At the speed which the eCommerce industry is growing and evolving, everything is a bit of an experiment. What works for one niche or product, may not be effective for another. Nevertheless, we’ve seen a number of patterns (or trends) emerge that can be used to build a successful eCommerce website. I think it’s safe to assume that winners can’t be wrong – so what can we
steal learn from them?
Research predicts that in the US alone, online spending will exceed $450 billion per year by 2018. To tap into this booming market, new eCommerce startups need to take into account everything from an all-rounded shopping experience to the ripest product trends and conversion optimisation hacks.
But you can’t build a house from the roof, so let’s first explore some of the best ways to uncover a profitable eCommerce idea.
Finding a profitable eCommerce idea
Don’t be afraid to look beyond the most popular product categories. If the niche is doing very well, you can expect to run into well-established competitors and already-formed shopping habits on the consumer’s side. Exploring different angles and paying more attention to the potential of a certain niche will be instrumental to your success.
Use these clever shortcuts to monitor and learn from the biggest trends.
AliExpress is one of the eCommerce giants. Although it positions itself as an online retailer, AliExpress is mostly a wholesale marketplace that runs on the dropshipping model. Probably the easiest way to start an eCommerce business, dropshipping is certainly worth your time and consideration if you’re thinking of building an eCommerce website. What makes it such a desirable model is that you don’t have to purchase anything before you actually make a sale on your own site and receive money from the buyer (but more about this trend later).
The selection of products available on AliExpress makes it the library of eCommerce. You can spend days exploring different categories and searching for profitable ideas since the marketplace deals in everything from magnets to fashion items to gaming gadgets. I would recommend you start by browsing “Hot Products” and “Weekly Bestselling” to get a jumpstart on the ideation process. Just keep in mind that going for the obvious isn’t always the best idea – to build long-lasting business success, you need to look for potential, not an easy win.
eCommerce is an ideal space for innovators
I suspect you will agree with me on this one. Sometimes sifting through product categories on earth-sized marketplaces, such as AliExpress, Alibaba, Amazon or Etsy can be as mind-expanding as it can be frustrating. You might often find yourself feeling like no matter what brilliant idea you come up with, someone somewhere is already making money off of it. And while some competition is usually a healthy proof of a growing business, it’s also a tell-tale sign of being…just one of the players in the market.
Can’t shake off the idea of becoming a trendsetter rather than milking already popular business ideas? Then head to sites that feed off innovative ideas to hunt for the next big thing:
- Kickstarter – the largest crowd-sourcing marketplace;
- Pinterest – the fastest growing social network that really gets the ideation journey;
- Reddit – the largest social media news aggregator that’s always brimming with simple yet genius ideas (take for example such subreddits as Buy It For Life or Shut Up And Take My Money);
- Instagram – the most popular photo-sharing social network that’s quickly gaining ground in product advertising;
- Springwise – the most up-to-date innovation platform that curates and publishes the most exciting global innovations every day.
Innovators love eCommerce because it really is possible to go from a stellar idea to a booming business in as little as few months.
Google Trends is a tool that allows users to compare the search volume of particular keywords and visualise the trends over time – when the level of interest in a certain keyword peaked and when it subsided (it can also help to define seasonality). It’s a great testing ground for the different ideas you might have as you can compare up to 5 search terms at a time. If no one is searching for a product online, you can assume the demand is weak.
For those just fishing for ideas to get them bouncing, Google Trends also offers information on Top Ranking in Google Trends, which is a list of top searches of the day, and Rising, which displays related keywords/topics that are most searched. You can use these features to get a hang of what the online world is obsessing about at the moment.
Another similar tool that you should look into is Google Keyword Planner (you’ll need a Google Adwords account to access it). If you have a rough idea of which product categories you’d like to target, Google Keyword Planner will help you to determine the number of searches performed every month, understand the level of competition for each keyword, as well as discover similar search terms in that category. This information will be of paramount importance when you move to the marketing phase.
Taking your eCommerce business idea off the ground
Let’s assume you’ve got a winning idea under your belt. That’s great. Now, what?
With the right marketing strategy in place, your eCommerce website could be up and running (and making a profit) in literally just a few days. And there’s no cunning plan, just smart planning!
The eCommerce industry is skyrocketing thanks to platforms like Shopify that enable any entrepreneur to open an online store in less than a day. Let’s imagine that you decide to use AliExpress as your wholesale supplier and start a dropshipping business. In such a case, you could use Oberlo to import the chosen products into your Shopify store and ship directly to your customers in just a few clicks. It can’t get easier than that!
We recently wrote an ultimate guide to AliExpress dropshipping that you can use to bounce some ideas off of and explore the model in more detail. To quickly sum up why dropshipping is such a hot trend right now, here are its most prominent benefits:
- It doesn’t require much initial capital. In fact, you can start with zero budget;
- It’s an online business that you can develop from anywhere in the world;
- It’s a viable business model – Oberlo users receive over 15,000 orders every day that bring in nearly $10,000,000 in revenue every month!
Assuming that you opt for the dropshipping model, what stands between your clever eCommerce website idea and a decent ROI is a killer marketing plan and a conversion-optimised site.
We’ve already touched on some of the most important advertising channels for eCommerce businesses – Google Adwords and social media ads, both of which are driven by keyword data. When you pool all the search terms relevant to your business idea and optimise your online store as well as your ads for conversions, you’ll have a constant stream of leads coming through search engines and social platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter (depending on what channels you decide to put your money on). You can carve your strategy using these 5 Facebook marketing tactics.
Now, let’s look at some of the most effective ways to improve your eCommerce website conversion rate.
The 3 pillars of a high-converting eCommerce website
1. Grouping products together. ASOS and Amazon are some of the best-known online retailers that have experimented with and pioneered the idea of buying the “full package” or “completing the look”. What has once been an innovative way to upsell products that go well together, is now a common and widely accepted practice that certainly contributes to better conversions and higher sales.
It’s no secret that putting a product in the right context increases its appeal and helps the buyer visualise the end result better. So, if you can find a way to group highly-related products together, give it a whirl and see if it has any impact on your bottom line.
2. Product recommendations. It’s one of the most well-spread tactics in eCommerce for a reason! When a buyer sets out on a search journey, she falls into one of the two categories: a) she knows exactly what she’s looking for, or b) she has a rough idea and is simply browsing around. Now, depending on which type of product recommendations you decide to implement on your site, you can target either both or at least one of these online shoppers.
The five most commonly-encountered ways to offer product recommendations include:
- What other customers are looking at right now
- Others also viewed
- Customers who bought this item also bought
- The most popular / trending right now
- Recently viewed
Mobile-first strategy. Roughly 50% of online retail sales take place using smartphones and tablets, and the figure is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. Employing a mobile-first strategy to help your conversions is one of the best decisions you can make. When designing for mobile, you must consider the overall shopping experience as well as the payment process. Only a slick and streamlined payment process can help you ensure consumers don’t drop off at the final stages of the journey.
Google offers this brilliant tool to help you check if your website is truly mobile-friendly.
Building your first profitable eCommerce website can take time if you follow all the right steps and don’t make rushed decisions. Finding a profitable idea for an online business is just the beginning. It does really take a day to set up an online store, but to get the word out that it exists and build a repeat customer base is a much more challenging job.
eCommerce is certainly destined to grow and expand even further, and as you become part of this exciting world, remember this:
“You can’t just open a website and expect people to flood in. If you really want to succeed, you have to create traffic.” – Joel Anderson, Walmart CEO.