Last year, global ecommerce sales to customers topped a trillion dollars for the first time ever. This year, it’s expected to grow another 18.3 percent, as per estimates provided by eMarketer. Surely, a smart marketer could easily manage to make a decent living with a small slice of this very big pie? Actually, it’s not that simple, because ecommerce entrepreneurship is an increasingly complex game. All ecommerce store owners, no matter how big or small, require knowledge of everything from sourcing products to funding, setting up an online store, pricing and shipping strategies, writing product descriptions, search optimization and marketing, local search, social media…and a gazillion other things.
Where to start?
Select a product or niche and find the best way to source it. There are online marketplaces and resource sites where you can learn about drop-shipping and avoid the pitfalls and scams. Develop a business plan and figure out a USP to attract customers.
The actual online ecommerce store can be set up easily these days without any knowledge of coding or assistance from developers. eBay and Yahoo are not the only choices for small businesses, because there are other online platforms that have specific advantages.
For example, Shopify is an ideal platform for SMBs looking to set up an ecommerce store to boost online sales. They offer everything from hosting for unlimited products and the shopping cart to free templates for more than 100 professional storefront themes, marketing and SEO, 24/7 support and even mobile commerce integration. Shopify Experts have helped customize and market the ecommerce stores of more than 60,000 sellers.
You could also host a full website and integrate a co-branded store into it. There’s not much geek stuff involved apart from setting up the website. Your web host may even offer ecommerce store installation as a tool in the control panel that can be installed with a few clicks. No matter how you set up the store, you still need to get a merchant account so that you can accept credit cards. Having a Paypal account is a necessity, but you should additionally get a merchant account with a bank.
At this point, you may need funding because drop-shipping doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re not comfortable with suppliers slapping your label and return address and sending off the product directly to the customer, you will need to make an investment to buy products in bulk and sell them individually at retail.
What should be your pricing strategy?
This brings us to the pricing strategy. Apart from carefully setting profit margins and buying from a good source, you can boost sales by offering incentives. The biggest freebie customers expect is free shipping.
You don’t have to provide free shipping if there’s no margin, but it helps a lot. A survey by North American Technographics showed that 44 percent of shopping carts abandoned by online shoppers after items have been added to the cart were because of the shipping and handling charges. If you can’t afford free shipping, consider integrating real-time shipping quotes from providers, so that customers don’t feel you’re trying to squeeze a few extra bucks in shipping charges.
Innovative product descriptions will take you a long way
All this is just the basic stuff which millions of online sellers are doing. In order to succeed, you need to go the extra mile with ecommerce entrepreneurship. Create innovative product descriptions and photography. Hire a consultant for search engine optimization (SEO) and run a PPC (pay per click) campaign to acquire search visitors.
Engage in partnerships with product comparison and daily deal sites. Social media promotions (think giveaways and discounts) and local search marketing (read Google Places) are essential. An affiliate program is also worth considering, provided you are capable of managing explosive growth at lower margins. If you have the determination to start with nothing but an idea and get to this stage, then you’ll probably do well as an ecommerce entrepreneur.
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