Running an online business is one way to thrive in today’s digital world. eCommerce sales skyrocketed to $6.3 trillion in 2022. If you’re ready for a career change or looking to run your own eCommerce business, this is the guide for you.
Success in eCommerce comes down to 3 main factors:
- Effective marketing campaigns.
- Excellent product-market fit.
- Solid processes and systems.
Success in e-Commerce also requires a lot of sacrifice, and hard work (a high threshold for risk tolerance also helps), but it becomes nearly impossible without a clear roadmap like this. I hope it helps!
(Related: 7 Best E-Commerce Platforms).
Why Start An E-Commerce Business?
Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, you can run eCommerce businesses from anywhere in the world.
This could be a valid career path if you do not want to be locked in an office building between 9 and 5.
However, you will need plenty of grit to succeed.
Expect to put in 5-10 years of hard work before that becomes a reality.
(Related: Best POS Systems In Australia).
For the 3% of you who as still reading, the most common eCommerce business models are:
- B2C (Business-to-consumer).
- B2B (business-to-business).
- B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer).
Your strategy will depend on the eCommerce business model you choose to launch.
(Related: 13 Businesses You Can Start From Your Garage).
How To Start An E-Commerce Business.
Consider the below steps in your planning and execution phases.
1. Find Product Opportunities.
Like any business, you must find a product or service that has the potential to solve a problem.
Once you narrow down your product and service opportunities, evaluating the need in the current market is essential. You can do this by:
- Customer Feedback: Gather reviews, surveys, or social media data for valuable insights into consumer demand.
- Industry Reports: Conduct a market analysis to understand consumer demand for specific products or services within a particular market.
- Data: Utilise tools such as Google Trends to grasp consumer demand for specific offerings through their word searches.
You’ll also need to find a way to source your product effectively. We recommend:
- Research and compare potential suppliers to find the best fit for your online business.
- Consider factors such as price, quality, delivery times, and the supplier’s reputation.
Before committing to manufacturing, place a small test order to ensure the supplier can meet your quality standards.
2. Research Your Competition.
It’s essential to understand how your product fares against competitors.
Your goal is to determine what the competition is doing well and how you can improve that in your current strategy.
To do this:
- Find out who the current competitors in your niche are (start here before expanding to a broader market).
- Select five to ten competitors to study.
- Reflect on competitor product offerings, pricing strategies, and marketing techniques.
- Create a spreadsheet that you can use to analyse the strengths of different businesses when choosing your product and marketing campaigns.
(Related: Checklist For Starting A Business In Australia).
3. Write A Business Plan.
Lenders and investors will require a business plan to boost the capability of your business idea.
In particular, they will want reassurance that your personal and business finances can support the venture.
A great business plan should include the following:
- Describe the product or services in detail.
- Outline how your online business will operate on a day-to-day basis, including location, staffing, processes, operations and manufacturing details.
- Describe the management team, including their roles and responsibilities.
- Present your marketing and sales strategies, including how you plan to reach and appeal to your target market.
- Write a statement that defines your goal within the first year of launching (including short-term goals) plus your 3-5 year goals.
You can explore business plan examples here.
Business success comes down to two skills. The first is your ability to systematically delegate responsibilities and lead. This allows you to grow your business by having other people do some of the heavy lifting. The second is your ability to make yourself systematically grind through what’s necessary without being distracted or allowing fears to get in the way. If your business isn’t growing, you’re missing both of these skills – and you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.
4. Choose A Name, Logo And Set Up Your Online Store.
It’s time to brand your eCommerce store. Disruptive or alluring branding will ensure customers choose to engage with your eCommerce business.
Your logo and store name should embody the spirit of your business and its offerings – so stay authentic.
- Name: Ensure the name is catchy, unique and easy to pronounce.
- Logo: Use digital programs such as Canva to experiment with the look and feel of logo designs before engaging a professional designer.
A good business name makes a business sound professional and trustworthy, but a great name responds to the target audience’s needs.
5. Organise Your Shipping Strategy.
One of the most critical elements of starting an eCommerce business is shipping, which will set you apart from competitors.
The important things to keep in mind:
- Set a realistic expectation of how much it will cost to ship each package.
- Consider how to package your products and how easy they are to send.
- Ensure each product is sturdy enough to reach its destination without potential damage from transit.
Global shipping options are as follows. Be sure to check with your local providers:
(Related: What Is The Best CRM For A Small Business?)
Direct-to-consumer (D2C): This allows you to sell your products directly to customers, eliminating the need for wholesalers or retailers.
- Dropshipping: This is the most popular way, where you set up a storefront (website) so customers can pay by credit card or PayPal. You then source shipping from a supplier that manages inventory and packaging. Consider setting up different warehouses for different production zones if your store is large enough.
- White label: You could put your name and brand on a generic product you purchase from a distributor but still need to engage a company to ship.
- Private label: You can also hire a manufacturer to create a product to be sold exclusively (by you).
- Subscription: Many eCommerce brands deliver products weekly or monthly to loyal customers for a discounted rate.
You must respond promptly to customer enquiries, keeping them informed about the status of their orders. Be sure to automate your tracking information to allow customers visibility into the process.
6. Set Sales And Marketing Goals.
You should establish your marketing goals well before you begin selling.
According to PaySimple, the leading marketing goals you should define are below. In the launch phase, you should focus on the first three.
- Promote a new product.
- Increase retail eCommerce sales.
- Increase customers.
- Improve retention rate.
- Improve the percentage of repeat customers.
- Increase publicity.
- Raise brand awareness.
Channel marketing involves using different media. They may include:
- Advertisements in search engines.
- Banner ads on third-party websites.
- Email promotions.
7. Launch Your Online Business.
You’re now ready to launch your product or service. Be sure to include a testing phase before launch day.
The roadmap of a launch often looks like this:
- Setting your campaign goal.
- Choosing your launch date – we recommend planning a pre-launch and launch phase.
- Defining your target audience.
- Creating your content for both launch phases.
- Teasing password-protected early access to customers who subscribe/sign up.
- Retargeting customers with unique offers.
8. Keep Refining Your Marketing Strategy.
Like any business, you will need to develop your marketing strategy continually. Some non-negotiable channels are as follows:
Utilise Paid Ads.
Ads can be in the form:
- Google AdWords.
- LinkedIn Ads.
- Meta Ads (Facebook and Instagram).
- Tik Tok Sparking.
- Youtube/Spotify Ads.
Paid ads on these platforms will drive traffic to your website and convert that traffic into sales.
Leverage Social Media Channels.
In this day and age, social media is a must-have way to reach new customers. You can easily:
- Establish a social network presence by creating an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular platforms.
- Create valuable content about your brand and business.
- Post consistently and in line with the marketing strategy.
- Build a relationship with your audience/community.
- Leverage content on your channels and target boosted ads to specific audiences.
Refine Your SEO Strategy.
Your SEO strategy focuses on improving your website to meet the criteria that search engines like Google use to rank pages.
To improve your SEO ranking, you must optimise your website for specific keywords and phrases. Do this by creating quality content for your customers about relevant topics.
Use Email and SMS Marketing.
Email marketing is one of the most impactful ways to reach your customers. 67% of audiences prefer creative emails over plain text.
It’s also a cost-effective way to offer promotions and specialised content to loyal audiences.
- Use email newsletters to promote special offers, events, and sales.
- Offer specific discounts and early-access deals to your most loyal customers.
- Remember to personalise your efforts to each customer based on their purchase history.
Utilise platforms such as MailChimp to automate your emails. Be wary of batch sending, though – audiences will not engage with anything part of mass outreach.
You can elevate your brand awareness and reach new audiences by ensuring your marketing is cohesive across all platforms – website, eDM, SMS, social media and beyond.
Retailers like Amazon and Etsy can help you take your brand to the next level with affiliate marketing.
What Makes A Successful E-Commerce Business?
Many factors contribute to the success of an eCommerce store. For instance, you’ll want to ensure a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing website.
In addition, it’s important to have a clear value proposition.
That means you need to have a clear understanding of what sets your eCommerce website apart from other eCommerce stores and communicate this effectively to potential customers.
Final Thoughts On Starting An E-Commerce Business.
Starting an eCommerce business can be intimidating, but with the right tools and preparation, you can begin a profitable venture.
With the above tips and tricks kept in mind, you’re ready to launch a successful eCommerce business. What are you waiting for?