Starting an ecommerce business isn’t too difficult in 2017, especially with online platforms like Shopify and WordPress available. However, because starting an ecommerce business is becoming easier to do, a lot of business owners are considering them. This makes competition for online sales in a variety of industries more intense each year. SEO and marketing are key factors to differentiating your business from your competitors. If you’re interested in starting an ecommerce business and want to stay ahead of the competition, there are four critical steps you must take when starting out.
1. Conduct Well-Rounded Research
The first thing you need to do is find a lucrative niche market to tap into. Consider products that will fill specific needs that you’re passionate about. You can also check out comments and reviews on Amazon or eBay for some of their top-selling products. What are customers requesting or not very happy with there, or what are they saying about these products on social media? This will give you an idea of what’s missing and where you’ll have an opportunity to compete within your selected market. Next, you’ll want to research the products you want to sell. What materials will you need to buy to manufacture your product, and what do they cost? Compare these costs to the costs you will need to run your daily business operations once you decide on pricing. You should also look at the materials your competitors use to see how your product can stand apart from theirs. After you know what you’re selling, you’ll want to know how to effectively sell it. Determine the potential size of your market and its profitability by examining the performance of keywords surrounding it in search engines. Are there enough people searching for something like what your product offers? You can also consult industry reports to get a feel for market drivers, opportunities, trends, and challenges.
2. Set up Your Online Business and Pick Your Tools to Manage it
Once you know what you’re going to sell and determine there’s a need or demand for it, you’ll want to set up your business online and pick your tools. Here are some basic steps to follow.
- Choose your business name and how it will be registered with the state and federal government for tax purposes.
- Apply for any additional licenses or permits you might need to sell your product online.
- Write a business plan that highlights your market analysis, your company’s description, and how it will operate.
- Decide if you will need any dedicated vendors.
- Find a domain name that’s easy to remember, and a hosting provider for your site.
- Build and design your site and select your logo. Set up themes, headers, product categories, and content categories.
- Select a shopping cart software (like Shopify) for your site and set it up.
- Plan how you’ll track inventory and what software you’ll use.
- Select a reliable and secure payment processing service (i.e. PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, etc.).
- Determine what shipping options you’ll offer, their costs, and how they’ll be managed.
3. Define Your Target Customers and Test Your Idea
Before you officially launch your ecommerce site, narrow down who your target customers are by building buyer personas, and marketing your product before you launch your site. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of the customer you should be targeting. They let you zero in on your ideal customer’s age, location, behavior patterns, motivations, and challenges. This allows you to speak directly to them without worrying about appealing to those who aren’t interested in what you’re selling. Before you launch, start marketing your product to the ideal customers defined by your buyer personas. SEO and marketing will allow you to pinpoint significant potential buyers. Also sell some of your products to select groups and receive feedback from your potential customers. This way, you can test your product or variations of it, as well as your marketing tactics and buyer personas, to see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll also be able to see if people are willing to pay the price you’re advertising.
4. Be Prepared to Launch Your Site and Maintain it
There are things you must do before and after you launch your site, if you want to have a successful ecommerce business. Before you launch your site:
- Test it to verify there are no bugs and that it’s working properly and securely.
- Have plenty of inventory available for orders, as well as a plan to replenish it.
- Assess your shipping capabilities and reliability.
After you launch your site:
- Use email marketing and social media to promote it and your products.
- Devise a plan to drive traffic to it.
- Use search engine optimization (SEO) to increase conversion rates.
- Evaluate your site’s analytics on a rolling basis.
Even though starting an ecommerce business is easier than it’s ever been before, you don’t want to skip the critical first steps highlighted above. Completing these steps will ensure the success and profitability of your ecommerce business.