Are you done working for others? Are you considering being your own boss? If you are among those who have been thinking for a while of starting their own online businesses, then you are definitely in the right place!
In recent years, with the massive access to the internet, we have observed a noticeable increase in the number of online businesses. However, in the last 18 months, we noticed that shopping online that used to be convenient is now a necessity. Many online stores have a problem now in keeping up with the stocked items because of the high demand for products. This is due to the radical change that we have experienced because of COVID-19 and the repetitive lockdowns. These factors affected our purchasing decisions to a great extent.
Worldwide E-commerce, for instance, is experiencing an unprecedented growth as it will approach 5 trillion dollars in 2021. (emarketer)
This blog post gives you a roadmap full of useful instructions that answer a lot of your questions about starting an E-commerce store. Following, are the steps to follow in order to achieve your desired goal:
1. Decide which type of business you want to be in and define your offerings
Starting an E-commerce business from scratch has endless possible options. However, you can not just wing it. But it remains crucial that you take a moment to think wisely about what you want to do and in which sector you want to compete.
Also, you should give it a good thought about whether you want to sell physical goods, digital products (e-books, software…etc. for instance), services or courses and memberships.
2.Research your E-commerce business model, other similar online businesses (benchmarking) and the niche
In the world of business, it is vital to work with a business model and a business plan as we can not leave it to chance. What are your abilities? What do you do best? How can you best fit that in the market? These are the questions you should start asking yourself. Actually, there are many things that you could do at this critical stage as well such as:
- Start setting your SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bounded
- Make good research about other similar companies that would be your competitors, define them and see their main strategies. Bench marking at this early stage certainly helps you to have a clear view of the future.
- Invest time in conducting some good analysis for the external and internal environments using the popular analytical tools such as PEST analysis , Porter’s 5 forces and SWOT analysis
- Define your niche of target customers by narrowing the big segments down, this enables you to set your effective marketing strategies correctly.
3.Validate your target market and main products
After you have conducted your research, you are probably ready to validate your target market that you will be communicating with and will be addressing your messages to. The size of this target market differs from a business to another, so does the most suitable communication method.
Moreover, at this stage, you should also be able to define your specific products or services that you will be selling in your online store.
4. Choose your brand name and choose the legal structure of your business and complete all formalities
I know! Here comes the more serious and the least-fun part of it. At this stage, you should deal with all formalities and legalities to create your business identity. This differs based on the country you are operating in. A piece of advice to you is that you should ask knowledgeable people about it, read documents carefully and ask for help from people who passed through this stage before.
Choosing a brand name is still fun though, think of a name that represents value for you but also unique, original, easy to remember and easy to spell. You might also think of names that relate to your actual business so people would, by default, know what this business is about when they hear the name.
5. Choose your E-commerce platform and create your online store (design, website, application)
Are you starting with a website only? With a mobile phone application? Or with both? Have you thought of your design yet?
There comes the time when you have to figure these things out and make your decisions about them. Choosing an E-commerce platform for your store is essential as you have several options available. For instance, you might choose to go with the most popular DIY platforms Shopify and WooCommerce where all you need to do is to register and then start setting up your own store.
Web hosting is another issue that you should consider at this stage based on your platform’s choice; if your chosen E-commerce platform provides that or you should be handling this on your own.
Not to forget to mention that it is important also to consider some criteria when choosing the design. Always go with easy to read, friendly to use and healthy to see designs. This includes colours, images, font, language, placement of products…etc.
6.Create your products and offerings
Are you going to self make your products? Or are you going to source them from distributors?
These are some of the questions we have to answer at this stage. This decision depends on the type of your products and on your budget and approach as well. Some of the choices would be:
- Make your own original and hand-made products
- Buy products from a wholesaler and resell them,
- Manufacture products somewhere else and then sell them,
- If it is a service, you might just need to list it and describe it to potential customers.
7. Generate a marketing plan to attract customers to your E-commerce store
As you are all set, now you need to think of your marketing plan in order to reach your target market. This includes the different marketing tactics that you would employ, the marketing mix strategies in terms of your product, place, promotion and price.
You should figure out which marketing campaigns you will be creating and which advertising tools would work for you as well.
If you are searching for advice, never underestimate the role paid ads play in this, as well as the strong presence on social media. Try always to be original, pioneer, creative and innovative. Differentiate yourself from others and keep track of new trends and keep up with them so as never to be outdated.
8. Monitor your performance and keep track of your data
Launching your E-commerce store and starting your sales are not the end of your journey. On the opposite hand, this is where it all begins.
Now you will have even bigger responsibilities to expand your store and boost your sales. This happens by monitoring your performance, evaluating your data and analysing it. There are numerous tactics you should consider at this stage such as:
- Detecting all errors and correcting them.
- Finding your areas to improve and enhancing them.
- Altering and refining your strategies if needed.
- Do not waste your time and efforts on things with less benefit for your business.
- Do not spend a fortune on tasks out of your expertise that you can outsource and get better results from. This includes ensuring total fulfilment that takes all the stress away from your order fulfilment operations.
Following these steps will help you get to your goal of starting your E-commerce store. In addition to that, you should make your decisions on what to make in house and what to outsource. This mainly about your warehousing and shipping decisions. However, you should also consider some other attributes such as your list of expenses that might differ based on where you are operating but mainly that would include:
- The business license, permits and other legal expenses,
- E-commerce platform, domain and hosting expenses
- Payment processing software expenses
- Warehousing and shipping expenses
- Marketing expenses
Do you have your business idea? What are you still waiting for? It is time to make it happen.
Raneen Khaleel, PhD candidate and a SEO and Marketing specialist at Despatch Cloud. Have written couple of blogs.