There’s arguably no other industry that has witnessed such phenomenal growth over the years as the eCommerce sector. Since its emergence in the 1990s, eCommerce growth has snowballed by impressive margins paving the way for businesses and brands to reach markets beyond their geographical boundaries.
To put this growth into context, in the last 10 years or so, the eCommerce sector in the U.S. grew by an average of 15 percent year on year. Fast-forward to 2020, the eCommerce market experienced two years of growth in just one year.
While the U.S. eCommerce market hit $598 million in 2019, which was, by all standards, a huge milestone at the time, it grew by 32 percent to hit over $790 million in 2020 just as COVID-19 was being declared a global pandemic.
Enter the pandemic and the eCommerce market went wild as the widespread lockdowns and movement restrictions resulted in mass brick-and-mortar shutdowns forcing customers to shop for goods and services online.
Global eCommerce giant Amazon was one of the biggest gainers to have experienced impressive growth over the initial pandemic period. Amazon’s initial annual revenue increased by 38 percent to $386 billion while its net profit surged a staggering 84 percent in 2020.
Other smaller eCommerce players also recorded decent numbers over the lockdown period with Walmart and Target, for instance, registering over $35 billion and $13 billion in revenues in 2020 respectively. This milestone, driven largely by automation, finally positioned Walmart as the second-largest eCommerce marketplace.
You can now clearly see where eCommerce is headed. Its unprecedented growth cut across pretty much all sectors making it a worthwhile investment, not only for big and established businesses but also for startups.
Even with the global pandemic restrictions being lifted completely or partially coupled with the steady resumption of business for brick-and-mortar stores, the eCommerce bandwagon is not likely to slow down anytime soon.
So, you are probably thinking, if the future of eCommerce looks particularly promising, maybe I should join in.
Well, why shouldn’t you?
Chances are that you’ve most likely toyed with the thought of starting an online business but since you had no experience running an eCommerce store, well, you chickened out.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. The eCommerce concept, though not entirely new, still baffles most budding entrepreneurs who think investing in an eCommerce business is the preserve of big corporations or only for businesses that have been in operation for many years.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are about to deconstruct that misguided perception once and for all!
Starting an eCommerce Business: the Essentials
1. Identify a Suitable eCommerce Model
First things first. Research. This goes without saying. Just like any other business model, you need to identify the most suitable eCommerce model for your online business. A one-size-fits-all approach will simply not work. Research on various models to ascertain which one fits your product(s) or service(s).
Look at models such as drop shipping – a popular concept that involves selling products that you don’t have in your store or even printing on demand, which is selling customized products on a per-order basis. You might also want to look at warehousing — an eCommerce subdivision where you store physical products before selling them online.
Finding the right eCommerce model for your online business is basically what will eventually determine your success. So don’t take this lightly!
2. Product/Service Ideas
Once you’ve settled on the eCommerce model that you want to deploy, you also must identify a product or service you want to sell online. The best way to approach this is to first and foremost identify a problem you want to solve and then match it with the ideal product or service.
You also need to figure out where and how fast you will be sourcing your products as well as how fast you need to ship the same to your customers, irrespective of their geographical location. Your target market is also crucial.
You need to match the product or service you want to sell online with the right audience. A mismatch will be catastrophic for your eCommerce business. Figure out who they are and how your product or service fits it. A platform like Facebook Ads Manager is a good place to start as it lets you easily find the right target audience.
I know, it’s too soon to run ads. But you don’t have to run ads to leverage the platform. Simply play around with it and see how they segment various demographic groups based on interests and what overlaps between these groups exist. This will give you some ideas about whom you should be selling to.
3. Choose a Business Name and Structure
Now, this is where it starts to get interesting. If you want your eCommerce business to stand out and click with your target audience, you need to give it a unique and memorable name. Your online business name needs to be catchy as well so that it can attract buyers and also make it easy for existing customers to recommend others.
A good eCommerce business name helps to build awareness, recognition, and recall. It also enhances brand loyalty, makes word-of-mouth super easy, and boosts your search engine optimization.
There are several methods you can use to come up with the ideal business name for your eCommerce store. You can use free business name generators to generate a suitable name for your online business. Shopify, for instance, has a free business name generator that can help you create an ideal business name and also claim the domain while at it.
In a nutshell, your eCommerce business name needs to be recognizable, brandable, relatable, sellable, pronounceable, and sensible.
4. Website and eCommerce Platform
Just like a brick-and-mortar store, you need to find the right location for your eCommerce business, which is an eCommerce platform. While you can get away with just using a website, eCommerce platforms like Volusion and Shopify can enhance your chances of selling faster and to a wider audience than just relying on your website.
How your website is designed and structured also plays a crucial role. This is your customers’ first point of contact with your business. Their experience with your website will also determine whether they will buy from you or not. With that in mind, your website needs to be user-friendly, easy to navigate, and most importantly, optimized for smartphones.
According to Statista, mobile will account for 50 percent of ad spending by 2021 and is set to outpace desktop ad spending by 2022. More businesses are now investing heavily in mobile advertising largely because millennials are reportedly spending slightly more time on their phones – 5.7 hours – while baby boomers spent five hours on average.
This goes to show that mobile optimization is a must-have for your eCommerce business, especially if you want to make your first sale in record time.
5. Social Media
Naturally, your next step should be to set up your social media accounts. Social platforms are an extremely powerful marketing tool that allows you to showcase your product(s) or service(s).
Whether you will be selling internationally from the very beginning or not, social media is a great way to connect with customers. By consistently engaging with them, your business and products will remain at the top of their shopping list.
Social media is also an effective tool for gathering crucial customer insights, which you can then use to improve your business, product, and overall experience.
6. Marketing Campaigns
nce you have everything set up and you are now ready to go live, the last piece of the puzzle is a marketing campaign. Without one, you’ll just be shooting in the dark! The internet is overflowing with similar eCommerce businesses similar to yours and the only way you can stand out is to have a well-thought-out marketing campaign.
Your marketing campaign needs to cover all the critical points such as target audience, location, season, where they spend most of their internet time, which platforms they frequent the most, what time of the day they are likely to be online, what kind of music they listen to… okay, maybe not that, but you get the idea, right?
The bottom line is that your campaign needs to be data-driven to be super effective. Therefore, using CRM and automation tools such as Salesforce can help you to target different audiences using different marketing campaigns.
Now that you have pretty much all the essentials covered and you are ready to start your eCommerce business, how about we help you to lay the groundwork for your first sale?
How to Make Your First eCommerce Sale FAST
Like any other business, whether offline or online, making a sale is not that easy. Every step that you’ve put in place must work exceptionally well to enable you to sell and sell fast. Your selling strategy must also be top-notch.
Competition in the eCommerce space is super stiff. This means you have to employ effective tactics to help you get the ball rolling. Let’s take a look at some easy-to-deploy tips and tricks for getting a sale in record time.
1. Discount Codes
These are particularly effective for enticing prospects to your eCommerce store. If your eCommerce business is new, you can use gift cards as an incentive to buy.
They also work well with existing (repeat business) and new customers. According to Research Brief, such incentives also have a direct impact on your customers’ overall shopping experience as their happiness levels rise whenever they receive a discount.
For your discount code to work, it needs to be easy to remember (use everyday words), calculate (use round numbers), and apply (minimal restrictions).
2. Zero Spam
Do not bombard your customers’ email inboxes with low quality, repetitive promotional messages.
Instead, spend time and use proper tools to get accurate customer insights that will, in turn, enable you to create meaningful promotional messages that your customers can relate to. Doing so will significantly increase your chances of selling fast.
3. Leverage Online Communities
Visit forums such as Reddit and Facebook Groups and make sure you post a link to your eCommerce store (if allowed in those groups — be very wary of anti-spam rules!). These platforms provide you with opportunities to market your eCommerce store to niche online communities in your industry.
Research and identify forums and online groups that your target audience subscribes to or frequent. You can also use these forums to share your experience with other budding entrepreneurs. This will help you build credibility, which is a quality most customers look for when shopping online.
4. Influencer Campaigns
Partner with influencers to help you reach a wider audience than you normally would using traditional marketing tactics. Influencers that have a huge following can help you create the much-needed awareness for your eCommerce business as well as build credibility for your product or service.
It’s also an affordable way of building a customer base based on mutual interests. You can start by sending them free samples, which they can use, and then share their experience with their followers.
Pro tip: You don’t have to have the budget to engage influencers like Kim Kardashian. There are thousands of micro-influencers that can fit any budget. Better yet, working with them is more effective (sales-wise!) than working with the biggest influencers in the online space.
Content is king. You’ve probably heard that a billion times by now. The truth is, content is what is fueling the success of most brands today.
Content is pretty much everywhere, even if you don’t label it as such: a photo, a video, a blog post, a social media post — all these are pieces of content. Think of them as the pieces of a puzzle in relation to your sales and marketing strategy. They all have to have a precise purpose.
Otherwise, you’ll never finish that puzzle.
Keep the Ball Rolling with the Right eCommerce Solutions
As you continue to build momentum, you should start building a strong email list, which will come in handy when you finally launch your first email marketing campaign. The last thing you want is to target the wrong people with your promotional emails.
Email campaigns are a great way of getting loyal customers as early as possible. To make this happen, you need to invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution to help you better manage interactions with your customers and prospects. A good CRM platform, like Zoho CRM for instance, will also help you to streamline your business processes, boost customer relationships and enhance the experience – attributes that are necessary for boosting your sales.
Next stop: an Enterprise Resource Platform (ERP) solution like NetSuite, which helps you to automate different business operations such as making, shipping, and accounting for customer orders.
Last but definitely not least, integration!
Adopting integration solutions as part of your overall marketing strategy can significantly boost your sales as well as enhance your growth prospects. To grow your sales you need to gain customer insights and integration helps you to do exactly that. Factors like your customers’ buying patterns play a crucial role in a business. Such insights will allow you to determine what your customers and prospects need at any given time.
With that kind of information, you will be able to create customized digital marketing campaigns that will in turn enhance your lead generation and nurturing efforts dramatically.
SyncApps offers dozens of eCommerce integrations that can help your online business keep up with your customers as well as keep track of your eCommerce products in real-time.
Mailchimp for NetSuite and Constant Contact for Volusion are among the most popular SyncApps eCommerce integrations that are scalable, super easy to set up, and offer reliable real-time integration and workflow customization.
Is your online store powered by Shopify? Integrate it to Salesforce, Constant Contact, or other automation solutions and put your selling on auto-pilot from day one. Check out the full list of Shopify integrations powered by SyncApps and get started 100% free!
Starting an eCommerce business is really not as complicated as most people think. With the right product mix, marketing strategy, and most importantly, integration tools, your online business could be off to a good start. It’s as simple as that!
Need more ideas to fuel your first eCommerce endeavor? Check out our dedicated page and get powerful insights from eCommerce veterans.