Starting an eCommerce Business from Scratch
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
A complete E-Commerce business guide to get you started!
Looking to start your own ecommerce business?
E-Commerce retail sales are estimated to grow by more than $6.5 trillion by 2023 and the trend shows no signs of slowing down! As a result the potential for profit in the ecommerce business is tremendous.
The market is brimming with opportunities, but as usual, all that glitters is no gold! In order to increase your likelihood of success you need to get informed and be prepared.
This guide will provide aspiring business owers with a complete eCommerce checklist to work on before they get started! First things first:
Factors to consider BEFORE you start your eCommerce business:
Define your business model
Understanding your customers
Payment gateway selection
Optimise your online presence
Launch, Iterate and optimise
Let’s go through each one together.
Define Your Business Model
We strongly recommend to use the Business Model Canvas as a guide (image above).
Questions to ask:
Who is your ideal customer?
What problem(s) are you trying to solve?
How is your target audience going to benefit from your products or services?
How are your customers buying your products and services?
Answering these questions, will enable you to identify your target audience, your unique value proposition, and estimate the amount of resources you need to get started ith your E-Commerce business. The business model canvas would act as a guide that enables you to make informed decisions aligned with your business goals.
Do not seek complete answers at this stage, but rather note down your initial understanding of your business, customers, revenue streams and all resources you need to get started.
You can download the business canvas here.
Understanding Your Customers
It is now time to deep dive into your target audience. Understanding your customers is the backbone of success for every E-Commerce business. But what how can you get started? There are a few areas we recommend you to deep dive in and some handy online tools that will help you to uncover valuable customer insights:
Facebook Audience Insights allows you to understand your target audience by exploring insights beyond the basic demographic information. The tool will allow you to identify users who are more likely to convert to paying customers based on interests, social media habits, location and languages they speak.
Google Keyword Planner allows you you understand what users are searching for, when it comes to your product and services. The tool provides important information such as the monthly search volume and competitiveness for each keyword by targeted location. It is imperative that there is a reasonable search demand for the products or services you are offering.
Use Keyword Planner and Audience Insights to decide if you should capitalise on existing demand or if there is a need to generate product awareness in your target market.
Platforms like Quora and reddit are an information goldmine to gain insights into your target market’s goals, obstacles, and pain points, as well as the language they use while researching for relevant porducts and services. Leverage these information for your copywriting, FAQs and creative direction.
Google Trends will help you to uderstand the seasonality behind the product you are selling. In other words, iot will enable you to understand when is the peak season for your business. Moreover, by observing the relevant search terms and topics, you will be able to predict the demand for your product based on past trends.
Competitive research saves you the hassle of having to reinvent the wheel. As a first step you need to identify your competitor's strengths, weaknesses, value proposition, unique selling points and pricing. From there it is imperative that you come up with your unique market positioning and differentiation point.
# 1 Choose products wisely
While making the right choices when it comes to inventory can be incredibly profitable, it is sometimes difficult to determine which are the items to focus on. Pro tip: Prioritize products using the ABC analysis. It allows you to understand which are the products that require the most attention from an inventory management perspective, which would allow you to manage your cost by avoiding overstocking.
# 2 Logistics and Logistics Cost
A necessary evil! E-Commerce and logisitics go hand and hand. The success of any E-Commerce business is to a very large extend attributed to seamless logistics and operational excellence.
First of all you need to plan how you are going to distribute your products. When deciding on the platform on which to set up your online store, consider the nature of your products and your audience demographics While it may be tempting to have your own website, some businesses can benefit greatly from the existing customer pool already visiting popular third-party E-Commerce retailers.
Option 1: Build a custom website Pros: Complete control of the entire customer experience, built in accordance with your design, copywriting and SEO requirements. Cons: High development costs and can be hard to maintain or manage.
Option 2: Template website (eg. Wix.com, Shopify, Woo Commerce) Pros: Low-cost, easy set-up, pre-fixed templates and functionality you can immedeately use. Cons: Limited customisation options, tend to be poorly optimised for search engines (not always the case, make sue you choose wisely!)
Option 3: Third-Party Platforms (eg. Amazon, Etsy, Shopee etc)
Pros: Access to a wider audience and benefit from third-party platforms’ marketing, easy to set-up, benefit from third-party’s site traffic, resulting in a lower marketing cost.
Cons: Less control over customer experience (ie. how products are displayed), high competition, and lack of owned data (analytics).
Third-party platforms are generally recommended for new ecommerce businesses that are operating on a limited budget as they are starting out. Using a third-party platform is equivalent to starting your shop on a busy street that already has a steady flow of traffic.
Payment Gateway Selection
A payment gateway helps ecommerce sites to process payments via credit or debit card payments for a fee. Like a digital cash register, it provides a secure and convenient way in which transactions can take place.
Factors to consider when selecting your payment gateway provider:
Does it allow payments via all credit cards? (VISA, MasterCard)
How much do they charge per transaction?
Are they compatible with my country of origin (bank account location)
Are they allowing payments via my website or do they redirect users to their website?
Paypal, Stripe, and Square are some of the top payment gateways most commonly used by ecommerce businesses.
Optimise Your Online Presence
# 1 Photography
93% of consumers consider their purchase decision heavily influenced by the photos, as images are one of the fastest ways in which we gather the relevant information about a product. Every element in your image should speak in a clear and consistent voice that resonates with your target audience. Two options available:
1) Clean-cut, white background, product-only images
2) In-context or lifestyle photos
# 2 Copywriting
This is where your market research efforts pay off. When it comes to copywriting, knowing your audience and search intent is key. By paying attention to how the keyword is used in a query would allow you to craft persuasive item descriptions and copies that speak directly to your audience.
E-Commerce copywriting best practices:
Know who you are writing for and why are they looking for your products
Employ the power of brand storytelling
Focus on benefits instead of features
Barkbox is an excellent example of a business that truly understands its target audience. By adopting the language of its audience and addressing the pain points and wants of dog owners, the copies portray the brand as a supportive partner seeking to provide the best life for dogs all around the world.
# 3 Marketing
Selecting the right marketing platform not only saves you time and effort, it also ensures that you are devoting your resources to the channels where you could expect the highest returns in traffic and sales.
How to select the right marketing channels for your E-Commerce business:
Audience Preferences Select channels based on where your target audience usually hangs out. Producing content for those particular channels ensures that you are having the highest possible returns for your efforts and resources. Eg. Linkedin for B2B SaaS, Instagram for apparels and accessories
Business Type Choose the channel that is appropriate depending on the nature of your business. You could expect promoting Anti-virus software on TikTok to be less effective when compared to having the product advertised on Linkedin.
Customer Journey Context matters greatly when it comes to marketing. As user behavior and social norms differ from channel to channel, understanding how users utilise each platform would allow you to speak to your audience at the right time, in the right tone, and with the right message.
Iterate and optimise
Execute, observe, optimise. Rise and repeat.
Steps to optimising your E-Commerce marketing efforts:
Identify points/sources of friction
Develop a testable hypothesis
Continual Monitoring and testing
Important pages to prioritize:
Consistent testing and optimising different parts of your sales and marketing funnels based on the data collected will increase your traffic and conversion rate indefinitely. Have more questions or need extensive E-Commerce marketing support? Contact us to discuss your project.