Digital publishing and training group Econsultancy have released a new guide to help tens of thousands of small businesses to set up an e-commerce operation.

With online sales predicted to reach £78billion during 2010 the report provides essential guidance for SMEs who intend to start trading online.

Here are some of our top tips for online retailing, taken from the new report (http://bit.ly/startsellingonline):

1: Don’t be afraid to start small

Major online market places such as Ebay and Amazon process billions of pounds of transactions every year and are international in scope. They have a massive audience and provide a ready made marketplace for products. While other online sales channels, especially natural search traffic from Google, take time to build, online market places provide instant sales, getting a business of to a flying start.

2: Build your team

The e-commerce project team should include the following elements:

* A project sponsor. Ideally someone in the management team.
* A project manager. Ideally this person should have e-commerce experience. If not, it is highly likely that they will be unable to provide the right level of control and influence over the project from an internal perspective. They project manager should be able to devote all or a large part of their time to the project.
* The project team. The internal project manager, the IT manager, someone from finance.
* A steering committee. This should comprise of the key members from cross functional areas of the business that will impact upon e-commerce (finance, merchandising, operations, fulfillment etc)

3: Decide what you’re going to sell…

For existing retailers, the choice of products to sell online will be obvious, however retailing start-ups will be faced with the complex task of choosing a sector, finding suppliers and ordering stock.

4: …And how you’re going to sell it

If you decide not to go down the online marketplace route and develop your own e-commerce presence, for businesses with limited in-house technical knowledge outsourcing the work to an agency is recommended. Talk to several potential suppliers and work with your team to develop a bulletproof brief. By detailing precisely what is required you will greatly increase the probability of project success.

5: Optimise your site

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of configuring and marketing a website so that it appears highly in the natural or free search engine listings for relevant searches. Obtaining a high search result for a business is hugely valuable as it has the potential to dramatically increase website traffic and therefore sales and brand awareness.

6: Develop your online marketing strategy

Without some sort of marketing, a website is highly unlikely to reach its full potential. Online marketing should support a company’s overall marketing objectives and not be developed in isolation. It should also be based on the needs and behaviour of the company’s target audience.

7: Connect with your customers

Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become some of the most visited and talked about properties on the Internet. Social media offers companies an opportunity to connect and interact with their customers, promote their brand and drive website traffic. Involvement in social media can also be used to project a different image of a company from dry corporate press releases and recruitment literature.

8: Organise logistics

Once items have been purchased, the order must be fulfilled. For physical goods this means packaging the item and shipping via Royal Mail or a courier. You should aim for a packing system that is quick, reliable and automated.

9: Track results

Every business with a website should be measuring their online performance. This is especially true for transactional websites where the site’s performance has a tangible impact on bottom line.

10: Test and refine

Once your ecommerce site has been created it’s important to constantly monitor performance and make adjustments, to help make sure more visitors convert into customers.

---

'Selling Online: A How-to Guide for Small Businesses' can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/startsellingonline.

The full report is priced at £150, but Econsultancy subscribers can access of all premium research (1,200 reports, including this one) from just £199 a year. We guarantee a return on investment.

Journalists can contact editor@econsultancy.com for a press copy or help with articles and features.

About Econsultancy
Econsultancy is a privately owned, subscription-based online publisher and community with offices in London and New York.

With 85,000 global members, it offers best practice reports, analysis and insight into the business of digital marketing and e-commerce.

Econsultancy also trained more than 3,000 people last year on its public courses and in-house customized training programmes and launched the UK's only MSc in Digital Marketing together with Manchester Metropolitan University. Its teams in the US and UK run more than 100 events each year, ranging from roundtables to large conferences for 300+ delegates.

http://econsultancy.com

Published on: 4:27PM on 10th May 2010