10 pointers to help your e-commerce startup succeed

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If you are creating your own product for launch, moving from bricks-and-mortar to e-commerce or planning a new drop-shipping business, where do you start? Below are 10 quick steps to ensure you stay on the right track.
1 . Define your product:
This might seem like an easy one, however, it can often be the most challenging. If you have broad product groups in mind, a great way to narrow down your selection are tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner or Keywordtool.io. Ask questions such as how many people are actively searching for what you are planning to offer? What nuances or USPs can you find that the current market is not yet delivering? You could even consider buying or conducting a market survey from customers in your target area/age range and solidify your marketing and business plan around these results.

2 . Evaluate your idea:
You may have a particular product or range in mind or you may be creating a product line completely from scratch, but how do you know if it’s a good idea? In truth, you may never be 100% certain that your idea will sell. Test the market as you go with a few selected products and limited investment, if interest and sales gather speed you can always expand. You do not have to be an expert in your field to launch a business, do not spend years honing a craft that essentially no one wants to buy. Start quickly and test your market as you go, if you spend too much time planning you may miss the opportunity.

3 . Take heed of the competition:
Competitor research should be a priority and an ongoing task for the longevity of your business. Search for keywords defined in the research phase; they will be the search terms your customers will use and what your competition will be bidding on. Once you have defined your competitors, you can use tools such as SEMRush to see their traffic overview, organic and paid keywords, backlinks and any social referrals. Also pay attention to paid advertising that appears during your research such as PPC, again this is what you’ll be bidding against for clicks and conversions. Social stalk your competitors and see how many followers/like they have on their social channel and what types of content they produce to engage their following.

4 . Know your customer base:
After researching your competitors, you should have a good idea what your potential customers expect. Make sure you take in any reviews and look for opportunities to offer better service, offers or products. Look at current market trends for your product category, Google Trends is a great tool for this to make sure you are entering the market at a prime time for growth. You could even test the market on funding sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo and gain some collateral ready to launch to a wider audience once targets have been met.

5 . Set aside a marketing budget:
Do not expect for customers to find your store and product automatically. The first page of Google is a battlefield of long-standing companies with a team of SEO experts who have worked for years to keep their ranking within the top search result. Be prepared to spend some budget on PPC and social advertising, content creation, even consider sponsoring podcasts or good old fashioned magazine advertising – whichever activities best fit your product and target market. Not all marketing ideas are costly and if you are trying to choose between SEO & PPC, read our article SEO or PPC? Plus 3 tips to succeed at both for some starter tips.

6 . You can’t be everywhere:
Don’t try everything at once, certain aspects of launching a store will be trial and error and testing various marketing activities are part and parcel. Now, this isn’t to say ignore opportunities as they come up, just remember your marketing and launch plan has been researched and aligned to strategy. By spreading yourself too thin you may lose sight of your goals and also accrue marketing spend for activities that are not in the original budget.

7 . Success takes time:
It’s important to be realistic about your goals and don’t give up if your e-commerce business is not an overnight success. Be prepared to work hard; the online marketplace is heavily over saturated and it will take time to make your mark amongst other established brands. There are those that get lucky, however, remember Seth Godin’s comment “It takes about 6 years of hard work to become an overnight success.”. Stick with it and be prepared for peaks and troughs.

8 . Scalability is key:
Whilst at the start you may be a one man operation, dealing with customer complaints, fulfilling orders, website updates; the whole operation may rely on you. However, if you are operating at 100% capacity, you need to be able to employ customer service or warehouse personnel. Build this growth into your marketing plan, it will enable you to focus on growing your business, rather than the day to day operations. If you reach 100% capacity and you can not afford to hire new staff then your business is simply not scalable. Revisit your pricing structure, suppliers and accountant, they may be additional saving to be made in order for your business to grow.

9 . Trustworthy delivery service:
If your business is solely online, you want to be able to trust that your goods reach their destination, in one piece and on time. Using an unreliable expensive delivery service will gain you nothing bar negative reviews, not what you need what you are just starting out! Make sure you make your delivery service decision with your customers best interests in mind, you can even build some of the delivery cost into the product as long as you still undercut your competitors in price. Consider offers such as “spend XX for free delivery”, which will not only increase your AOV but also justify you providing a top class delivery service without damaging your bottom line.

10 . Plan for the future (early on!):
This can be as simple as securing your domain name for an extended period and in multiple countries, or making long-standing agreements with suppliers. This can extend to over hiring staff if the budget allows. When the boom happens you need to be ready to meet demand quickly and without issue.

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