Even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit us, a lot of people were already seeing online selling as a great business opportunity for them. Now, with the health crisis redefining everything, that feeling will likely increase – especially because people see e-commerce as an easy way to turn a profit with a minimum investment.
One of the best ways to do so is by reading about how successful e-commerce brands did it. Diving into their journeys provides a clear view of the hardships and challenges that come with establishing an online store. Additionally, it can be eye-opening about the costly mistakes that await ahead, errors that anyone can avoid or mitigate by planning accordingly.
That’s why, if you’re entertaining the idea of starting an e-commerce business, then here are some of the tips we’ve gathered for you. They are the results of years of collaboration with all kinds of e-commerce brands that hired our software development services to boost their platforms. Hope you enjoy them!
1. Define and Grow an Audience Beforehand
Most business owners and entrepreneurs believe the same thing – that their products are awesome and that it is enough for people to see them fall madly in love with them. Thinking like that is natural – and wrong. There are a couple of weak points with that line of thinking, most notably believing that people will actually get to see the products.
Today, the online competition for attention is fiercer than it ever was, so you can’t just assume that a couple of Google ads and Instagram posts will be enough for your products to go viral. In fact, relying on advertising and word of mouth as your only strategy right out of the gate is a recipe for disaster. How come? Because you might end up spending all your money in the first months without real results.
One of the reasons why this might happen is because business owners are still defining their audience after they’ve launched their e-commerce platform. That’s a big no-no. You have to determine who you’re talking to before going online. What’s more – you have to be talking to them already before your launch. Building excitement and engagement before your products go-live is the best way to create a safety net you can target once you’re open for business.
Building and growing an audience before you open your shop can be done with a simple set of steps, including:
- Find the most suitable channel to engage with your audience and stick to it. It could be YouTube, Instagram, or your own blog. The important thing is to pick only one to avoid diluting your efforts.
- Create a content strategy that serves two purposes. On one hand, promote your upcoming brand (albeit subtly). On the other hand, post relevant and helpful content related to the products you’ll be selling (not about the products themselves, but about their market).
- Engage with as many people as you can. Don’t just sit there expecting that your follower number will grow magically. Talk to people, answer questions, share content from others, be part of a community. In short, network all day!
Set up a reasonable audience size you want to reach and work towards it. It could be reaching a certain amount of followers on Instagram, fans on your Facebook page, or a certain amount of traffic in your blog. Once you get to it, then you can start working on your e-commerce. You can now have direct access to what they think and want, so you can leverage that knowledge to create a store tailor-made for your target audience.
2. Launch and Invest in Slow Development
Another crucial mistake most e-commerce newcomers make is trying to grow too quickly. Of course, it’d be great if you can set up a shop that can have thousands of customers overnight that can ensure your profitability. However, that’s nothing more than an illogical dream. Thousands of people browsing through your catalog can be very exciting but they can also sink your ship.
There are several costs associated with e-commerce platforms. From developing the software to run it to the product investments, the costs of advertising, and everything related to logistics, among others, there are several to consider and keep in mind. A false start can break your budget. The take is – don’t bite more than your mouth can chew.
Instead, focus on more humble goals for your first year or so of existence. What could those be? Mainly, aim for stability. As long as you make some money and can keep your doors open, consider it a success. You’ll have to worry about foundational aspects of your strategy, such as how to turn your visitors into customers and how you can maximize your assets for maximum revenue. This will take a lot of trial and error, so you’ll always have to make sure you are earning enough to make ends meet.
In fact, if you have a job, don’t quit it just yet. Work in your e-commerce store in your free hours. It might be a slower development for your brand, but the path will be safer and you won’t have the extra pressure of having to succeed with your e-commerce no matter what, because you’ll have your job to fall back on.
3. Strategize your Every Move
Let’s say you got off to a great start and now have a steady income that allows you to expand your business. That will surely lead you to consider adding more products to your e-commerce platform. While that’s a natural thing and you’ll get to it eventually, you have to decide when to add those new products to your catalog. Do it too early, and you’ll be buried in additional costs. Launch them too late, and you might have lost the interest of your customers.
The best way to know when to do so is something you’ll have to keep close to your heart at every step you wake in your way towards successful e-commerce – check your strategy and plan ahead. Your base strategy (the one you used at first) will obviously have to adjust and change over time. However, you don’t have to rush those changes. If you started with one product, stick with it until you learned all the ins and outs of moving it (all the costs, the logistics, the messaging, and all other aspects surrounding it).
When you have deep experience in selling a product, you can estimate how to launch a new one and what it’ll all mean. You have to keep in mind, though, that selling more than one product brings challenges that you might not be aware of. That’s why you strategize before taking the next step! In other words, you plan ahead and consider the costs but also think of ways of cutting them. Say, you can buy the materials for the two products from the same provider and ask for a discount. There are opportunities like that at every turn. You have to identify them.
Remember another crucial thing. Though a lot of people love e-commerce, most people still buy in person. Though we don’t know how that will change with the Coronavirus pandemic, we might suspect that it won’t change that drastically – at least not in the foreseeable future. That’s why partnering up with big retailers is a great move. Of course, big brands don’t partner with anyone that comes to their doors – they ally with thriving businesses that are capable of showing they can deliver.
To get there, you’ll have to create a sound strategy that ensures profitability, steady growth, and commitment to your customers. It’s the only way you’ll access the vast amount of people that shop in big retail chains, either online or offline. What actionable tips do we have for you on that? These ones:
- Focus on Bringing Traffic to Your E-commerce. Having more visits increases the chances of having more sales, which in turn will provide you with the steady income you need to get to those strategic alliances. You can increase your traffic by guest blogging in reputable websites within your niche, work with influencers in your market, and develop a sophisticated content marketing strategy that educates while raising brand awareness.
- Don’t Forget About Email Marketing. Poor email is now seen as a nuisance that only exists to log into different services. However, the reality shows that email still is a powerful force you should reckon with, as it can bring existing customers back. If you have a newsletter, people that subscribe to it are open to hearing from you, which is the perfect way to incentivize them to come back to your store and shop.
- Increase Your Average Order Value. When thinking about growing, most business owners believe that they will only get there by closing more sales. But that’s not necessarily the case. For example, it’s better if you sell 3 items of $70 than 10 items of $30. While you get more money with the latter, you’ll surely end with less money in the end, as there are processing and distribution costs that shave away your profit. It’s better to sell less but increase spending through upselling and cross-selling.
Some Final Things to Consider
The most important thing to become the owner of successful e-commerce is to understand that the whole thing is more akin to a marathon than to a race. You need to sprint towards your goal but rather keep focused on it while you take step after step. Doing so will ensure that you grow on solid foundations while avoiding burnout and financial pressures.
That means that you have to acknowledge your limitations, start small, and rely on the help of everyone you can count on. These could be your family or friends, your software outsourcing partner, another entrepreneur, or basically anyone ready to lend a hand. Focus on your strengths and learn to delegate to collaborators.
Finally, remember that e-commerce isn’t about getting rich. It involves hard work and a nice income but it has its ups and downs. If you are in for the ride, you’ll see how exciting it can be, as long as you don’t take everything too seriously and understand that, while you can make mistakes, there are always solutions for all of them.