The Beginner's Guide to Building Your eCommerce Business

Starting a new business can be overwhelming. You’ve identified a gap or niche that you can capitalise on. But the task list of what to do is daunting. Here is our ultimate beginner's guide to eCommerce and how to tackle your task list. By following this process, you will do the critical analysis and research upfront, be well prepared, and avoid some of the common pitfalls of starting your very own eCommerce business.

Step 1
Choose your product wisely

We’re sure you’ve spent more than a few sleepless nights thinking about your business idea. You’ve talked to family, friends, even work colleagues. You’ve spent some time developing something that has a unique selling proposition. You’ve asked the question “Why would someone want to buy my widget over someone else’s in a crowded market place?” You have identified a particular niche, offer more competitive pricing, or provide specific benefits over your competitors.  

Eg. Your coffee pods are made from recycled, biodegradable plastic. Your product appeals to the millennial generation who demand a better, well thought out product from a company that cares about the environment.

 

Step 2
DYOR - Do Your Own Research

Doing market research is incredibly important to understanding and defining your market place. Asking questions like:

  • Who is your immediate competition and why? Consider competitors hyperlocal (your neighbourhood), city-wide, state and national. 
  • What are their sales channels? Do they have a sales team with a well-established client base that you are going to try and crack, or are you going to focus on new businesses opening up?
  • Do they sell online, bricks and mortar or use wholesale channels and partnerships?
  • Your pricing structure. Are you going to be wholesale? Retail? Or a combination of both? Does your competition do one or both or all?
  • What are your competitors market share? Company structure? Overhead and facilities/equipment? This comes in handy if you are a small agile business that can pivot quickly to capture a segment they are unable to serve because of their size!
  • Research them on the internet, check their Google My Business Reviews, Yelp and any retail platforms they may use. Find where their weakness is and surpass that. Maybe it’s better delivery options, packaging options, payment terms.
  • What channels do they use to market? Traditional PPC? Blogging and SEO? Affiliate marketing? You can replicate what their successful strategies have been or do a 180-degree turn and do what they can’t or haven’t. Use the trends to your advantage. Look at how Dollar Shave Club has transferred the razor business, or Warby glasses, Zappos. They have bucked traditional marketing channels and 3rd party businesses to go direct to the customer.
  • Check for product reviews and forums. It’s a great way to research what people are talking about.
  • Research for your competitors on reselling platforms such as Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, AliExpress.

 

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Step 3
Write your business plan

When you have nailed every aspect of your product, it’s time to write a business plan. This will help you gather your assets, ideas and plans into one documents your business road map.

It’s a decision-making tool that will clearly demarcate your goals, objective and targets that are measurable. 

Include an executive summary, business description, SWOT analysis, competitive analysis marketing plan, management summary, operation plans and financial plans, achievement and milestones. This will help your refine your pitch and presentation.

 

Step 4
Choose your eCommerce platform

When deciding on which platform to use for your eCommerce business, there are several types to consider:

  1. SaaS Self Contained eCommerce Platform (Shopify). This independent self-contained platform allows you to build your store without having to worry about hosting, payments and security. You have a set monthly fee, it’s easy for anyone to set up, and you can be selling in a matter of minutes.
  2. Independent Modules (Magento, WooCommerce) For more robust solutions and larger websites you will need to move onto a web platform with modules and web development specialists. If you had thousands of products and specifications, then this is the only option. It does also allow for a more robust design and functionality.
  3. 3rd Party Platforms (Google Shopping, Alibaba Express, eBay, Amazon, Etsy). These type of platforms take the marketing, build, payment, and shipping into a nice, easy to use and manage platform for worldwide distribution. Their massive reach and marketing mean you need to spend very little time managing the process - it’s an instant market...but buyer beware, the listing fees and sales percentages can add up very quickly. You will also have a lot of competition for similar products, resellers, etc.

For more about platforms read more here.

Step 5
Website design & content oh my!

Now that you have your platform decided upon it’s time to make your visual design sing. There are many things to consider about design including: 

  • Your Brand - If you haven’t already as part of your business development plan, Images photograph, stock and graphic elements.
  • Logo - Your logo is the first visual representation of your business. Be it a word stamp, symbol, colours, its the feeling your customers get when they think of your product. Take the time with a professional to truly explore your visual appearance. You never get a chance to make a first impression and your brand mark needs to stand the test of time.
  • Website Content - page content, product descriptions, SEO, keywords, marketing content blogs.
  • UX - Considering your User Experience is important in the design of your website. How they travel through your website is JUST as important as the product and how it feels. The easier the transaction, the less the resistance, the more conversions your business will get.
  • Theme vs Custom Web Design - Depending on the platform you are on you will be able to completely customise your web design, or choose a theme that needs a few adjustments. Budget and time will dictate which you choose.
  • Domain - Most platforms will allow you to use your own domain, but when you move to an all-inclusive SaaS your ability to use custom domains may be limited.

 

Step 6
Building your eCommerce website

AI - Wireframes - this is the basic structure of your website to make sure all the pages and structures are in place for the website. 

Functionality - This includes your storefront module, API’s, integrations, marketing additions, payment gateways, booking APPs and anything else you need to happen in the background to complete a conversion.

Modules. Plugins are how many of these functionalities are added to your website. They are additional bits of coding and modules that make your website work. On many platforms, you will have a wide variety of choices. On more complex sites you may need to have custom web apps built for your specific requirements.

 

Step 7
Optimising your online business

You know what your Call to Actions(CTA’s) is to complete an action on your website. You need to have very specific actions or directions for your customers. What do they do once they reach your site? You need to DRIVE them to the next action and that requires a well thought out action plan customised to their intention. Whether it’s to provide information, buying options, or some other action that you want them to take (newsletter signup, CALL, book, buy). The best experience is ruined by slow loading pages, forms that don’t autofill or are awkward fulfilment processes. Your abandoned cart rate will be a great indicator of how easy or difficult the process is. 

 

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  Step 8
Marketing is the cherry on top
Social media

Not all social media platforms are equal, but they are necessary for your business. In general, you only need to optimise for 2-3 that are appropriate for your demographic/audience. Here are the platforms to consider:

  • Facebook - -Most business can benefit, larger social media platform in the world Facebook Ads, Funnels & lead building, audience discussions, posts and information, peer influence.
  • Instagram - Images based, hashtags, influencers marketing, visual platform, B2C.
  • Pinterest - visual experience, inspirational, advertising
  • LinkedIn - B2B, blogs, leads and advertising
  • Twitter - business, chatter, news, Ads, peer influencers.
  • Snapchat - visual, messaging, Ads, influencers, Peer to Peer
  • Twitch - Mainly gaming and music, real-time, visual, ads
  • YouTube - Videos, paid ads, 2nd largest search engine in the world.
  • TikTok - videos, new, young audience
  • Tumblr - blogging, news, images, articles

 

Using Ads & PPC create traffic

It’s easy enough to build your website, but how you are you going to create traffic? So many businesses don’t consider how to drive traffic to their sites. They consider it too expensive and would prefer to use organic methods like blogging and social media. These can be a good trickle to start with but in order to grow your business, you will need to use PPC (Pay-Per-Click). 

Ads have come a long way and find a lot of customers with great search intent for pennies on the dollar with the correct keywords and Ad content. Ad platforms include Google Search & Display, Youtube, Facebook Ads, and Affiliates.

Automation can help create efficient processes in your marketing flow with payments, shipping, email marketing, and lead generation. Some of our favourite marketing automation tools include Hubspot and MailChimp. They serve as your CRM (Customer Relations Management) tool for leads, funnels, email marketing. It will revolutionise your marketing abilities and help you build great customer relationships for better sales, referrals and value for your business.

 

Step 9
Your customer support and after-care.

How are you going to support your clients and really build value as customers for life? 

Providing support to your customers is something many small businesses don’t consider. How do you handle returns and complaints? Add value to your customers with after-care service? Create life-long customer satisfaction in your customer life cycle? Developing processes in advance will help you ward off many issues from the start. Build your communication channels clearly, know how to deal with an issue before it comes up, and you will eliminate them altogether.

 

Considering each step carefully will help you coordinate your efforts when building your eCommerce business. If you need a helping hand to get the process jump-started, then we would love to hear from you.

 Book a free strategy call