Beginners guide to eCommerce
Whether you're intending to turn an E-Commerce business into your full-time job or you're doing it as a side gig for extra funds, it's hard to deny it's an exciting but often stress filled time. This article should help you create a step by step checklist to ensure you avoid common pitfalls. This list is useful to those thinking of venturing into the E-Commerce world, those just starting off and even those who have already established an online business but are looking to expand further.
Believe in yourself - Believe in your product - Have a budget - Be ready for any eventuality. This article is necessary because unless you have created an absolute necessity in a market devoid of competitors ( good luck with that ) - you will need careful planning to appeal to your market, a good advertising strategy and a great visual website. Build it and they will come doesn't really apply to the digital age.
Finally, this article is part 1 - it's not going to focus on the E-Commerce platforms here or advertising specifics. This article assumes you've just had the bright spark for a new business idea that revolves around selling online or you're interested in learning in the thought process behind setting up an E-Commerce store and want to avoid common pitfalls.
Establish your product & product range
This may seem obvious but it's an important first step. The first step you need to understand is a vital one. Is there a demand for your product. There are many ways to check this, but at this stage, honest feedback is required, friends and friends of friends are one thing but a working test sample is often better. Try mini launching your product on websites such as eBay / Amazon. Launching on a marketplace is often good as you'll get an idea for the demand of the product, the downside is you'll be competing with every other company selling similar products that often get caught in a pricing war as well as having to consider eBays listing fees & amazons selling fees.
Another great method is to research your audience with surveys - there are plenty of free survey options like typeform which you can create for free & share on social media for feedback.
In addition to this, consider the viability of your product for E-Commerce. Products like T-Shirts sell great because of universal sizing guides and we're familiar with the materials they are made with. In addition to this, they are affordable small cost items which are part of everyone's common spending money and have a variety of reasons for being bought from gifts to necessity due to a shrinking wardrobe.
Know your market
Before you ever decide on a brand name, logo or identity. You should know your market, the demographics specifically that your product is targeting and their buying habits. Don't focus too much on statistics or analytics - try to humanize your audience into a person. Think about that person and how you'd solve their problem or appeal to their needs / wants.
This also helps when designing your branding, you can think about your target person and think about the style of logo, colour schemes, font that would appeal to that person. Write this all down and reflect on it when you've researched your competitors and thought about the product you're trying to sell to them.
Research your competitors
This is business 101 and is important at every step of your businesses lifespan. You need to be able to critically analyse your competitors, is there a gap in what they're offering? A great tip is to look through their past reviews for advice, honest reviews especially those around 4 stars will be goldmines for potential gaps in their offering.
Understand your costs
Once you've got a good understanding of the product you're going to be launching and an idea of how your competitors are doing it. You need to plan your finance and this is really important. This is the part where it's best to get an excel document out or pen and paper with a calculator and really make sure you're going to turn a profit on this.
Consider the following points
A) Website Cost (Inc hosting, domains) - External fees if applicable.
B) Advertising Costs
C) Cost of producing/importing product.
D) Cost of shipping your product
E) Payment gateways - Paypal fees / Stripe Fees.
This is also around the time where you'll have to have figured out your business model, whether you're stocking surplus, producing as orders come in, importing as orders come in from suppliers on the 'Just in time' model, dropshipping and more. More importantly, you need to fully understand the pros and cons of each and have a plan in place for every potential pitfall.
You can save time, money & stress here by setting up an E-Commerce package plan and monthly service plans with Creative Wavelength
Establish your Branding
Some businesses make the mistake of putting branding first, you should be able to know your product range inside out and how that appeals to your potential demographic so you can build your branding to appeal to that market. Branding is more than just logo design, it's also colour scheme and tone of language used and more.
Build your social media presence
Having a solid social media presence if you're on the right networks for your product, is essentially free advertising. It's not enough to just have a facebook page - especially since in the Facebook updates of late you need to pay to reach your own 'liked' audience more often than not.
Make sure it's scalable
If you want your business to be really successful, it needs to be scalable. Have a real think about the potential problems of growth. Failing to account how your business will scale will result in a large number of unaccounted costs or scaling too quick without considering if it's sustainable growth can lead quickly to being bankrupt!
Finally, like any business venture there is a degree of risk and the potential for success. Weigh up both carefully!
Part 2 coming soon.
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Always learning & travelling. I help small to medium-sized businesses grow online with web design and E-Commerce & connect with their customers with SEO Strategy