Starting a business has never been as easy as it is today.
Almost anyone in the world can get online, spend a few hours setting up their site, and by the end of the day, have a functioning online store that has the potential to start bringing in significant profits.
But even though the opportunities are plentiful, few of the people that try ever achieve success.
That’s because, with the ever-increasing competition, consumers have hundreds or even thousands of stores to choose from in any given niche, and with Amazon controlling half of the entire U.S. e-commerce market, chances of them picking yours aren’t great.
So, how can you increase the likelihood of success?
Well, in this article, we’ll explore some of the most critical steps you must take if you want to start an e-commerce business from scratch and make it successful.
Ready to get started? Then read on below.
Choose a Niche You’re Passionate About
Many aspiring online sellers make the mistake of choosing a niche that they think is the most profitable or easiest to succeed in.
First off, usually there’s little merit to these presumptions, since the more competitive the market is, the harder it will be to break into, even if there are a ton of prospective customers.
But secondly, just because a market is competitive, you shouldn’t be discouraged of trying to enter it if you are passionate about that niche and know that you’ll be willing to put in the effort to make your site a success.
And that’s why choosing a niche that you care about is so important.
Starting a business online requires dedication and perseverance, which can be hard to muster up when you’re in your third straight month of working on your site without seeing any sales.
The one thing that might keep you going through all of the challenges is a genuine passion for the subject – if you are an avid user of the products that you’re selling, you won’t have a hard time finding the motivation to dig deep into research, create passionate and informative descriptions, and find the best products.
What’s more, since you’re familiar with the field, you will actually have useful knowledge already and can build on that knowledge to quickly figure out the best approaches for marketing, product selection, branding, and many other decisions.
Perform Extensive Research
Once you know the niche that you want to choose, you need to dive deep and try to figure out who are the ideal customers that you want to target.
If you choose a niche that you’re familiar with, you might have some understanding of this already, and you may be part of that audience yourself, but that is just barely scratching the surface of the level of insight you’ll need to find an angle that will be successful.
You need to be crystal-clear in identifying the very best customers you want to pursue and establish their demographic information, as well as their interests, online habits, obstacles, pain points, and anything else that might be relevant.
You will also need to look into the landscape of your potential competitors – only by knowing who you’ll be going against and which sites are having the most success will you be able to see what you need to emulate, as well as identify opportunities for fulfilling market needs that are currently being neglected.
Although this process may take a long time, the more effort you put in, the better the results that you can expect in the long run. Many entrepreneurs launch quickly, without knowing who they’re targeting and who they’re up against, but the fact that their site is up faster doesn’t translate to success.
But if you take the step of research seriously, you will not only gain a huge advantage over the majority of your competitors but will also know the exact steps that you’ll need to take to succeed.
Choose the Right Platform for Your E-commerce Store
While we’ve been focusing on the big picture and planning elements of launching an e-commerce store up to this point, the truth is that there is a technical aspect to it as well.
However, as discussed before, there’s an abundance of solutions and tools for launching an online store that is designed to make this process as straightforward as possible, so you don’t need to worry about having a lot of coding experience to put everything together.
One thing you should consider, however, is which platform you should choose, as you don’t want to have to switch platforms after realizing your initial choice was not a good fit, as that can be both expensive and a huge waste of your time.
So, how to select the right e-commerce platform?
Well, once you break down the process and figure out your needs, it’s really not that difficult.
First off, you need to look at your budget – standalone platforms like Shopify have different plans and can be quite affordable in terms of monthly fees, but it does take a commission from every sale you make, and that can be limiting once you grow bigger.
WooCommerce, on the other hand, may not be as convenient in some regards, but it offers you more flexibility – besides the monthly or yearly fees, their payment processing is mostly free, and using WordPress gives you a lot more freedom in terms of customization.
In the end, your best bet is to look at reputable e-commerce platform reviews, see what the actual users have to say and find an option that most closely fits with what you’re looking for.
Provide Excellent Customer Care
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of excellent customer service in e-commerce.
Although online shoppers have become more comfortable buying from smaller stores, and online shopping security has made considerable strides in the past decade or so, most people are still worried about common internet scams and will not trust a business that has even a whiff of a bad reputation.
So, as you may imagine, even a few consecutive poor experiences by customers can snowball into a frenzy of negative reviews and opinions that will leave your reputation tarnished forever.
But how can you ensure that all of your customers have positive experiences?
Well, the truth is, you can’t.
No matter how well-oiled your order processing and shipping fulfillment processes, there will always be a chance that something goes wrong, and when it does, the future of your business will be decided by how you can handle it.
That’s where excellent customer support is so vital.
You need to put together a support team that has an in-depth understanding of what your business is about, who your customers are, what products you’re selling, and the most common issues that can arise during daily operations.
Whenever someone contacts your staff, they must offer help promptly, whether it’s a small question or a big issue like an error when processing a payment.
You should also make sure that your reps are available wherever your customers may reach out. It’s not enough that you have a contact form on your site – even if someone writes a comment or a private message on your social media pages, you should have a process for directing that person to a qualified representative.
While all of this may seem hard, there’s at least one positive – if you make customer support a focus in running your company, you’ll soon notice that the reputation of the quality of your overall services reaches farther than your marketing campaigns ever could.
Check out my guide on how to start your business right with tons of useful tips I learned by successfully starting, building, and selling multiple companies.