While many businesses and industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, ecommerce and the major players within it have been able to leverage these difficult circumstances to their benefit and offer consumers a safe and fast solution to their shopping needs.
The rise of ecommerce was inevitable. Eventually the convenience, choice and price of online shopping was always going to overtake it’s brick and mortar counterpart — the virus has just accelerated the situation.
All of this is to say that if you’ve ever had an interest in opening your own ecommerce store, now is the time.
Establishing your own store isn’t the monumental effort it once was. Thanks to the availability of slick online platforms, powerful automation tools and a litany of brilliant examples to follow, it’s never been easier to set up an ecommerce site, even from the comfort of your own home.
As home businesses become more popular than ever before it’s important you understand how to become a success story, rather than just another failed passion project. Here is our comprehensive guide to starting your own ecommerce store from home.
Research the market
Step one when launching an ecommerce store is to understand the market you’re entering into.
You wouldn’t play a sport without understanding the rules or drop into a film midway through, so why would you try and launch an online store without understanding the ins and outs of the field present day?
While there is a lot to be said for developing on the job and there are certainly important lessons you can only pick up by making mistakes — it’s crucial you have a clear understanding of how popular the market you want to infiltrate is, who your potential competitors are and what typical consumers will be expecting.
A great place to start is just to browse around existing ecommerce stores you personally like. What do you enjoy about shopping with them? What’s impressive and enticing about their design? How do they make you feel as cared for and important as a customer walking through the door of a traditional high street shop?
Next you need to look at emerging trends, and where they may be possible gaps in the market to exploit. You might have a bright idea in your head, but ecommerce relies on consumer interest, not just your own. You need to bring people into the fold by appealing to what they like, rather than forcing an idea on a less than interested audience.
Tools such as Google Trends can help you get a better picture of the key topics trending online right now. Many of these may not be exact products you can sell, but these trends will offer inspiration for products with the potential to get big or markets set to explode — such as fidget spinners in 2017.
On the topic of tools, it’s important you use this time to look at which ones you may need for your store. What hiccups are going to emerge from your home business set up that could be streamlined or automated by tools? This is something you can budget for and invest in later, but a worthwhile consideration early on in the research process.
Find a product
Your products are the centerpiece of your ecommerce store.
Without them, you don’t exactly have much to promote or sell, or much of a business at all. The wrong product at the wrong time can completely sink an ecommerce store before it gets started. We’re not just talking about only appealing to a niche audience either. Choosing the wrong products can make your thinking look outdated and your operations incompetent.
The products you choose to sell should be based on a few factors.
It’s important to sell products you’re passionate about. That passion will shine through in your presentation, content and marketing — so it’s important you’re fully behind the main products on your website. There can be little extra and side projects you’re not 100% invested in, but the crux of your store should be something you love talking to customers about and finding unique ways to promote.
Once you’ve thought about your dreams, you need to consider the limitations of your home ecommerce store. If you’re running a business out of a bedroom or a business, there’s only so many products you can realistically fit in your house before it has a significant impact on your life. Then it’s a matter of how you’ll be able to prepare, package and ship them. There are so many logistical questions, you need to ask yourself that are crucial to product choice.
Issues such as this are exactly what trends such as dropshipping have taken off so significantly in the last few years. If you’re unfamiliar with dropshipping, it’s a form of ecommerce where the products are shipped directly from the supplier, without the store owner ever possessing them. This takes significant strain out of the process and provides a great starting point for first time home business owners.
Finally, you should consider how your product ties in with your unique selling point (USP). A great USP is what gets eyes on your store in the first place and helps you stand out. Your product might even be your USP, such as if you’re creating bespoke craft jewelry. It’s important that you find a way to blend these two elements together — for the purpose of your store and promoting it.
A great ecommerce product can be something you’ve made, bought or never even seen in person in your life. What’s important is having the passion and logistical ability to make it work as the centerpiece of your business.
Choose a sales platform
Second only in importance to your products, the platform you choose to sell through will heavily dictate the success of your home ecommerce store.
How you sell your products and how much responsibility that puts on you as a first time virtual store owner is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for this endeavor.
There are a few options you can explore here — each with their own unique benefits and challenges.
Setting up and managing your own bespoke store is the most commonly accepted way of getting into ecommerce, but it’s hardly the only option available to you. However, we’ll cover this avenue first.
Creating an original store from scratch is a huge undertaking. Even if you use a bespoke store/website maker such as BigCommerce, Shopify, WordPress or Wix you’re hardly paying for a finished product. There is still a huge amount of work involved to flesh out a website and have it in a state ready to face the public.
Webstore templates still require you to provide product uploads, content, imagery and security elements. It’s hardly a case of plug-in and go — you still need to craft your vision. However, if you can get something successful and professional together, this will provide a brilliant template and starting point for your business.
Alternatively, you can choose to sell through popular third party platforms such as Amazon and Etsy. While many of these come with their own restrictions and niches, they do offer first time store owners an opportunity to expose their brand to a vast customer base without the need for extensive marketing, web design and SEO work. However, these platforms come with limitations that will stop you adding the content and creative touches that can take a home business to the next level.
We should also mention that a variety of social media platforms can be used to sell your products. Instagram and Facebook are just two platforms with ‘Shop’ functionality. While we don’t recommend these as full alternatives to a traditional ecommerce store, it is worth being aware of them and their uses beyond marketing.
Set up and populate your store
Staring at the bare bones of your ecommerce store it’s now time to populate it and flesh it out ready for visitors.
Make a checklist of everything you want to feature on your site and work through it, but for now, we’ll cover the essentials.
Upload your products and flesh out the pages with imagery, original descriptions, specific product details and a SEO friendly headline. This content is essential for not just appearing on search engine results pages, but giving your visitors the best impression of the product possible. Consider using video content to give your consumers a greater overview of the product or including quick links to upsell extras or get in touch via email for more information.
Onsite content will be a crucial part of getting your website noticed. Your content needs to be SEO friendly, featuring actionable advice targeted towards your products. If you run a crafts store for example, consider having ready made content such as “Best Unique Valentines Gifts For 2020”.
We’ve mentioned SEO a few times in this section, and it’s important any first-time website owner has a good to great grasp on the concept. While there is too much to go into in this article, this is often where webstore builders make a great starting point, as you can use SEO plugins to get your site ready to go and listed on SERPs.
One of the most important and popular pages on your web store will obviously be your homepage. This should have special attention paid to it, with significant time and effort put into crafting a page that directs first-time viewers exactly where they want to go, has great relevant imagery and doesn’t complicate the issue.
Start your marketing
Digital marketing is absolutely crucial for any business trying to get off the ground. Any business, no matter its target market or place within its industry, can’t get anywhere without a solid digital marketing plan that understands the message audiences want to hear and where to broadcast it to them.
Ecommerce, in particular, is a great case study for how to do digital marketing right, but what does a brilliant ecommerce strategy involve?
We touched upon social media as a selling platform earlier — but it’s most beneficial use is as part of a grander marketing strategy. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and beyond — social media platforms present a brilliant opportunity for you to raise awareness of your home ecommerce business and control the narrative around your store with compelling content, special offers and positive customer interactions.
If social media isn’t quite the best fit for your brand (you should probably be present on there as a means of consumers getting in touch with you, but not every store will suit every platform) then you should consider other forms of digital marketing.
Paid advertising has emerged as a great way for new brands and stores to get their name out there and appeal directly to interested consumers. However, platforms such as Google Ads and social advertising can be expensive for a home business with less organic reach.
Not quite dead as many professionals would have you believe, email marketing is still a wonderful way to connect directly with a passionate base and grow your conversion rate. If you can build up an email list it can be a great way to turn one time browsers into brand advocates.
Before you start any of this marketing you need to have the tools in operation to properly track how effective it is. Tools such as Google Analytics will provide you with real time insight into the effectiveness of your campaigns — from how many people are interacting with your social content to what keywords are delivering the most organic traffic to product pages. Many of the social platforms or paid management tools you use will also include these metrics. This is crucial information that will be used to shape the entirety of your campaign.
This is just the beginning though. Starting your home ecommerce business is just a tiny ripple that will hopefully develop into a huge wave — bringing prosperity, satisfaction and hundreds of happy customers. There’s still so much more you can do in terms of promotion and upscaling your business out of the bedroom, but that’s a story for another time.