E-commerce provides a fantastic platform for new businesses to attract customers and grow, with low up-front costs. But the web can be an intimidating place, so here’s a definitive guide to getting started with your E-commerce business.
Step 1: Develop your product
The Choice is Yours
If you’re reading this, odds are you already have a product in mind. Whether it’s your passion, your invention, or your talent, creating a quality product is naturally the first step in the E- Commerce process. If you find yourself struggling with ideas, consider this: the product (or service) must create value. Value can come in the form of amusement, necessity, or desire – but regardless, it must be more valuable to the consumer than the money they will pay.
If you need more help with this, check out: 8 Strategies for Finding your First Product
Once you have a product, find a niche. If you don’t stand out, you can easily fall into the abyss of millions of lackluster online stores. Decide what will make your product different. There is no value in a product that already exists and lacks innovation. Consider asking family and friends for their input; if they have ideas for ways to make a better product, chances are future buyers would feel the same way. Take advantage of all available resources.
Understand Your Market
Research is key in the beginning stages of a business. There are two main things to ask about your desired market: 1. Who will buy your product and 2. Who will be your competition. Knowing your target consumers allows for a more effectively marketable and tailored product. However, try not to narrow your target base too specifically or else you will end up cutting out large chunks of potential buyers. Understanding your consumers allows you to more easily locate potential competitors, too. Inc.com recommends further researching the competition by checking out social media, attending conferences, and even looking into Google and other comparison-shopping websites.
Step 2: Plan.
A mission statement kick starts your business plan. Why are you making this product? How will your business contribute to society? Consumers value transparency, and developing a mission statement early helps you stay on track in the future.
Consider things like manufacturing, storage, and shipment. Decide how best to make your product, including the ideal location for its creation and where it will go once its made. If you want your business to grow, have plans that are ambitious and long-term so there are no surprises down the road.
Be aware of ways to tap into the benefits of E-Commerce. It’s important to know that the best time for sales is between 3pm and 8pm (when buyers get home from work), the best day for sales is Monday (retail therapy to get through the Monday blues), and the holiday season sees aggressive spikes in sales (December specifically). Have a definitive plan to use facts like these to your advantage; advertise early and often. Good marketing strategies are planned well in advance and offer multiple different avenues for reaching potential customers. Don’t forget to use social media (here are a few other blog posts about using social media).
Step 3: Take the Plunge
Make it Real
Give it a name. Be creative – a unique name will stand out and attract customers. With that said, keep it short enough to stick around in a buyer’s head. Often, using a name that gives insight into the product helps new customers feel more inclined to look into it. “Iphone” is a great example; it’s unique and snappy, but you can use context clues to get at least a vague understanding of the product at first glance. Give potential names a quick Google to make sure they really are as unique as you think. (Don’t get sued…Make sure you can legally use any name by looking through the US Patent and Trademark Office)
Finally, Enter the World Wide Web:
After you have a name, begin setting up your website. There are lots of different online companies offering to build websites at minimal costs. Make sure your domain name acts as advertising and that your site has a clear and understandable ordering process. Consider logistics such as what payments you are willing to accept or which carrier you will use to ship out purchased products, then look into the pros and cons of every option.
Another option is to join a community website with other vendors. Some of these include: etsy, shopify (Here’s a coupon for that one, can’t say no to a good deal!), gumroad, or squarespace. Sites like the following will allow you to receive payments from buyers: paypal and stripe.
An E-Commerce business doesn’t have to be drastically different than any other business. Embrace the efficiency, marketing potential, and convenience in order to use them to your advantage. In the end, finding a way to stand out and succeed in the world-wide web leads to big things.