If you are thinking about starting an online business, there are countless possibilities. You can write e-books and sell them on Kindle, sell affiliate products and offer services (such as graphic design, programming, writing or web development). However, one of the most popular and potentially lucrative types of businesses right now is e-commerce. Because of Amazon, just about everyone is familiar with the process of buying and selling items online. Today, just about anything you can buy in a store can be purchased online.
Open to Everyone
Amazon has revolutionized ecommerce in many ways with innovations such as one-click shopping, two-day (and even same-day) delivery and the sheer volume of available products. Other companies, such as Ebay, Etsy, Walmart and Alibaba are fiercely competing in this arena. From the standpoint of individuals who are looking to get started on a small scale, what really matters is that you can easily set up your own online store. There are several ways to do this.
Top Benefits of Ecommerce
Let’s look at some of the most notable advantages of ecommerce as a business model.
- More and more people are shopping online. The number of online shoppers grew by 20 million between 2015 and 2016 The best reason to sell products online is that this is rapidly becoming people’s favorite way to shop. Due largely to Amazon’s innovations, ecommerce is getting bigger all the time.
- You can work with Amazon, Ebay or another existing company. For many beginners, the simplest way to get started is to start a store on an established platform. There are also specialized sites to sell various types of items. If you make art, clothing or crafts, you could set up a store on Etsy.
- Create your own independent store If you prefer more independence and personal branding, you don’t have to work with Amazon or another company. You can use an online store such as Shopify and set up your own independent store.
- Complement your physical store. Online commerce isn’t only for people who want to work solely online. If you have a brick and mortar store, adding an online store is a way to expand your business.
- Buy wholesale. Many online sellers buy items from wholesalers and resell them at retail prices. Aside from buying from wholesalers, it’s also possible to engage in what’s known as retail arbitrage – finding cheap retail prices and reselling items on sites where people are willing to pay higher prices.
- Drop shipping lets you avoid having to store items. If you work with a drop shipper, you don’t have to worry about stocking or shipping items. This saves you time and also means you don’t have to invest in buying merchandise and hope that it will sell.
There are now many tools and resources that make it easy and affordable for almost anyone to get started. However, it’s not quite as simple as putting up a storefront and selling items. You do have to conduct some research and pinpoint the best approach for your own online store.
What to Consider Before You Start
Here are some of the main points to consider before getting started with ecommerce.
- Choose your niche. This is the first question you need to answer. Many sellers start with a general idea, such as clothing, electronics, pet supplies or exercise equipment. However, the most successful sellers usually choose a more specific niche. This lets you target a specific audience, which makes marketing easer. You need to find products that are in demand.
- Find a source for your products. This depends on your business model. If you make your own products, this is straightforward enough. Otherwise, you need to find a supplier or drop shipper. It’s essential to research prices to make sure that you can find items cheaply enough to make a profit.
- Create an appealing and user-friendly storefront. No matter what kind of platform you choose, remember that your online store serves the same kind of function as a physical store or showroom. You need to impress customers with your selection, layout and professionalism. Can your customers easily find what they’re looking for? You need menus and search functions that are easy to use. You should constantly test all functions such as page-loading speed and the efficiency of the checkout process.
- Study your competition. With millions of online stores, it’s hard to be 100% unique. Keep a close watch of your closest competitors and take note of their selection, prices and the look of their stores. Browse their sites through the eyes of a potential customers. You can often learn a great deal by doing this, including features to emulate and mistakes to avoid.
- Optimize your site. Online commerce is getting more and more competitive. This makes it essential to optimize your site for the search engines. Make sure you use as many keywords as possible in your product descriptions. Try to expand these descriptions beyond a few words and put in some detail and additional longtail keywords (lesser known terms that people might search for); this makes it more likely that the search engines will index your content.
- Build an audience. One of the benefits of online commerce is that you can build a loyal following. If people are happy with their purchases, they are likely to return and perhaps recommend you to their friends. There are also many actions you can take to help this process along. Create social media pages that showcase your products. Create videos to illustrate your products. Build an email list
- Stay engaged with your customers. Customer support is one of the most crucial aspects of a successful ecommerce business. Going beyond this, ask your customers questions using surveys and polls or on your blog, emails and social media pages and solicit feedback and suggestions.
These are some of the points to remember when starting an ecommerce site. There are so many tools that can help you that it’s almost overwhelming. Don’t try to do everything at once. Start at a scale that you’re comfortable with and add products as you go along.