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Whether you’re a bootstrapper or an investor with a bit of extra money to start a new enterprise, eCommerce is a great field to get into, especially today. Even as a beginner in eCommerce, the tools and resources are all laid out for you. It has one of the lowest barriers to entry. All you need is a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed.
Few Reasons why you need to have an eCommerce Business – TODAY!
Huge growth potential
In 2019, retail eCommerce sales worldwide amounted to 3.53 trillion US dollars and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 6.54 trillion US dollars in 2023. E-commerce penetration has steadily been on the rise, with e-retail spend registering 15.87% in 2015 – YoY, rising to 18.54% in 2019. This is one of the few industries that is registering a double digital YoY growth.
The ability to earn from anywhere & anytime
In traditional retail, store location & the premium that is being paid for having a physical store. In eCommerce, you can set up a storefront at your own domain name and sell your products globally. The concept of physical sales has also been forwarded by eCommerce where a now merchants are meeting their potential clients with a tablet, card reader and a few sample products. The rationale for having a brick & Motor shop is losing its shine on a daily basis.
Easy to Setup
The technology required for eCommerce has gotten a lot better over time & even easier, today absolutely anyone can set up their eCommerce store. From selling platforms to marketing automation and SEO tools, even bootstrappers or entrepreneurs can get up and running without breaking the bank.
Decide what type of business
With 80% of the population are shopping online, this means there is always a market for your products online. Based on these stats, it is derived that everyone is shopping online for almost anything.
When it comes to eCommerce there are no limits on what you can sell. It is not limited to just physical goods, a lot of new entrepreneurs are able to leverage themselves across digital commerce such as courses, podcasts, etc.
There are four main kinds of things eCommerce businesses sell:
- physical goods
- digital goods (ebooks and written work, downloads, software, apps, multimedia)
- services (SEO, Social Media, etc)
- courses, subscriptions, and other memberships
The great thing about eCommerce you can sell effectively across the globe. You are not dependent on local limitations, with effective digital communication entrepreneurs can connect to all their clients, without any boundaries.
Some of the questions you need to answer if you are selling physical goods.
If physical good: wholesale vs Retail
When you selling physical goods, you need to decide if whether if you want to get into wholesale or retail. There is a market for both. eg. Alibaba is your wholesale arm whereas Aliexpress is their retail arm.
This will depend on the niche you want to define and if you want to sell locally, nationally or even internationally. Each of them will have a very different marketing strategy, which is why it is important to get this right from the very beginning.
This will change as you grow. So, it is extremely important for entrepreneurs to have a more agile business model. Whether you want to opt for dropshipping or hold your own inventory or have 3rd party fulfillment. All of them are feasible and they have their own pros & cons.
Defining your Target Audience
Defining your target audience (niche) is one of the marketer’s most important tasks. It’s the foundation of your marketing strategy, from how you develop your catalog of products and what is the right marketing channels you use to promote them.
Having a clear definition of your audience will help you to define “How does your product make someone’s life easier, or better, or just more interesting?“
For example, in this IKEA ad, features of the advertised furniture might be that it is small, inexpensive, and multi-purpose. But the benefit is that it can help you make a small, temporary living space feel like home.
Your target audience is not “everyone.” Your task in defining your target group is to identify and understand your particular niche so you can dominate it.
One of the most common mistakes that most of the people will make is to assume that they found an untapped niche. Don’t fall into this mind game. If there is something out there, it’s already done.
- Research on your current/target audiences
- Interact with your audience
- Analytics (Social/Website)
- Research your competition
- The clear proposition of your product or services that you are offering
- Create a TA statement
- Test your marketing
- Revisit your analytics to fine-tune your approach and TA.
Whom to exclude?
Almost all the entrepreneurs whom I have come across have missed this step. Who is not your target audience? Even though this may seem unimportant, it will easily drain your marketing budget and other resources if you are catering to the wrong audience.
Weed out potential customers who don’t fall within your target audience description. Determine who doesn’t deserve your time and attention. For instance, Zipcar’s target market is “urban-dwelling, educated, techno-savvy consumers who worry about the environment.” – this itself helped them to exclude most of the audience. There is no point in them offering their services in rural areas or to people who drive expensive low mileage cars like Mercedes or BMWs.
What & How to Sell?
Once you know what motivates your audience, it’s time to formulate ways as to how to help them to achieve their goals. While doing research on your competition, most of the people out there will try to replicate the competition. This is NEVER about being a replica. It’s about being novel.
It’s never about a new product or a new service. It can be the same products with a different experience. Getting to your audience in a way they will make the purchase.
Key is to turn frustration into motivation
Keep a running list of frustrations and motivations. That way, you can keep returning to them as your business evolves.
Case Study: Power Day Sale
Power Day Sale is an online fashion brand. So, it seems that this is not a new niche? How can they make it? Their approach was more simplistic. Before going online, they researched the audience. It was found that most online shoppers were looking for a better shopping experience:
- Size charts: When it comes to fashion each brand or each manufacturer will have a different definition of sizes such as “Small”, “Medium”, “Large”, etc.
- Single Vendor, Single Price: When shopping in market places, there are multiple vendors with different prices & quality. Most shoppers will like to have some choose the vendor & pricing.
- Shipping & Logistics (Free Shipping): Having to deal with different vendors, different countries, shipping rates, etc. Single price with no minimum purchase for free shipping
- User Interface: Most of the online shoppers are quick buy-in and buy-out. Having to deal with too many pop-ups or offers or coupons etc. migrate those from the website to find offers on another website. Kept the UI simple, no pop-ups, single pricing.
- Customer Stickiness: One of the things that most online fashion e-retailer think the customers are sticky. They are not. So a lot of effort was saved by not creating expensive ways to keep customers sticky.
- 24 Hrs Online Support: As customers are across the globe and in different time zone or even online shopping time is different. Which is why 24Hrs online chat support with a single point of contact to resolve all queries.
- No Apps: A phone has limited space. Most of the customers don’t want another app to be installed. Hence no apps were created, rather a mobile-friendly site with easy checkout, with over 50% orders being mobile orders.
Just by having to sell the same clothes and removing the cash guzzlers like Apps, funnels, etc. Power Day Sale was able to reduce their cost and pass on those benefits to their clients, offering the same clothes at a discount. Single pricing, No Apps were the key reasons for their success.
At the end of this phase, you should have the products and services that you want to sell and to whom and how. Developing your business model and products can take time. If you opt for let’s say drop shipping, then products will be available at your fingertips. But, the business model still needs to be developed to be successful.
Starting your business
Incorporate a business
If you are a freelancer or doing this for a side hustle, it is not always necessary to incorporate a business. Having a business will have its own overheads like compliance with government regulation. At the same time, if you are in for the long run, it is absolutely necessary to have a business incorporated.
Having an incorporated business will make your dealings with other companies and third-parties easier. Applying for accounts with credit card processors, payment providers, working with suppliers, marketing partners, and so on won’t be a possibility until you have an officially incorporated business.
Essentially, this stage is mainly about getting the paperwork in line and making sure that you’re ready to start operating legally.
Most commonly, you’ll find that you can operate a business in a couple of ways:
- A form of a sole proprietorship. Most countries have a structure like that – the official name will be different depending on where you live. The main idea is that you operate a business under your own name. There is no difference between yourself and your company here. You can’t take or share profits or get in investors.
- A form of a limited liability company. Most countries allow you to establish those. The main benefit over the previous structure is that if you need investors within your company, it will be possible. The downside is that there’s usually double taxation involved if you want to pay out dividends from the business.
Naming your company & brand
You can create a company as the brand name or have a separate naming for the company. For instance, Alphabet Inc. is the parent company that owns Google. Google is its brand name and its product name. At the same time Yahoo! was housed within a company called Yahoo! Inc. In simple words, your product or brand name is not necessary to be your company name.
In our opinion, if the name of the company is generic or vague, you can have different products and brands housed in the same company, helping you to keep your structure simplified. When it comes to eCommerce, it is better to have a more generic name – that way you can own multiple businesses within the same company and you can flip business and start a new one without forming a new company each time.
When it comes to naming your website or store or your brands, the world is divided into two thoughts. There are startups whose brands have not meant to what their product is like Amazon is for shopping, not a river. Tesla (Brand) is a car named after Nikola Tesla. There are others who want their brand name to reflect what they are selling or what the product is about. For instance, PayPal when it started it was sending money directly to “Pals”, over time they are a leading payment gateway. Best Buy, gives a clear indication that what it will sell will be at the best prices.
Also, when it come to SEO – there are marketers who will say having the right keywords in the URL is always good for traffic. Surely, it is true – there are ways around it, for instance, your brand’s name is not having keywords in your TLD, so what you can do is buy a domain with the keyword and create a 301 redirect to your brand name.
The brand name is something personal and you should be able to identify yourself with. Don’t create a brand name where you think others will identify themselves. If you can’t relate to your brand you can’t sell. Basically, I disagree with the lot who say that your brand should reflect what keywords, identity, etc.
Choosing an eCommerce platform
What makes your business successful is your dedication to customer experience, your market strategies, your operational efficiencies and the team of people you build.
We’ve covered a lot of ground and have tested multiple eCommerce platforms. For us “best” eCommerce platforms are their features, designs, customer support, ease of use and pricing. While they all offer their own USP, WooCommerce, hosted with Managed WordPress Hosting is a clear winner.
It delivers all the features you might need right out the box, it’s great for small- to mid-size businesses, and it’s affordable – starts at $15 / month. The setup, management, security is extra simple. Request for a free trial today.
An eCommerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales, and operations.
Traditionally, businesses had to purchase on-premise, standalone eCommerce software that required extensive IT setup and in-house management with specialised development teams. These solutions were generally costly, not scalable, challenging to work with, and time-consuming to customise and integrate with other systems.
Fortunately, a lot has changed and it has never been easier to start an eCommerce business. There are two ways to classify the different types of eCommerce platforms:
- Open-Source (WooCommerce, Magento, etc)
- SaaS (Shopify, Wix eCommerce, etc).
Having an online platform is one of the most straightforward ways to conduct eCommerce. The “right” solution will depend on the merchant and their products. Below is a list of some of the top eCommerce platforms.
WooCommerce – WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce platform for WordPress. It comes with standard features such as analytics and reporting, shipping options, and mobile-friendly functionalities. Built specifically for WordPress, WooCommerce seamlessly connects with the platform. This makes it a very attractive choice for existing WP users. WooCommerce is highly extendable and very developer-friendly, offering things like custom AJAX endpoints, Webhook systems, and more.
Magento – Considered by many as one of the most flexible eCommerce solutions in the market, Magento offers powerful features right out of the box. It gives merchants the ability to customize just about aspect of their ecommerce store, and you have complete freedom over the look, feel, and functionalities of your site. Magento also has an active community of experts, developers, and agencies allowing merchants to easily connect with others if they need support. And if you need to further extend the functionality of Magento, you can always use add-ons to enhance your site.
Oracle Commerce – This enterprise eCommerce solution can be implemented on-premises, or it can be hosted by Oracle or a third party. It has features that can benefit both B2B and B2C merchants, and it comes with powerful functionalities that enable you to sell more complex merchandise and data-rich offerings.
Shopify – A popular choice among many SMBs, Shopify has features that let you sell online, on social media, and in-person. It lets merchants build and customize their eCommerce site through easy-to-use interface and templates. And it has features such as inventory management, reporting, buy buttons and more. It also has social selling functionalities for those who are active on sites like Facebook and Pinterest. Shopify is fully hosted, which means merchants won’t have to worry about maintaining the platform or using their servers.
BigCommerce – Used by big and small brands alike, BigCommerce offers features such as a site builder, shipping options, reporting, and more. It also enables merchants to sell on other sites and platforms, including eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Google Shopping, and Square. Plus it has a Buy Button for enabling sales on blogs, emails, and more. Additionally, BigCommerce has a built-in B2B offering for wholesalers and merchants selling to other businesses. BigCommerce is fully-hosted, so the company handles all platform maintenance and updates.
Drupal Commerce – This is an open-source eCommerce framework that enables users to build online stores and applications on Drupal. Drupal Commerce is highly flexible and offers hundreds of modules that allow users to enhance and extend its functionalities. There’s also Commerce Kickstart, “a distribution of Drupal Commerce packed with features that make it more complete, faster to launch, and easier to administer.”
Things to consider before choosing a platform
Every online shop has unique needs, and choosing the right platform is wholly dependent on the platform’s ability to solve the day-to-day operations of your business. There are, however, some basic things you should keep in mind before choosing a platform:
- Hosting: domain name, year-over-year uptime, and bandwidth
- Number of product you can sell
- Unlimited API call volumes
- Website builder with free, user-friendly site themes in non-proprietary languages.
- Extensive application marketplace full of pre-built integrations with best-in-class service providers.
- The mobile-optimized site, checkout and full experience (out of the box) and fully customizable.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features and fully customizable URLs throughout the site.
- Built-in basic eCommerce features including promotions and discounts, analytics, catalog management, WYSIWYG editors, etc.
- Social Media integration
- User Generated content such as reviews etc.
Working with WooCommerce all the boxes are ticked as above. Which is why WooCommerce is a clear market leader.
Choose a Web Hosting Provider
Depending on the eCommerce platform you choose you will need a web hosting provider. Even though this is the most critical component for any eCommerce business, a common mistake an entrepreneur makes is not to give it the right amount of attention. If your hosting fails, your business will fail. Which is why you should not be using a 3rd-grade hosting provider for your business. Choose a WordPress Hosting provider who can provide you with a minimum of these features:
- HTTP/2 (only 26% of Hosting providers can give this)
- 100% SSD Drives (Don’t fall in for traps where “hybrid SSD” is provided)
- 1 GBPS Port Speed (less than 30% of Hosting companies are giving you 1 GBPS)
- Latest PHP with FPM
With TD Web Services Managed WordPress Hosting only Hosting You’ll Ever Need. The most complete, secure and versatile Hosting for your WooCommerce.
In the past, your hosting provider would usually provide an easy way to install WordPress on a shared or dedicated server using whatever control panel they provided for their customers. All it took was the click of a button and for the customer to provide a few details like the password, database name and location of the installation. A few minutes later WordPress was ready to go. But this is where support for the application ended. If the customer was to run into any trouble with their site due to WordPress, a theme or a plugin the hosting provider offered little help since few supported the applications that customers installed on their servers. That is until just recently.
Managed WordPress Hosting service that handles all of your technical stuff like upgrades, performance, and security to allow you to focus on your business. We provide WordPress Hosting for personal sites to multi-server clusters for Web startups to global enterprises.
Setting up your website
Choose a store design
In today’s world User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) is everything. Choosing a store design is vital to your UX/UI. While most eCommerce platforms offer a wide variety of themes for you to choose from – it’s easy to drown in a sea of seemingly endless options, especially if you don’t have a sharp eye for design.
One of the best ways to find a design is to go to your competitor’s site to see their UX/UI.
- Do they use custom-designed homepages or have product listings?
- Do they communicate a sense of urgency right away or let the main products do the talking?
- Do they use video in prominent places?
- Is it all about the product or about people using the product?
- Is it about individual products or product categories?
The most effective approach for each business will differ from niche to niche. Having to spy on your competitors can give you valuable information to narrowing the most effective design that can be used. the idea is not to be a replica of your competitor but to make yourself better.
I have been a strong advocate to be as minimal as possible in terms of design – avoid bells & whistle like Pop-ups, Fortune wheels, etc. Don’t go overboard. At the end of the day, it’s the product you’re selling that should be the focal point, not some decorative elements that come from the theme you’re using.
Your Product Page
One of the reasons we like WooCommerce vs Magento is that it’s extremely easy to list your complex products. Apart from this, while choosing a theme you need to see how the products are being showcased in the theme. Here are the details to pay attention to:
- Each product will in-depth description or just a listing of key features?
- Do the product pages have a generic layout/design or are they custom-built?
- Are testimonials an important element on the product pages?
- Same thing for customer reviews; are they displayed on the product pages?
- Does the page lead with the price or mention it last? Most of eCommerce sales price is the tipping point. This is not always true where you are selling a more complex service.
Your Product Sales Pitch
Unlike traditional stores there are no salespeople who are selling the products. Getting the pitch right will enable buyers to buy more products.
Going back to the case study of Power Day Sale – one of the things they got right vs AliExpress is their product pitch and how the products are displayed. The detailed information, size chart etc. Whereas on AliExpress products are being sold at a much cheaper rate. Their clients are willing to pay a premium for exactly this reason that the products have more information and in cases, also video with models.
- Focus on your buyers and not Google. Remember that buyers write you the check and not Google Bots.
- Selling Points. For instance, with Power Day Sale – they came up with events & occasion based categories like Prom Dress, Home Coming Dresses, events, etc. making it easier for their clients to choose the dress.
- Appeal to your visitors imagination. With Power Day Sale, they created what is called a look book. Which gives various products for occasion or events. Helps their visitors to identify themselves for those events and buy those products.
- Be Product Specific. You become less persuasive when your potential buyer reads your product description and starts saying “Excellent buy”, “Best Prices”, and other similar phrase. Zappos, for instance, doesn’t describe the quality of a pair of shoes as “excellent”. Instead they describe each technical detail plus its benefit.
Use Good Quality Photos
Using good quality photo across your website makes that difference. It is not necessary to buy stock images. You can always reduce your cost and have royalty free images. There are following website you can use:
- Burst (by Shopify)
Having great images on your website will reduce your bounce rate and will increase the conversion. Most of the visitors don’t like ugly website and are always sceptical to purchase something from a iffy website.
Apart from having great photos across your website, you need to have photo’s for your products too. Depending on the product that you are selling, you need to have pictures like General look, close up or even better if a customer is wearing it.
If you are a dropshipping your products, manufacturer should be able to provide you with good quality photo that you can use. If you have your own products, hire a professional photographer.
When you are selling physical goods – you will need to decide if you want to sell internationally or not. If you are dropshipping, please always check with your manufacturer cost of international shipping to each country. If so, calculating international shipping rates can prove to be much more challenging than delivering goods locally.
First, you’ll need to add shipping zones and rates to your WooCommerce or Shopify store. Apart from that, you might want to invest in additional shipping extensions that will do most of the calculations for you.
If you are going to be selling virtual services or digital goods, you should always offer them across the globe, being digital or virtual services there are no geographic limitations.
Apart from website changes, there are laws in EU like GDPR etc. your website will need to be compliant to such laws before you start selling to those countries.
Tip: Power Day Sale, enabled guest checkout and increased their sales by 30%. Customers are now overwhelmed with number of sites they need to register and record those passwords.
Plugins & Extensions
When you are working with WooComemrce, Magento or even likes of Shopify, etc. most of the eCommerce platforms are perfectly capable of running out of the box. There are plugins that are there which can help you to improve functionality of your website and improve UX for you. Some of the most common functionality extensions that are used are:
- improve SEO
- multiple currencies
- coupons and giveaways
- additional payment gateways
- additional shipping options
- website analytics
- product add-ons
- email marketing integration
- abandoned cart recovery
- rewards and loyalty programs
- online chat support
This is not a limited list. It will depend on the type of your website and also the niche that you are addressing. What kind of UX do you want? There are plugins for almost everything in WooCommerce.
Promote your website
In theory, digital marketing is all about engagement with your customers. The reality is that customers are not easy to engage. If common sense prevails how many engagements would a customer want from all the online shops that are willing to sell them?
It takes persistence and a variety of marketing strategies to reach your audience and increase sales. The alternative of slamming customers with aggressive marketing at once overwhelms buyers or, even worse, irritates them. Instead, effective marketing boils down to reaching audiences repeatedly over time to build familiarity and eventually encourage purchases.
You can promote your store without an expensive agency. Some of the easy DIY marketing techniques that you can use do it yourself on any budget, regardless of whether you’re a small or large business.
- SEO – Search is the primary gateway to internet.
- Spread awareness on Social Media
- Use of PPC Advertising
- Partnership with influencer or collaborators
- Develop a multi-channel strategy
- Write blog on your site
- E-Mail promotions
- Promote your business locally
- Encourage product reviews
- Start a YouTube channel
- Build authority with online discussions.
Spreading your effort over different strategies is the key to long-term marketing. Using a diverse set of tactics increases your chances of marketing success — if one of the strategies fails, you have other strategies to rely on. Being willing to use multiple tactics and improve your methods as needed enables you as a seller to reach more buyers and drive more sales through your campaigns.
How Much Does it Cost to set up an eCommerce site?
Considering all the variables like hosting, website design, custom development, setup, configuration, payment integration, specific functionality, maintenance, etc. there is no quick answer to the cost of developing an eCommerce website.
- Design: There is a big difference in cost for a fully custom design and using a theme or template
- Functionality: Custom functionality requires to build a custom code that works well and costs more.
- Data Imports: If you need ready to sell products directly on to your store, it will cost you more. Also, you need to make sure that the database you need includes all the data needed to run your website.
- Integration: If you need to integrate your website with an ERP or a third party, it will cost you more.
- Web Dev Selection: Choosing a reputed company to develop your website will cost you more but they provide you much more value and training to keep your site running. It helps you relieve your pain in the long term.
Well, the cost of setting up an eCommerce website totally depends upon what and how you want it to be. It may cost you from $500 to $500,000 and/or more if you want your website completely customized. However, there are free plugins available like WooCommerce, Magento, open-cart etc. that will give you a good start and make it easy for you to manage your store and also give you better customer experience.
Starting an eCommerce website is like starting a real business. It takes capital, planning, a very good team to be successful. If you are really looking forward to starting your business, an eCommerce business is a business to be in.