E-commerce is undoubtedly one of the most popular options for entrepreneurs. In this post, I will give you some important tips to set up an online store with some probability of success. Reading these lines will help you to better plan your project and avoid some of the common mistakes of digital entrepreneurs.
Setting up an online store is cheaper, but it is neither easy nor fast
I don’t want to take away your illusions, although, in the past, my recommendations have helped both students who worked as professional paper writers and successful entrepreneurs who had offline businesses. If you came to this article, it is probably because you have considered that setting up an online store was a good business idea and that you could be successful. And surely, if you work hard and plan your project correctly, you can have a profitable store, make a living from it and even grow and hire more people. But it will not be easy.
I tell you this because the low investment attracts many people to open a sales website and misunderstand what it means. Let me tell you, although it sounds too obvious: if the investment is small, the entry barrier to the business is also low, and therefore the competition is very big. Standing out on the web is not easy, and it takes time.
It is important to be aware that you can spend a lot of time working hard and getting almost no income. Well, that’s what happens in every business, so you shouldn’t be surprised, but I’d rather remind you.
Focus on a Niche
One of the temptations of new entrepreneurs is to offer many references, with the idea that statistically, some of them will work and thus guarantee a level of sales. Well, it’s not going to work. Even if you set up a business where you don’t have to carry the cost of stock (with a drop shipping agreement), if you want to be too generalist, chances are you won’t sell anything. There are many reasons for this:
- You’re going to dilute your efforts by having to spend time on very different products.
- You will not be able to invest in SEO or advertising for so many references.
- You will not be able to create an identifiable brand image.
On top of that, you are going to compete directly against the biggest giants in the sector without offering anything better than them. Are you going to sell cheaper than them? Really?
On the contrary, you should specialize if you are already an expert in something, leverage that knowledge, and create a strong personal brand to legitimize your products. If you are not, become an expert, a reference for a niche. Learn, read, educate yourself. I assure you it will be worth it.
- You will offer products that are difficult to find on other platforms.
- You will offer a wide range of products related to the niche.
- You will have the legitimacy to sell these products because you will only be dedicated to them.
- The price factor will be much less relevant, and you can expect better margins.
- You will be able to stay on top of your niche and reactively offer the best new products.
- You will be able to spend your time and budget more efficiently, increasing your chances of standing out in the niche.
But you have to find a niche that is profitable. You’ll need to study the market and the competition to do this. Look for a small market with sufficient potential, and learn how to do better than the existing competition, offering an added value that the customer can really identify as an advantage over the competition. In other words, work on your value proposition.
How you are going to attract traffic: e-Commerce vs. Traditional Commerce
One of the most important things you need to understand is the difference between online and traditional stores.
In a physical store, location is the main factor. If you place yourself on a busy pedestrian street, you get a lot of visitors. All you have to do is provide a positive sales experience, and you’re done.
In an online store, things change. There is no such thing as a busy pedestrian street. Or rather, they do exist, but they work in a very different way. A keyword with a lot of traffic in Google could be considered a street, with the most trafficked area being the website that is placed first in the search results. The problem is that getting to this position, or even to the first page, is neither immediate nor definitive.
It costs a lot of SEO effort and can change from one day to the next if Google’s algorithm or the content offered by competitors changes. What I mean is that a store does not have immediate visibility. All the strategies to get traffic to require time acceptance advertising, and in none of them, success is guaranteed.
How to get traffic when setting up an online store
Positioning in Google (SEO): You can position your online store, but you can also position your expert blog about your niche. It is an excellent gateway and reinforces the credibility of your chosen topic for your business. Even if you do it very well, it will take a few months to see results. Learn all you can about the topic and be patient.
Social Impact: Another strategy, which many do in parallel, is to build a community on social networks (mainly Facebook and Twitter). The problem is that the impact of posts on Facebook pages is less and less, but for the time being, it still helps. It also takes time because building a community does not happen overnight. At first, only your friends will follow your page, but with luck, you will be able to expand the number of followers month by month.
Email marketing: Basically, this strategy consists of getting the email addresses of people interested in your topic and then sending them some emails of interest to encourage them to buy your products. If done well, it is a very effective technique. But, the same thing happens as with the others, you have to capture registrations, and that takes time.
Advertising: This is the only way to get immediate results. You can use Google Adwords so that your sponsored result appears in the busy street we mentioned before. You can also build a referral strategy (pay a commission to other websites to promote your content). Or you can buy email marketing advertising. In any case, whichever paid strategy you use, be careful to select your target audience very well. You want qualified visitors, i.e., people really interested in your niche. Otherwise, your conversion rate will be very bad, and you will be wasting money.
Amazon: competitor orally?
When you start in e-commerce, one of the options you have to get customers is to register as a seller on Amazon. That way, your products will have much more visibility. Obviously, it is a strategy with advantages and disadvantages:
- On the positive side, you have access to millions of potential customers already familiar with Amazon. In addition, if you have a good quality-price ratio, you receive positive opinions, and you will be better positioned in searches.
- On the negative side, you have a lot of direct competition, and you have to pay a commission to Amazon. Also, although you get new customers, you are not consolidating your own online store. Customers are from Amazon, and they are not going to buy from you later on. They will come back to Amazon and choose products, not sellers. The percentage of customers you can build customer loyalty is irrelevant.
How to spend the money to set up your online store
We have already said that setting up an online store is one of the cheapest options to start a business. But it’s not free. And you have a limited budget, so you have to choose. Basically, you have two possible spending items:
- The website and its design
- The advertising
There are very good development and design companies out there that can make you a very nice online store, but honestly, in the beginning, it would be a big mistake to spend money on that. Look for cheap web hosting and opt for some free WordPress-type software for your blog. You can use a free one as your hosting provider offered for the online store, or you can look for another free or cheap solution. But don’t spend too much. You need the money for something else: advertising.
Remember what I said before: for a while, neither SEO, social networks, nor email marketing will work for you. Reserve your money to opt for specific and effective advertising strategies. You will have less margin, but you will be able to start your sales.
Trial and error
Finally, I would like to end this article on online selling with a reminder. Don’t forget to be flexible. In business, adapting is critical. You may have an idea that sounds great in your head and looks great on paper, but the reality is different.
When you start your business, you will see things that go better than planned, but mostly things that go worse. Correct, adapt, try new things. Another reason not to spend too much on web development is that you will certainly have to modify things.