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Shopping is one of America's favorite pastimes, so is surfing the Internet! It's no surprise that statistics show that there are 205 million online shoppers in the United States alone. By having an online store, you can attract customers who would not visit your brick and mortar store otherwise, but will make a purchase online.

Here are seven steps to get your online store started:

Figure out what you need. When it comes to selling items online, you have many options. For example, you could use an online marketplace site like Etsy. However, these sites charge fees for their services. Depending on your budget, a more cost effective solution may be to develop your own ecommerce website. Ultimately, your budget, skills, and abilities with technology will determine this decision.

Be your brand. Like any other part of your website, your online store should reflect your brand. Colors, fonts, logos, and other images used in your online store should be part of a consistent look shared by your other marketing materials. Also, be mindful of your brand's tone and voice when creating content to make sure your product descriptions are accurate. If you are starting your business from scratch and do not have a brand yet, you should begin with that so your ecommerce website can represent your brand well by following the look and feel you wish to communicate to your customers.

Talk money. Although running an online store is cheaper than a brick-and-mortar store, there will still be costs you need to cover. Along with paying the credit card companies or other systems that process payments, you will have to pay to ship your product to the customer, even if they pay for shipping. In order to make the most profit from your online store, be mindful of your budget and choose the most cost-effective options for your business.

Serve your customers. Even though you may never actually meet your customers, customer service still matters, it just must be handled differently. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools can be helpful in managing orders, returns, and customer contact information. To keep in contact with your customers, consider setting up a live chat in your online store. Just be sure that someone will be able to respond to the chat so that customers can interact with an actual person. To thank your customers, send a follow up email or message included in the package you send them with a discount for a future purchase.

Ask for feedback. Your customers' opinions matter and they can help you sell more and attract new customers. In fact, 90% of customers read online reviews before they even visit a business. With that in mind, it may be helpful to have the option to allow reviews on your product pages as well as your social media profiles. These reviews can also help your local search engine optimization (local SEO).

Be social. Your customers want you to engage with them on social media. Maintaining a strong social media presence is essential to your success. Any photos, specials, or events can be shared by your followers with their contacts to expand your audience.

Track your success. Using tools like Google Analytics can help you track your store's performance over time. Information gathered by these tools can tell you who your customers are, where they're from, and which products they are purchasing. From there, you can use this data to inform your sales and marketing strategies.

Starting an online store may be challenging, but the rewards are great - especially if this store co-exists with a brick-and-mortar version.

Published in The Marketing Edge

LEWISTON - For $150 and a 300-word essay, hopeful restaurant owners could land a successful restaurant and a place to live in one fell swoop during 'Maine's Dream Restaurant Contest.'

Published in Biz
Wednesday, 13 July 2016 11:50

Mobile marketing for a mobile world

According to Pew Internet research, nearly two out of three Americans own a smartphone. If your business is not using mobile marketing, you are missing a major opportunity. The number of mobile connections now exceeds the world's population. However, there is more to mobile phone use than sending text messages or making calls. With enough creativity and a willingness to learn, your organization can take advantage of the opportunity mobile marketing presents.

Published in The Marketing Edge

Your website is your business' storefront on the Internet. To attract potential clients, it must be easy to navigate and visually appealing - especially considering that these prospects are using a variety of devices to view your website on including smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers. If your website's content is not optimized to be viewed on these devices, nearly 80% of users will click away to a website that is. It is essential for the success of both your business and your website to be mindful of current web design and usability elements.

Published in The Marketing Edge

NEW YORK Amazon is expanding its lineup of Dash buttons, its 'Jetsons'-style devices that let you reorder a particular product with a single touch. The online retailer says the buttons offer 'quick and easy' convenience but they won't necessarily help you save money.

Published in Biz
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 11:20

Yahoo puts patents on the auction block

SUNNYVALE, Calif. Yahoo is hoping to auction off most of its technology patents as part of a purge that also could culminate in the sale of its internet operations.

Published in Biz
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 11:11

MTI awards over $21K to Maine companies

BRUNSWICK The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) approved five new grant applications in May 2016, totaling $21,303 in awards to entrepreneurs from across Maine to advance new product and process development in aquaculture and marine technology, precision manufacturing, environmental technologies and information technology. This round of MTI awards leveraged $27,876 of matching contributions from the award recipients.

Published in Biz
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 10:58

Wal-Mart testing drones in warehouses

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing drones that it says will help it manage its warehouse inventory more efficiently, and which it said Thursday could be rolled out in the next six to nine months across its distribution centers.

Published in Biz
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 10:54

Tribune renames itself Tronc'

NEW YORK We still don't know if USA Today owner Gannett will continue its $864 million bid for Tribune Publishing, but we do know that no one will have Tribune to kick around anymore.

Published in Biz

For the second year in a row, female CEOs earned more than their male counterparts and received bigger raises. But only a small sliver of the largest companies are run by women, and experts say gender parity at the top remains way off.

Published in Biz
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