If you want to make it in ecommerce, you will have to overcome a number of hurdles which could potentially ruin your success. As the old adage goes, ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’.
However, you may not have the budget to pour into expensive marketing campaigns or fancy shopping websites. You may be just starting out, or looking to expand your retail business to online audiences.
Whatever stage you may be in launching your ecommerce store, this post will run you through some tips on how to plan and build a profitable business, for as little money as possible.
Do your Legal Homework
Don’t get caught out, make sure you have considered the legalities of your startup before you get underway and part with your money. Know what type of business entity you are, how you will protect your brand identity and what content you will own in the future. Take a look at this post on legal considerations for startups. This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions, but it should give you a good starting-off point for further investigations.
Getting a grip on your startup costs is part of building a successful small business venture, one that is less likely to suffer if you were to face costly legal problems in the future.
Conduct Market Research
Identifying the products you want to sell through your web store takes thorough customer research.
- What are your potential customers buying and reading, and how can you give them what they want?
- Who are your industry competitors and what can you offer that they can’t?
Market research can be carried out using free services like Google Analytics. Getting your head around social media referrals, keyword research etc. will aid you in planning your marketing messages and feed into your web design.
Create an In-Depth Business Plan
If you get a large order through your ecommerce store, how can you expand your operations in a way that prevents you from having to sign away equity to get the funding you need?
If you need to apply for a loan or funding for your small business, the creation of a robust business plan will be essential. But, even if you’re not applying for funding right away, making a business plan will help your company’s future growth.
Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing still remains one of the best ways to create a clear and consistent ‘brand voice’ for customers to remember and relate to. Oftentimes, this process may take many tries and intense customer research. But the results will be worth it when your brand becomes a well-trusted name within your chosen industry.
Generating content that inspires customer referrals is a low-cost way to bring traffic and intrigued customers to your store.
Utilize Social Media
For brands starting off with very little capital, making the most of the free marketing platforms available to you will be fundamental. In order to be noticed by your everyday ecommerce customers, you need to be where your internet users are, sharing authentic social media content.
Carefully curated posts boost your online reputation and make your company feel more approachable and ‘human’. Plus, it gives your customers a point of contact for reviews, customer service enquiries, and business opportunities.
Engaging with your audience in a genuine and personable way takes a bit of research and experimentation. Taking tips from social media and brand experts will be your first step. Gaining customer reviews and user-generated content is a useful goal to aim for.
Plan your Shipping and Fulfillment Strategy
Ensuring that your customers are happy is crucial to staying afloat as a business. A late or damaged order is a sure-fire way to lose a customer forever. (Perhaps several, if they go and tell their friends about your failing order and delivery system).
On the other hand, designing your product packaging to outshine your competitors is a smart move for online retailers who want to build-in an association of ‘luxury’ with their products.
However, make sure that your packaging and shipping options are affordable, as it will eat into your profit margins if you don’t consider things like credit card fees, customs duties etc.
Start on as Little Money as Possible
Finding inexpensive ways of getting your business started is important. One way you can cut down on your costs in the beginning is to build your own webstore. You can find services that let you customize or use templates to help you create an eye-catching and well-functioning online store in no time.
Further, accounting software specially designed for ecommerce businesses can help you keep your accountancy fees low in the early days: select a solution that integrates with your chosen technology.
See more apps that can help save small business owners time and money.
Plan Your Launch Carefully
Once you have designed a great ecommerce website, planned your social media and website content, you will need to launch your new business venture and create online conversations about your brand.
Ecommerce stores like Redshift Sports, have enjoyed very successful launches using crowdfunding platforms like IndieGoGo and GoFundMe. Their campaign for the Switch Aero System generated a lot of interest amongst cyclists, who were all too keen to try out their latest road gadget.
Regardless of how much you make through a crowdfunding platform, these sites give you the opportunity to grow your customer email list and attract wider media coverage.
Turning a profit in the beginning stages of your ecommerce business will require a lot of research and development. Luckily, there are many resources out there designed to take out the grunt-work of getting your ecommerce brand established.
Victoria Greene is a marketing guru and freelance writer. In her day-to-day work, she’s dedicated to giving her clients the most effective branding and SEO advice. She’s also passionate about sharing her tips online.