It’s true that e-commerce has opened up a lot of possibilities for entrepreneurs looking for flexibility in how they run their businesses. Whether you run a local business that’s looking to expand into online selling or plan to establish an international drop-ship business, building a strong foundation of e-commerce knowledge is a great first step toward that glorious day where you earn your first internet sale — and many more beyond that.
There’s no single strategy to guarantee e-commerce success, but there are areas worth prioritizing during the early days — here are three.
Study the Ecommerce Fundamentals First
Getting an e-commerce company off the ground requires making many decisions. And, to make informed decisions, you must have a working knowledge of what your options are as well as what’s at stake. Taking time to get the fundamentals right will allow for stable growth in the future; skimping on the foundation will almost surely lead to instability later.
Here are some of the most influential choices you’ll make about your business right off the bat:
- What will you sell?
- Who is your target customer?
- What selling platform will you use?
- How will you optimize your website?
- What payments will you accept?
- How will you ship and deliver products?
Another reason why it pays to take the time to answer these questions well: It will make writing a great business plan much easier.
Put Together an Airtight Business Plan
Speaking of your business plan… writing one of these is a key step in how to start an e-commerce business. As Yahoo Small Business sums up, this document will lay out things like company objectives, market analysis, financial data and much more.
While you’re refining your business plan — and doing lots of research along the way — you may find your original vision changes. It’s normal to adapt as you go, especially as you learn more about existing markets and delve into operational specifics about your online store.
Also part of a thorough business plan will be a competitor analysis, a very useful step in which you can study the businesses against which you’ll be competing to see where they’re excelling and where gaps exist. At the end of the business plan-writing process, you should have a much clearer idea of not only your business but also its competitors.
Find Your Unique Selling Proposition
Don’t let the sheer volume of e-commerce stores in existence discourage you from joining the fray. There’s plenty of room for competitors, especially because even stores selling the same type of products can have vastly different unique selling propositions.
A unique selling proposition (USP) addresses the question, “Why should customers buy from my store over its competitors?” It’s your edge; the distinctive angle you’re taking on doing business within your niche. USPs are the reason why there can be so many stores selling the same thing — be it socks, kitchen utensils, mid-century modern furniture or marketing classes — without the stores all being the same.
At the heart of any good USP is providing the customer with genuine value. There are many, many ways to do this: fast delivery, hassle-free returns, locally sourced ingredients, accessible customer service, buy X get Y free, etc.
Succeeding in e-commerce is perhaps more possible today than ever before, but it takes some legwork to truly understand the inner workings of your own company and other businesses operating in the same market. Do a good job on the planning phase and you have a much better chance of hitting the ground running when it’s time to launch your online store.