5 Factors to Start a Successful Online Business

By Chris Mullen, November 15, 2015

Picture of woman hands with laptop purchased at Canva

Back in 2008, we started Printkeg, an online commercial printer, as a way to salvage a failing print shop. A while ago we described our beginnings, so there’s no need to rehash that story again. Now we can explore the five key contributions and factors that we feel helped us create a million dollar online business.

1. Find A Killer Product

First, in the midst of powerful online entities like Vista Print, we identified a product our company could offer that was higher quality and less expensive than everyone else. For us, that was short run printing of 11×17, 12×18 and 13×19 posters. In fact, in the beginning, our first shopping cart only offered those three products. Granted, at that time, digital printing was still very new and offset printers hadn’t quite adapted to the new age. That has changed a lot since, but we exploited a hole in the market at the time, and we remain super focused on those fundamental products. Additionally, when you have one killer product to start with, planning a marketing plan becomes easier.

– What can you do that is better than anyone else?
– What is your niche?
– Can you be cheaper or faster?
– What advantages do you have?
– Are you unique?
– Do you have a special relationship with a group of consumers?
– Are you more knowledgeable than others in your field?

2. Provide Super Customer Service

A fancy website with super conversion tactics and amazing SEO will never protect you if customer service stinks. We go to great lengths to ensure customers are happy with our company. We have an incredible guarantee, answer every email, return every phone call and help customers any way we can. We fix bad artwork, cater to individual needs and respond to surveys. Our representatives do absolutely everything possible to ensure customers are happy.

When we speak to clients, we give them our full attention and try to resolve issues swiftly. The people working for me know they can freely assist customer problems without retribution from me especially in cases where we messed up. If I do not agree with a specific solution, our team uses that as a learning experience for the future. Also, don’t undervalue phrases like “thank you” or “have a great day” or “we appreciate your business.”

– Treat customers like gold because they are.
– Call people back. Answer emails quickly.
– Support a true 100% guarantee
– Go above and beyond the call of duty
– Be extremely friendly especially with difficult customers
– Returning customers are the backbone of a successful e-commerce store.

3. Listen to Your Customers

We send every customer a few opportunities to answer a short survey. Surveys give us valuable insight into how customers respond to our business. Our survey is super simple: We ask each customer if he or she is happy and provide an area to leave us a message. Positive and negative comments are hugely impactful in how we do absolutely everything.

We’ve implemented surveys since day one and have applied our own custom survey system, Survey Monkey and now Receiptful. We are not fishing for good reviews, but rather, customer sentiment. We quickly identify problems and resolve almost everything preserving future opportunities with each and every customer.

– Implement a survey system
– Adapt to customer viewpoints
– Resolve issues quickly

4. Simple E-Commerce Experience

We are extremely critical of any additions, features, new products and extra options added to our website. Since the very beginning, we’ve condensed every aspect of purchasing goods to ensure an easy transaction. As we add products and services, our website becomes more complicated, yet we strive to maintain a simple and rewarding shopping experience.

Since we use Shopify, there are tons of apps at our disposal. This buffet of features is a double-edged sword since new features may improve the user experience or add complexity that could lead to lower sales conversions. Additionally, new features can slow down a website so be sure to take advantage of a service like Pingdom to measure download speeds.

– Keep things simple
– Be careful with adding too many new features
– Make sure everything is simple – get opinions from friends and family
– Be critical of all new additions
– Don’t clutter up your website with useless graphics and scripts

5. Consistent Marketing

As a web developer for many years, I’ve always been surprised how so many business owners place so much emphasis on building a website, show little interest in advertising. The “if you build it, they will come” expression is typically not applicable with e-commerce. Sure, good SEO and an amazing website will bring in traffic, but online businesses should try to embrace a continuous stream of online advertising. For us, it is Google Adwords and Facebook. For others, it might be an affiliate program or Pinterest. The point is, there has to be an advertising plan in place – free or paid. Don’t settle for only organic search engine rankings.

Also, with Google Adwords, many new business owners I have spoken to over the years seem to obsess too heavily on daily conversions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain that they advertised on Google Adwords for a few days and saw terrible conversions. Step back and review 60 to 90-day conversions that may paint a clearer picture. Use your daily reports to improve your campaigns by adding negative keywords, removing keywords with low CTR or limiting high CPC keyphrases. Research and study up on the method of advertising you intend to implement or hire an expert to help you get started.

There are so many ways to advertise your website, so pick a couple and stay consistent. Maintain avenues that work and abandon those that don’t.

Good Luck!

Owning your own e-commerce business is fun and rewarding, but it also requires hard work and dedication. We contribute the above list to our overall success and with you the best of luck in your new venture!