With more than 205 million predicted shoppers spending money online this year, now is the best time to start up an eCommerce store.
But starting up an eCommerce business is a complex, time-consuming process that requires making lots of decisions and covering a number of aspects. But if done right, it can pay off big time! In fact, if done right, your eCommerce business can start making profits quite quickly.
Moreover, the ultimate goal of many entrepreneurs is to put their eCommerce business for sale. This is also an option that can provide a nice cash infusion and serve as an incredible learning experience.
If you’re thinking about joining the bandwagon, this checklist will help you do it the right way.
1. Learn About Different eCommerce Business Models
Starting any type of business is a big investment, so it’s not wise to fly blind. Conducting thorough research is the first step.
Before you decide what you’re going to sell, you need to understand the different eCommerce business models.
For instance, if you’re going to sell physical products, it doesn’t mean you should keep a pile of products in your garage. You’ll need to think about product sourcing and inventory management options. Do you want to have your own warehouse? That would require you to invest some extra money upfront. Or maybe you’d prefer not touching the products at all? In that case, dropshipping is the best choice.
2. Research Your Niche
Once you got the basics covered, it’s time to decide what to sell. You can’t sell hundreds of different products (unless you’re Amazon), which means you’ll have to select a niche.
Begin the process by analyzing companies already working successfully in the selected niche space. If there’s no competition, it might be a signal that there is no market too. However, don’t choose a niche that is overcrowded either, as well as a niche dominated by the big players.
Focus on a niche that is popular on social media and offers affiliate marketing opportunities.
3. Determining Your Target Audience
Before you start thinking about product ideas, take some time to think about your buyers. You can’t expect to sell your products to everyone, it’s just not realistic. Your buyer persona needs to match your customers’ expectations and the products you sell.
Buyer personas describe your customers’ preferences, needs, motivations, etc. They will influence your marketing campaigns, content, and products.
Buyer personas aren’t based on assumptions or intuition. Your data should come from different sources such as web analytics, surveys, competitive research, interviews with customers, customer service questions, etc.
4. Select Your Products
Once you have identified your target customers, it’s time to choose products to sell. It’s best to start with just one as it requires less investment and allows you to test the waters.
Test the product yourself so you can identify any potential issues and prepare customer support scripts to answer FAQs.
5. Create a Business Plan
A well-written business plan is a key asset for businesses at any stage in their lifecycle. It will serve as a basis for effective cash flow management, sustainable growth, and (if need be) successful strategic exit later on.
However, a business plan is only as good as its writer. While you (the founder and CEO) will need to provide input, consider hiring a business plan advisor to help you with the creation of this important document.
This business plan advisor will serve as a combination of an industry expert, senior advisor, and financial analyst drawing on their expertise to collect and analyze data, review your financial model, and help you think strategically about the direction of your eCommerce business over the next 3-5 years.
6. Set Up Your Business and Brand
If you want your business to be successful, you need to build a brand that connects with your buyer personas. Consider the imagery, colors, fonts or typeface you will use. For instance, if your target customers are businesswomen who are into a sustainable life, you’ll know to avoid cheesy images and girly colors.
However, before you start working on your brand, you need to go through some basic steps in order to establish your business:
- Register your company
- Choose a name for your eCommerce store
- Get all the necessary business licenses
- Get your employer identification number
- Apply for business permits and licenses
- Choose the right vendors.
7. Create Your eCommerce Store
Once you have registered your business and gave your store’s design some thought, you’ll need to register your domain name, as well as any relevant redirect URLs.
When choosing the platform you will use, consider loading speeds, compatibility with different payment gateways, compatibility with your business structure, SEO features, etc.
Once you’ve chosen the platform, instead of hiring a pricey development company, use a theme. Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce offer tons of awesome themes to choose from.
8. Marketing Your eCommerce Store
If you want people to come to your e-store, you’ll need to market it. Here are some ideas to help you:
Take advantage of SEO
Include relevant keywords on each page of your website, in your ad campaigns, and in the URLs. This will help you rank better in search engines and increase the chances of people discovering your store.
Build an email list
An email list will allow you to work with people who have already expressed interest in your products, thus making the sales process much easier. You can achieve this by hosting a giveaway where your customers will need to leave their email address in order to enter. Giveaways are the best tactic to get traffic and subscribers fast. They also help you increase your brand presence and product visibility.
Collect positive feedback
Offer influential people in your niche free samples of your products in exchange for positive reviews. You can also ask your customers for feedback using cards with each product that asks for an honest review or a survey template.
You also need to think about how you will monitor your campaigns and measure the results. In addition, if your budget allows it, think about whether you are willing to hire a professional marketing agency.
Setting up and running a successful eCommerce store doesn’t have to be difficult nor expensive. In fact, it can be a quite exciting and challenging process during which you will learn lots of new things about choosing the right product, building an e-store, as well as marketing and selling to customers. Good luck!