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Create Your Online Store: Use a Test Audience

To create an online store from scratch, you have plenty of hurdles to overcome. When you launch, why should anyone care? How do you get people coming through the doors? How will you know that you’ve created the right brand and website experience if you hadn’t had an audience of shoppers to test it on?

These are tough challenges that every online merchant deals with in the early stages. Looking to get a jumpstart on these obstacles? Develop a test audience—a group of potential customers and people who fall into your target shopper—to help you get started out on the right foot.

When you create your online store, you’ll have a great jumping off point with your test audience. You can mold the website’s functionality based on their feedback. Of course, putting together a test audience can seem intimidating. How do you do it?

Step 1: Reach out to people who fit the bill.
A lot of merchants don’t create a test audience because they don’t know where to start. Get started by visiting forums, blogs and other interactive websites that cater to your market. Then, build relationships with influencers on these sites. Don’t try to sell them anything; just be honest about why you need their help.

For example, if you’re selling outdoors gear, find biking, hiking and camping forums. Interact with power users and stay in touch with them.

Step 2: Ask them questions about what they like.
Survey your new test audience and find out what they like in an online store. Understand their interests and motivations in order to help you create a website experience that truly speaks to your customers.
Step 3: Launch a test version of your website.
Ask your new test audience to use your website as though they were shopping on it in real life. When you create your online store, it’s always a good idea to test out your creation to see how your target audience receives it. (Your shopping cart software solution should give you the ability to make this test-run happen.)
Step 4: Offer them great deals when you launch to keep them onboard as regular customers.
Once you’ve officially launched, you need to populate your store—and who better to populate it with than your test audience? Offer them deals and incentives to become loyal shoppers. You’ll eat into your margins early, but you’ll get the ball rolling on sales, which will help you out in the long run.
Step 5: Entice them to share your online store with their networks.
Finally, you want to get more shoppers through the door. You did your job: create an online store. Now, you need to get your test audience to alert their friends and coworkers about your store. Offer more deals and incentives for sharing in order to help you make this happen.

by Gonzalo Gil Google