Start an eCommerce Side Business in a Day with These 6 Tips
With today’s free tools and cheap web hosting, there is no reason that anyone couldn’t set up their own eCommerce business. Nowadays it’s much easier than you might think, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You don’t need to pay a developer thousands for creating a bespoke eComm solution – the resources are all available to you for far less.
Setting up a web store is a little different to running a regular blog, and while it’s much easier than it used to be, it does still take some careful planning and research. If you already own a traditional store and you know there’s a market for your products, then you could be missing out on a valuable source of revenue by not taking your business online. And if you’re just starting out, it can work for you too – you just need to spend a little extra time to decide what you want to sell, and whether there is a market for it.
With such a range of different platforms available, it is possible to get your e-store up and running in a day – give or take. Here’s how.
Pin down your product
Ideas are free – and you may have several – but now is the time to pin one down. Consider your existing skills, interests and long-term goals, and think about what you would find personally satisfying to sell online. You will likely be spending much of your free time on this venture, so it should be something you feel invested in or you will quickly lose interest. It could be anything you enjoy; from services like writing and illustration, to products like tea, books or knitted garments.
Don’t worry about whether or not it’s been done already, because the chances are if it works for someone else, if can work for you too. Brainstorm some ideas, pin one down and get cracking. To give you some inspiration, here are 11 trending products to sell online in 2016.
Identify your audience
In selling of any kind, some of the most important aspects are an awareness and understanding of your target market. It will determine the kind of person who will want your products or services, their buying habits, and what style of marketing will most appeal to them.
Start by thinking about what kind of problem or need your product or service is designed to meet. Something to bear in mind is that a lot of us tend to be pain-avoiding rather than pleasure-seeking, so it can be helpful to position your product or service in terms of what pain or annoyance it will help to alleviate.
Depending on what you’re selling, you may be looking at a broad market or one that is more specialized. A broad market will give you a wider audience of people to sell to, but you will need to increase your research to assess each group’s needs and habits. Using a tool like Übersuggest is a good way to find out what people are searching for online.
Create a brand
It doesn’t need to be fussy – just keep it simple. But your brand does need to have a coherent look and feel, so that customers can identify who you are and what you’re about. It is easy to become overly focused on the products and lose sight of the business’s brand, which is important. Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big ones.
Do some research to see how your competitors have branded themselves, and ask yourself what works and what doesn’t. Your branding should help to convey what your business values and unique selling points are, and position you as the kind of business that your target market would want to engage with. This includes everything from your company name and logo to the design of your eComm site, the tone of your content and the way you communicate with customers.
Check out these basics for building a brand.
Source a reliable supplier
So once you have your great product idea, you’ve done your customer research and you’ve come up with an appealing brand identity for yourself, you now come to the logistical business of finding a good supplier who can manage the order fulfillment side of things – unless you plan on doing it yourself, which is not recommended as it can be a real time-sap.
Drop-shipping is a great option for ecomm businesses, as a good drop-shipping supplier will handle inventory, packaging and delivery on your behalf. You should look for one that will allow you to apply your own branding to the products, so that they arrive with the customer as if they have come from your directly. Hunt around for drop-shipping vendors locally, or you can source one online. Do your research and choose one you feel confident in – and remember to order samples to check the quality for yourself.
Set up your online store
Having your own ecommerce website is the cornerstone of selling your products or services online. It’s easy to spend a lot of time on it, but with so many tools and platforms available specifically for ecommerce, it’s actually pretty achievable to set up an online store in less than an hour. Don’t spend more time on it than you need to (at least initially).
To start off, ignore the fancy themes and layouts and just ensure that all of your details and product/service information are included and relevant. Add your social media profiles and don’t forget to include a call to action (email signup or buy now button) that will direct customers towards the next step. You can come back and add the bells and whistles later.
In the longer term, you should consider learning a little about SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, to help your online business show up in search for relevant keywords.
Social media is a major player in marketing that you can’t afford to ignore. There are an awful lot of social media platforms available, so on your first day setting up the business, you may want to keep your focus to one or two – perhaps Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is a good one for those who want to build a visual online portfolio. Do register your business on all of them, even if you don’t build out your profiles right away. This will prevent others from hijacking your brand. Be sure to interact with social communities and don’t just shout about your products. Social media is like attending a party – no-one wants to engage the person who only talks about themselves.
Another good marketing hack that will help you to stand out is to try your hand at writing guest posts for websites that are related to your industry, and to publish posts on your own blog. This will help to position you as an authority and build trust around your brand.
These tips are just starting points, but if you can achieve all of this in the space of a day or two then you will be starting off strong. Remember to always keep your focus on providing a good experience for your customers, and everything else will follow.
London, UKPassionate about writing for the startup and entrepreneurial audience, I have recently been part of setting up an exciting project at MicroStartups.org. We donate all our website profits to charities that help people reach their full potential. Find out more on Twitter.