Either the Coronavirus spread from China or Turkey, no one can deny that it changed the face of Earth. The air is cleaner, the streets are empty and half the world is still shut down. Yet, the world doesn’t stop for anyone. To keep things afloat, when the brick and mortar stores were closed, the online market boomed by a majestic 146% growth in all online retail orders. (https://insights.emarsys.com/)
Online shopping transformed from luxury to necessity. Now, each brand had to fight on two fronts, maintaining brick and mortar stores and capturing the eyes in the swiftly passing digital world. According to the Business Insider, Payless and Gymboree are not the only stores facing an economic meltdown. Many brands have collapsed in administration, changing not only the Stocks market but the physical face of Earth.
However, the solution is a challenge in itself. eCommerce has been developing and evolving with the latest technology trends. So before you quit your job or shut your business entirely, let’s analyze the options you have in the eCommerce market and how you can successfully launch a steadily growing eCommerce business in 2021.
Step-1: Redefine your Goals
Before diving into the market, let’s analyze your intentions and revise them. Why do you want to launch an eCommerce business? The obvious answer must be to tap into the growing marketing, but what’s the bigger picture? Is your goal bigger than yourself? If so, you’re on the right track. If not, analyze your intentions and include your country or at least your neighborhood in the ripple effect. If we all focus on the man next to us, we won’t need to take care of ourselves.
The people you want to help will end up helping you. When you read further, pick local and nearby resources to help you build your empire.
Step-2: Decide your Niche and Research your Products
“I love traveling and high-tech gear so that’s what I’ll sell!” said no one ever. Good business ideas always revolve around solutions. Each new product or line is a solution for a specific audience in need of that product. Traveling goods and services were a booming industry in 2019 and then 2020 happened. Within days, whole countries were shut down and the industry went bankrupt.
The key to a growing business is finding the right niche and researching the most required products with less competition. Sounds hard to swallow? A great example of this can be beard or hairstyling kits. Although many kits would’ve been available online rather custom kits would’ve been the edge you’re looking for.
Step-3: Let’s Talk Business
E-Entrepreneurs got a chance to enjoy the limelight during the pandemic and their businesses might have boomed overnight but before making any decisions, let’s take a step back and talk numbers. Jot down your investments, check your stocks at hand and decide your business based on a detailed risk analysis. Have an accountant friend? It’s time to call him and perhaps call over that lawyer colleague out for a drink. It’s crucial to play safe and test the waters before depleting your assets due to incomplete research.
Resources are also an investment. The most neglected resources in business plans are time and labor. It’s easier to throw caution to the wind and decide the bird’s eye view of the business. Time is money, either it’s invested by you or someone you’ll hire. So it is better to play safe and have a clear road map before finalizing your business idea.
Step-4: Define your Target Audience
Let’s go old school and find your target audience. Empires aren’t built in a day. So select one target audience from the below-mentioned types and once you’ve won over that, only then move to the next.
Business to Business (B2B)
Business to Business model represents one business providing to another. If you’re in wholesale, manufacturing, or distribution, this model is perfect for your eCommerce business. This model demands a bulk quantity of quality products at your disposal and requires up-front or advance business investment.
You’ll need to pre-order products that may need to be kept in a warehouse. Moreover, you’ll need staff for sales, inventory, shipping, management, and customer support.
Business to Consumer (B2C)
Do you want to maintain your position in wholesale, manufacturing, or distribution, yet not willing to invest money in bulk production? If so, catering to individual customers will give you a breather and room to establish your business before getting on the highway. This model will require elbow grease and the ability to adapt to change as per your customer response. Not all products need to be a hoot or a failure. It’s a hit and trial model at the start but once the customer base is established, it is far easier to maintain this model.
Consumer to Business (C2B)
The odd man jobs you neglected in your childhood and thought weren’t enough to earn you a livelihood? They are in style and here to stay. Thanks to the 2020 pandemic, concerts are enjoyed at home, and Jeremy McLellan (https://www.facebook.com/JeremyMcLellanComedy/) is in the house. Literally!
Consumer to Business model works on services offered based on projects or per hour. Short term contracts fulfilled based on your skills on Upwork (https://www.upwork.com/) and Fiverr(https://www.fiverr.com/) can earn you hard money without stepping a foot out of the house.
Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
The Consumer to Consumer model is from the good old days and is here to stay. In this model, one consumer sells its services or products to consumers connecting them either to ethnic clothing, artifacts, or custom pieces. The key to this model is the personal connection between the two entities and the seller’s flare.
Step-5: Select your eCommerce Business model
Keeping your target audience in focus, let’s figure out the right business model for your eCommerce business.
The Private Label business model starts the business chain by purchasing the product from a reliable manufacturer. The purchased product is rebranded and sold to consumers through the seller’s eCommerce shop. Although, this model saves production costs but requires elbow grease, exceptional designing skills, and extensive product/production manager hunting skills.
A similar model to the above, in the White label business model generic products are purchased from a supplier and rebranded. Though it seems a cheap and quick deal, the competition is tough. As many businesses are selling the same products, it’s vital to find the eye catching products yet not easily available.
One of the successful models with the least hassle is Dropshipping. Need-based orders are placed to the supplier/manufacturer and they dispatch the orders to the customer. This model only requires established infrastructure, efficient customer support, and reliable suppliers.
Similar to the dropshipping, the business showcases custom design samples of goods (such as t-shirts, cups, pens, tables). When the customer places an order on the eStore, a third-party manufacturer prints on-demand. The order is rebranded and dispatched to the customer.
Step-6: Register your Company and Brand
It’s time to take the leap! Now that you’ve finalized your investments, niche, target audience, and business model, let’s register your business and brand. Discuss the legalities with a trusted advisor and register your company so the books will be maintained and you’ll be able to register your business.
After company/business registration, the next step will be to get your Employer Identification Number (much like a social security number for your business) and business licenses. It’s better to consult a legal professional for correct filings as it can be a hassle but will help you grow exponentially without any legal hiccups.
Step-7: Supplier/Manufacturer Hunting
After an extensive niche and product hunting, supplier or manufacturer hunting can be exhausting. Many suppliers/manufacturers might be selling the same products but the key here is to establish long-term relationships. Consult a virtual assistant if you’re working with Amazon to make sure you’ve security and less overhead. You may find manufacturers at Small Businesses Associations or Alibaba.
The million-dollar question will be how to judge a supplier/manufacturer? Below is a quick but foolproof litmus test.
Look into their products. A supplier/manufacturer’s success can be of no value if they don’t offer your desired product. It’s vital to research their product catalog and check out their peers. Moreover, a reviewed product always triumphs over a newly launched product. A supplier/manufacturer’s product catalog can give you a clear idea of their business organization and dealing.
The backbone of the eCommerce market is shipping. The customer wants the product in their hands in a flash. You need to order from the supplier/manufacturer before finalizing them. The shipping time and reliability are critical to maintaining good business relations with your customers. If the products are delivered late or not in good condition, the first impression can be ruined and you may end up losing a long-term client.
When many suppliers are offering the same products, they reduce the price of one product but compensate it with another. It’s better to research all available suppliers to decide which supplier you want to finalize for which product. This research will help you align back up suppliers just in case things go south or the product becomes unavailable with the finalized supplier.
Imagine a shipment gone wrong! Catastrophic for a startup. Reliable customer service at your supplier’s end can ease things for you and help you resolve the issue on priority. Check if they have multi-channel support: phone, email, live chat. An expensive but active supplier is always better than an unreliable cheap supplier.
Step-8: Select eCommerce Business Platform
Now the question arises, where will you set up your eShop? The answer to this is again dependent on your investment research. The top three reliable channels are listed below:
Shopify is a go-to solution for nontechnical business owners. Equipped with an easy to use system, Shopify is a complete package, covering marketing, sales, e-shop, and payments. A beautiful website can be customized using a plethora of available themes for a minimal fee as low as $29. (https://www.shopify.com/free-trial)
All hail to the king! Amazon is giving all businesses a run for their money but it’s not all bad. A reliable, well-established system will host your shop at low prices. Amazon relieves the business owners from shipment, inventory, and warehousing tensions. Being a giant business, you’ll find certified virtual assistants and listing promoters to help you run a smooth and exponentially growing eCommerce business in 2021.
Though Amazon and Shopify are attractive, WooCommerce offers a free solution for an eStore. The catch is that you need to get your hands dirty or hire a person to manage your store. WooCoomerce offers a plethora of themes and plugins but they can be overwhelming to a person looking for a quick fix. It’s better to seek the help of a technical person with hands-on experience to set up your e-shop.
Step-9: Set to Launch your Business
A plan without real action is just a dream. So gear up and launch your eCommerce business. For a successful launch, you’ll need to cover the following
- Strong SEO integration and marketing for improved customer outreach.
- Finalize Shipment Provider.
- Finalize Customer Support Channels and set communication benchmarks.
- Create terms and conditions and refund policies.
- Set new products or promotion plans.
- Finalize and onboard the involved personnel and resources.
Step-10: After the Launch
Welcome to the arena. The stage is yours. The crucial part after a business launch is to welcome and drive customers to your e-Store. One foundation stone is product marketing. An efficient product marketing plan can entice customers from social media, ads, and analytics. The second foundation stone is often overlooked but is of equal importance, the personal connection. In the beginning, each business owner needs loyal customers. The secret to customer loyalty is that they should know that you care and are delivering the best possible product to them. This may seem overwhelming at the start but all personal and professional relationships require time and effort.
So, are you ready to launch your eCommerce business in 2021?