starting ecommerce

Essential Questions to Ask Before Starting eCommerce

The last two years have irreversibly changed the way we perceive the world around us, our behaviors, and daily rituals, including our shopping habits. Ecommerce was once a useful tool for small businesses, but now, it is more like a necessity rather than a nice-to-have function. If you haven’t already, you should seriously consider starting ecommerce to future-proof your business!

Thankfully, ecommerce is now easily accessible for small businesses through various user-friendly platforms. Once you put your online store on the right track, you’ll regret that you didn’t start it earlier. However, you should be wary of the challenges ahead especially while you’re figuring out how to get your online store going.

It may seem scary to get into something new, but there’s no need to worry when you plan your steps wisely. That’s why we’re here and publishing this article today – to guide you in this journey and help plan your steps.

Here are the questions you need to ask yourself while planning your ecommerce journey.

1. What to sell?

Deciding what you’ll be selling online seems to be the first question to ask yourself. However, to answer this critical question, you’ll also need to answer a bunch more, such as:

  • Which industry are you (or would you like to be) in?
  • What’s your area of expertise?
  • What type of products/services would you like to sell – physical or digital?
  • Do you have an existing business or plan to set up a new one?
  • Do you have a brick-and-mortar business where you already sell offline?
  • Is your business purely online?
  • Do you have an online selling model in mind – one-time orders, or bundles, or subscription?

Let’s say you already have an existing business where you sell your products offline, and you just want to get your business offline. It will be an easy decision as you already have the products and know how to deal with them. However, it doesn’t mean that you should put all your offline inventory on your online store. You should evaluate each item in terms of demand, suitability for delivery, profitability etc.

If you’re starting an ecommerce business from scratch, you’ll need to think more thoroughly but your options are endless. While coming up with your product decision, consider your personal experience. Do you have experience in a certain industry that gives you the insight others don’t have? You can use it as a competitive advantage. If you don’t have that specific expertise, you may try to focus on a gap or identify an emerging need in the market to find your product. Spotting such trends early can help you become a market leader in that niche.

2. Where to sell?

While thinking about your products for ecommerce, you should also study your target market. You need to figure out your ideal location and customer profile to come up with your target market.

Creating customer personas – that are fictionalized versions of your ideal customers – will allow you to predict their behavior and help you evaluate your target market. You should also consider market size and demand for your product/service. Such information will help you market your products/services effectively when it’s time to launch your ecommerce store.

3. Is knowing your products and target market enough for starting ecommerce?

A thorough market research is necessary if you’re starting a business or going online with your business. Before launching your ecommerce business, a detailed feasibility analysis would save you from headaches. You need to evaluate your product idea, target market, customer profile, business model, and analyze your competitors. You should also identify the barriers to entry in your field and how you can overcome them.

You can benefit from various analysis tools like SWOT analysis, PESTEL analysis, Business Model Canvas etc.

4. Where to source the products?

If you plan to sell a physical product, you’ll also need to find a way to source your products and ship them to your customers. Here are some business sourcing models to give you an idea:

  • Make it yourself – This is a no brainer choice if you’re selling the products that you make yourself.
  • Have it made – If you have a certain product in mind but don’t have the expertise to produce it yourself, you can partner with a manufacturer to make it for you. This makes sense if you plan to sell in large numbers because you will need to order the products in bulk.
  • Buy from wholesalers and resell – If the product you’re planning to sell is already available in the market, you can buy it from the commercial wholesalers and sell on your online store with a markup.
  • Dropshipping – If you don’t want to carry the inventory yourself and reduce the initial investment, you may also consider dropshipping. It involves partnering with another company that would ship your product to your customers. Keep in mind that you may need to spend more time on customer service as you’ll need to deal with third-party suppliers.

Your sourcing decision will basically depend on your product type. However, the supply of your products should be a matter of consideration while planning your ecommerce operations.

5. How to keep on track while starting ecommerce?

You’ll definitely need a road map to follow to keep your business on track. Once you make all the basic decisions, you should get them in writing in the form of a business plan. It will help you set goals and draw a clear roadmap to achieve them.

A business plan may also be needed if you’re planning to apply for a business loan. In that case, make sure your plan is as thorough and professional as possible.

6. What to call my online store?

Finding a name for your online store is one of the challenging aspects of starting an ecommerce business. You may already have an existing business but using the same name may not always be practical. An online store name should catch the eye, describe your brand, not be too long, and hasn’t already been taken by somebody else. A good business name will at once establish a tone for your store. Just remember to keep it simple, differentiate yourself, get creative and be original.

Additionally, if you will use a new name for your business, don’t forget to register your business name, and preferably apply for a trademark for your name.

7. Do I need permits and licenses?

You’ll want to apply for any permits or licenses your business will need to operate in your province. Permits will differentiate in line with your industry and field of business. Permits will also be different for businesses operating entirely from home versus from brick-and-mortar stores. Check your local government’s website to see what business permits or licenses you might need to run your ecommerce business.

8. Which platform to use in starting ecommerce?

Now that you’re ready to launch, it’s time to choose the right platform for your online store and build it. There are many ecommerce platforms out there to choose from, so you should decide which fits your needs best. Make a chart of the pros and cons for each platform and try to figure out the most suitable one for your business.

9. How to promote?

Once everything is set up, it’s finally time to spread the word about your new business and start selling your products.

As you will have already done your feasibility research during the planning stage, you’ll have customer and market insights to give you an idea of how to promote your business. You’ll know where you’ll run your ads and what content you’ll create to bring in customers.

Don’t be afraid to use multiple marketing channels to reach your audience. Use social media posts and ads, Instagram and Facebook Shops, affiliate marketing, SEO and content marketing, email marketing, and SMS marketing.

The road to a successful ecommerce business is full of challenges, but always keep in mind that challenges should be welcomed on your journey to success. With the right guidance, you’ll get this!

Contact us if you need professional help with your ecommerce or book a free consulting session to discuss your specific business needs.

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