As bricks and mortar businesses have struggled over the past decade, e-commerce has grown at an average rate of 20% per year. Whatever you have to offer, it pays to be in the business of online selling. And even if you’re a traditional merchant, you should be thinking about finding digital avenues for selling people your services. After all, 72% of customers conducting local searches will visit a store within 5 miles. Shoppers expect to see you online before they buy with you.
There’s never been a better time to set up a digital shopfront. But where to begin?
1. Market research
Establish a clear understanding of who you are selling to, and why they are going to buy from you. One of the main reasons so many start-ups fail in their infancy is because they presume a market need where none exists. This is the most important thing you can do to help distinguish yourself as an online brand. Customer profiling is the backbone of this process.
Conduct keyword research, check out what people are saying on social media and scour product forums for some powerful user feedback. Using the internet to closely examine some of their pain points with existing products can help you adapt your own to better meet consumer needs in the future.
2. Check out the competition
Often, it feels like a hopeless struggle trying to compete in a market dominated by industry monoliths (which, let’s face it, is most of them). Ask the who, where, how, what and why of competitor research:
- Who are your main competitors?
- Where are they based?
- How much are they charging?
- What is their product range?
- Why are people buying from them?
Don’t just envy your competition, appreciate what they’re doing in your space, and see if you can adapt their strategies to your own purposes. If they’ve got a product that’s working and generating brand hype, then produce your own variant. It’s not always about doing something better than the competition either.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of doing something different. Often, many of the best businesses successfully position themselves by spotting gaps in the market.
3. Build a website
Hiring a web designer will be costly but this gives you the highest degree of customization. There are also cost-effective user-friendly site builders out there who charge you monthly fees: Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify are three of the biggest names in this space. If you’re looking for a scaled-back and inexpensive starting solution, pair a free service like WordPress with the managed hosting services of a company like Onyx.io.
4. Be prepared to fail, but fail fast
The digital world moves quickly and so must you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to starting your own online business and as many as 90% of all startups fail within the first five years.
You have to be prepared to take some risks along the way, but these should always be educated risks. When things go wrong, you need to quickly acknowledge this and course-correct accordingly. It’s all about judgment and using the resources at your disposal.