While the pandemic took a toll on most business domains, e-commerce is a clear exception. The industry is at its healthiest best right now. It served as a survival mode for many retail companies, as customers switched to online orders and doorstep delivery. Not surprisingly, almost every brick-and-mortar establishment took the online route. At the same time, startups joining the bandwagon are growing in number. If you have an e-commerce business idea in mind, there couldn’t be a better time to explore it.
Even as things move towards the new normal, the trend is here to stay. Consumers are most likely to shop online for the foreseeable future because the risk persists. While it spells a massive opportunity for the industry, the competition increases startup risks. But there are ways to stay safe and build a thriving venture. You only need to follow a proven roadmap, and success will come effortlessly. Here is a complete guide to help you kick start your e-commerce venture in 2021.
Choose a saleable product
Choosing a product to sell online amid the pandemic sounds easy, but it isn’t. You may pick an in-demand item like essentials, hygiene products, and personal protection stuff. While these are likely to be hot sellers, the market may already be saturated. A unique offering is a better one to explore because you will have to face less competition in the market. Don’t just join the race without thinking twice. Study the market and your competition to find ideal product opportunities. Apart from demand and competition, consider the profit margins to finalize the product.
Decide your business model
Once you have your eyes set on the product offering, you must decide on your business model. Weigh the pros and cons of options like manufacture, wholesale, and drop ship models. Prepare hypothetical models for each to get a fair idea of viability and profitability. Bear in mind factors like sourcing, supply chain and logistics, and distribution to decide the best one. If you want to get a head start, choosing the right business model can make all the difference.
Prepare a business plan
When you have clarity regarding your product offering and business model, it is time to write a business plan. Essentially, it is the roadmap that defines your journey from the setup to sales and customer support. It requires you to list elements like investment, team framework, operational processes, and more. Preparing the map sounds complicated, considering the work it entails. But you can utilize reliable business plan software to create one with speed and accuracy. A clear roadmap gives you the vision and path you need to take your e-commerce venture a step closer to success.
Build an interface
At this stage, you can get started with the operations. Even before you stock up on inventory or start manufacturing, you need to build an interface. In simple words, you will have to invest in an online store where you showcase products and let the buyers order them. Ensure that the site is a complete replica of your offline presence, whether it is about the logo, fonts, color, or design. An excellent look is a good start, but the user experience is equally important. You can expect the buyers to stay and convert only if they are happy with the look and feel of the site. Payment security is equally vital to winning their trust and driving conversions.
Invest in a robust marketing plan
After building the website, you must invest in a robust marketing program. A solid online presence is the mainstay of successful e-commerce ventures. You do not just need a website, but one that is visible and credible. It is possible only if you market it across the online platform. The first step is to have an actionable Search Engine Optimization plan that gets your store on top of search rankings. Once it reaches the first page, it will be visible when people search for the products you sell. A viable community on social media platforms is equally important to extend reach and trust. You can go the extra mile with paid ads to get genuine leads for the business. As a startup, you must choose a perfect mix that aligns with your budget.
Focus on customer recommendations
Apart from the organic and paid marketing initiatives, you can also use customer recommendations for growing your startup. They are perhaps even more important than the conventional strategies. Reviews from real buyers work wonders when it comes to winning the trust and extending your reach. At the same time, they cost nothing because happy customers will not reason to share a good word about your company. Apart from excelling with products and services, you can incentivize them to spread the good word. It is a worthy investment for any startup because you end up with immense benefits without spending a fortune.
Opt for the right sales channels
Pandemic or no pandemic, an omnichannel reach is the cornerstone of e-commerce success. But you may need to be a little more selective about your sales channels if you launch in 2021. The best way to do it is by following your target audience and being where they are. You may start as a hardcore online seller and graduate to brick-and-mortar establishments eventually once retail locations open up. The optimal mix of sales channels also depends on your products. Research gets you in a good place for landing the perfect mix. Make sure you have room for scalability, as you may want to add more sales channels later.
Get a step ahead with services
E-commerce success hinges as much on sales services as it depends on product quality. It is important to build a strong foundation at the backend. Having a reliable procurement process gives you a good start. You must also have a proper inventory management system to keep the business flowing seamlessly. Also, invest in a robust shipping and fulfillment plan that ensures timely delivery and optimal shipping costs. Together, these processes ensure that you stay a step ahead of customer expectations. If they are happy with the service quality, retention will not be a problem.
Go the extra mile with post-sale support
You may have the best products and services on offer, but overlooking post-sales support can land you in trouble. Conversely, going the extra mile with it can set your venture apart in the competitive landscape. Follow the buyers for feedback, and address their queries and challenges at the earliest. Having a seasoned support team enables you to keep the customers happy, even if they get back with complaints. You can empower them with software solutions that let them cross-sell and up-sell with contextual recommendations. Integrating a chatbot into your website is a good idea to automate the support function even when human representatives are not available.
The best time to launch a dream e-commerce venture is right now, and you must not miss out on the opportunity. But it isn’t just about setting up an online store and having the backend operations in place. You must understand the consumer pain points in the new normal and address them with your products and services. The more empathic you are, the better are the chances of your success.
The author is an IT expert by profession and a writer by passion. While he works as the CTO with a reputed IT services company, he loves pursuing his writing skills as well.