Ecommerce is not only a logical extension of any existing brand, it is also a great launch-pad for start ups, small businesses or aspiring movers and shakers. But while you see many ecommerce websites pop up, they rarely make a mark or survive long enough to make a profit. So, what should you do to start an ecommerce business that will be easy to manage, rationalize costs and will be sustainable?
What to keep in mind when planning to open an online store?
According to a study by comScore, ecommerce accounted for 17.5% of consumer spending as of the second quarter of 2017. A study by Statista, retail ecommerce sales will hit $4.5 trillion by 2021. You can guess how important an online store is in terms of revenue generation. So, before you start an ecommerce business, you must chalk out a long term plan for your business.
- Analyze the product to sell
What you are selling will determine every step you take in building up your ecommerce business. You must identify what product you can sell and how You must identify your product opportunity and do thorough, counter-intuitive market survey to identify the proper product.
Get your vision sorted out in practical points- who are you selling to? Is the product to sell viable enough? What is your cash situation? How do you want to process payments? Are you equipped logistics-wise to handle, store and supply physical products? Once you have sorted out all the kinks in your plan with your team, comes the step by step guide to make your ecommerce store a reality.
- Check out the competition and figure out a business plan
The ecommerce sector is vast, and there are many who offer the same products to their customers. As a result, nobody makes a profit and soon suffers an entrepreneurial burn out. After you have identified the product you want to sell, you must now look at your competition. What and how are they selling? How can you differentiate yourself? Do your suppliers overlap? What unique spin are you going to give your product- both in terms of quality and marketing.
After this, it is time to write a business plan. Create a roadmap for your ecommerce store. Talk to market experts, product consultants, supply chain managers and distributors and ask them to formulate a blue print for the business. Remember, you business plan is crucial for securing funding- should you need it. So, you have to chalk up a solid plan that will help you get investors interested in your product and convince them to invest in your venture.
- Pre-sales strategy
This is an extremely important step- but not many pay attention to it. You must do a market survey before you design your online store and launch your ecommerce operations. Ensure there is enough demand for your product. If possible, talk to customers directly.
Pre –sales is purely data driven, so it gives you an unbiased look at the market and yourself. Instead of relying on your ideas or biases, it gives you a stark picture of where you stand in the market. This will help you figure out your launch strategy, generate publicity and minimize risks and costs.
- Get a domain name and set up your website
Of course, you cannot have a successful ecommerce business unless you have a good website. After you have named your product, you must find out a suitable internet domain address. It should be unique, and reflect your brand name suitably.
Next, you must build a good website which should be fast, bugs-free, aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. Remember, your website is your virtual store, and how comfortable the customer feels there can make or break your business. Make sure your product pages contain all the information, and the content is attractive.
- Look for good ecommerce softwares
If you are going to run an online store, you will need a good ecommerce software. So take the advice of a technical expert in this field, and check out your options. The software should have everything in its package- from creating and maintaining an e-commerce website, hosting, website design to SEO integration. The shopping cart should be easy to manage and be glitch free, so invest in good shopping cart software.
Similarly, payment options should be safe and hassle free. As online sellers cannot handle cash themselves, make sure you find a good merchant services provider who can handle your transactions. Make sure the commission they charge for processing the payment from customers and then depositing the required amount in your bank account is affordable.
Remember, in ecommerce stores, customers can always return products, so you must figure out how to link your operations with their bank account so that both payments and refunds can be processed seamlessly and fast.
- Design a mobile app
Given that most people now surf the internet on their phones and a huge number of them do their shopping via apps, your ecommerce store should also be mobile friendly. Your website must be optimised for mobile phones, and it is only prudent to design your mobile app.
Your mobile app should be simple and have all the facilities that your website has. Include some special features too, that makes your mobile app attractive. Similarly, ensure that the technology incorporates all required aspects and is fast and efficient.
- Fuel your SEO processes and get on social media
Now, it is time to make your online store visible, accessible and popular. Contact a good (and affordable) SEO company who will help you optimize your website, and orient it with the require keywords. With search engine optimization, your website will feature at the top of Google search results, and become more visible.
The next thing to do is to create your social media accounts and pages and start generating buzz with attractive and ethical marketing campaigns. Do not go for cheap tactics and spamming- it will harm your brand, put off your customers and eventually lead to a Google penalty. Engage customers in a positive way and create a buzz so that they get interested to check out your website.
- Think of affiliate marketing strategies
It always pays to cooperate with a good partner. If you are a start up or a retailer, ask a blogger to plug in your products in their write ups. Maybe endorse some posts or blogs, and promote them on social media. B2B marketing is crucial if you want to widen your ecommerce store’s outreach.
Similarly, you can also look at other affiliate marketing opportunities with other etailers. Check out the options available with the bigwigs like Amazon or Flipkart. Often, small sellers profit from these programmes and also get the required publicity for increasing traffic to their own stores.
- A good marketing strategy
And last but not the least, chalk out a good marketing and branding strategy. Create your own niche, stay ahead of the competitors, engage with the customers and make sure you have long term, sustainable strategy. Everything you do- from your website design to your mobile apps- should be part of a single, cohesive strategy that brings your brand vision to fruition.