How to Start an Ecommerce Business
Everyone knows that ecommerce is exploding; people use the Internet to buy what they need in increasingly larger numbers. According to data-alliance.net, global retail ecommerce sales will exceed 4,000 billion in 2020. So, how can you start a profitable ecommerce business? Let's find out!
Begin by choosing the products you intend to sell carefully; take your time, because this is the most important stage of the process. First, write down a list that includes all your friends and relatives. Start with the contacts in your cell phone, and then move on from there. What would each one of them buy online? Or, even better, what do they buy online on a regular basis? Try to discover one or more products that interest them. Most of them drink coffee or tea, for example. And many of them have dogs, so they need to purchase dog food regularly.
There are several online tools that can simplify the process. Explore the results that are output by Answer the Public, for example. I entered "coffee" in the search box, and I have gotten several interesting ideas such as "will coffee help me lose weight", "which coffee machine to buy", "what coffee has the most caffeine", etc. As you can see, the ideas I've selected can be used to start three different ecommerce businesses; you could sell various brands of coffee that help people lose weight in your first online store, and so on.
Once that you have discovered an interesting idea, it is time to verify if there's enough market demand to justify the existence of another ecommerce business that revolves around it. Click this link to visit Google Trends; you will see that the coffee industry has grown by about 20% over the past five years.
Pick a product that has a retail price in the $30-$50 range, if possible; you want to ensure that shipping costs won't destroy your profit. Also, the physical size of your product matters a lot; small, lightweight packages are easy to ship and will keep the costs low.
What about seasonality? Fortunately, Google Trends will provide this information as well, and it is good to know that coffee sells all year round. So, plug your own product into Google's tool, and estimate if you will be able to have consistent sales/profit every month.
Can you improve the product? If we continue to use the online coffee store as an example, think about building your own blend of coffee. Anyone can sell other people's merchandise, but if you manage to create a superior product, your store will stand out for sure. Try to keep the process as simple as possible, though; you don't want to rely on too many third parties, because this will increase the costs.
It's time to evaluate the competition. Sometimes you will discover that an excellent business idea has been used and abused by lots of people, and you are going to have a hard time trying to compete with them. In this case, dump the idea for good, and then have another brainstorming session. Things change if you have built a high-quality product, of course; if this is the case, go ahead with your idea, emphasizing its unique selling points.
How will you name your business? Make sure to pick a name that's short and catchy. Register the corresponding domain name, and then hire somebody to create a professional logo and a website for you. If you are strapped for cash, you can use an ecommerce platform such as Wix. If you go this route, you will be able to launch your online business faster, but you may miss several important customization options, or you'll have to purchase several add-ons.
Now that your site is deployed, it's time to add content to it. Create product pages that incorporate beautiful pictures and powerful copy, or hire a few professionals to take care of these tasks for you. Then, start driving targeted traffic to your website. Use Facebook ads, Google ads, Bing ads, etc. to build your email list. Don't worry, I will teach you how to do that in a future article.
Starting an ecommerce business is definitely challenging, but can be very rewarding. I have done this several times in the past, and being able to make a living as an online store owner is a fantastic experience!