Did you know, according to eMarketer that global eCommerce sales topped $1.7 trillion in 2015? Did you know also that even though there are roughly 12 million online stores, less than 1/12 of them (650,000) are earning more than $1,000 per year? If you didn’t know those facts, you aren’t alone, and I am one of those people who didn’t know myself. But, that being said, there is a wide margin for improvement. So what are the methods these top eCommerce operators are using in order to be so successful? For the purposes of this article, we will explore this question from the standpoint of a startup eCommerce site, that has either yet to begin, or is newly beginning, and wants to set themselves up for success. Don’t be fooled though, even if you are already in operation, many of the tactics and things mentioned here are valuable to pay attention to as setup is only one step, marketing and sales is a whole ‘nother challenge.
It’s no secret by now that there are a number of ways to actually make an eCommerce site, but not so fast. Let’s consider a few prep items that should be taken care of before you start your eCommerce shop. Setting up an eCommece site involves a few things first and foremost to make it happen. Here are the “prior to setup” things you will want to pay attention to, though not all are absolutely necessary right off:
Some might suggest going straight to setting up the eCommerce platform. This is a step, but I am suggesting something different. Start from day one marketing your site. But you don’t have a site yet… Set up a landing page for $10 using Fiverr.com with very minimal content (a title, logo if you got it, and a slogan or word about the business) and an email capture form. Get this up and running and market the hell out of it from day one. Start getting emails, start telling friends, start writing a blog (you can include it in your landing page or use Medium) and start posting a few things about the new shop. Believe me, if you’re worried because you don’t have everything set up, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that people know about you. Starting from 0 is intimidating (at least it was to me) and it won’t get any less intimidating until you start. Social media will be effective initially with your existing friends but your friends will not be your only buyers, and in fact, friends liking and buying can be a sense of false reality, so don’t rely on this alone. One of the best things you can do initially is to start finding relevant fashion sites, niche gardening sites or other that match your niche, and get active. Find the areas your customers are hanging out in. Ask them questions and create dialogue. This will help you by getting some initial feedback, and absorb the market needs. Another very helpful thing is blogging regularly. While it is a large task, it will help with SEO and it will provide a place to give customers insight into your business, why you’re doing it, and what you can provide to them. More on this later, but the point now is to not be bashful about getting your new eCommerce site out there. Build up that email list and begin sending emails as well, anything you can do to start getting traction.
The product you choose to sell will be the lifeblood of your business. Why? Because with a unique product, something differentiated from the clutter will make it far easier to grow a following and actually sell. Ideally, you invent a product you see a need for and start selling it. This does involve a whole new set of challenges with manufacturing and distribution, but this is for another blog. If you don’t have a totally new product, find a product you have a particular passion in, the passion and your own expertise on the topic related to this topic will make it far easier to connect, understand and grow with your market. If you just want to sell online and don’t really care about the product it’s still possible, but you may face a steep uphill battle. The other option you may use to find a new product is to check out Producthunt.com and see if there is something on there that has a larger following, and that will let you sell it. There are thousands of products on there that are all brand new, and many are looking to get distribution. Whatever product or products you choose, you will need the vendor connection. This can be challenging as most will require some sort of credit history, initial deposit or other requirements. Don’t worry too much about this though, this is all part of the challenge, though you can use Alibaba most likely to source something right off. The real key in this section is to find something differentiated or that you have some sort of advantage in, it makes all the other steps easier.
Alright, you got the business setup, you got a domain and social profiles, now it’s time to make the site of your dreams. Luckily, there are many platforms out there to choose from. But, before you choose a generic, starter website builder decide up front if you want to blend, or if you want to stand out. If you want to stand out, it’s unlikely you will want to use a theme provided by someone else, as you may be able to tell that already a few thousand people have that same exact website. In many cases, you may be starting on a small budget, and a basic site will do. That’s understandable and very viable to get started, but in the long term, provide something unique to customers, be different. One big factor that plays into the setup of your eCommerce site is whether you have technical engineering skills or not. Obviously, if you can code and program, your options are far more open. If you’re going for plug and play, check out Shopify or Big Commerce. If you’re a programmer or you want to have something built uniquely for your business check out Epic Commerce. The honest truth is that something like Epic Commerce affords you automation, logic, artificial intelligence, and omnichannel out of the gate, with a huge feature set that quite simply is meant for companies wanting to separate from the pack. This is aided with the ability to embed any single product easily a generated code snippet, as well as the ability to (without coding) setup a product and with one link paste it anywhere to sell (social, email etc.) without any website needed. The most important thing you can do with your eCommerce site is to have it set up properly from the beginning. Going back and forth between themes, realizing limited functionality in the commerce system you have chosen, being stuck with something that can’t scale with your needs etc. is going to be a real pain in the ass. Here are some things to take into consideration:
There are some very handy, and many free tools available to help your store succeed. This is just going to be a list:
Ahh yes, the fun part of marketing your brandly new eCommerce site. Many things have already been mentioned here, but there are some surefire ways that you should be using to drive new customers to your online store. The best methods are one’s that have not been thought of yet, but this may take some time to uncover what it is with your particular site that enables you to come up with a “marketing hack” to gain customers. Some of the more common and proven methods are as follows:
While there are certainly more methods, for starting an eCommerce site, and making it profitable, you will have plenty of work getting all these things set up. We’ll revisit or update with a new post later to dive into some advanced methods for marketing a site that will drive growth. As I mentioned earlier, when picking a commerce system, consider the short, and medium length impacts it will have if you choose something that does not handle the requests you require of it. Using something like Epic Commerce ensures flexibility and power to create campaigns, deliver personalized results, and leverage logic and AI to increase purchase frequency and average order value. With the right system in place, everything else is easier. Consider also the type of business you want to build. If you’re going for a multi-million dollar store, you will have a different approach from someone who is side hustling. On another level, just don’t stop. You’ve got to try everything to get traffic, and you’ve got to discover what will make your customers convert more frequently. All is fun in the world of eCommerce when things are going well, but it takes time, effort, and some skill to make it all happen as you wish. If you are setting up an eCommerce site, and need some assistance building your shop, creating the marketing behind it, or automating your marketing components, shoot over an email to a firstname.lastname@example.org who will help through the whole process.
I hope you enjoyed this summary if there is anything I left out (which I know there is) please add it in the comments, or show some love with a like, share or implementation of Epic Commerce ;-)