Ecommerce can be a great idea for a new business, offering flexibility and almost unlimited growth potential, but actually launching your ecommerce store can seem like a daunting task. Whether you’ve got a clear idea or not for your ecommerce store, these steps cover the essentials for your early strategy.
Ecommerce store ideas – what are you selling?
If you’ve already decided what products you’re going to sell that’s great – but you’ll still need to consider how you’ll build a business around them. And if you’ve got no idea what you want to sell then there’s plenty of ways to figure out the best products.
Decide if you want to target a specific niche or you want to sell a general range of products. It can be easier to make your store stand out if you offer unique products or a very specific range. However it can make it more difficult to reach a wider audience and you might be limiting your potential customer base depending how niche you go. You should look at current and upcoming trends for product ideas – it’s a lot easier to sell products that people want.
Decide how to source your ecommerce products
One of the biggest impacts on your product choice is likely to be how you’re going to source them. Choose whether you want to make your own products, have someone else manufacture them, sell wholesale products, or use a dropshipping model.
Making your own products might be the obvious choice if you are starting an ecommerce business to sell homemade crafts or food. You’ll have complete control over the quality, but it has some major limitations if you want to grow the business – it can be hard to scale production, and you’ll be solely responsible for maintaining your inventory.
If you have an exciting idea for a new product then you can work directly with a manufacturer. Again, this gives you a lot of control over the quality of your products, and you can sell something unique to your business. However, you need to be confident that people want to buy your product, as manufacturers often have a large minimum order.
A lower risk business model is to buy products wholesale from manufacturers or suppliers and then resell them. You don’t have to commit as much upfront, and you’ll be selling existing products. But you’ll give up some of the control over quality and costs.
Dropshipping is an alternative that allows you to sell products you don’t actually stock; your supplier ships orders directly to your customers. This means you don’t invest anything in stock and you don’t need a warehouse to store it. But, there’s fierce competition, so it’s important to choose the right dropshipping products to sell, and to work with reliable suppliers.
Put together an ecommerce business plan
You’ve decided on some products and your business model so it might be tempting to jump straight into opening your store. But if you want your ecommerce business to succeed long term then you need to spend some time putting together a business plan. This will provide you with a roadmap of how to grow your business. And it will help you understand how you’re going to reach your customers.
An ecommerce business plan needs to include an overview of the business that includes your value proposition, mission, and vision. This is also where you can plan out your brand – everything from your business name and domain name to an outline of brand guidelines.
Another key element of your business plan will be the competitor research. You need to understand the other businesses you’re up against – the market leaders, direct and indirect competitors. Spend time looking at their websites, investigate what keywords they’re targeting, look at their social media, and sign up to their mailing lists.
Competitor research will help you figure out how they’re selling your products, and ways in which you can do better. It’s important to avoid just copying what your competitors are doing. You need to do something different to stand out, and also give yourself a better chance in search engine rankings.
Come up with a marketing plan for your ecommerce store
Within your business plan you’ll need a marketing plan – a strategy for how you’re going to get shoppers to your ecommerce store website. It’s crucial that you put as much effort into your marketing as you do to setting up the rest of your business.
To start with, research your target market. You want to understand who your customers are – where do they live, what their interests are, their income, what they spend their money on, and where they are online. Once you know everything about them then you can come up with a marketing strategy to attract them to your store.
A mix of paid marketing channels such as pay-per-click and Facebook ads, and organic channels like social media, Search Engine Optimisation, content marketing, and email is a good way to start out. It’s important to pick the right channels for your target market.
When you’ve decided on your channels you need to decide on your messages and the strategy for using them. Your marketing needs to be coordinated across all channels to give shoppers a consistent experience of your brand, so it’s important to plan out these things in the early stages of your ecommerce store.
Create your ecommerce store website
With your business plan laid out, a marketing strategy ready to implement, the final step in your early strategy is creating your store’s website. There are a range of ecommerce CMS platforms available – but it’s important to ensure it has all the features you require, or at least plug-ins or extensions for added functionality.
As an ecommerce website you’ll need to think about the different tools you’ll need to integrate with your website or your sales system such as:
- Shopping cart features (if it’s not built in)
- Payment processor
- Fulfillment systems
- Accounting or tax software
- Marketing automation for mailing lists, social media
- Marketing tools to analyse and track your website
- Customer loyalty programs
- Customer service software – live chat, chatbots, ticket system
The website design should match the branding you’ve already decided on, and you need to plan out the site structure, page layouts and your content to ensure you have a fully functioning website that attracts shoppers and convinces them to order.
Invest time into mapping out your early strategy for your ecommerce store by following these steps and you’ll have the right foundations to develop a thriving business.