A checklist of tips for online startups sits next to a cartoon rocket ship that's ready for takeoff.

7 Golden Rules Every Online Startup Should Follow

In the “real” world, the golden rule is to treat others how you want to be treated. In the digital world, it’s that… and a few other considerations. Regardless of the eCommerce model you fall under or how long you have been in the retail game, a little dash of tried-and-true insight never hurts, and a dash is what we’re here to deliver!

Online startups, this one’s for you. If your products are solid and your business plan is sound, our sage advice will help you get the most out of your hard work and dedicated efforts. Keep reading for the full scoop!

#1. Start Small, Think Big

Coming up with a great idea is exciting. Implementing it is even more so. Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of it all, it can be exceedingly easy to get a bit… carried away. Listen, we’re not trying to clip your wings, but is renting office space really necessary? How about launching hundreds of SKUs before you’re officially acquainted with your target audience? 

As unfun as it may sound, pacing your progression is the key for the health of your business and your wallet. Before you jump on any purchases or investments, see if they’re a need-to-have, a must-have, or somewhere in between. Be militant about your margins, obsessed with your costs, and use those early gains to fuel your continued growth.

#2. Underpromise and Overdeliver

Out of a genuine desire to assist and assuage, empathetic business owners run the risk of finding themselves trapped in sticky situations where they promised too much and delivered too little. Alas, the reality of the supply chain is that, with so many moving parts, there’s a lot that you can’t control.

More than anyone, we know that ship happens. Manufacturing issues and temperamental weather, for example, are among the top culprits behind shipping delays and things just not going according to plan. So, instead of rushing to pledge perfection, remain calm, commit to an outstanding branded experience, and watch your customers’ faces light up when they see that you’ve been going above and beyond this whole time.

#3. Listen and Learn

Constructive criticism is necessary and valuable, but it’s not exactly anyone’s favorite topic of conversation. Of course, it’s the hardest lessons that are always worth learning. Negative or even neutral remarks can definitely be discouraging, but it’s also safe to say that someone who takes time out of their day to offer up their feedback is at least somewhat invested in your success. A responsive and positive attitude paired with an earnest attempt to resolve questions and concerns goes a long, long way.

#4. Be Transparent

Speaking of which, let’s not forget about the other real-life golden rule: honesty! Now that shoppers are savvier and more well-informed than ever, expectations are, naturally, at an all-time high. If they sense even a hint of treachery, the pitchforks will be out.

Okay, so that’s a little dramatic, but what we’re trying to say is that, in the age of the internet, getting away with fibs borders on the impossible. Not that you would ever try to do that, of course, but breaking the bad news gently is infinitely better than bending or twisting the truth for the sake of a fleeting sense of resolution.

#5. Pay Attention to Details

The “small” picture may not be your strong suit, but don’t count it out just yet. Even if they are barely perceptible, details are the bridge to a fleshed out customer experience that manages to surprise and delight at every step of the way. We’re talking branded tracking emails, memorable unboxings, personalized shopping suggestions, and closely monitoring website changes to keep an eye out on what is and isn’t working. Get your creative juices flowing and be prepared to be blown away by your bright ideas!

#6. Keep It Simple, Smarty

When in doubt, go without. This excellent nugget of wisdom can be applied to everything from product selection to web design. Tacking on all the gizmos and gadgets you can find can be, well, tacky. We get it if minimalism isn’t your groove, but try thinking of the “less is more” approach as a chance to highlight the things you’re most passionate about. It’s not about cramping your style — it’s about putting a spotlight on it to really make it shine!

#7. Be Consistent

You know what they say — ghosting is only for Halloween. Leaving potential and existing customers hanging is the equivalent of saying “thanks, but no thanks” to their patronage. We see this happen often on social media, which is, arguably, the worst place to be inconsistent. 

It’s a familiar setting — Business Owner Bob is enthusiastic about connecting with his audience, but, soon enough, he gets pulled away to put out fires and his engagement falls by the wayside. Or, perhaps, he creates a content marketing schedule that’s too strenuous to stick to. Whatever the case may be, it’s paramount that you hold the line for your own credibility and for your customers’ peace of mind. Perfection isn’t expected, but trying your best is mandatory. 😉

And there you have it! When an online startup is armed with the right tools and a can-do attitude, there’s little that it can’t accomplish. Psst… if you’re ready to scale and need an extra helping hand, how about checking out our rundown of how small online businesses can compete with the top dogs in eCommerce?

Questions? Comments? Let’s hear it! Shoot us a line and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

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