Nowadays starting your own online store is more popular than ever before. And why wouldn’t you? The techniques and tools needed to be able to start are generally available and affordable. Compared to starting a physical store the investment needed is smaller in most situations. Your potential group of customers is very large and easy to reach. Oh really? Or isn’t it always that simple to actually sell your products? Well lets see what you need to do and what you need to learn to be able to kickstart your ecommerce project!
1. Choosing a product
Before I forget, this post is targeted towards running a webshop holding physical or virtual products. But a lot of the steps mentioned below will also be valuable if you’re working on any other online business plan. And that’s where you should start: make a business plan. But before you do that, it’s important to first chose a product type that you would like to sell. Chose something that is close to your heart and you actually like. You will never be able to give 11o% effort to your business if you do not really like the products you’re selling.
2. Create the plan
Making a business plan is often an overlooked task. You shouldn’t. It is actually this period before you really started to prepare your business when you still have time to think. And think again. Putting effort now in a business plan will help you later on when things are getting complex. What was it you are actually trying to reach? What was the budget you reserved for starting up? Is the strategy still correct? A business plan is not something made of concrete, but it will definitely help you later on.
Now what should be in it? Of course you should describe your products, your strategy and target audience. Is there are market for your products? How large is it and are there already competitors selling the same products? If yes, what will make you different? Lots of questions to ask yourself right now!
3. Finding partners
It is rather likely that you will have to find vendors for the products you want to sell, or it must be something that you can create/make yourself. In both cases, you must determine your margin and sales pricing of course. Buying products is a profession on itself, don’t underestimate it and always make sure that you have paper agreements with your vendors.
4. Rules and laws
Investigate what are the rules that you need be compliant to. That’s probably simple to say, but not always simple to do. However, rules and laws are different per country. But in most situations, consumers are a protected group and you need to make sure that you follow the rules in your country. I advice to start small by the way, don’t try to conquer the whole world at once. Start in your own country where at least you have some feelings with the local rules and laws. In case of doubt, don’t hesitate to hire some expert advice in this area. Will cost some money of course, but will save you valuable time.
Also, almost every country has its own quality organisations for online stores. By having such a ‘quality stamp’ on your website you will gain trust. Visitors are aware of these qualifications and the chance that they will trust your store simply increases.
5. Choosing an e-commerce solution
Next step: what are you going to use to build your business on? There are lots and lots of posibilites. And another question you need to answer: are you going to build your own store or is it something you will outsource?
Unfortunately, as a beginner, there is no ‘best solution’, it all depends on your situation, your budget and your strategy. I prefer to use Open Source solutions, because that will give you the freedom of vendor/partner. We’re Magento fans here at Boosting Ecommerce, but that doesn’t mean you have to be as well. Although…
More on choosing an e-commerce solution in future posts in this category.
6. Set your product- and pricingstrategy
Before you even start to think about adding your products to your shopping cart solution, there are some things you have to decide on:
- What will be the sales price for my products
- Are shipping cost included in the sales price or willyou calculate the shipping cost additionally on your orders? Both have pros and cons.
- What information will you publish for your products. Do not only think about good (and attractive) descriptions, but also about all (technical) specifications for the product. Please be aware that it is always the best to create your own set of descriptions. Don’t just copy and paste the default text that your suppliers are delivering. Everybody else is using those and it will hardly give you any way to do it different (better) than your competitors.
- Photography! Always use high quality photography, preferably all using the same style. There’s almost nothing that could harm you more than photos in a too low quality and in different styles throughout your products pages. Don’t forget to think about other possibilities like 360 degrees views and movies as well.
7. Logistics / fullfillment
What if your webshop goes live? Are you ready for that? How will your sales process look like? Will you do all logistics (packaging, shipping, but also buying and stock control) yourself? Or will you use a fullfillment partner to perform all the necessary steps, so that you can concentrate on the website and marketing? Don’t underestimate the time needed to handle your logistics and administrative tasks!
8. Test, test, test
I cannot emphasize this enough. Everything should be tested thoroughly over and over again. Yes, of course, before the go-live. And we’re not only talking about your webshop or online payment process. You need to test everything. And again. Would be great if you can have external people test as well. They will always come up with errors and improvements that you missed yourself.
Dive into the world of online marketing and social media. Especially in the beginning you will have a relatively hard time bringing in visitors. No, I mean customers. Having visitors is the first step, but actually converting those into customers will not be easy in the beginning. There are lots and lots of possibilites to get you started. We just name a few here, without having the idea of every being able to mention them all.
- Online advertising using a network like for instance Google Adwords.
- Affiliate marketing. Let other websites work for you.
- Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, just to name a few of the endless possibilities
- Offline marketing. This is especially important if you’re starting your online business out of an offline existing business. Having a store and now bringing your products online as well? Offline marketing in your neighbourhood can be very valuable in such cases. People already know you over there and it is much more likely that they will trust you from the beginning.
- Build an e-mail list by giving something away. It is very important to start using e-mail marketing wherever possible, since it is still bringing you in real customers once you will deliver interesting information into their mailboxes.
- Think about discount coupons. Always use a short period of time, so that there is a matter of urgency. You want your customers to buy now, not to forget about you and your discount coupon.
Yes, there’s much more to say about this topic. We should get back about this one. We didn’t even talk about Search Engine Optimization yet!
10. Hang on
Yes, your store is ready to go live. Now let the sales roll in. But as I said, it’s not always that easy. Keep on improving your website and keep on working on marketing as well. Your store is really never finished. Especially in the beginning you need a lot of hard work to learn, improve and learn again. You will make mistakes and you should. But hang on! Think about your original idea and why it was so good, don’t give up! That will distinguish you from everybody else and make you a real entrepreneur.