Updated: October 31, 2021
One of the easiest ways to earn extra income nowadays is to simply sell things online. And the options of where to sell your stuff are everywhere, from direct messaging your friends to posting them on your social network; from listing them in classified ads and online marketplaces to creating your online shop.
If you’re looking to make this into a serious business venture, then creating your e-commerce store is the way to go for various reasons:
- It’s better for your branding. You won’t be seen as just some random person peddling wares online. You will give out the impression that you’re a legitimate and reliable business.
- You’ll have an online headquarters. Social media marketing is important. And you can be consistent with your messaging everywhere by always directing your followers to go and shop on your e-commerce store.
- You own your content. Social networks, shopping apps, and online marketplaces can come and go. If you become too dependent on one and it closes down, then you’re in trouble.
- You control your aesthetic. You can design your e-commerce store to look and feel a certain way that’s consistent with your branding. Unlike when you simply upload your products in a marketplace where you’re at the mercy of their usually confusing layout.
With these said, where and how do you start at launching your own e-commerce store? Here are the basic steps.
I. START WITH A NICHE PRODUCT
Don’t be a supermarket or department store, at least in the beginning. It will be easier to reach your target market if you focus on a specific need and offer a flagship product. This will help build your brand and create an instant impression to first-time visitors of your website.
For instance, don’t just sell clothes, start by exclusively offering dresses for teenage girls instead. Don’t simply be a gadget store, be known for selling affordable brand-new digital cameras. Choose a niche product first and just expand your product line when you see the demand.
Moreover, it’s recommended that you choose a product that you’re knowledgeable in or something that you’d use yourself. This will benefit your marketing because you know exactly why people buy them and you know how to sell them to your customers.
II. DEFINE YOUR TARGET MARKET
You probably already have an idea of who your customers will be. Now it’s time to get to know them a little bit better through market research.
Who exactly are your ideal customers? What are their demographics? And more importantly, what are their psychographics? If you walk inside a busy mall, will you be able to pick out the specific people who would most likely buy your product?
Demographics refer to their age, gender, civil status, and such. Meanwhile, psychographics refers to their fears, behavior, beliefs, values, and even their lifestyle and habits. It will also benefit you to know what apps do they often use, and which social network are they most active on.
The more details that you know about your ideal customer, the easier it will be for you to find and reach out to them. Your marketing campaigns will be more effective and it will be easier to generate sales.
III. TEST YOUR PRODUCT-MARKET FIT
Now that you have your product and you now know who your target customers are, it’s time to test if you have a product-market fit. This means checking if people will like your product and if they would be willing to buy it.
Reach out to around 10 people that meet the criteria of your target market. Give them a sample of your product, and then ask for their thoughts about it. You can even ask them how much they’d be willing to pay if it’s available in the market.
You can tweak your product or offer according to the feedback that you received, and then repeat the experiment with 10 new people until you’re satisfied with the results and there’s real anticipation and optimism about your product.
IV. WHAT’S YOUR UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION
You might have a great and innovative product, but there’s no stopping others from copying it after you launch. So even before you start selling, it’s essential to know what makes your product and your business different from others who might attempt to copy it.
This could mean a unique recipe or process that’s hard to replicate. Or getting an exclusive deal from a supplier. In most cases, it means getting the proper trademarks and patents for your inventions and innovations.
V. DEVELOP YOUR BUSINESS PLAN
An e-commerce business is still a business, which means that it would greatly benefit you if you could develop a business plan, which will serve as your roadmap that will help bring your ideas and thoughts together.
Creating a business plan is essentially like running your business on paper. You’ll realize the capitalization that you need, the equipment that you have to buy, the tasks that need to be done, and all the other details that would be impossible to know if you simply went ahead and launched without planning.
Having a business plan that you can follow is much better than just swinging it and learning from trial and error. The latter will waste a lot of your time and you could end up spending more capital than necessary.
VI. CREATE YOUR BRAND
One of the most exciting parts of starting a business is creating your brand. This is when you think of your business name, design your logo, and decide on the overall aesthetic of your website based on the philosophy of your brand.
Make sure that the domain name is available, as well as the username for all major social networks and online marketplaces. You will want to be consistent with your name and branding across the board that’s why it’s important to secure them before you launch your business.
VII. BUILD YOUR STORE
Your e-commerce business is ready to launch and the only things that are probably missing at this point are your actual website and online store. Hire a web developer if you don’t want to do it on your own. And if you can, talk to an SEO expert to optimize your website for search engines.
It goes without saying that you should upload quality photos of your product along with an effective copy for their description. Remember that people will be browsing your catalog on their own, so the images, layout, and text on your website will be the ones doing the selling.
Remember to test your shopping cart and make sure that your payment channels are connected and working properly. Check that your shipping and fulfillment are well in place to handle incoming orders once you launch.
Lastly, set up your customer service channels. Where and how can customers reach you, especially those with suggestions and complaints? And who will answer them from your end?
VIII. SET UP YOUR SALES CHANNELS
Once your website is done, you should now set up your business accounts in online marketplaces. This is a great way to reach customers because you’re going to platforms where they already shop.
At present, Lazada and Shopee are dominating the online shopping industry, but also consider lesser-known portals that cater to niche products. You can even take advantage of the e-commerce and shopping cart features of some social networks like Facebook and Instagram.
The right mix of sales channels will depend on your products and your target customers, and they can definitely complement and support your self-hosted store in the long run.
IX. SET UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
These days, the best way to reach your target market is through social media. So set up your store’s official accounts and make sure they have the same aesthetic as your online store or website.
Moreover, create your social media content calendar starting with teaser posts for your official launch. Create anticipation and invite your family and friends to share the news on their social networks.
Lastly, success in social media marketing heavily depends on your copy and consistency. This can be time-consuming, so be open to hiring someone to do this for you so you can focus more on running the actual business.
X. LAUNCH YOUR BUSINESS
It’s now time to officially launch your business. Congratulations!
However, don’t expect to just sit back and wait for the money to come in. Starting a business is different from running and growing a business.
Learn about sales funnels and conversion rates. Apart from sales numbers, choose other key performance indicators that you should track to check the growth of the business. Remember that you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Digital marketing also takes center stage at this point. Setting up online ads, collaborating with influencers and content creators, and building an email newsletter are some of the post-launch tasks that should be on your to-do list.
Building your own e-commerce store business is both exciting and challenging. There will be times when you’ll feel overwhelmed, but there will be days when everything will just run smoothly like clockwork.
And with the ever-changing online and e-commerce landscape, there will still be a lot of things to learn and new obstacles to overcome. So, buckle up and get ready for a rewarding journey as an e-commerce entrepreneur.
This article also appears in MoneySense Magazine.
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