivery.

5. Create a great delivery experience. If you get your delivery strategy right you'll increase the conversion rate of your website and encourage more repeat purchases. Your delivery strategy covers everything from the price you charge and the services you offer, through to what arrives in the parcel and how the parcel looks. It's really important to invest some money and thought in getting this right for your customers. After all, delivery is consistently the number one reason people don't buy from a website.

6. Market to get the first purchase and the repeat purchase. To be successful you want to take people from not knowing about you, to visiting your website, then enquiring, to ordering for the first time, and then get them to buy again and again. Many businesses only focus on the first order and forget all about getting the second order – which is crazy because it's easier. You'll find different marketing methods suit each of the stages of this journey, so you'll have to test and analyse and change your plans accordingly.

7. Build a trusted brand. Today's online shoppers are pretty savvy. Just as you wouldn't buy fish and chips from a run-down, dirty old van because you don't trust that they're giving you good food, an online shopper won't buy from a website or a business that they don't trust. You need to work hard to build the trust of your customers; it's hard to gain but easy to lose. Trust needs to be built into every interaction the customer has with your business - include customer testimonials and reviews on your site, deliver on your promises and make sure all the information on the site is accurate.

8. Keep optimising. This is my personal motto. Nothing you ever do in your business will be finished; in some ways everything is permanently in test mode. So you have to have a policy of constant optimisation – find the area that is working the least well and make it better. Once that's done, find the next area you need to focus on and repeat. One month it might be the delivery strategy, the next your repeat customer strategy and the following month testing a new marketing method.

Written by Chloë Thomas, of eCommerce MasterPlan.

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