4 Simple Mistakes You’re Making With Your Online Business

The internet has opened up tremendous opportunities in the marketplace. Online businesses are simpler to start than ever, and potential customers are easy to access. So why is it that eCommerce can be so challenging? Here are four common mistakes that lead to the downfall of online businesses.   

Miscalculating Costs

One of the biggest pitfalls to new businesses is failing to properly estimate costs. Many entrepreneurs approach eCommerce with flawed expectations, and as a result they either over- or underestimate the financial challenges headed their way. Accurately calibrate the costs of your business by starting with good information. Take the time to research everything, and then do the math. When you have done your research, you can catch mistakes before they cause problems that affect your wallet. You will also be able to make informed, smart decisions that will make your business strong and profitable.  

Ignoring Competition

No matter what kind of business you open, there is bound to be an existing market with eager competition ready to steal your customer base. Underestimate them at your own risk. Watch their strategies, and don’t get taken advantage of; use competitive analysis regularly. Be the business that outmaneuvers and confounds competitors. Launch new products and services. Have smart giveaway strategies. Keep a robust social media presence. Most of all, always put your customers first.

Misunderstanding Customers

Giving customers what they want is one of the keys to building revenue, yet a lot of entrepreneurs fail at this because they don’t accurately understand the wants of their customers. Rather than making assumptions about your customers and risking failure, listen to them. Spend the time to research your customers with surveys and other methods. Develop a buyer persona, and keep it updated. When you do this, you greatly improve communication with your customer. You can effectively target your audience with appropriate advertising. You can address the correct topics that concern your customer. And you can create an optimal product or service that meets your customer’s wants.

Trying to Do It All

The fourth and final mistake that entrepreneurs make with their online business is trying to make it alone. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon because he had a team of astronauts at his side and a host of scientific experts at NASA. Harriet Tubman conducted the Underground Railroad and saved hundreds of lives because she had a network of people to assist her. Henry Ford built the Model T and the Ford Motor Company because he had support from other mentors, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

Great accomplishments don’t happen in a vacuum. Reach out and choose a team that will watch your back and grow your business, a team made of friends, family, employees, and other businesses that are interested in seeing you succeed. Get the support you need from a partner like Elite Ops: contact us today.

How to Choose a Business Model That Will Give Fuel to Your Startup

Every startup begins with a product and a vision, but without a realistic plan, it’s going nowhere. This is where a good business model comes in. If you’re thinking about opening your own online business, it might feel intimidating to start, but don’t worry. Here are some of the basics to start building with.

To illustrate the process for choosing a business model, imagine a musician who wants to start an online business. He must ask himself two simple questions: What am I selling: a product, a service, or information? And how will I sell it?

Once he knows exactly what he’s selling, he can then choose an appropriate method of selling.

Selling Products

Let’s say that our musician decides he wants to sell CDs of his original music as well as t-shirts and merchandise showcasing his brand. These are considered physical products that have to be designed, manufactured, warehoused, shipped, and distributed. Because of the nature of these kinds of products, it comes with certain risks, and some business models will work more successfully than others.

A traditional method of selling physical products is through the Merchant Model, for example, through wholesalers and retailers. But online businesses are increasingly using the Manufacturer Model, in which the manufacturers of a product can sell directly to their buyers through platforms like Amazon or Etsy in order to reduce the distribution channel and maximise profits.

Selling Services

Maybe in addition to selling his CDs, our musician decides that he also wants to start teaching music lessons in his local city. This would be considered a service, an intangible act that is performed at the point of sale. The most common method of selling services like this online is through websites. Sites can be used for marketing offline services, or they can be used to directly sell services. The most traditional model here is the Advertising Model, where the site provides content combined with advertisements (typically banner ads). But our musician used the Brokerage Model, where he used the website to bring him (the seller) together with students (the buyers) interested in taking his lessons (the service).

Selling Information

Let’s say our musician decides that he wants to start a Youtube channel and publish his own website that offers exclusive content in exchange for a monthly subscription. Both of these would be considered forms of selling information. In the case of the Youtube channel, it would be a Community Model of business in which revenue is generated through voluntary contributions from viewers and from advertisers. In the case of the website, exclusive and valuable information could be repeatedly exchanged for periodic profit–the typical Subscription Model.

Even if you’re not a musician trying to make it in online business, the above principles still apply. Once you choose a model for your business, there are steps you can take to ensure that it succeeds. Be proactive in building and protecting your business; learn more about business models and services that can boost your distribution and shipping.

For more information partnering with Elite Ops, contact us today.

A 5-Step Plan to Grow Your Business Online

The great thing about doing business online is that there are so many people online. The challenge of growing your business is that there are so many people online. How do you cut through the noise and set yourself apart? If you are ready to turn your business into a functioning online store, take a look at these five steps to help make it happen.

1. Break ground

The first, and painfully obvious step, is to build your website. If you have a website and domain already up and running, you need to make sure it can support the functionality of an online store. This includes having enough capacity to run commerce applications and plugins quickly and reliably. No one wants to shop on a site that stalls or crashes during transactions. Your web hosting provider will offer packages sufficient for your needs.

2. Get people’s attention

Once you have a website and the capacity you need to operate it, it’s time to get more customers. Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to growing your business. You have products or services to offer, and you need people to know about them. By building into your site the keywords that people will use to find the types of products and services you offer, you are more likely to land near the top of their searches.

3. Make a name for yourself

Marketing will be your focus from now until, well, forever. In addition to making yourself easy to find online, you need to find customers yourself. Email campaigns, strategic online advertising, and social media networking are key to building awareness of your brand.

4. Service, service, service

Have you ever gone to a store, gotten horrible service, and kept coming back for more? Me neither. It sounds so simple, but it is fundamentally important. By adding as many personal, human touches to your online store, you will win and retain customers. Follow up with emails, offer stellar customer support, seek out customer feedback, and you will set yourself apart from so many other online businesses.

5. Deliver the goods

The final key step is making sure that when people buy from your online store, they get what they buy quickly, reliably, and smoothly. To help you manage the process, you should consider an online fulfillment service. Top online fulfillment services, like Elite Ops, a Utah Distribution Company, combine the human touch you want with the reliability of an automated system. With strong transportation links in the state, a Utah logistics service provider can help you reach clients from the West Coast to the Heartland and beyond.

5 Ways to Boost Your E-Commerce Performance

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Growing an e-commerce business is different from growing a brick-and-mortar. For one thing, you don’t have as many direct interactions with the customers, which can make it more difficult to develop a relationship with them. So how do you increase sales if you never see your customer face to face, and rarely speak with them directly unless they have a problem?

It all depends on what kind of customers you’re focusing on. Are you attracting new customers? Trying to increase conversion rates of customers who have visited your website? Or seeking repeat purchases? Ideally, you’re working on all three, though tactics will vary depending on the customer’s level of previous interaction. The following are a few tips on how to be successful on all three fronts.

Find New Customers By:

Venturing into New Territory

If you’ve done things right, you have a solid understanding of your core customer base and what they need. That said, there may be avenues for accessing related markets. For example, have you considered selling products for expecting mothers? What can you offer fathers-to-be? Exploring adjacent markets like this can open up a world of possibilities, and help you find the new customers you’re looking for.

Increase Conversion Rates By:

Offering Free Shipping

There’s nothing worse than putting things in a digital shopping cart, going to checkout, and finding out that the total cost has jumped by 25% or more because of shipping costs. It’s a fact that’s making a difference in how people shop online. A whopping 96% of users are more willing to shop at a site that offers free shipping, and 62% of consumers “would not have made their most recent online purchase if they had not received free shipping.”

Customers clearly don’t like having to deal with shipping fees as a surprise cost, and are even willing to shell out money in advance to avoid, such as with Amazon Prime. So if you’re looking to boost conversion rates, don’t give your customers a reason not to hit the “confirm purchase” button when they reach the last step.

If you’re worried about recouping the costs you’ll incur by shipping the product, there’s a pretty easy fix. Customers overvalue “free” things, and are thus potentially willing to pay a higher price on a product, so long as the price they see is the price they get. So if you need to bump up your prices to accommodate for “free” shipping, don’t sweat it too much. Even if they leave your site to shop around, they’ll come back when they see the shipping costs the others require.

Sending Abandoned Shopping Cart Reminders

Over two-thirds of online shopping carts become abandoned with items still in them. A significant portion of those customers can be reclaimed through appropriate outreach methods. Sending an email to remind customers of what they left behind causes them to reconsider, and in some cases, decide to buy after all. Test out different strategies to see what works—some businesses even offer a discount on items left in the cart to encourage the sale. Just don’t let them walk away without a word.

Create Repeat Customers By:

Sending Personalized Retargeting Emails

Similar to emailing users about abandoned shopping carts, you can get a lot of mileage out of emails that retarget, upsell, and provide personalized offers. Recent statistics show that personalized emails can increase conversion rates by at least 10%, and in some cases far more than that. Emails that suggest related products, offer a repeat purchase of a consumable, or that make shoppers aware of promotions and deals on products they have purchased in the past will point their attention back at your site, increasing the odds that they will purchase again.

Creating Authoritative Content

It seems less direct, but setting yourself up as an authority on the subject of the products you sell can do wonders for your image, and in turn, your sales. One of the things customers don’t get from companies like Target, Walmart, or Amazon, is the specialized knowledge that comes with working in a niche market. You have expertise to share, advice on what products to get and when, how to use them, how to troubleshoot problems, etc. Sharing that knowledge in content form makes you more valuable as a brand, and builds trust with your customers.

To learn more about how to make the most of your e-commerce business, and how order fulfillment services can help you succeed, contact Elite Ops today.

Cyber Safety: 6 Ways You Can Protect Your Business

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Recent cyber attacks, like the most recent ransomware attack, remind us that hackers are a real threat, and cyber security should be a high priority for everyone. Whether it’s a Denial of Service attack, or a data breach, and whether you’re a small startup or a major corporation, cyber attacks can shut your business down and cost you millions. Depending on the attack, it can have severe repercussions for other businesses or even your customers.

Everyone is at risk, but there are simple steps that every business can take to protect themselves against cyber threats. Below is a list of some of the things that will help your business stay secure, and minimize risks with regard to electronic malice.

Update Your Software

One of the simplest things you can do is make sure your software is up to date. It may seem annoying how often your programs and apps are updating, and you may be tempted to turn off automatic updates. Doing so is a bad idea, though. Updates do several very important things, perhaps most crucial of which is upgrading security.

Developers use updates to patch holes in security, and more often than not when hackers backdoor their way into a system, it’s because the system hasn’t been updated recently enough. The ransomware referenced in the link above was only effective against window users that hadn’t patched within the previous month, as an important security update protected against a crucial vulnerability. So keep your software up to date; you’ll be thankful in the long run.

Secure Your Passwords

You may not know it, but most passwords are impossibly easy to guess. Password cracking is usually done by a computer program, and they use a “dictionary” of common passwords and conventions to do most of the work. So if your password is “Chrispratt2017” you’re in a little bit of trouble.

A good strategy for secure passwords that are easy to remember is to choose a string of four or five random words. Even if all the characters are lowercase, the password length will make it nearly impossible to crack. And if you’re having a hard time keeping all the passwords straight, try using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password.

Educate Employees

Along with unpatched software vulnerabilities, probably the most common way hackers gain access is via phishing, malware, and other forms of “wetware” hacking, where access is granted to a hacker by tricking a user. Educate employees about the dangers of opening or downloading suspicious files and programs, and it will go a long way towards protecting your system.

Respond Quickly to Breaches

Remember, cyber attacks are crimes. You wouldn’t wait to report a theft, just to see if things turn out okay. If you are the victim of a breach or other form of attack, report it, and get help.

Work with a Cyber Security Firm

Outsourcing your cyber security is sometimes an excellent option, if you’re a smaller business that can’t really afford to field a full team yourself. Expecting your lone IT guy to “handle it” isn’t really a feasible long term solution, as he has other things on his plate, and security is a big job that requires expertise. Just be sure you do a little research, and pick a team with a good reputation.

Do Business With Secure Partners

It’s important to remember that your data is vulnerable regardless of where it is. If you share data with a business partner, and that partner is vulnerable, then your data is vulnerable. So whether you’re dealing with an IaaS cloud service, or order management services, be sure you do business with someone who’s likewise security minded.

3 Steps to Getting Your Pet Products Fulfilled on Time

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For both brick-and-mortar and online stores, shipping pet supply products on time and in perfect condition to customers is critical for your company’s success.

When you can deliver the goods on time, every time, your customers will love you for it, and they’ll show their gratitude with more orders. Follow these three tips for error-free fulfillment.

1- Display Accurate Information

Accuracy in product details, sizing charts, ingredients, and nutritional information is critical to making sure you are fulfilling your customer’s needs and expectations. If the displayed information is incomplete or inaccurate, your customers will be unsatisfied with their purchase and return orders will be high. This process diminishes your margins and lowers your company’s overall customer service ratings.

2- Use Master Cartons and Quantities

Quick and efficient shipping begins with packing all your products with the same SKU into a master carton. That way, when your shipment arrives at your fulfillment center, it will be fast to get it into the inventory and ready for pick and pack.

Whenever possible, send larger quantities of master cartons. Save yourself time and money in the long run when you commit your retail partners to purchasing more product.

3- Integrate the Shopping Carts

Ensure timely ordering and shipping by integrating your customer’s shopping cart directly with your store’s shopping cart to your fulfillment center. This reduces redundancies and helps your customers receive their orders as quickly as possible.

When your business displays accurate information, uses master cartons and quantities, and integrates the shopping carts, orders will be fulfilled correctly and in a timely manner. Customers will be happy and the level of satisfaction for your company will be high.

The most efficient and most economical way of ensuring customer satisfaction is by using an eCommerce fulfillment center such as Elite Ops to handle the product shipping details for you. Learn more about pet supply fulfillment by contacting contacting us today!

The Best Marketing Automation Software for Your Business

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If you are looking for better ways to help your small business grow, consider incorporating marketing automation software. There are many powerful tools available that can help you scale and automate your business for faster growth.

Using automation tools will not only maximize business efficiency but will save you valuable time in the process. We’ve put together a list of our favorites, all of which are readily available, affordable, and easy to implement into your day-to-day operations.

MailChimp

When it comes to email marketing, MailChimp is one of the most affordable and powerful automation tools you can find. It simplifies the email marketing process and allows you to use marketing automation features that target customers based on their previous behaviors and preferences. You can create newsletters and automated messages as well as use application program interfaces when developing custom workflows. While MailChimp is one of the most established email marketing services around, it easily integrates with many other automation tools available.

Hootsuite

If your company’s social media accounts have you feeling frustrated, Hootsuite is a great option for automating and enhancing your social presence across multiple channels. It is compatible with more than 35 global networks, including Facebook and LinkedIn. It not only identifies the biggest social influencers in your market, it totally automates your social media marketing strategies as well.

Hootsuite offers a free plan for first-time users that supports up to three social profiles and two campaigns. If you need more than that, you can level up as your needs increase.  

Needls

Digital advertising is a must when it comes to successfully growing a business. Needls helps you target and optimize your digital advertising automatically. All you have to do is upload images, videos, and messages, and it takes care of the rest. Some of its features include landing page generation, social media reporting, and comprehensive analytics that keep track of your company’s digital presence.  

Shopify

If you are managing an online store or even a store with a physical location, Shopify can help to simplify how you process payments. All you have to do is add your business URL to the Shopify platform and start building a customized online storefront from the many templates it provides. You can add products, create return/exchange policies, and set up state taxes and shipping rates with ease. Shopify also offers excellent customer support and retail location applications.

Infusionsoft

As an all-in-one automation software, Infusionsoft is the perfect solution when you need help with sales and marketing. You can automate lead scoring, sales, email marketing, social marketing, and e-commerce. It’s an excellent option for small businesses and startups that need help with customer-relationship management, and it allows you to plug in just about any other application you might need!

Fulfillment Centers

Signing up with a fulfillment center is another great investment for your money, as well as your time. Elite Ops Kitting and Assembly Services allows you to automate the pick, pack, kitting, assembly, and order fulfillment side of your business, freeing up your time for other important business tasks in the process.

To learn more about how a fulfillment center can help you better streamline your ordering and shipping processes, call Elite Ops today at (855) 553-5490 for more information, or click here to contact us.

These Productivity Apps Will Help Double Your Daily Achievements

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Running a business is an incredibly busy and time-consuming job. With so many tasks to accomplish, it can be difficult to manage your priorities, employees, and time. Save yourself from wasting effort and track all your work time with a helpful productivity app.

Slack

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Reduce the amount of time spent constructing group messages or accidentally replying to an old group message that has already been resolved by using the revolutionary communication app Slack. Slack is a real-time communications tool that lets you chat, share files, and discuss topics in different virtual channels with one or more coworkers at once.

Glympse

Are you or your employees always on the go? Glympse is a productivity app that allows you to share your location with people for up to 4 hours at a time without having to manually update. Invitees get a text or email with a link they can use to track you without even having to download the app themselves.

Quip

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You’ll never have to waste time waiting for a colleague to stop working on a form or spreadsheet in order to work on your section. Quip is a document and spreadsheet app that allows you to work at the same time and even connects you with your coworkers with a live chat system to share updates while working on the document.

Canvas

Skip paper and avoid reinventing the wheel by using the custom forms app Canvas. Utilize over 5,000 pre-built forms or create custom invoices, expense reports, work orders and more with signature capture capabilities.

Second CRM

Enhance your customer service by using Second CRM which allows your whole customer support team to gain access to the customer information no matter where they are located. Quotes, invoices, and last interaction notes can be accessed in real-time through encrypted technology to keep information accessible and safe.

Forest

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The Forest app creates a visual representation of your progress and accomplishments in the form of trees. When staying focused on a task for 30 minutes, the tree fully blooms and leaving your task causes the tree to die. Work toward the goal of a whole forest full of completed tasks.

 

Don’t do it all yourself; the technology exists through many productivity apps to ensure you and your employees remain on task.

Looking for more ways to increase productivity? Free up your time by switching to a fulfillment center for all your inventory and product fulfillment needs.

 

How to Start a Business in 7 Easy Steps

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Some people assume that it takes an expert to be an entrepreneur or business owner, but you might be surprised to know that all it takes to start a business is an idea and determination. Really, that’s it.

If you have a great idea for a business, you’re already halfway there! Just follow these seven simple steps for starting your own business and turning your passion into a source of income.

1.Solidify Your Concept and Write Up a Business Plan

If you’re having a hard time getting your idea down into writing, check out these lists of business ideas that may help get your gears turning. Once you know exactly what it is you’ll be narrowing in on, it’s time to write up a business plan to organize your concept into an actual workable business. You can start with this simple one-page business plan from The $100 Startup to get started.

2. Scope out the Competition

Once you’ve mapped out your business plan, it’s time to scope out the competition. Start by looking up the top 5-10 companies in your niche. Take notes on what makes them successful, but also think of improvements that you notice could be made. Look up consumer reviews to see what their customers like and dislike, and see if you can implement a solution in your own business and product to get an edge. If you notice that there are significantly more than 5-10 similar businesses out there, you may be better off going with a different idea in a less saturated market.

3. Choose a Name and Logo

There’s more to a business name than something catchy or memorable – it must also be marketable. This means that it’s different from your competition and has web availability. As you brainstorm name ideas, search on godaddy.com or other website domain sites to see if the names are available as websites. Once you find one, it’s time to turn it into a logo. You can design your own logo or hire a designer to create one for you. You can also purchase pre-made logos online from these awesome resources.

4. Build a Website

Now you need a place to sell your product or service. Purchase your domain and start building your website. There are several user-friendly systems that allow you to build your own website without any prior experience, such as WordPress, SquareSpace, and Wix.

5. Secure Inventory

As you build your website, it’s important that you are also securing your inventory so that you have something to sell when the website is ready to go live. It would be fruitless to start spreading the word if those who hear it can’t act on it. If you’re selling a product on a broad scale, checkout Alibaba or Aliexpress to buy wholesale. If you want creative and memorable packaging, checkout packlane to customize your packaging materials. You can also handle your own packaging at a low cost by using plain boxes from a home improvement store and creating your own labels through VistaPrint.com.

6. Manage the Money

Before you’re ready to sell, you must also have a financial plan in place. Calculate your expenses and your projected revenue. Keep in mind the cost of your own time and labor, and also any hired help you may need. Make any adjustments needed to ensure your margins are reasonable and allow for growth. Setup an account that integrates well with your website’s shopping cart, such as a free PayPal business account.

7. Spread the Word

Now that your product is stocked and your website is live, you’re ready to spread the word like wildfire! Marketing is a whole business in and of itself, but there are a lot of inexpensive ways to handle your own marketing, such as through online ads with Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, and Twitter. If you’re new to the marketing world, checkout this helpful resource to get started.

As your business grows, you may need to start delegating some of your tasks to others in order to keep up. You can hand off your inventory and order management to a fulfillment center like Elite Ops and enjoy a nearly automated source of income without much work from your end.