Launching an e-commerce business seems to be the future of work. The online business market has been growing steadily in the last decade, and the COVID-19 pandemic only gave it an extra push.
According to the Statista report, online sales should climb to a staggering $4.2 trillion in 2020. This gives the opportunity for entrepreneurs to build an online business, but it also makes the industry extremely competitive. Today, there are more than 20 million active e-commerce businesses.
If you want to make a breakthrough in this field and build a successful company, you need to fulfill certain criteria. Here are seven essential steps you must take when launching an e-commerce business.
1. Carefully Pick a Niche and Portfolio of Products
The e-commerce world is huge, as you can find all sorts of products and SKUs. In such circumstances, the key question becomes: What are you planning to sell online?
One piece of advice is to focus on two features: your professional passion and market demand. The first element is important because you don’t want to engage with a niche that doesn’t meet your personal interests. On the other side, it is even more important to offer products that will actually sell.
Apart from these two factors, you should also consider the following indicators:
- Identify customers’ problems, issues, and pain points you can solve
- Take proven ideas from successful businesses in your niche, and use them
- Analyze the latest consumer demands via Google Trends, Quora, and similar entities
- Check out social communities, such as Reddit, for useful content ideas
Once you’ve done that, it is time to analyze the target audience and learn how to approach them. If you create a realistic buyer persona, you can choose your marketing channels much more wisely and efficiently.
Below are some questions you should ask yourself when building your buyer persona.
- Are they married with kids, what is their age, what is their gender, how old are they, etc.?
- What is their educational background?
- What career path are they on? Are they trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder, or are they interested in being a small business owner?
- What is their current job, and in what industry?
- What are their biggest daily challenges?
- Where do they get their news and information from?
- Where do they prefer to shop?
Need some more inspiration? Check out these places to get product ideas.
2. Choose Your Supplier(s)
Now that you know exactly what you are going to sell, it is time to choose the most reliable supplier. Your supplier should be:
- Highly professional in terms of respecting contract responsibilities
- Always on time in terms of delivery
- Accurate in delivering the right products
Although it sounds simple, it can sometimes be very difficult to find such a supplier. This is also why it is suggested to cooperate with multiple suppliers in order to diversify risk and ensure that your business can function uninterrupted 365 days a year.
3. Create Your Memorable Brand
Now that you’ve got the logistics planned out, you can start building an e-commerce brand. This is where you need to be extra cautious and fulfill the expectations of your target audience. Remember that buyer persona from #1? Look at each buyer persona and speak to them!
It is critical to concentrate on the following features:
- Company name: If possible, you should pick a brief name with a niche-related keyword included. That way, everyone can easily figure out what the e-commerce website is all about.
- Logo: Every business needs a logo. Your goal is to create one that perfectly reflects your brand personality.
- Create a color scheme: Every color has a very specific effect, which means you should combine them carefully in order to create a scheme that matches the style of your brand.
- Research your niche: Check out competitors to find a unique position for your new brand. That way, you are guaranteed to differentiate.
- Marketing templates: You should note that it’s important to craft templates for all sorts of online activities and presentations.
- Brand style: How do you want customers to perceive your brand? Do you plan to be witty and humorous, strictly professional, or both?
- Be consistent: Whatever you do, make sure to do it consistently. A typical consumer is not likely to remember you instantly, so you have to be persistent and promote your brand consistently.
If you don’t know where to start, check out this step-by-step branding guide.
4. Design a Professional Website
As an e-commerce business, you don’t have a physical business location, so the website you design becomes an anchor for your business. You have to make it eye-pleasing and professional if you want to leave a good first impression on your audience.
How can you do that?
First, use a trustworthy content management platform, such as Wix, because it gives you that much-needed level of reliability and security. Choose a website template that fits your style or tailor it so as to suit your branding strategy and color schemes.
Second, don’t try to overload the website with too many components and visual elements. Make it as minimalistic as possible to leave enough room for the fundamentals because you should promote your product quickly.
Third, an e-commerce website has to be fully operational. This includes page load speed, navigation, security, and mobile.
Fourth, do your best to add only a handful of crucial product categories. That way, your e-commerce website will not overwhelm your customers, and they will be able to find whatever they need quickly. It is also useful to add search functions and speed up website browsing.
Fifth, be aware of search engine optimization (SEO) because it will help your business grow long-term. If the average user can’t find you via Google, can you really expect to build a profitable e-commerce business?
You might be thinking, “but coding scares me, can I do this?” Yes, you can! Learn how to create the ultimate professional website, and remember to be credible. For example, your domain should be “https” and NOT “http”.
5. Optimize Your Product Pages
Product pages represent the core of your e-commerce website, which means that you have to pay special attention to this feature. What does it mean to optimize product pages? Here are a few hints:
- Write accurate and attractive product descriptions that stand out from your competitors’ generic copies. Use keywords to grab the attention of search engines and drive additional traffic.
- Publish high-quality product images (and videos, if possible) to show how your SKUs really look. Create professional images and hire an experienced photographer if you are unable to do it yourself.
- Don’t forget to update product information as soon as a given SKU changes
- Create amazing landing pages
6. Build Your Leads and Customers
Most entrepreneurs find it relatively easy to follow the tips mentioned above, but they seem to struggle with lead and revenue generation. This is not unusual because it takes TONS of work and strategic thinking to earn your leads and customers.
Digital marketing is what you need to invest in at this point. Here are some of the essential marketing tips for online stores:
- Create and publish informative and highly relevant website content to raise awareness
- Optimize your pages for search engines to ensure greater visibility
- Build relationships through email marketing
- Create and optimize accounts on relevant social media platforms
- Feel free to advertise if some of your products deserve additional attention
7. Don’t Neglect the Checkout Process
Finally, an e-commerce business cannot function properly and generate enough revenue if you fail to optimize the checkout process. As you probably know, online shoppers hate wasting time on redundant procedures, so you should minimize the number of difficulties associated with your checkout.
Some e-commerce businesses enable guest checkouts, while others reduce the number of form fields to the bare minimum. It’s recommended you follow the same path and focus on what matters most here – highlight payment and shipping options.
But, there are other things you can do to simplify the checkout process, with some of the most important listed below:
- Remove distractions that might interfere with the actual purchase.
- Create an order preview that instantly shows all the important details.
- Display trust signals, such as security badges and reviews, to make sure everything is being done securely. Examples include logos, merchant reviews, customer service links (returns, help, and terms and conditions pages), SSL certificates (think Norton), and any other business accreditations.
- Add multiple payment options for customers with different payment methods.
- Be clear about your shipping and the time needed to transport the product.
Keep your checkout process quick and simple. If you want more details on how to get your carts full, check out these 23 tactics to boost sales.
The Bottom Line
So, there you have it! The seven essential steps you should take when launching an online business. These seven steps are a great starting point to kickstart your e-commerce business in the right direction.
Ready to Create Your E-Commerce Business?
Now that you know the essentials, how exactly do you execute your e-commerce business? Setting up an e-commerce business has its challenges like any new business venture, and the process involves many steps. To help achieve a strong start, read the 14 Steps to Starting an Ecommerce Business.