Several big brands we know today were first small-time eCommerce businesses. Allbirds, Lenskart, Warby Parker, Nykaa etc., are examples. This proves that if you have a great product or approach to selling products, you can become successful and grow your business. However, no product sells itself; no brand becomes big on its own. You must do your due diligence before you begin an online business. So, what are the things you must be aware of before you start your e-Commerce business?
Know What You Want to Sell
It’s important to research which products are in demand now and are likely to be in demand in the near future. If you have a definite product or line of products in mind, you need to consider if it fits into any of the current category or whether you are beginning a whole new category. If it’s a completely new categories, or even a new type of product in an existing category, it would be wise to implement intellectual property right security protocols in place before you launch it online. If you are planning to sell a product that is already widely available, make sure you research what and how much your competition is. Without a novel approach to selling, your product may fail to take off in a saturated market. In such a case, you must develop your idea well to have your unique selling proposition that will attract buyers. Knowing what to sell is surprisingly, one of the most challenging tasks when you want to start your E-commerce business. You need to know where and how to find product opportunities, as well as the discover where to hunt for product ideas, in addition to knowing the trending products. Once you have an idea of your product, you need to evaluate it, to see how well it will sell in the market. The next step is figuring out how and where you will get your products. Are you going to manufacture them yourself, buy them from a manufacturer, get them custom-made, or anything else?
Research your competition
Ok, so you have identified your product, assessed its potential, and found your vendor. But before you go all out marketing your product, you need to know what your competitors are doing. It is critical to know what tactics they are using, how they are wooing the consumers, what prices they are charging, and so on. You can then use this information to craft your strategies.
Know Your Consumers
It is imperative that you define your ideal customer, or in other words, create your buyer persona: their age group, gender if applicable, what they like, what they want, what they need, what they dislike or even fear, their general location, income, and so on. Unfortunately, most businesses tend to ignore this step. It is essential that you look at your customers and try to find out their pain points so that you can provide a resolution for it.
Writing a business plan
When your competitive research is done and you have identified your customer, you need to draft your business plan; this is simply the blueprint that collates your ideas and your business goals, and mentions the steps needed to achieve those goals. A business plan is critical in deciding your priorities, how to tap into new markets, retain existing customers etc. It is also essential to present to prospective investors and creditors.
You need to decide is how much you are going to invest, and how much you will sell; this is not that difficult once you have created your buyer persona – as this figure depends on your customer’s income and spending habits – and when you are targeting regional customers. It may be more complex when you target hitherto untapped markets, especially in other countries.
This is another critical decision you need to make. Where will you stock your goods? Do you plan to rent or lease a warehouse, or purchase one outright? Do you plan to do drop shipping? if you are going to purchase goods and store them, you need to think of how much you will stock at a time, at what level to re-order, and so on.
Packaging is Important
It’s not the attractiveness of your packaging material that counts when you run an online business, but its ability to withstand the ravages of rough handling by transportation workers. Your packaging should be sturdy enough to be shipped long distances. You also need to reduce the weight so that you don’t attract heavy charges. Streamline your packaging for optimal shipping cost and time.
Establish Your Marketing Strategy
You have to decide whether you are going to be an exclusively online seller or you also want to sell in brick-and-mortar stores. If you’re selling online, you need to determine if you want to have a website and sell only through that, or you will also sell in online marketplaces as well. If you decide to sell through online retailers, you need to decide which one would be a good fit for your line of products. For example, handmade products are mostly sold through Etsy; mass-produced products are sold on Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, and the like.
Order Tracking and Returns
You need to provide this facility to customers once they place orders. It is important to keep them in the loop about the status of their orders from the time they place orders, till the product is delivered to them. You also need to frame your returns policy; will you take back products, no questions asked? Within what time frame will you allow the returns to be made? Will you provide refund to the customer’s card or wallet, or will you create a store wallet so that they can use that amount against future purchases? Will you send a replacement product?
Payment Options and Gateway Integration
ou need to consider what options you want to provide to your customers for payment; will you accept cash on delivery orders, or only prepaid (online payment) orders? Do you want to offer a wide range of online payment options like credit and debit cards, bank transfer, e-wallets, and other forms of digital payments? You then need to think of integrating payment gateways with your E-commerce site. It has to be secure and encrypted so that customer card or other financial information is not compromised.
How Will you Ship Your Product?
You need to answer some questions if you are selling to eCommerce retailers directly.
- Are you outsourcing shipping to a distributor or are you shipping it directly?
- Will you ship directly to the consumer and handling the entire process yourself if you sell tothe customer straight?
- Do you plan to do drop shipping for order fulfilment?
- Are you willing to pay Amazon for order fulfilment via their Fulfilled by Amazon program?
Of course, there will be many other questions, but these are some of the most pressing ones.
Name your business
Though this may not seem like a big thing, it is actually very important. Your brand name, after all, also has to resonate with the consumers, and you have to be able to find the same or very similar domain name, as you have to make your online store.
Create a logo
A logo is important for any business, but especially so for an E-Commerce store. A logo is something that distinguishes your business from others, and helps consumers identify your brand. A good logo is something that helps create a strong first impression, and conveys that you are professional, and serious about your business. It helps catch the attention of consumers and build brand loyalty as well.
Understand search engine optimization (SEO)
You’re nearly there! But before you go all guns blazing, it is extremely important to understand the fundamentals of SEO. Without this, you will not be able to structure your website and its pages in a way that search engines find attractive. Of course, you can outsource the optimization task to an experienced professional, but it is essential that you are familiar with its nuances first.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a kind of pack of essentials. Starting any business requires a great deal of research and hard work, and E-commerce is no different. It will be a learning process for you if this is the first time you are starting a business. You may not get it all correct at the first go, and may have to arrive at the right solutions through trial and error. But that should not deter you from making a beginning.