February 18, 2019

The Best Ways to Start an E-Commerce Business

It seems as if everyone has an eCommerce business these days. And why not? There is a lot of appeal to starting one: you can be your own boss, set your own schedule, and work from the comfort of your home. Before building your website and shipping your first product, however, consider what it takes to successfully launch and operate an eCommerce company. These tips will help you to develop a sound plan.

1. Choose Your Niche

Without a giant budget, you won’t be the next Amazon or Target. To be a profitable eCommerce site, you have to niche down. A niche relates to services or products appealing to a subset of the population. To find your niche, look for successful companies in your online space. Be sure the area is competitive because that shows you there is a ripe market for your product. Identify over-crowded niches and avoid one where a major brand dominates. It is also a good idea to look for a niche that has a good social media audience.

Niche-ing down also means you will have “shoulder” niches with whom you can work. These will be similar to yours but not identical. For example, if your site is dedicated to home improvement products, gardening or pest control will both be shoulder niches. Join forces with other businesses to grow your customer base and to cross-promote products or become an affiliate. Amazon affiliates are especially great marketing opportunities. Affiliates help cut down on shipping costs but you still make a profit.

2. Define Your Persona

Once you have your niche, you might think it’s time for a product. Well, almost. While a product is important, you need to first know who your customer is. What is their persona? And, who are you? What do you represent? You want to project a consistent brand image to the type of customer who syncs with your brand. Identify your image and the customer you’re catering to. Then pick one product. You can always add more, particularly if you leverage affiliate marketing.

3. Do Product Research

You know you want to focus your energy on one product, but how do you decide what to sell? Although larger items might seem obvious because of their higher price point, consider this: buyers may shy away from high prices but have no qualms about buying a low-cost item.

Accessories could be the way to go. Items like USB cords or HDMI cables are easy to ship and can be marked up. Or, consider something hard to find locally like a craft item or something rare. Perhaps something local that’s hard to find nationally or something consumable or disposable.  

Look at comparable online businesses to understand the competitive landscape. Research if there are similar goods and how they are faring in terms of supply and demand. Look at pricing, shipping, eCommerce platforms, everything about your competition’s business to help you understand how to model yours. The better you understand your market before you begin, the stronger your initial effort will be.

4. Logistics

Once you have decided on a client persona and product, you are ready to register your business and give it a name. You may be ready to pick your store name; get your business license; an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to open a business bank account; apply for business licenses and permits and other logistics. You are also likely ready to establish your brand with visuals like a logo and sales tools like an eCommerce website. Creating an online store is the job of a qualified web designer. This is all before you get a single click of online traffic.

4. Marketing

As is true with any business, marketing is key. Once you have launched your eCommerce site, you will want to market both your site and your products. Begin with digital marketing strategies such as blogging, social media, SEO, and email to generate buzz. Create original and valuable content that will tell your story and take potential buyers through the marketing funnel and convert leads into customers.

One of the best ways to start promoting and selling is via an email list. Create an opt-in freebie on your site or host a giveaway and procure your customers email addresses. Giveaways are great go-to methods of getting subscribers. Building an email list gives you a group of warm leads to work with making the sales process much easier. Create relationships with your customers, respond to customer service issues, and always focus on the next sale, not just the one you made.

You may also find bloggers and influencers in your niche who are willing to review your product in exchange for a free sample. If you sell on Amazon, gain customer confidence by asking for feedback and reviews. Work to create a continual feedback loop between your brand and the customer and build a strong two-way dialogue, this will translate to word-of-mouth marketing and repeat sales.

5. Next Steps

These tips will get you started on your new online venture. Still not sure where to start or want some help creating your website for your eCommerce business and brand? We are here to help. Contact our experts today.