So, got a product that you think solves a user problem?
I think you should sell it, just that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Sure, eCommerce makes a lot of things easier. But then, getting your store alive and thriving without breaking the bank, getting your first order, breaking even quickly, and then managing operations in a cost effective manner, while budgeting for marketing and customer relationship management – it all can add up into a massive financial headache if you’re not prepared.
This guide helps you prepare better. If you’ve been contemplating launching that great idea in the form of a product, here’s valuable information.
#1. Use Ecommerce Store Builders to Reduce Development Costs
This is the most critical decision you will make. For starters, ecommerce store functionalities govern the ease with which you can handle essential operations (adding products, pricing, shipping, taxation, CRM). Secondly, it’s a messy affair switching from one platform to another (not counting some of the platforms that don’t even allow you to switch over!).
I recommend going with Wordpress.
Wordpress is free, and it’s open source. So, not only do you not have to pay for the platform, you can even tweak its core to adjust its working to suit your e-store’s needs. 2016 data suggests that more than 40% of the ecommerce websites active on WWW are based on Wordpress. You’ll need an ecommerce plugin along with Wordpress to create your e-store. The great news – the best ecommerce plugin for Wordpress, called WooCommerce, is also free. Add to all this the fact that you can get web hosting for your Wordpress website at prices in the vicinity of $4/month (basic), and you know it’s possible to have your ecommerce live at close to zero investment.
Once you register on Wordpress, install the WooCommerce plugin, choose a Wordpress theme, and you are set. A word of caution: though you can buy the most inexpensive web hosting package and can get a free Wordpress theme, note that all this would make your web store compromised in terms of its computing resources (bandwidth, storage space, etc) and its looks, respectively. Switching from one Wordpress theme to another is easy, so you could begin with one of these free and responsive Wordpress ecommerce themes.
Here’s a quick summation of the costs:
- Wordpress Account: $0
- WooCommerce (ecommerce enabler): $0
- Wordpress Theme: $0
- Web Hosting: $4 (basic plan)
It doesn’t get more inexpensive, really.
#2. Focus on Pre-Sales and Get Rid of RoadBlocks
Most of your presales goals can be achieved from your e-store’s landing page. Wordpress offers a neat collection of free ecommerce landing page themes, such as Obox’s Launchpad, and Onesie. The latter, Onesie, is a one-page template with all necessary sections for your landing page, along with a drag and drop editor.
Product Landing Page template from InDeziner is another great option, especially for products. By offering a freebie (an e-book, a tee shirt with your brand logo, a keychain, etc.), you can gather emails and customer contacts, and develop a database of prospects at which you can direct your presales messages.
#3. Minimize Your Shipping and Inventory Costs With Fulfilment Service
Ecommerce fulfillment services are godsend for entrepreneurs who want to focus on their product rather than struggle with everyday challenges of getting the product delivered to the customer. The eternal rule of eCommerce success is to focus on what you do best, and let vendors do the rest. We say you focus on the product, and let a fulfillment service handle the warehousing, packing, shipping label printing, logistics, and returns handling.
Third party logistics warehouses specializing in retail fulfillment like Whiplash can help you focus on the product, marketing, manufacturing, while taking care of everything from the time you get an order to the time you can send invoices out to customers.
#4. Leverage the Power of Co-Op Dollars
How can family owned and first generation businesses afford to compete with mega retailers with tremendous buying power? The answer – buying co-ops (co-operatives). The co-op purchasing model is the ultimate (and often the only) choice to bring scale to local ownership. Across USA, businesses right from furniture sellers to funereal services are using the co-op purchasing model. Check out the website of National Cooperative Business Association to get the latest on this model, and how you can connect with a group to begin corporate purchasing at the special prices that mega retailers pay.
You know what the recipe of success in ecommerce is? It’s a great product + buzz. We’re sure you’ll take care of the product, let’s tell you how to create buzz without spending a lot. That takes us to step 5 and 6.
#5. Creating Social Buzz About Your Products
Social Media Marketing: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – these are the 3 most important social media platforms where you need to spread the word about your products and your store. Use Hootsuite’s freeplan to get the hang of how social media post scheduling and updates work. To use more value adding social media management features such as actionable reports and campaign tracking, opt for the paid version.
#6. Establish Strong Email Marketing Practices
Contrary to misconceptions, email marketing works. Use MailChimp (it doesn’t cost much) and get your email campaigns off the mark. Start with the Free plan, and you can opt for the Growing Business plan (it costs $10 per month) once you’ve got a few sales.
#7. Look for Free Tools and Resources to Manage All Incremental Marketing Efforts
We suggest you Google for lists of best free tools for all marketing management functions, if you want to keep costs low. We covered email and social media marketing for you. Here are others:
- Google Alerts: To keep in touch with the latest from relevant markets
- Klout, Peerindex: Tools to help you identify influencers for your markets (follow them, to know what’s hot)
- Google Keyword Planner: To help you with
- Similar Web: Benchmarking against competitors
- Moz Open Site Explorer: Off page backlink analysis.
Eventually, if you’ve got a great product, ecommerce is the vehicle you need to succeed. Follow these tips, and get cracking.
#8. Sell Your Products on Marketplaces Like Ebay and Amazon
Amazon draws 184 million visitors a month; imagine the exposure your business gets on such a marketplace. Then, the average retailer witnesses 50% increase in sales after joining Amazon marketplace. With so many related and non-competng products, there is massive potential that your store will start benefitting from unplanned purchases from consumer, apart from the massive exposure your brand will receive. Also, the organized processes and support services offered by marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay prove to be an enabler for businesses. Marketplaces enjoy the trust of the end customer, and your brand automatically benefits a brand rub-off, without investing any dollar into brand building.
#9. Create User Persona and Target Customers Through Facebook Ad Targeting
HubSpot defines buyer person/user persona as a semi fictional representation of your ideal buyers, based on real data analyses of your current customers and market research. User personas can be created on bases such as age, location, interests, categories, connections, etc. Creating user personas means your subsequent marketing efforts will be directed at a highly relevant audience. Here’s how you can create audience personas and deliver targeted ads to them using Facebook.