How to start an e-commerce business in 6 steps
Have an idea for an online store? The initial steps matter.
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Starting an e-commerce business is hard work. But put in the right steps at the beginning and you'll reap the rewards.
To help you get off to the right start, we've put together a guide for starting an e-commerce business. From the initial research stages to attracting your very first customers, follow these steps to help get your ecommerce business off to a profitable start.
1. Do your research
You might think you know a bit about the market you're going into but you need to do your research. Don't speculate. Before you can decide on what you are going to sell online, get to know the various business models available. Here are some of the potential avenues available:
- Dropshipping model. This is good if you have the space for it and want to turn a profit without having to invest much at the beginning.
- Wholesale or warehouse model. This requires more upfront investment, but much bigger returns if things go to plan.
- White labeling and manufacturing. This is more for those with a product idea - someone who wants to sell under their own brand.
- Subscriptions. This is when you create a product range, or a single product, that is delivered at specific times to your subscribed customers.
2. Find your niche
There's no point having a bunch of random products on your site. You can't sell everything; you're never going to be Amazon or Catch. So make sure your site has a clear focus. Have an audience in mind and cater to them, not everyone.
Choosing your niche is the most important step in any business, including online ones. Use other successful companies as a reference point to help you get started. If you've identified a gap in the market, great - but be wary that this sometimes means there's no demand. And don't be afraid to go very specific - it generally means you'll have less competition.
Some handy tips - pick a niche that does well on social media and pick a product category with at least 1000 keywords. If you take advantage of some affiliate marketing opportunities, shipping will be less of a concern, which is helpful when you're first getting started and trying to make a profit.
3. Establish your brand
Before you start looking for products to sell, think about your brand. Aside from a few friends, nobody is going to buy from you if they don't know who they are buying from.
Trust is a big part of any online business. People want to know what you're about. That means projecting a clear and consistent brand image. Who are you and what does your ecommerce business stand for? Are you ethical or sustainable, or is your business more about affordability and convenience? These are the questions you need to ask yourself and clearly display. Take your time and get your brand image right from the beginning.
4. Register your e-commerce business
You'll need to choose a business name, register your company and give your store a name. Get an Australian Business Number (ABN) and scout out suitable vendors. Don't compromise on quality here. Find a business who will work for you in the long-run - think scalable from the beginning. Now is the time to build a strong foundation.
5. Create your online store
For the more creatively inclined, this is where you get to be most creative. You'll need a logo and you'll need to decide on the colours of your brand, fonts and imagery you'll use going forward. The most important thing is consistency at this stage, so take your time and create something you'll be happy with in the future. If design isn't really your thing, and you want it left to a professional, think about reaching out to a marketing firm to create a design brief.
6. Attract customers
A common way to attract customers is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This means keeping keywords and common search terms on every face of your site, including in URLS and in any ad campaigns you run.
The most successful e-commerce websites are the ones that invest a lot in online marketing. But not all of us have the funds to do this. The only other substitute is hard work. Invest some time in digital marketing websites, podcasts and newsletters to learn the tricks of the trade.
Launching a social media campaign and running a giveaway is a really good way to attract customers quickly. It's also just a great way to increase your brand presence and visibility.
My tip: Email subscribers
No matter what and how you decide to sell, my first step is to create an email list. Place an opt-in freebie on your website, launch a social media campaign to gain subscribers, or host a giveaway where the entry 'fee' is your customer's email address.
Running a giveaway is my go-to marketing tactic to get traffic and subscribers quickly. Giveaways have the added benefit of increasing your brand presence and product visibility.
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