E-commerce continues to make up of the overall retail market, which is forecasted to surpass $600 billion in U.S. revenue by 2021 and exceed $4.8 trillion worldwide. Big players like Amazon, Alibaba, JD.com, eBay have certainly had an impact, but so have many smaller online brands selling in specific niches. It’s these independent brands that truly embody the idea of what an e-commerce website is compared to a handful of giant marketplaces offering an amalgamation of everything.
If you have dreams of joining the ranks, nail down these four essentials to start an e-commerce store.
Before you have a product, you should have a niche. Your niche informs your target buyer and how your products are categorized. A store sells men’s clothing, but what kind of clothing do they really sell? Outdoor clothing? Fitness wear? Casual threads?
Many people choose their business niche based purely on existing trends and dollar signs alone. Don’t do this. While you want your niche to be in demand, you also want to know and/or have a passion for it. Then, see what competition is out there and whether there’s adequate search volume relevant keywords.
Otherwise, what makes you qualified to be solving a problem or developing a unique selling proposition?
If there’s a strong demand for your niche, that’s great, but don’t think all you need to do is build a site to have the customers arrive. You still need a plan on how you’ll drive traffic to your store. Today’s digital marketing ecosystem offers brands a lot of opportunities, but not without complexities. Will you go with a heavy PR strategy before launch? Allocate most of your monthly market budget to AdWords? Focus on SEO as your long-term plan? What about social media, content marketing and referral advertising? The list goes on and on. Choose a few approaches that align with your business.
Delivering the smoothest online shopping experience possible wouldn’t mean much if there weren’t a reliable logistics system to fulfill the order. How will you ship your products? Where will you store them, and track their quantities? Will you forego responsibility and some margin for a dropshipping model? What about your reverse logistics process, such as a return policy and an asset recovery system to handle returned merchandise?
When starting out, it’s usually best to keep your logistics model flexible and straightforward, even if it costs you a little more on your bottom line. After you’ve achieved some growth and gotten the business off the ground, you can invest in long-term margin-friendly options and control more of your logistics process.
Of course, there’s a bit more to succeeding as an online store, but you won’t get anywhere without first figuring out these four essential e-commerce details. By choosing an e-commerce niche with potential, developing a website that improves customer experiences, acquiring customers from cost-effective, scalable marketing strategies and operating a logistics process that satisfies customers and protects your bottom line, your store is well-positioned for future growth and success.