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Tabula Rasa: How to Start an eCommerce Business From Scratch

Tabula Rasa: How to Start an eCommerce Business From Scratch

If you’ve been wondering how to start an eCommerce business but you aren’t sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place. It’s no secret that eCommerce businesses have boomed in recent years, but the numbers behind the growth are still startling.

In 2015, retail eCommerce sales worldwide reached $1.5 trillion in profits. Now, as 2021 creeps up on us, the projected eCommerce sales are $4.8 trillion. This growth is only expected to continue in future years.

Do You Really Need to Set Up an eCommerce Website?

This 221 percent increase in eCommerce business over the past few years alludes to the shifting dynamic in the way in which consumers like to shop. An increasing number of consumers want the ability to shop for products online from the comfort of their own home, and that’s exactly what eCommerce stores are designed to achieve.

eCommerce websites allow business owners to reach their intended audience regardless of where they live. Both local and international markets are possible to tap into through eCommerce platforms.

Niche business products are ideal to sell online, as marketing opportunities are endless. Selling products online can help you reach your target audience faster and it eliminates the need to spend money on retail space.

The future of shopping is digital, so eCommerce stores are here to stay.

How to Find the Right Products to Sell

Having a high-quality, one-of-a-kind product is the first step in creating a successful eCommerce brand. Niche products do especially well on eCommerce sites, as brands are able to build a unique consumer base, even a unique community, that is centered around their product.

From a marketing perspective, it’s important that business owners choose the right product to sell. In order to find a trending product, utilize tools such as Google Trends, Shopify research and Amazon to help pinpoint what areas of the market are popular.

Trending Products

Just as they sound, trending products are products that are currently doing well in the market. They often reflect the current state of the world and provide insight into any new patterns in consumer behavior.

Google Trends

Google Trends for your store

Google Trends is a facet of Google’s platform that allows users to use data to analyze search popular queries in different areas of the world. The data on Google Trends makes it easy to compare and contrast different search terms across different areas and periods of time.

Shopify

Shopify for your store

Shopify research is another useful tool for potential eCommerce gurus, as its platform is designed to help eCommerce businesses get off the ground. Shopify continuously rolls out new lists of trending products that accompany specific ideas of how to market them, providing users with helpful insights they may not have realized otherwise.

Amazon

Amazon bestseller

Of course, items that are popular on websites such as Amazon should also be considered as you determine your product or niche. As of September 2019, 150.6 million mobile users accessed the Amazon app, and this number has only increased since then.

Consumers can also utilize the Amazon Bestseller section on their homepage that features individual shopping categories. This section features items that are trending on the platform, giving consumers insight on what items are popular at the moment.

If you are interested in starting an eCommerce website but you aren’t sure where to begin, browse Google Trends, Shopify research and Amazon to get an idea of popular products and product categories. Understanding the market is an important first step on your journey to eCommerce success.

What Are the Advantages of Marketing a Trending Product?

When it comes to choosing a product to market on your website, the opportunities are seemingly endless. From tech accessories to athleisure to pet accessories, you can find nearly any product on the internet.

So, why choose a product that’s trending? To start, because the product is already trending and doing well, there is plenty of data surrounding it to help guide your eCommerce marketing efforts. This data is invaluable in providing a roadmap to success for business owners who are just launching their website and need a bit of guidance to get started.

The proven success of marketing a trending product should be considered, too. If you can get your product and website launched while a trending product is beginning to gain traction, this can significantly impact your business for the better.

Smaller eCommerce sellers can also benefit from monitoring trending products and using those insights to create a similar secondary object that is relevant to the original trending product.

For example, if there is an uptick in Apple AirPod sales, eCommerce stores may begin to sell AirPods cases at a competitive price. Thinking of the bigger picture and overall consumer behavior can help open up additional opportunities for your eCommerce platform.

Simply put, trending products provide important insight on emerging fads that ultimately guide the future marketplace.

What Problems Accompany Using Trend Products?

On the other hand, business owners should also consider the downsides of choosing to market a trending product.

Trending products are successful one day and on their way out the next. This roller coaster may be profitable for a fixed amount of time, but profits will likely decline as the trending product decreases in popularity. This is the natural cycle of trending products.

An increased amount of competition is another downside to selling trending products. The more popular a product or product category, the more competition there is. Those who opt to sell a trending product should be aware of the stiff competition in the marketplace and plan accordingly.

Keep in mind that trending products are neither inherently good or inherently bad. It is up to the business owner to determine what products or sub-products will generate the most revenue.

Local Products

Local eCommerce products, also referred to as hyper-local commerce, result from physical stores offering their inventory to local online shoppers. The specific category falls under Offline-to-Online (O2O) commerce. Although the terminology may not make sense due to the overall shift of physical stores into online stores, it is still recognized as a separate category.

Many eCommerce owners overlook the relevance of selling their products locally, opting for a national or international approach instead. Capturing local demand is a great starting point for many small eCommerce businesses.

“Local” typically refers to customers who are already located within a 50-mile radius from the location of your brick and mortar storefront, but the specific population density should be factored in as well. The goal of selling local products is to get your product to your local customers as quickly as possible.

What are the Advantages of Selling Local Products?

Selling a local product, whether the transaction happens through an eCommerce platform or through your neighborhood storefront, helps consumers feel good about where they’re spending their money.

In fact, there is supporting data that alludes to the importance of local options. According to Google, based on both formal and informal data, “local intent” searches constitute about 30 percent of mobile search queries.

Retail giants such as Amazon, Target and Walmart are always going to be competition for local vendors, but consider the advantages that local vendors can offer that retail giants cannot. These bigger eCommerce platforms often utilize shoppers’ data in a way that makes them frustrated or nervous about having money or their identity taken from them.

You can also strengthen your position in the marketplace by capitalizing on “near me” Google searches. Approximately 82 percent of smartphone shoppers utilize the “near me” search on Google to find local restaurants and shops to support.

Especially in recent months, there has been a shift toward supporting local businesses over bigger corporations. After all, shopping at a local business generates 70 percent more local economic activity compared to big-box retail stores.

What Problems Accompany Selling Local Products?

There are inherent downsides that accompany selling a product locally. To start, while you may be reaching local customers, you are missing out on a huge potential customer base. There are likely untapped markets that local vendors are unable to reach.

Stiff competition is another downside of selling a local product. Although “near me” searches are effective, there are bound to be some bigger brands that appear on the first page of Google’s search results that catch the eye of your potential customers.

Stores that sell local products from a brick and mortar location typically experience larger costs to get the business up and running. Consider costs such as rent, setting up and decorating your storefront, and utility costs when determining what your profitability will be.

Finally, the lack of novelty and authenticity are potential downsides of selling local products. If you are marketing something that is commonly associated with another brand or place, your audience may think you are ripping them off and providing them with a knock-off version of the real deal.

For example, there are many small, authentic Italian wine and coffee shops throughout the world that offer wine or coffee to both locals and tourists. Opening an “authentic Italian ice” store in the middle of America may turn some people off who have experienced the real deal.

Local products

A Product You Know Is Good

Selling a product that you genuinely believe in, whether the product is trending or local, is another approach some business owners may take.

Maybe you have a product that has drastically changed your life and you want to play a part in helping change other people’s lives, too. Or maybe you grew up with exposure to a unique product that doesn’t yet have a spot in the marketplace.

Believing in your product and having a passion for marketing it to your target audience is the approach that many business owners take. After all, there’s no substitute for passion or hard work when starting your brand.

Research to Complete Before Opening an eCommerce Store

The thought of getting your eCommerce venture up-and-running is exhilarating, but make sure to complete the necessary research and lay the right foundation before jumping in. Building your site that features a variety of products that target different demographics won’t end well.

Doing the legwork to complete research on your niche is a helpful first step in building your eCommerce brand.

Conduct Competitive Research

Pinpointing your ideal customer base and demographic is an important starting point when starting an eCommerce business from scratch.

Niche Research

First and foremost, you’ll need to define your niche. This is the most important step in creating a successful eCommerce site. What specific category do you want your brand to live in? What steps can you enter the market successfully?

Looking at other companies that have established themselves in the same industry or area as you is a good starting point. If you notice there are only 3-5 competitors in your industry, this is a red flag. A lack of competition typically means a lack of buyers.

However, don’t choose a niche that is overly saturated, either. Your niche should be popular but not overcrowded. Major brands that dominate your niche are going to make it that much more difficult to make an impact, so try to avoid entering a niche that has multiple big players already established.

Your niche’s product category should have a minimum of 1,000 keywords which is helpful for SEO. Of course, your product should also be able to excel via social media, so make sure this is a possibility before you launch your business.

Identify Your Target Market

Once you have successfully determined a niche and you have a business model in mind, your next step is to identify your customer base. Don’t skip this step and go directly to manufacturing, as you need to have a target demographic in mind first.

Consider who you are and what your online storefront is going to represent. If you could think of your ideal customer, what type of buyer comes to mind? Your brand’s voice, mission, aesthetic, and messaging should all be representative of the brand that you’re trying to build.

Once you have identified the target persona your brand is after, it’s time to start thinking of product ideas. It’s ideal to test your product on a smaller market to see what the response is like.

Estimate Your Resources

After pinpointing your competition and identifying your target market, the next step in starting your eCommerce business is to evaluate your resources. What is your budget and is it being utilized in the best way possible? What special skills can you bring to the table for your business?

Factors that should be considered include the cost of the product itself, marketing costs including developing an SEO strategy, packaging, shipping costs and insurance, necessary business equipment, and paying employees.

Your resources can help determine your marketing approach and set your business up for success. Don’t rush this part of the process.

How to Help Your eCommerce Site Begin Generating Revenue

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your eCommerce business, you’re likely wondering at what point it will begin turning a profit. We’ve compiled some helpful tips to get you to this point as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Choose the Right Platform to Set Up Your Website

Where you host your eCommerce site will undoubtedly play a large role in the evolution of your brand. As eCommerce continues to surge in popularity, you’ll quickly come to the realization that there are many platforms from which you can choose, all with unique selling points that should be carefully considered.

Factors to consider when choosing the platform for your business include scalability, size, and your store’s unique needs. We’ve outlined some of the most popular eCommerce platforms below.

Shopify

Shopify SEO

Shopify is one of the best eCommerce platforms available, and for good reason. This is a great platform for new business owners because of its streamlined approach to digital marketing. Shopify subscriptions allow for you or your developer to customize the platform, oversee and monitor orders, manage data, and so much more. Your Shopify SEO approach should be considered as well.

Magento

Magento for Ecommerce

Magento is another common platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs, offering Magento developers a higher level of customization and advanced SEO capabilities. It’s free to download and it’s a platform known for its easy third-party integrations and scalability functionality.

WooCommerce

Woocommerce Homepage

WooCommerce is a flexible, open-source platform that is built and designed specifically for WordPress. The plugin itself is free of charge but it needs to be supplemented with the domain, hosting, and other customizations that require a fee.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce eCommerce platform

BigCommerce is an ideal platform for companies that are trying to scale as quickly as possible. It’s also known for its impressive shopping cart recovery system and quality SEO tools.

PrestaShop

PrestaShop eCommerce platform

This free, open-source eCommerce platform operates on a cloud-based system for its users. It even offers self-hosting and can easily be altered to fit the needs of your business.

Choosing the right platform is an important step for your company. Different platforms offer different benefits and restrictions, so conduct the necessary research before making your decision on which platform is right for you.

Choose the Right Marketing Strategy for Your Business

Your product and website are established, now it’s time to focus on the marketing strategy for your business. eCommerce stores both big and small require a thoughtful approach of how to reach the right target audience at the right time.

Develop a marketing plan that consists of benchmarks that you can achieve throughout a certain period of time. It’s also helpful to assign one person with the responsibility of overseeing eCommerce growth. Whether it be the founder, a Chief Operating Officer or a marketing executive, it’s helpful to assign this to one person. From there, that individual can delegate tasks as necessary.

Budget as if your company is going to grow and develop a strong team that is committed to your brand’s success. Don’t hire too many employees too fast, however. The goal of eCommerce, regardless of how big or small the company is, is to outsource as much work as possible while maintaining a small internal team.

Executing a strategic sales plan can help your company stay on track and hit benchmarks along the way.

Last, but certainly not least, is customer engagement and communication. Brands that regularly reach out to their customers and engage with them in a meaningful way can make more of an impact on their customers than they think.

Plus, it is through these interactions with your brand’s real-time customers that you learn about their consumer behavior. Having these conversations can ultimately lead to attracting more customers like them.

Develop Your Store

The work doesn’t stop once your eCommerce store goes live. In fact, this is the point that you should dig your heels in and continue to make strives toward success. There are also always additional ways to increase your eCommerce sales.

Some recommendations to develop your store include gaining as many positive reviews as possible, develop a tailored SEO and PPC strategy, develop an email marketing campaign, or sell through an affiliate network.

Conclusion

Developing your eCommerce store is a process that requires patience, commitment and a clear vision. Doing so on your own, especially for the first time, can be a daunting task. Our team at Catapult Revenue has years of experience working with eCommerce stores, growing their revenue from even nascent stages.

From helping to run your SEO and PPC campaigns to making suggestions on how to boost your overall eCommerce revenue, our marketing experts are here to help provide guidance, and even a full eCommerce marketing assessment absolutely free of charge (because, after all, sometimes you just need advice)! Please reach out to us and we’ll be delighted to chat!

 

About the Author
Ivan Vislavskiy

Ivan Vislavskiy

Ivan is Catapult Revenue’s co-founder and production director, spearheading all of the agency’s design, development and digital marketing efforts.

Expert in: Strategy ecommerce website design ecommerce website development digital marketing for ecommerce
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