People are buying just about everything online these days, and that bodes well for you if you’re considering entering the e-commerce industry. No matter what it is that you want to sell, there’s a good chance that people will be willing to buy it online if your offer is a compelling one.
Starting an e-commerce site, however, isn’t quite as simple as listing your products and waiting for the customers to pour in – no matter what the web hosting companies with their “all-in-one” website packages would like you to think.
Before you can start selling products online, you need to have a good idea of what you’re going to be selling and how many people are likely to want to buy it. You also need to know what your marketing plan is going to be – and this article is going to walk you through the process.
Do you want to start an e-commerce site? These are the 5 things that you must do first.
Identify Your Niche
Before you can even begin planning your e-commerce venture, you need to identify the niche in which you’re going to do business. What types of products are you going to sell, and where will you get those products? You need to have a very good idea of how your supply chain will work because you need to know what your costs will be and whether you’ll be able to earn a profit.
Being passionate about a particular industry might be a good reason to enter that industry, but passion for your industry isn’t going to help you earn money if your product doesn’t have an addressable market. You can get an idea of the potential market size by researching the monthly search volumes for keywords relating to your industry.
Think of the search keywords that people would probably use when looking for the types of products you’re considering selling. Use a keyword research tool to find out how many people search for those keywords each month. Imagine that you captured a significant portion of that traffic, and your website had a modest conversion rate of around 2-3 percent. How much money could you expect to earn if everything went perfectly? If the keywords that you look up don’t quite receive enough search volume to sustain a healthy business, you might want to consider entering a different niche.
Research Your Competition
If the niche that you’ve selected seems like a viable one, the next thing that you’ll want to do is research your potential competitors. In the keyword research phase of your business planning, you identified the most important search keywords relating to your proposed niche. Search for those keywords on Google and find out who currently appears on the first page for those searches. Do you see a wide variety of different businesses, or are all of the search terms monopolized by a small handful of large and well-known brands? If there’s plenty of healthy competition within the niche, your chance to break through the static and get noticed will probably be fairly high. If the entire niche appears to be controlled by a few very powerful companies, though, it might be difficult for you to capture any of that business.
Choose Your Domain Name
When you sell products online, the name of your domain is also the name of your business – so it should be a good one. Ideally, you want a domain name that’s short, memorable and easy to type. You should brainstorm a list of as many potential domain names as possible before you get started because you’re probably going to find that several of your ideas are already registered. Unless you’re willing to pay an exorbitant price for a domain on the secondary market, you might have to settle for your third or fourth choice.
If a domain that you want is available, you should be prepared to register it immediately due to the common practice of domain-name front running. If you search for a domain but don’t claim it immediately, the registrar may register the domain and display ads on it or attempt to sell it on the secondary market.
When you register your domain, don’t forget to register the .com, .net and .org versions at minimum. You may also want to register at least some of the international versions of the domain. You wouldn’t want someone else to do business under a domain that looks similar to yours.
Set Your Marketing Plan and Budget
Before you launch your website, you should have a clear idea of how you’re going to market it – and your marketing plan may vary depending on the industry you’re planning to enter. If your business will involve helping people discover The Vape Life, for instance, you’re going to get a nasty surprise when you learn that you can’t advertise your website on popular marketing platforms such as Facebook and Google Ads. You’ll have to come up with an alternative marketing plan, and you’ll need to have a budget for it. In more traditional industries, most advertising avenues will be open to you.
Either way, though, you should expect that it’ll be necessary to buy a good portion of your traffic while you work to build an organic search engine presence. Make sure that you have an appropriate budget for your marketing efforts. You’ll also need to make sure that you’ll still be able to earn a profit after bidding on search engine and social media placements.
Choose Your E-Commerce Platform
Before you can launch your website, you’ll need to decide how the site will operate from a technical standpoint. You can’t sell products online unless your website has the ability to display products and take payments – and for that, you need an e-commerce platform.
The most popular e-commerce platforms for small businesses are Shopify – which doubles as a web hosting company – and WooCommerce, which is free and works with any WordPress website. Both platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses.
If you’ve never operated a website before, you may find Shopify easier to set up because the platform is geared toward novices. Shopify also includes payment processing, but their transaction fees are a bit higher than what some other payment processors charge.
Some people find that WooCommerce sites aren’t quite as easy to set up as Shopify sites. If you decide to use WooCommerce and have never operated a website before, you may find it necessary to enlist a web developer for assistance. One of the biggest benefits of WooCommerce, though, is that you can use the payment processor of your choice and will probably pay lower transaction fees as a result. That can make your business more profitable and may even allow you to charge lower prices.
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