There’s no shortage of information online on how to start an e-commerce business. A quick Google search reveals millions of results on the subject. But all that information might be more of a hindrance than a help. Why? Because you don’t need more information. You need the right information at the right time.
This is especially true when you’re starting your first e-commerce business. At the outset, you don’t know what you should know, so you end up trying to know everything. That’s a recipe for burnout and frustration. Without the right information at the right time, you can end up running in circles with a product you love, only to find out a short time later that nobody else loves it. Now you’re out all of that time and money, and you have to start over. That’s no good. Before you go get business cards made, start a blog or invest thousands of hours into building the perfect e-commerce site, make sure the idea it’s based around the foundation of your business is rooted in a real, active need in the marketplace that has you have the means to meet.
Here are the steps in working through that:
- Choose a proper platform to build your business
Some sellers choose to sell only via third-party e-tailers. This will involve taking the time out to understand the platform’s guidelines and optimizing your listings while you showcase your products right next to your competitors. Others choose to create their own store website and sell through it. Each option has its pros and cons. While you save on commission in your own platform, you’ll have to invest significant time and effort to drive traffic. Also, having your own storefront will involve working with platforms like Open Cart or Shopify or independent developers and additional plugins for customization. Some do a hybrid of both which ensures idea validation and sales from third-party websites while your own traffic builds. We’ve seen the hybrid model work wonders for small businesses.
- Analyze the market opportunity
Once you find a potential product with demand, you need to figure out whether there is big enough market in the long term? You don’t want to start your eCommerce site only to realize there are simply not enough people interested in what you’re selling.
- Finding A Product To Sell
This is often the most challenging part of starting a new online business. Once you have a product idea in mind, how do you know if it’s a good idea or not? You will go through two exhaustive evaluations methods, evaluating both the product itself, as well as the market for your product choice. Having found your product idea and evaluating them in the previous section, you must now figure out where and how you’re going to obtain your products.
- Naming Your Business
Aside from finding an actual product to sell online, another difficult decision is determining your business name and choosing an appropriate and available domain name. Once you have solidified your name and registered your domain, it’s time to craft a logo. You’re almost ready to begin building your online store. However, before you jump into it, you should understand the basics of search engine optimization so that you can optimize your site for Google and other search engines. With a better understanding of search engine optimization (SEO), it’s time to build out your store.
- Position your brand and product
The internet is full of products to choose from and most of them look the same. If you don’t find a way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market, you’re destined to fail. Don’t compete with others: People remember no more than 7 companies from the same niche category and usually, the market leader is first in their mind. It’s smart to create a new niche category where you can be first in rather than competing with numerous existing companies in a brand category. You do this by positioning. How to position yourself in a new category: Start by asking yourself what aspect of your customer’s need is critically important to them. Whatever it is, base your eCommerce category on this key need that is currently unmet. How to niche your category? eBay was not the first eCommerce site. It launched after Amazon but is the first to allow independent people or companies to sell products on auction. Zappos was also not the first eCommerce site. There was already Amazon and eBay, but it was the first to introduce online shopping for shoes. You can transform each niche into a new one by adding a new perspective, such as shoes for the urban man or busy woman. It’s important to define the product category and position yourself as the number one choice.
Starting a successful eCommerce business might seem like rocket science but it’s not. In the end, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just good enough to get you started. Now that you’ve launched, the hard work begins. You’re well on your way and now likely have some sales under your belt. It’s time to get serious and focused. Building your own e-commerce business is no easy task. From choosing a product, evaluating viability and sourcing, to a building, launching and growing sales. There’s a lot of puzzle pieces to put together.
Don’t forget, if you run into any problems getting your store set up, you can always hire help. By the time you finish working through this process, you should have a very clear picture of your e-commerce idea and the market landscape it’ll fit into. You should know who your competitors are, what they’re doing right, who they’re selling to and how you can do it better. You should have a clear idea of who your prospects are, what their likes and dislikes are, and a compelling offer in mind that’ll turn them into your customers. If people are willing to pay for your product, you’ll have years to redefine and improve as you’re building your online empire.