Starting your own ecommerce business online might seem like quite a daunting task, but it needed to be. There is plenty that you can do to make life difficult for yourself, but these can be avoided with a little preparation.
You can start small if you choose, and then build up as you start to succeed – and it can go from just being a simple side hustle to being a full-time replacement for your 9 to 5 job. At that point you can either run it hands-on, or just using your laptop and let others take the strain. However, to reach that stage there are some important things that you need to consider first.
How do I make my ecommerce successful?
#1 Decide what are you going to sell
This is the burning question that is probably stopping you from getting started, and unless you have a particular passion that you wish to turn into a full-time job – there is going to have to be a lot of research involved. While you don’t have to do a full product research plan, you still have to be guided by common sense.
In basic terms, you will need to find something that is in demand but not just a passing fad; after all, there are plenty of would-be sellers with the garage filled with fidget spinners. You will also need to find something that you can source reasonably cheaply (more on that next) and sell on for an acceptable profit margin.
The other things you need to take into account is how much space you have to store such items, so if you happen to find there is a great demand for pool tables; it might not be a good fit if you don't happen to have the space the store several of them at once.
#2 Sourcing your products
If your business is going to get anywhere, you need to source a continuous supply of products. At the start this could be going round yard sales or looking for sale items at places like Costco that can be sold for a profit online.
As your business grows, however, it might be more prudent to buy in bulk from a wholesaler, as funds and space allow. This can be a process of trial and error, especially if importing goods from abroad. By using sites like AliExpress you can get smaller shipments to test the water without too great a financial commitment.
From there, you could choose to ship in greater bilk, or source a similar white label product that you can use to create your own brand for products you already know sell. If this sounds like a curious practice, remember that is exactly what most supermarkets do with their own label versions of well-known brands.
#3 Work out where are you going to sell
In the same way that there are no shortage of things you could possibly sell online, there is no shortage of places to sell these items either. To start with, there is of course the option of having your own website where you are completely in control of everything that is on there. Alternatively, there is the option of selling on one of the major online platforms like eBay, Amazon or Etsy, where they have a natural flow of traffic coming in, but you are sat on listings right next door to your stiffest competitor.
Depending on what you are choosing to sell, and your own level of technical expertise the decision could be partly made for you. This is because having your own website, even using something like a Shopify template, will take some work to set up; and you are not guaranteed to get any visitors unless you undertake some marketing activities of your own.
This isn’t a problem (as mentioned above) when selling on any of the bigger platforms, but you are completely at their mercy regarding fees and what you can and can't sell. For instance, if you are doing quite well and for some reason the platform takes a dislike to the item that you are selling your entire business can disappear overnight through no fault of your own.
#4 How to get the product to your customer
This is another knotty question, especially if what you choose to sell doesn't exactly fit neatly in the post. One of the biggest problems many customers have with buying online is the delivery of the item, and whether they choose to make a repeat purchase or not, isn’t always down to your own efforts but often that of the company that is delivering the item for you.
For that reason, you need to be entirely in control of what is happening to the package after it leaves your care. To achieve this, you ideally need to find a specialist company to partner with to deliver your items – or at least take care of any special or large items that absolutely, definitely, need to get there in one piece.
Trying to find a company that fits the bill might seem a daunting task, but by seeing what is on offer at a site like https://www.shiply.com/ you will see a range of options that cover all shipping problems, including specialist types of delivery. It can be a one stop solution to this big problem that online sellers face. Delivery is not something that can be underestimated, as this key issue can decide the fate of your business in the long term.
#5 Storing your items
As mentioned earlier, the amount of space you happen to have to hand will define, to a certain extent, what you can sell. However, it doesn’t matter if you are selling refurbished BBQs from your garage or antique watches that you store in a shoebox under your bed; if you are successful, at some point you are going to need to find extra space to store your items. Not only because you stock levels will be too big to fit in your home, but the space you’ll need to prepare them for shipment will take up any other spare space you have.
The type of storage you will need, and its location will depend on certain factors. If, for instance you sell large expensive items but quite infrequently (these could be larger items of furniture that have been upcycled or antiques), then you will need to find a larger space and the location is not entirely important.
However, if you sell something like rare used console games and peripheral items like hand controllers which sell rapidly and relatively cheaply; you will need a space that is closer to home and more easily accessible. In this situation, you will ideally need one that you can store racking in, so you can find what you are looking for from the large selection at a moment’s notice. In addition to this, you might want to factor in whether you need somewhere you can also have packing facilities to make distribution easier.
#6 Thinking long term
You might think this is getting ahead of yourself, but your long-term plan might shape what you do right at the start. This is because once you’ve reached the stage where your business is turning over this amount of money, you will have an important decision to make. You could carry on sourcing and packing every item yourself and use it as an easy replacement for your full-time job – except it might be one you actually enjoy doing.
On the other hand, if that amount of manual labor was never on the cards (or is simply impractical for any number of reasons), you could pick a different option that is also more time efficient. You could choose instead to take a smaller profit and outsource the storage and packing of your items to a third party agency or do what many people are already doing and use the Amazon FBA service to literally do the little heavy lifting for you, even if you sell on other platforms as well.
In this instance, you will simply be sending an e-mail through to your ‘warehouse’ when an item is sold and then updating the customer with their shipping details when it is dispatched. While this might sound like the ideal option on paper, you need to cost things out accurately, as outsourcing can be expensive, and you probably don’t want this eating up all of your profits.
To wrap everything up
Starting your own ecommerce business can sound like a big deal and if you go about it the wrong way, it certainly can be. However, by starting small and researching what you need to sell to give you a respectable profit margin – you can get things off to a great start. Then, after you have defined where you are going to sell (and very and importantly how you going to get the product to the customer), you can start trading in earnest.
Once things are ticking over, you can then start thinking about expanding and what form long term success will take, and if you choose to run your business from wherever in the world you happen to be, all from the comfort of your laptop.