Starting an ecommerce store is one of the fastest growing ways to make money online – with the number of digital buyers set to reach 1.94 billion in 2019, it’s hard to argue with the fact that now is a great time to tap into that market.
However, while there are certainly plenty of opportunities, merely putting together a website isn’t going to cut it. When selling online, you are not only competing with dozens or even hundreds of similar stores but also need to find a way to lure prospects away from ecommerce giants like Amazon.
48% of online shoppers head straight to the biggest ecommerce marketplaces and completely ignore the smaller stores, so you need to engage the other half of the users more willing to explore options and find a way to stand out.
To give yourself a chance to succeed, you need to think through your entire plan and make sure that you are giving yourself the best possible chance.
And while you may be tempted to buy a pre-built ecommerce store, there are many risks when buying an online business that make building your own store a safer option, as that way you can control every business decision that you make.
So, to help you get started, here are five things that you must consider before launching your online store if you don’t want to risk spending lots of time and money for nothing.
How Can You Leverage Your Current Expertise?
When you’re entering a digital marketplace, you are competing with countless stores for the same prospective buyers. And you’re not only starting from scratch, without a reputation and a customer base, but also don’t have the years of experience that other stores have accumulated.
That experience can be crucial when looking for the best angles to promote products, choosing the right marketing approaches, and making sure that you cater to the needs of your audience, so you need to try and find a way to compensate for your disadvantage by any means possible.
Therefore, the most logical choice when starting an e-store is to pick a niche in which you already have prior experience.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to have worked in that industry, but you should at least be somewhat knowledgeable about it as a consumer.
It’s always a good idea to choose a niche that you’re already passionate about because then, you will not only have a better understanding of the market, the products, and what to focus on, but will also have an easier time keeping yourself motivated during the long months of setting everything up and building your audience.
While you may be drawn to niches that are said to be the most profitable, that’s often the wrong approach since it won’t matter how big a niche is if you aren’t able to carve out space in the marketplace for your store.
What is Your Competition Doing?
Once you choose a niche that you want to work in, the next step is looking at the landscape of what the others are doing in the field.
Do a thorough and in-depth analysis of all of your main competitors, and try to gather as much information as possible because everything you learn can be used to make your store better.
Look at the types of products that are the most popular, the marketing approaches that are used the most, branding elements that seem to generate the best response, the voice that other ecommerce stores use in their communications, and anything else that you find relevant.
After performing thorough research, you’ll have a much better idea of not only what works for others and what you must do as well, but will also likely see the shortcomings of your competitors and will be able to come up with ideas on how to distinguish yourself and provide a better service to your customers.
Which Platform Should You Use?
Although launching a successful ecommerce store involves a lot of strategic steps, you can’t ignore the technical side as well – choosing the right platform for your site is very important, as it will determine what features you will be able to offer and how many tools you will have at your disposal.
Although the number of ecommerce platforms to choose from may seem overwhelming, the truth is that not all of them are created equal – some are more robust and powerful, but more expensive, while others are leaner, simpler to set up, and cheaper.
If you have a smaller budget, you may want to opt for a cheaper option that takes a small transaction fee from the sales that you make, but if you want more independence, you may pay more upfront or monthly but know that you can keep all of the profits for yourself.
If you are planning on doing dropshipping for some or all of your products, make sure you pick a platform that makes the process easy and has a workflow management system that accommodates your needs.
How Will You Keep Your Site’s Visitors Happy?
You can’t expect to succeed as an online business if you’re unable to meet the expectations of your website visitors.
To give your ecommerce store a chance, you need to ensure that you are providing a great experience to your prospects from the moment that they first stumble upon your site until they make a purchase and become loyal customers.
But how do you achieve that?
Well, it all starts with a strong branding strategy.
Since there are so many options to choose from when shopping online, a brand is one of the biggest distinguishing factors you can use to stand out from the crowd and appeal to the preferences of your target audience.
Everything from your brand name, to your logo and design elements, to the voice that you use, must be consistent and in line with user expectations. To find a good name, you can use a domain name generator to find available options, and then use the name as a basis for your design elements.
Another critical aspect of keeping your prospects happy is providing a seamless user experience. Since the majority of all online traffic comes from mobile devices, you must make sure that your site loads quickly and is easy to navigate no matter what device the visitor is using.
Finally, if your customers run into a problem, you must have a customer support process that can handle any issues and ensure that every customer gets a satisfactory resolution of their problem.
How Will You Attract Clients?
Many aspiring ecommerce sellers make the mistake of focusing all their efforts on creating their online store without having a clear understanding of how they are going to promote it.
As a result, there are millions of ecommerce stores that sit on the outskirts of the web, showcasing products that no prospective customer is ever going to see.
To avoid this scenario, you should map out a clear and diverse marketing strategy, laying out the exact steps that you’ll need to take to execute it.
But which marketing strategies should you choose?
Well, there isn’t an easy answer to this question, as it will depend on who you want to target and your audience’s online browsing habits, but there are certain strategies that have been proven to be very effective for ecommerce stores.
The first strategy for you to consider is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Although it won’t deliver immediate results, SEO can be incredibly powerful for ecommerce stores because, once you climb to the top rankings page for relevant keywords, you gain a completely free stream of new leads every single month.
Another growingly popular option for ecommerce businesses is influencer marketing. By reaching out to the most prominent influencers or micro-influencers in your niche, you can leverage their authority and reach to gain access to a previously unattainable segment of your market and achieve a quick boost to your sales.
To increase your chances of reaching an agreement with an influencer, you can use cold email outreach templates to create engaging and persuasive messages that convince him that working with you is in their best interest.
Finally, once you gain a better understanding of who your target audience is, you can start using paid advertising methods, but be careful – the costs of pay-per-click campaigns can pile up quickly, so keep optimizing your campaigns and make sure that you are getting an acceptable ROI.
Dave Schneider is the founder of LessChurn, churn reduction app. In 2012 he quit his job to travel the world, and has visited over 65 countries. In his spare time, he writes about SaaS and business at DaveSchneider.me