Buying inventory from a wholesaler and turning it around to sell to others is one of the most common and most basic store models in the world. It also has the potential to be one of the most rewarding, since the inventory you choose becomes something you often feel passionate about.

Running this type of business in any format is challenging, but jumping into e-commerce is a whole different world. The competition is fierce and, quite often, widespread. Even companies that concentrate on boutique and specialized goods often find themselves facing plenty of competition. So how can a retail e-commerce business stand out? By following these simple but effective steps to e-commerce success.

Know Your Customers — Reading about customer trends in your industry is one thing, but it doesn’t replace actually getting to know the people who are choosing to work with you. Engage with customers online and off by making you and your staff accessible through social media, email and by phone. Develop social media and promotion campaigns that encourage customers to share opinions and experiences. You can use these to help develop new product lines or refine certain services.

Be Open to Change — While you should always be true to your original business focus, it’s important to be adaptive. As you engage more with customers, be open to hearing their criticism as well as their praise. Being able to deal with negative feedback highlights exactly where your company needs to improve.

Be Demanding — When working with vendors, demand the same level of service you deliver to your own customers. Working with the best your industry has to offer positions you as an industry leader, one that simply won’t settle for second best. As a result, you’ll attract customers who feel the same way.

Work Smarter — Use the tools like resource and ecommerce inventory management systems that can work as an ERP suite. These programs work in concert to deliver business intelligence you can use to forecast sales and spot potential issues in budgeting, inventory and sales before they become a crisis.

These steps will help keep you ahead of the crowd and right in front of your customers. Remaining relevant, engaged and competitive is no small task. The challenge becomes easier, however, when you focus on the foundations of running a successful business — adaptability, pride and passion.