So, you want to be the next Amazon. Well, maybe not. Nevertheless, this article will help you start a killer e-shop and sharpen your entrepreneur skills.
Lots of people have done it successfully, and it probably looks easy. There is actually a lot of hard work involved. But if you’re “game,” here are the steps for getting it done.
This post walks you through the basics of starting the e-commerce business and scratches the surface of the items you should consider.
A to Z.
- 1.0. Check Your Commitment
- 2.0. Selection of Product(s)/Service(s)
- 3.0. Research the Competition
- 4.0. That Business Plan
- 5.0. Setting It All Up
- 6.0. Getting a Handle on SEO
- 7.0. Building That Website
- 8.0. The Site is Launched – Now What?
- 9.0. Tracking Your Growth/Success
- 10.0. Patience – It’s Hard
1.0. Check Your Commitment
As already stated, setting up a business and turning a profit from it is hard work. Many people keep their “day jobs” while they get their businesses established (and even afterward), so how willing are you to give up social and leisure activities to accomplish this dream?
That’s what this project will cost in personal time.
2.0. Selection of Product(s)/Service(s)
This can be a challenge. There are so many product sellers online, and you will need to find the right opportunity.
If you already have a unique product idea, great.
If not, you will want to explore the possibilities, and there are many.
- Ask yourself what you are passionate about and/or what you know a lot about.
- Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro Cameras is passionate about extreme sports and wanted a camera that enthusiasts could use to film themselves as they participated – in water, on land, and in the air. GoPro is a huge company today.
- Can you find a need that isn’t being met or an improvement on an existing product?Examples:
- The newer glow-in-the-dark collars for dogs who are out at night.
- Or the Dollar Shave Club that filled a need for those who wanted the convenience of having their razors delivered right to their mailboxes.
- What’s trending?
- One of the most current trends is subscription-based everything, from personal health care products to diapers to wines and specialty foods. In this case, you do not have to produce a new product – just add convenience for the customer.
- Another possibility?
- Find a product that will support a cause. Headbands of Hope is a company that sells headbands but also donates one to a little girl with cancer for every one that is purchased. A simple idea that turned into a wildly popular and profitable online business.
The point is this: You do not necessarily have to come up with a new product. You can improve on an existing product, offer an existing product in a more convenient way, or find a product sold in international markets that you can bring to a new audience in your own country.
There are a number of online publications that feature trendy products in countries all over the world. Check out Trend Watching, Trend Hunter, and Springwise for starters. There is lots of money to be made by re-selling an existing product in a new market.
3.0. Research the Competition
In a basic economics class, you learned about the law of supply and demand.
This figures mightily into your prospects for success.
- Who are your competitors and how are they doing?
- Can you improve on their business model, or offer a product at lower cost or with a minor improvement?
- How much of your competitors’ market do you believe you can capture, or are there new audiences that you can appeal to with a few tweaks?
If a product market is saturated and you have nothing new to add, you may want to consider another product or service.
There is a tool called SEMrush that shows you the traffic that a website has been able to generate and the money they spent to accomplish that. It’s not 100% accurate but gives you an idea about the niche’s profitability.
4.0. That Business Plan
Unless you are going to go for outside funding, your business plan does not have to be a formal document.
But you do have to have a plan.
And it will not be that hard to put together.
Even if it is just informal right now, you can use the template to formalize it if you scale well and want to look for outside funding at some point.
There are lots of resources for business plan templates. You might want to start with the Small Business Administration. It will give you a basic template and explain what should be included in each section of your plan.
In short, what you want your plan to include is the following:
- Summary: this will be an overview.
- Think of it as an introduction to an essay or paper you wrote in college. It includes the goal/purpose of your business, the product/service you are providing, and a statement of the need for it based on your research. What gap area you filling?
- Description of your company structure: Will you be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLC or any of the other types of corporate structures available to you?
- For this, you will want to really review what the Small Business Administration has to say and consult with a lawyer about the best fit for you.
- Summary of the Market Analysis You conducted: You need to prove to yourself (any perhaps to funders) that there really is a market for your product.
- Who is your target customer and how do you plan to “steal” that customer from your competitors or open up a new customer demographic.
- Full Description of Your Product or Service: this should be written from the customer’s perspective. What value will you be providing to your target market?
- Marketing: How do you plan to market your product or service? Obviously, you will have a website, but how will you drive your audience to it?
- This is a critical part of your plan, for if nobody knows you exist, you are doomed.
- Where does your demographic hang out online and how can you reach that audience? what kinds and how much content marketing will you be able to product yourself? How much do you plan to used paid advertising? How will you develop an email list and take care of existing customers?
- This may indeed be the largest section of your plan, because it will determine how you ultimately spread your brand and accumulate a larger and larger market.
- The Finances: Time to dig into the money aspect.
- Many e-commerce businesses can begin on a “shoestring” budget, but many others will require an initial investment to manufacture an item, purchase items for resale, or acquire inventory for a subscription-based service.
- Be realistic about your startup costs and even exaggerate them, so that you do not fail due to lack of funds. If you are doing this on your own, be certain that you have enough personal reserve to withstand the timeframe between launch and generation of profit. Again, the Small Business Administration has great guidelines for this.
If you struggle with putting together a business plan, there are a lot of online writing services, such as Getacademichelp that have business writing departments with pros to help you out.
5.0. Setting It All Up
AS Juliet once said, “What’s in a name?”
Well, in the world of e-commerce marketing, it can be quite a lot.
A name should be catchy, relate totally to what you are selling and should be memorable. It should also be easy to spell.
With as many domain names as there are, you may have a tough time finding one.
Don’t give up.
Single-word domains are the most popular so one you want might be taken, so try combining short words like “YouTube.”
Shopify has a list of name tools that might help.
Of course, you will then have to buy and register your domain name.
You now have an URL.
The only other thing you might want to consider is a Logo. Again, you can find a lot of logo generation tools on the web, so if you are feeling creative, go for it.
Otherwise, go to Fivver and find cheap graphic artists.
6.0. Getting a Handle on SEO
If you’ve never been in e-commerce or involved with a web-based enterprise of any kind, you will need to engage in some self-education about search engine optimization.
Basically, these are strategies and tactics you will use to get found by engines like Google, when people conduct generic searches online for the product you sell.
You want to pop up at least on the first page of those searches.
This is a long-term and never-ending activity, so you need to learn as much as you can.
There are very specific things you can do on your website and your blog (and yes, you must have a blog) that will help you to be found.
A lot of content marketing enterprises have free SEO guides for beginners. They are written in easy-to-understand language and will give you the strategies and tips for improving your SEO.
7.0. Building That Website
You can set up a website in minutes through WordPress, and there are a huge number of themes and designs from which to choose.
Here’s a guide on the most popular e-commerce platforms that will get your store up and running in a day.
This will get you started, but you will be responsible for the content that is placed there – the text, the product photos and descriptions, the colors, the typefont, and so forth.
Check out other e-commerce stores for designs and ideas.
Choose to take ideas from those that you find most appealing.
Remember, your design and all other elements should match what you are selling.
- Lego, for example, uses mostly bright primary colors because it is appealing to kids.
- Rolex, on the other hand, uses silvers, grays and black for a more sophisticated audience.
Depending on your audience and style, you may want to check out the psychology of color and the emotional appeals of different colors. Choose a palette that works for your products.
Product descriptions and photography will be critical for your product appeal.
Fortunately, great photos are now possible with most smartphones, including the ability to crop, size and frame.
Descriptions, however, require some creative writing. If this is not you, find someone who is Again, a good writing service or Fivver are two sources.
You may want to hire a designer if you don’t feel you are good at putting together a stunning website – they come in all price ranges, so pick one that fits your budget and work with him/her until you have what you really like.
Most designers are “creatives” and will provide that extra pizazz you can’t generate.
8.0. The Site is Launched – Now What?
Now the real work begins – spreading your brand through marketing strategies.
There is much to learn about marketing online, so accept the fact that you will be learning about marketing for as long as you are in business.
Here are the beginning essentials:
- Develop a customer persona – create a fictional person who is your ideal/typical customer. Once you have that fully developed. There is a lot of help for this online.
- Now, find out where this customer hangs out on social media.
- Facebook is always a good start, but also consider Twitter, Instagram, and, for younger audiences, possibly Snapchat.
- Quite possibly, it could be Pinterest as well. There’s lots of research out there on this topic, so use it. Choose two of the most popular platforms for your persona, and get yourself on them.
- Develop your blog.
- Start writing posts – good posts that will inform and entertain your readers. Again, there is a huge body of advice on blog post writing and social media marketing too. Do the work – you cannot avoid it.
- Use social media posts to capture and engage viewers – drive them to your blog posts and to your sites.
- Read how others have used social media. Nathan Chan, for example, owner of Foundr, an online magazine for startups, focused solely on Instagram in the early days of his startup, and he is happy to share his successful tactics with others. (he grew his following form 0 to 10K in just a few months).
- Encourage all visitors to your blog to sign up for an email subscription to your future posts and to receive specials on your products.
- The more you grow your email list, the larger your reach.
- You can also provide incentives and freebies for those who share your content with their communities.
- Use a lot of visuals in your content – people want to see and hear rather than read. Explainer videos about the value of your produce, “how-to” videos about using your products; and featuring happy customers with your products are all great ways to spread your brand.
- Paid advertising is always an option if you have the budget for it. Google and Facebook would be the places to start.
This is just a short synopsis of the types of marketing strategies you will be developing over time.
Here you can find 128 marketing growth strategies.
Remember, marketing will be a life-long and never-ending activity, and there will always be new technologies to take advantage of.
9.0. Tracking Your Growth/Success
Obviously, your growth can be tracked by revenue.
But you also want to look at which of your marketing strategies is working and which are not doing so well.
You want to put your resources on what works.
You can start with Google analytics while will give you all sorts of information about visitors and customers – how they get to your site, what they do on your site, and when and where thy bounce from your site.
Tracking all of this, especially during your first couple of years will be critical, so that you can modify what you are doing to better attract and convert customers.
10.0. Patience – It’s Hard
You are not going to be an instant hit.
It takes time to build a business and the e-commerce world is huge and competitive.
Growth will be slow, so accept it and just keep plugging along.
It’s All About enthusiasm and Commitment
Building an e-commerce business “ain’t no walk in the park.”
You have to be passionate about your product and your desire to have your own business.
You have to be willing to expend lots of time and energy and be willing to give up lots of leisure time, at least in the first couple of years.
Many have done it successfully, however, and you can too.
So these are the points to consider to start a killer e-shop.
From choosing a product, evaluating viability and sourcing, to building, launching and growing sales.
There’s a lot of puzzle pieces to put together.
However, following this resource roundup should provide you with a clear roadmap to help you build a profitable ecommerce business.
Now you know which are the pieces you should consider before starting.
Give it a go!