The economy is slowly improving, but the job market remains tough, especially for new college graduates. Unwilling to let sluggish demand kill their dreams, many college students are taking their destiny into their own hands: Rather than waiting around for a call back from a recruiter, they’re starting new companies and launching e-commerce sites and becoming entrepreneurs.
The Collegiate E-Commerce Entrepreneur
But while today’s college grads are typically digital natives who grew up with the Internet and understand e-commerce as a consumer, many are not familiar with how online stores operate on the backend or with the strategies, infrastructure and protections they’ll need to thrive and grow as e-commerce entrepreneurs.
Here are five things every college grad should know before launching an e-commerce store:
1. Mobile is the future. If you’re a typical college grad, you may already use your mobile device as your primary gateway to the web – many of your potential customers do, too; therefore, it’s essential to optimize your e-commerce site for mobile viewing. Purchasing products and services from a mobile device must be fast and easy. You don’t have to be a development expert to create a site that is optimized for viewing across all device types – your hosting provider can give you some pointers for getting a mobile-friendly site up and running quickly.
2. Big Data isn’t just for big business anymore. Today, e-commerce platforms can give you the type of insights you’ll need to identify new trends and supercharge sales. Data analytics let you predict customer demand and manage resources efficiently; an analytics solution that is fully integrated with your e-commerce site can enable seamless inventory management and real-time resource planning. Big Data is transforming the way companies of all sizes manage their businesses and create strategies, so don’t miss out.
3. Customers expect a hyper-personalized experience. Everyone who has made a purchase from a big e-commerce site, like Amazon, knows that these companies use your purchasing and browsing behavior to make relevant offers the next time you visit the site. Personalizing the customer experience drives sales, and consumers have come to expect relevant offers and personal touches online. Make sure your e-commerce platform allows you to deliver a personalized experience online so that you can compete and win.
4. Social media can be a huge business driver. Until fairly recently, traditional companies considered social media a trendy marketing tool. Now, a new generation of customers is using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as their primary channels of communication, both in their personal lives and as consumers. Make sure you integrate the social media tools your customers are using into your e-commerce strategy to develop new leads and address customer service issues. It’s an affordable way to engage customers and compete for business.
5. Data protection levels are vitally important. Hacking is on the rise, as evidenced by high-profile incidents like the Target breach, which compromised the personal data of tens of millions of customers. If you’re planning to operate your e-commerce site on the cloud, it pays to identify the applications that require elevated levels of security. It’s also important to fully understand your obligations as a merchant who deals with sensitive data like credit card numbers and personally identifying information. A security lapse can result in a hefty fine – and a long-lasting deficit of consumer trust.
One great thing about launching an e-commerce venture today is that it’s no longer necessary to do 100% of the development or build and maintain your own infrastructure. The modern technology community is a lot more collaborative in service delivery than it was even five years ago. That means e-commerce entrepreneurs can focus on the products and services they sell while relying on tech specialists to manage critical components like hosting and website development.
If you’re getting ready to take the plunge as an e-commerce entrepreneur, there’s a world of opportunity out there. If you create the right business strategy, running an online business can be one of the most rewarding career paths you can choose. But it pays to know what the challenges are ahead of time, so you can make plans to address them. By following these tips and finding the right partners, you can set yourself up for success in e-commerce.
Nikole Haiar is the Director Marketing, Retail & Partner Services at Hostway Corporation