How would your life change if you had the freedom to work from anywhere, set your own schedule, and be your own boss?
The internet has made these dreams a reality for countless budding entrepreneurs. As it continues to permeate all aspects of the marketplace, beginning an ecommerce startup has become the most viable path to business ownership in the modern era.
How, though, can a person interested in unleashing their next great idea begin an online business? The answer is easier than you might think.
Let’s dive into the basics of how to start an ecommerce business and figure out how you can build the next online success story.
Rejecting the Wrong Ideas
Planning is important for any complicated task, but especially so when considering how to start an ecommerce site. Thankfully, the internet itself makes researching a potential ecommerce startup rather easy.
This most important step – finding the right market and products, goods, or services to sell to it – is a make-or-break proposition for any new business. If a business is online, it’s important to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Before finding out what works, however, let’s consider what experts tell us about what doesn’t work.
Entrepreneur magazine reports that starting an online business is little different than starting a brick-and-mortar business in one crucial aspect.
That, simply, is the importance of identifying a real need in the market and then coming up with a solution to meet that need.
Imagine that you had a great, fantastic, world-changing idea. You were going to sell a product that, if people only knew how to use it and had it in their hands, they would surely love.
Yet even the most interesting and revolutionary product will not, in and of itself, find success on its own. It must have a marketplace of potential customers who are interested, and able, to pay for it.
Consider an example from the first episode of ABC’s Shark Tank way back in 2009.
An entrepreneur came in with a futuristic idea seeking investors from the show’s “sharks”: bluetooth headsets implanted in the ears of customers. As revolutionary as such a technology might be, it is also strange and unfamiliar.
Needless to say, the product didn’t get funded.
If a phenomenal idea for a product, good, or service is so unique that there are few identifiable buyers in the marketplace, it is not likely to succeed.
If uniqueness doesn’t always sell, what does?
The answer can be found through tried-and-true online research mechanisms: checking popular online forums, looking at popular keywords on search engines, and seeing what other successful ecommerce business ventures are selling.
Do the opposite of what fails in finding a market to sell to, including planning carefully by considering all possible options, and you may find a winning idea. Match that market with products and services you can sell, and you are well on your way.
A Winning Ecommerce Startup Website
Once you’ve identified a target market, it’s time to start building out the business. If you were starting a brick-and-mortar business such as a retail store, you would have numerous questions to answer before you could start.
Where would the store be located? What would the sign look like? What about the exact product mix?
What kind of shelving, and where to display the products? Who to hire in order to staff the store?
You get the picture. A physical retail store has many hurdles to clear before the doors can open.
The advantage of an online store is that you can answer all of those questions easily, quickly and much less expensively than if you were starting an actual, physical retail store.
Yet, those questions allow us to get a sense of what a website might need to look like.
The answer to “where would the store be located” is no longer a physical address, but instead, a web address – a domain name. Indeed, it is worth the time and effort to find a good domain name, just as a brick-and-mortar retailer might seek out the best physical location for their store.
What about the shelving, store buildout, and product display? Instead of physical shelves and hangers, an ecommerce startup must rely on excellent product photos, well-written descriptions, and easily navigable menus to help customers make their purchases.
Once you have identified a target market, found what you want to sell, and developed your online storefront, it is time to go to market with your ideas and find those potential customers.
Getting Customers to Your New Site
Marketing was once, like retail itself, a purely physical thing with tangible pieces of paper, advertisements, billboards, phone calls, and so on.
The internet changed that, and has allowed the average person with reasonable computer skills to put their ecommerce business out to a large audience of potential customers for relatively little cost. How?
It starts with leveraging the power of social media, which almost every potential consumer of your new online business is using. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms allow businesses with good products and services to virally market to these audiences.
When people share products from your website, the organic impressions created are extremely valuable. The social media connections a person has are more likely to trust their opinion and, thus, become your customer – as long as that original social media connection is sharing content from your site.
Essential to viral marketing is placing shareable social links within product pages and making sure that the pages themselves are beautiful when shared. The better the impression a website visitor has, the more likely they are to share it. The more it is shared, the more new customers your site will get.
This cycle is the key to viral marketing, which itself is vital to the health of any new ecommerce business. Of course, paid advertising exists for the aforementioned social media services – and it, too, can be valuable.
So, too, can paid results in search engines, advertisements on websites, and even certain traditional marketing methods, in the right context.
The best results, however, are always going to come from organic impressions yielded by viral marketing from your very own site onto social media.
The Ecommerce Dream
Starting a new business is a difficult, some might say insane, project to take on. Thanks to the internet, however, developing a successful ecommerce startup has never been easier.
Numerous success stories exist which prove that average people can make multi-million-dollar successes out of ventures that are, in whole or in part, online businesses.
If you have a dream idea for a business which could be successful, you are halfway there. The next part is where and how to take the next step to build your dream ecommerce business.
By following the steps laid out here, you are giving yourself a great shot.