Operating an e-commerce business is a rewarding experience. However, venturing into online selling without a plan can hamper your chances of success.
You may ask yourself, “Where do I start planning? What does it truly take to operate an e-commerce business in today's age?”
Thankfully, we're here to help answer those questions. This post will teach you how to start and grow your e-commerce business!
Let's dive in.
Define Your E-Commerce Business Idea
Before entering the e-commerce world, you need to define your business idea. Defining your business idea will ensure you have a clear vision of what you want the business to be and determine if it will be successful.
By doing this, you're finding your niche in the e-commerce market and learning how to do it better than the rest.
This step takes a bit of brainstorming and research, but soon, you will be on your way to financial freedom.
Choosing Your Right Product(s)
Choosing your product can seem like the easiest part of creating an e-commerce business plan, but the truth is that it takes quite a bit of forethought.
To find the right product for your business, you need to do some market research and sense what you are passionate about. Deciding what to sell means more than purchasing goods from a supplier.
You are identifying which market you want to tap into. Consider selling and creating a new business from various niche markets and products.
If you are unsure of what products or which markets you would like to tap into, here are a few examples:
- Home goods
- Children's toys
- Homemade and handcrafted items
- Digital services
No matter which product or market you choose, performing research is critical.
Validate Your Idea
Once you've decided what your product will be, you must validate your e-commerce business idea.
This process entails researching to ensure an audience for your product, learning about the market's problems and why they are facing them, and finding out how to solve them. You should also see if there are potential trends you can capitalize on.
Answering the questions above will give you the insight you need into whether a business will succeed.
Any business idea can sound groundbreaking at the moment. But moving forward is put on hold until you validate it by ensuring that there is a market for your product or that you can create the need for it.
Define Your Target Audience
Beyond discovering if there is an audience for your product, you will also need to define your target audience.
Is your audience the younger crowd that enjoys and needs trendy items and marketing? Or is it an older audience that prefers straightforward marketing and practical products? Of course, the gender, income level, and general location of your audience also factor in.
Further, you must know your intended audience's lifestyle factors, interests, wants, and needs.
Implementing a solid definition of who your target audience is will help you shape your marketing approach and tailor your product offerings.
This definition will give you a sense of direction before jumping into the launch of your product or business. Then, you can visualize the prize you should focus on.
Brainstorm What Will Set Your Business Apart
Brainstorming how your business will differ from competitors is vital.
You need to give potential customers a reason why they should choose you over what else is available currently. Without a solid aspect that sets you apart, your business can become lost in the sea of emerging e-commerce businesses.
Research Your Competition
Knowing what sets your business apart from others in the market is critical. That's why we also recommend spending a substantial amount of time researching your competitors.
To start researching your competitors, pretend you are a potential customer and search for the popular keyword and search queries pertaining to your business.
Then, take note of the pages with the highest rankings, as they will be your main competitors. Don't stop there!
Dive into your competitors' social media accounts and note how they brand and market themselves on the platforms. (Also, don't forget about Amazon!) Use the infamous online retailer as a database to identify similar product offerings.
After you gather all of this information, organize it into a spreadsheet, listing the top competitors for your business.
Build Strong Branding
Branding is everything when marketing your products and your e-commerce business. It conveys the overall message that your company believes in and offers.
For example, brands like Nike will use motivational language to motivate their established customer base and draw potential customers.
But what does branding entail? How do you build your business with strong branding?
Building a strong brand doesn't have to be costly; it simply takes consistency, planning, and research.
Your audience persona is what customers will come to know your business for.
As previously mentioned, companies will utilize specific language to convey a message regarding branding. That helps build a company's persona and brand identity.
You can implement your brand persona in all forms of marketing, from the colors you use in the marketing campaign to the vocabulary you use in social media posts. This implementation will help formulate the characteristics and emotions customers associate with your company.
When you are creating your persona, remember who your target audience is. For example, the persona for a brand like L.L. Bean will not have the same effect on a younger modern audience.
In addition to vernacular and language, brand voice is critical for conveying your message. It will further tell your audience what your company is and what it can do for them.
This branding portion focuses explicitly on the language and vernacular part of the branding strategy.
To create a strong brand voice, you should first figure out how you want customers to feel when interacting with your brand's online presence.
If a relaxed vibe is what you are going for, a laid-back tone and casual language are what you want when creating e-commerce marketing materials.
But on the other hand, if luxury and glamor are the vibe of your company, sophisticated language with flowery descriptions is what you need.
Social Media Branding
In our digital age, branding efforts extend into the social media sphere with most audiences, including older generations. In short, social media is the number one place to reach potential customers.
Your brand's social media presence should be more than posting advertisements and product launches. Engaging with your audience is critical for building rapport and further ingraining brand voice, persona, and identity.
You can increase your audience engagement by hosting polls, commenting back to followers, and organizing live streams where they can interact with you and your company.
Finally, we reach brand identity. This encompasses your voice, persona, and social media presence. It gets into the fine details of your visuals and content choices that will set you apart from your competitors.
With a proper brand identity, customers recognize your brand through adverts and social media posts without seeing your company's name.
Visuals and Content
To establish your brand's identity, you will want to choose your brand colors, design your logo, create content creation guidelines, and formulate your strategy.
Your branding guidelines should entail information about marketing copy, color palette, brand story, and image guidelines.
Your strategy should also entail plans for reaching your intended audience through stylized branded content and marketing materials.
If you need help formulating these guidelines and plans, professional brand strategists are available on freelance marketplaces such as Upwork and Fiverr. They can help take your current vision and turn it into an actualized plan.
Next, incorporate that information into setting up your e-commerce website.
Your company's website is a hub for selling your products to customers and establishing a home base for all things relating to your brand. In addition, this website is the place for driving your brand voice, persona, and identity into the hearts of established and potential customers.
So, remember to strictly enforce your brand guidelines when building and maintaining your website.
Again, if you need help building an e-commerce website, you can find website builders and your brand strategist on platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork.
Create Your Shipping Strategy
If you are running an e-commerce business with physical products, like clothing, home goods, or kids' toys, you must create a shipping strategy that gets the product to your customers safely and efficiently.
First, you must determine if you will transfer the shipping costs to your customers or factor shipping into the product's price and offer free shipping. Offering flat-rate shipping is also an option.
Additionally, no matter which shipping cost method you choose, you will want to keep a database of the weight of your product(s). This data will help you consistently track the price of shipping your products when it is dependent upon their weight.
Finally, you need to source your packaging materials. From boxes to envelopes and wrapping materials to filler, your packaging should help safely deliver the product to the consumer and leave a lasting impression with its presentation.
If you have downloadable digital products to sell online, you will want to find the best platform and software for delivering these materials. Consider these top five:
- Shopify Digital Downloads
- Fetch app
- Digital Product Delivery
Each has unique offerings, and depending on the type of digital products you sell and your target audience, some will be more suitable than others.
Launch Your Business
After choosing your products, formulating a brand identity, creating a website, and developing a shipping strategy, it's time to launch your e-commerce business!
Although you have accomplished so much already, the adventure is still ongoing because you need to start selling products.
When launching your business, it's critical to remember that anything can happen, and you may have to reformulate your previous plans. But don't be too quick to jump ship; the plan was created for a reason. You simply want to open yourself up to new possibilities.
From here on out, your mission is to achieve financial freedom, which sometimes requires testing variables to improve performance.
Market Your Business
After getting your business up and running, you must increase your marketing efforts to ensure your business grows.
But unlike decades past, with your online business, physical advertisements on billboards and in print newspapers won't cut it. So instead, you need to learn the ways of e-commerce marketing.
Learn Basic SEO
Learning the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) is your ticket to boosting your business among the Google ranks.
Have a Baseline
To start venturing into the world of SEO, you need to have a baseline.
By utilizing a service like Semrush, you can see your domain overview, and it will tell you how visible your business/webpage is on mobile and desktop apps. Its domain overview section covers all the data and analytics you need to understand where your business currently stands.
Know Your Keywords
Additionally, you will want to research and learn the most prevalent keywords and search queries for your type of business. You can then use this information to create content that will help lead shoppers back to your website.
Discover The Power of Backlinks
Backlinks are also essential for creating online traffic for your business, as they are links to your website from other websites.
The more links you have from trustworthy and high-traffic web pages, the more search engines like Google and Bing will see your business and website as valuable and reliable sources.
But the most critical component of all when it comes to basic SEO is staying informed. SEO is an ever-evolving world that takes ongoing reform to remain successful.
While looking for the best ways to market your e-commerce store or business, you may have seen the phrase “content is king.” But what kind of content is best?
Blogging is one of the best forms of online content for marketing your business. By publishing blog posts consistently and utilizing the keywords and search queries that pertain to your business, you can increase your chances of climbing the Google ranks and accruing more backlinks.
Your blog posts should always surround topics pertaining to your business.
For instance, post frequent blog posts about what's trending in fashion if you have a clothing business. Or, if it's a digital service company, publish articles that discuss the benefits of utilizing a service like yours.
Implement Social Media Marketing
We live in the golden age of social media, and if you're searching for more customers, you need to utilize Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and more.
You can do this by posting relevant branded content frequently. Your social media content should also utilize hashtags to help further increase your visibility among your target audience.
Like SEO keywords, hashtags can help lead potential customers back to your page, and the more interaction you have on a post, the more likely you are to appear on Explore and For You pages on social media.
Build and Grow an Email List
Building and growing an email list is the best way to create a direct line to your customer base. You can ensure they return and purchase more products by staying in touch with them.
But people prefer to keep their personal information, like email addresses, private. So how do you grow an email list?
You need to offer a deal in return for a customer's email. Whether it's free downloads or special sales offers, customers will take note of what you are willing to give in return.
Analyze Your Results
Adapting your e-commerce business to the ever-evolving world is crucial for long-term success.
After spending time in the market and gathering data, you should analyze your results. You will want to look at critical metrics, like your popular products.
Once you notice consistent growth in your business, you will want to optimize your online storefront for high-scale volume. Think about performing the following as your business grows:
- Display popular products on the front page.
- Manage fluctuating stock volumes by sending email invitations and allowing backorders.
- Allow for more checkout options: guest checkout, abandoned shopping cart reminders, etc.
- Match your brand and website messaging to the current market.
No matter what your results are after performing an annual analysis, being prepared to make a few changes is always wise.
How Do You Start an E-Commerce Business Without Money?
You can start an e-commerce business without money in a few different ways. One of the best and easiest ways is to sell your expert service.
Whether you are a great writer, marketer, virtual assistant, or graphic designer, you can create an online e-commerce business today with zero or minimal start-up costs.
You can also start a dropshipping business, where you have an online store that customers can order from, and the supplier does the product fulfillment directly. AliExpress or Alibaba are popular suppliers for such storefronts.
How Do You Start an E-Commerce Business on Amazon?
Starting an e-commerce business on Amazon is simple.
First, you must choose what kind of products you want to sell; the possibilities are endless when you choose Amazon as your e-commerce platform.
Afterward, you must sign up for an Amazon seller's account and select your business model. Wholesale, private label, and retail arbitrage are the most popular.
Once you have the basics covered, it's time to start listing your products, send them to Amazon to handle storage and shipping, and then market yourself.
What Does an E-Commerce Business Do?
An e-commerce business is a business that sells goods or services online. These goods and services can range from writing and graphic design services to clothing retailers and home goods storefronts.
What Are The Four Types of E-Commerce?
What industry leaders commonly refer to as the four traditional types of e-commerce are business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), consumer-to-consumer (C2C), and consumer-to-business (C2B).
Each type has specific traits and offerings that set them apart. The most common type is B2C.
Is E-Commerce Really Profitable?
E-commerce can be an incredibly profitable business venture. But if you're looking for an entirely passive way to generate income, this venture isn't for you.
Running an e-commerce business takes time and dedication. You have to be willing to devote all of your time to managing the business and potentially marketing yourself to thrive.
How Do You Start up an E-Commerce Business?
Suppose you want to start up an e-commerce business. In that case, you must follow a plan to define your business, create a branding and marketing strategy, and perform market analysis regularly.
Free and low-cost start-up options exist whether you want to sell a service or a physical product.
No matter what e-commerce business you decide to open, be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to starting it. However, it is a rewarding venture.
Start Your Journey to Financial Freedom Today!
Whether you want to operate a small business like a small-scale online retailer or an industry-leading digital service, e-commerce is a way to set yourself up for future financial freedom!
All it takes is time and dedication to ensure smooth sailing in e-commerce. So why not start today?
Start researching your ideas, get to know the current online marketplaces, validate those ideas, and start drawing up a plan.
This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.
Chris is the founder of Financially Well Off, the blog for people looking to reach financial independence and stay inspired along the way. Go from being stressed and in debt to growing your net worth. Grab your free guide here.