Starting an ecommerce business is exciting, but it can also feel incredibly difficult. How do you start an ecommerce business? What should you focus on? Do you need to be a tech expert?
Don't worry, we'll answer all of these for you right now.
We talked to the experts and here are their top eleven tips for new ecommerce entrepreneurs.
Let's do this!
1. Don't Procrastinate! Start Doing Things Right Now.
What's the best way to start building a store? To start building a store. It's going to be scary, it's going to be daunting, but the only way to start is to start. Stop reading this article, go build that new store!
“You get the most value from just starting and learning...That’s how you learn where the opportunities are and that’s where you begin to put together the growth path on what your vision can become.” – Aaron Epstein, Co-Founder & CEO at Creative Market
2. Focus On Creating a Product People Love
As an ecommerce entrepreneur there are so many problems you are going to have to solve. How do you make the best shopping experience? How can you innovate in customer support? How can you throw better events?
Here's the thing though, none of these things matter in the very beginning. Before trying to custom make everything, focus on creating a product that you know people want. You can figure out your Instagram strategy after that.
“Launch your store on Shopify instead of trying to launch a custom theme on something like Magento. You’re going to spend so much money on trying to get your store established before you understand your customers’ needs that by the time you launch you may be out of capital.” – Ana Wegbreit, Founder & Product Lead at BuildRX
3. Don't Try And Compete With Everyone!
I know, I know, you always beat your family in Monopoly and now you're going to take over the world. Well, guess what? That's not going to happen right away (but we still believe in you!).
When you are first starting out in ecommerce it is best to focus on providing a unique product to a market that needs it (and isn't currently getting it from anyone). Spend time looking for these opportunities, do a good job with them, and then move on to step two of taking over the world.
“Don’t try to compete with everyone. Find some things that no one is quite doing, or is not doing in the way you’re doing it. You can compete globally but you need to focus on the segment. There’s no problem with starting a Korean beauty brand in Canada for Koreans.” – Ethan Song, CEO & Co-founder at Frank and Oak
4. Talk To Your Customers Constantly
You have an idea for a product, you think people are going to love it, but how can you be sure? You can talk to them. All the time.
If you haven't sold anything yet, take some time to find some people you think would be interested in your product and show it to them. Get their feedback, see what they think, and then listen to them!
“The hardest thing to do is make a compelling product. The way you know that is through extensive testing. We did play testing with over 100 kids and their parents across the country with different economic and demographic backgrounds. We validated our product in the play testing sessions. Test every step of the way to make sure you’ve got something that people love.” – Marissa Louie, Co-Founder at Animoodles
Animoodles, a childrens' toy that imagines stuffed animals and building sets as one, literally depends on reaction and magnetism. Louie’s product would be inconceivable without relentless testing and feedback from parents and kids alike. She recommends testing blindly if you can – “they give you the real, raw answers that way.”
5. Focus On What You're Great At
Are you the best at making sparkly gummy bears? Then focus on that. Don't try to also be the best at building ecommerce tech; let someone else be the expert at that (like Shopify or an agency).
If you are incredible at technology, by all means focus on that (but I'm guessing you won't also be the greatest at the sparkly gummy bears, so you'll want to leave that delicious candy to the candy experts).
Many companies starting online choose to build their tech in-house, but at the end of the day, most consumer companies win or die by their products and customer service. The message is clear - focusing on phenomenal product and distribution is where the game is at.
"The game is not going to be won in like ‘oh, I have the best tech stack.’ I don’t care what your tech stack is when I’m trying to buy some corduroys...That is a misallocation of resource and a lack of focus. Really, really double down on what your core business is, which is selling a product. Not having that will result in a lot of pain.”– Dileepan Siva, CEO at Moovweb
6. Retarget. Remarket. Recapture.
Is your store navigable? Is it easy to use? Next to having a great product, veteran ecommerce CMO Antony McGregor Dey believes user experience should be the number one thing ecommerce professionals focused on. How are you capturing your initial traffic to bring them back to your site, again and again?
"Once you’ve got a click on your site, you’ve already spent the money and the effort to get them there. They’ve already verified their interest by even being on our site. You now need to do everything you can to embrace that person through retargeting, remarketing, and email capture. If they don’t buy that first time, you can bring them back through other offers.” – Antony McGregor Dey, Ecommerce CMO
7. Work To Draw In Customers, But Don’t Bombard Them Right Away.
Think back on the times when you've navigated to a new site in happy aniticipation, only to be blasted with offers and pop-ups as soon as your eyes hit the homepage. We've all experienced this situation at least once. While popups serve an important role in an ecommerce business, over-aggressive popups may be driving away your buyers.
“Don’t have the email pop-up immediately when I hit your site. I don’t know who you are. I’m not going to give you my email right away. I feel like people do one or the other: they either don’t capture your email and have anything come up, or the second you hit the site all these things come up. Find something in-between: you want to get their information but you don’t want to bombard them right away.” – Ashley McGregor Dey, Ecommerce CMO
"Find something in between" - yes, this is the right advice. Get those emails, capture those leads, but build trust and affinity first.
8. Ecommerce Is Full Of People Mining For Gold, But You Can Find Success Selling Shovels To Miners.
“The biggest opportunity is in building B-to-B tools for people who are able to create a following. When you break down how people are shopping and trends in ecommerce, there’s a lot of stuff in B-to-B that’s just not happening. You can create tools for these companies that do want to be a part of this new wave. It won’t be a must have today, but as their landscape changes, it will be. When Target goes to order their shirts from one of the vendors they work with, they do it manually. They just have a slow process they use to get stuff done because of how it’s happened for years. They’ll have to compete with some kid who can get a Twitter following. That kid is going to need some technology, and so will the bigger brands.” – Frank Denbow, INK’A
B-to-B marketing is rich and complex: the effect of integrating a multitouch, Omni channel strategy can be hard to measure, but deeply rewarding. An effective campaign can reach multiple users and carry through sales cycles. Denbow loves to connect entrepreneurs with opportunities, and co-sponsors/curates a number of start-up networks.
9. A Big Point Of Difference Is Essential.
What makes your company different from the rest? What are you doing better than anyone else?
“Have a major point of difference. One company I think that’s doing really well with that is Violet Grey. Violet Grey focuses on editorial curation. There are no reviews, but it is expert curation. If you can’t afford the technology, then focus on another major point of difference that will help you stand out.” – Sindhya Valloppillil Kalghatgi, CEO of Skin Genie
Sindhya found a way to stand out with Skin Genie, a skincare company which pairs a customer’s DNA with an AI algorithm accounting for genetic variations affecting the skin. Skin Genie is billed as “the only product recommendation engine in the world that utilizes genomics and AI.”
10. Be Wary Of "Vanity Metrics."
Receiving loads of daily traffic, big numbers of overall page views and other "vanity" metrics are good for the ego, but they aren't so good for the bottom line. To combat the deceiving effects of vanity metrics, focus on segmenting your audience and customers in order to understand each segments behavior more deeply.
“There needs to be a greater level of understanding when it comes to analytics. The metric to look at will vary according to your goals. Look at whether that metric is the good metric: 98% of the companies we see have skewed analytics, because of improper setup or other issues...You’ve really got to dive in deep and segment your audiences to really understand. I tell the clients to step away from the vanity metrics and start by segmenting. Segment your data. Averages lie.” –Raphael Paulin-Daigle, CEO of SplitBase
Raphael is a veteran Pro at CRO – that’s Conversion Rate Optimization. His latest venture, SplitBase, is the only conversion optimization agency working with luxury and fashion brands. Through robust A/B tests and rigorous conversion research – all a part of their Testing Trifecta – SplitBase has generated at least 5x ROI for their clients.
11. Entrepreneurship Can Be Lonely. Find A Peer Group To Help Weather The Ups-and-Downs.
Entrepreneurship is one of the loneliest professions out there. You’re supposed to portray confidence and success all the time, but when you’re faced everyday with all kinds of challenges, it can be hard to remain upbeat. Many entrepreneurs find respite in the company of masterminds or networking groups.
"For me what was helpful was being part of a start-up lab. The Women’s StartUp Lab is run out of Silicon Valley, and is a great platform for women launching businesses. It’s female founders that meet once or twice a week. That was helpful because they were able to bring in great mentors and business coaches.” – Lona Alia, Founder & CEO of Style Lend
“Perseverance ties together many successful entrepreneurs. Don’t expect things to happen overnight. Be ready to shift, if need be. Don’t lose your enthusiasm because no one will have it to the degree that you do.” – Scott Jordan, CEO of ScotteVest
Networking "up" is common advice for entrepreneurs. But it is just as vital, if not more so, to network "across" and build support among peers.
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