Here at Oberlo, we are continually asked for advice about the best ways to start an ecommerce business, and then how to succeed from there. We’re always happy to share more about this subject, as we are passionate about giving people the tools they need to see their stores take off. Not to mention, as you’ve probably realized there are so many things to consider.
It can be difficult to figure out where to prioritize your resources and attention at the beginning of the process, and what can wait until later. This guide offers a streamlined and honest approach to subjects like ecommerce marketing as well as general ecommerce tips that are essential to launching a successful store. We’ve covered these things in detail on our blog, but this post synthesizes the basics necessary for taking the first steps. Read on and you’ll find that creating your own ecommerce blueprint will be far clearer than you may have thought possible.
Succeeding with Your First Ecommerce Business
When asked how to succeed in ecommerce, you might think that having a great website design, top notch customer support, high-quality product images, and a unique selling proposition rank high on the list of importance.
And you’re right. This thought process makes perfect sense. You have to provide excellent customer support to be successful. You also need an attractive and trustworthy website if you want people to buy from you. Keep in mind, however, that it’s a combination of these things working together that makes an ecommerce website great. They are what makes an ecommerce business owner go from 1 to 10, but not from 0 to 1.
This greatness doesn’t matter if you don’t reach 1 first.
We see this a lot at Oberlo. Especially with first-time entrepreneurs still learning how to make their ecommerce businesses succeed. They can lose sight of the most important things and spend days making the perfect store, only to close it after a month. What truly fuels your ecommerce business is sales. Efforts to bring traffic to your store will bring sales, and sales will bring more traffic. Likewise, you need to be making sales first before you can provide great customer support to those shopping on your site as well as before you can decide on your brand’s unique voice.
Without sales, you’re finished.
How to Start Ecommerce: Where to begin
While it’s great to embark on your new ecommerce business with lots of big ideas, we suggest putting aside your ambitions and focusing on the practical steps at first. For starters, what you really need is a simple medium to sell your products. A basic store serves this purpose perfectly well.
We did a tutorial on how to launch a store in 30 minutes (with products). You might want to take more time than 30 minutes, but be careful about the amount of time you spend at the beginning. Remember the wise words of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman who famously said “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”. This certainly applies to ecommerce businesses as well.
The key is to launch quickly and start thinking of ways to generate sales. This will eventually give you the opportunity to improve at other things. First things first.
How to Start Ecommerce: Ecommerce Marketing
Earn More Than You Spend. Daily.
First-time entrepreneurs rarely invest a lot of capital in their ecommerce businesses, hoping to return their investment after 6 months or a year.
The secret to ecommerce marketing is to find the right marketing channel for your product. Then, perfect it until bringing one customer costs less than you earn from a sale. Aim for the infinite loop – when you spend less than you earn each day. Also, make sure you reinvest all of your profits into your ads. This isn’t the time to pocket the profits.
Check your advertising ROI twice a week at minimum. Ideally, do it daily. Sell products that have high enough markups to cover your marketing expenses each day. Since ecommerce marketing can cost a lot of money, make sure you price your products well.
Don’t rationalize that putting $100 to work will bring you word-of-mouth referrals or returning customers. A $100 investment should bring you at least $101 dollars in sales so you can reuse it on advertising again.
Only you get to this point, can you begin to optimize your store design, invest in creating great brand image, and look for ways to generate more money. You can’t optimize a store if you don’t have any customers to test different features on.
How to Start Ecommerce: Ecommerce Tips
While much of the advice about how to start an ecommerce business seems easier said than done, it certainly helps to have a clear idea of the first steps. From here, we can begin to explore the particulars.
A great custom design is an investment. Putting some money into your advertising tactics should ultimately convert to sales, and you need sales. Unless you have a bigger budget, you should exclude long-term ideas like SEO or Email Marketing for now.
Prioritize your time and learn more about all options. With direct advertising like Facebook or Search ads, you can get more sales immediately. It’s best not only to learn how to run your first ecommerce marketing campaign on Facebook, but also how to optimize it. Alternatively, read how others are approaching Instagram marketing and apply their strategies to your own ecommerce business.
Test your advertising campaigns instead of your product page. This will keep you from getting bogged down trying to test and change all of the small elements of your store. Just focus on the advertising and marketing, not the ‘buy’ button on the product page.
After launching a simple store, concentrate on ecommerce marketing 110%. Anything else can wait until you’re sure you can generate traffic and reach potential customers.
How to Succeed in Ecommerce: What’s Next?
Once you’ve validated your store idea and secured a minimum stream of sales, continue optimizing your ecommerce marketing along. Here are a few more ecommerce business tips:
Customer Service / Self-Help Content:
45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. Exceptional customer service is critical to your business success. Create self-service content with detailed FAQs page, offer live chat support, incentivize product reviews and build trust.
63% of your website visitors will leave without purchasing. How much would your revenues increase if you were capturing those sales instead of losing them? Optimize your customer journey. Create limited-time offers. Launch a cart abandonment emails campaign. You can even set up a retargeting campaign.
44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online. Optimize your website. Improve your website speed. Create an intuitive navigation bar. Focus on creating a great product page. Show related items. Optimize your store search. Lastly, check how your store looks on mobile devices.
Best selling products tend to quickly fade away, that is why inventory is very important. Constantly look for new product ideas that could keep the traffic coming to your store. Do not rely on just a few products. Offer new arrivals to your existing customers and frequently test new product ideas.
I know there are people who have had success focusing on a unique niche product or exceptional customer service. That said, up to 50% of Shopify stores end up without ever receiving a sale. Even though that may seem like a very low number, if you compare it against success rates of business in general (10%) – it is a promising point of departure.
To summarize a few key takeaways from this guide, start lean and set all other things aside to focus on sales. Don’t worry about having the perfect product or the best looking web design for your store. Jump in and learn by doing. Use the sales aspect of your ecommerce business as your lighthouse, as it is the driving force behind any successful store. Once you begin turning a profit, invest the funds into a marketing plan to continue growing your business.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to figure out how to start an ecommerce business. You’ve got everything you need at your fingertips to make this the year your store takes off, and we at Oberlo are happy to help you every step of the way in meeting this goal.
What’s your ecommerce business strategy? Share your experiences or ask for advice in the comments below!