If you are interested in starting your own ecommerce site to sell products online, the whole process can be done in an afternoon. But just because it can be done that quickly, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Here we look at the first few steps in your journey if you want to start up an ecommerce business, covering everything from finding a niche market to the really important aspects of your business that you need to invest in.
- Research your market
Undoubtedly the first and most important step in launching any ecommerce business is conducting a lot of market research. Whether you have a specific product or service that you want to focus on, or if you believe that you have noticed a gap in the market, you need to extensively look into whether other people are doing what you want to do. And if there are people doing it, you need to find the areas where they aren’t succeeding.
Take advice from Google. Search into the market that you are potentially interested in – and don’t be disheartened if you find that there is lots of competition. Lots of competitors typically means that there is a lot of demand for the product or service. That means that you simply need to find a niche within that demand, rather than worrying that you are setting up a business that has no market.
- Learn from reviews
Now that you have done some initial research, it’s time to go beyond the theoretical and get into the practical. And the best way to do this is to focus on customers. Take the example of a site like Amazon or any ecommerce platform with its own customers reviews – these reviews offer a fascinating insight into what customers liked and what they didn’t.
You need to understand where your competitors are doing well, and where they are underperforming. They key things to remember is that you should not read too much into the five star or one star reviews, but focus on those that offer a more balanced opinion. If you want to learn what your competitors are doing wrong, read their two and three star reviews. The one star reviews will consist of those who hated the product or received especially bad customer service, but the two and three star reviews will offer a more honest and unbiased assessment.
- Sort out the admin
There are some budding entrepreneurs that assume an ecommerce business doesn’t need to follow the same procedures as a physical business because it doesn’t have tangible assets such as a workspace or a storefront. But this is something that you need to take seriously so that you get the whole administrative side of the company sorted.
Perhaps the first key step here is to register a domain name. It is all well and good coming up with a catchy business name, but if someone has already taken it or the domain name is already in use, you will need to think of something else. Find a name that works with a domain they you are happy with. You should then register your business with Companies House.
- Choose the right software to work with
Now that you’re at the stage when you can actually start working with the practical side of your business. And the key thing to get right from an ecommerce perspective is the platform. There are plenty of different online marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay, but a real business needs to invest in its own website. Choose a platform that is going to work best for your business.
Many ecommerce sites prefer to work with Magento – in fact it is estimated to have around a quarter of the market share of ecommerce sites. Much of this is due to its flexibility and the fact that is open source. This means that you have complete control over what you want from your site, as well as the backing of an extensive community of Magento developers and service providers.
Of course there are plenty of other options available, so it’s vital that you should head back to the research stage and establish which one might be best for you.
- Keep business costs to a minimum
One of the major challenges for new businesses is the fact that it simply costs so much money. You would be amazed how much the costs will add up – and even more frustratingly, many of these costs are completely avoidable. Remember that you don’t have to get everything perfect first time. Don’t shell out hundreds for a beautiful logo for your fledgling business when you can get something decent for free.
When your business is going from strength to strength in a few months’ time you can start to put in money into the smaller details of the business, but at the start you need to keep things as cheap as possible.
- Invest heavily in marketing
If there is one area of the business that it is important to invest money from the outset, however, it is in marketing. Without good quality and extensive marketing work, your business simply will not get off the ground. Ensure that you focus on search engine optimisation (SEO) so that your site can be found in Google searches around your key product term.