We have seen a drastic shift in the way businesses work in the last couple of decades. Many offline companies have started providing online services, brick and mortars have a new companion called “eCommerce store,” and we have also seen new business models rising. In 2019, if you’re eager to start an online business, there are lots of options available. You can get in SaaS, eCommerce, services, and many more. Plus, you have choices like B2B, B2C, and even C2B.
Since eCommerce has been PSDCenter’s forte for more than a decade, we will discuss and guide you best for “How to start an eCommerce business in 2019”. As we mentioned, there are endless options besides eCommerce, but this guide will focus only on how to quick start an online store and start selling.
Here we go.
According to Statista, eCommerce shared almost 12% of the total retail sales in 2018 and expected to reach 17.5%. Today, every little thing is available on the internet starting from a small piece of cloth to SUV cars. Entrepreneurs are selling every product that has some potential in eCommerce, and if you have found your “Lucky One,” this guide will get you moving to start your online business in 2019.
For the group of entrepreneurs who haven’t figured out what to sell online, we will be covering each step that is essential to start an online business. We have divided this guide into 4 steps that go by:
- Market Research and Pick The Right Niche
- Finalize Your Offerings (Products)
- Create A Stunning Online Store
- Set Up a Marketing Strategy
These are 4 major points we will be discussing considering you already have secured finances and human resources. Otherwise, this article would result in endless scrolling!
Let’s start with our first important step.
1. Market Research and Pick The Right Niche
Now, there are two different approaches, and the choice totally depends upon the attitude of an individual entrepreneur. Here are the two approaches:
A. Pick Up The Niche – Market Research
B. Market Research – Pick Up The Niche – Market Research
Both of these approaches are valid on their own but they are subjective to the individual thought process.
A. Pick Up The Niche – Market Research
Some entrepreneurs like to pick the niche first as they are specifically interested in some field or product. For example, an entrepreneur with a deep interest in Music would want to start an online store of musical instruments. In such a case, the individual is driven by a deep passion for the product or niche or field. The next step for such an individual is to perform thorough market research and find the potential of a business.
Selection of the niche is one of the hardest decisions for any business head, but in such a case, it becomes very easy as the big world of “Passion” is involved. In such cases, entrepreneurs may face friction in finding the right products that can give profit.
B. Market Research – Pick Up The Niche – Market Research
Talking about the second approach, we have a breed of entrepreneurs that like to go with brain rather than the heart. They pick the niche after thorough market research and identification of potential business.
In such cases, thorough research is the base and you just can not compromise this at any cost. As the niche and product selection is completely based on market research, it is essential to invest right efforts in this step.
Both of these approaches are right and preferred by many entrepreneurs. As it entirely depends upon the individual, there is no right or wrong. You can initiate the process of starting an online business with any of these approaches with robust market research. Since market research is a common factor in these approaches, let’s have a quick look at it and understand how one can perform it and land up on the right niche.
How To Perform Market Research Before Starting Your Own Business?
There are specific questions you can ask yourself before landing on the decision of niche selection. You can use online marketing tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs for this step. These tools are essential in deciding your marketing plan (but more on that later.)
You need to ask following questions and find their answers to finalize your niche
A. Is the market saturated for your offerings (product)?
For example, if you’re thinking about starting a clothing line, you need to find out whether buyers really need a new clothing line? Is there any gap that you can fill up by starting your clothing store?
To find answers to these questions, you need to gather data from various discussions, groups, forums, surveys, Q&As, statistics, and analysis. If there is any specific need that you can fill, you need to understand the potential of it very clearly. You can find the exact requirements of customers by asking about the specific product and what is explicitly missing?
B. What is the status of competition?
Competitor analysis is also important in marketing, but this is an earlier question you need to ask yourself. If you decide to sell something online, how many companies are already selling this product? Does the companies that are already selling such products offer satisfactory results? What is the level of business such competitors have covered?
In many cases, there’s an intense competition in some niches, but because of weak offerings, there’s a huge gap to fill up. On the other hand, many times, competitors have not covered the entire region, and that opens a massive gate of opportunity for you.
C. Is it feasible for you to compete in such an environment?
Even though you have identified an excellent business opportunity, it is not necessarily the right opportunity until you’re capable to fulfill it. For example, you might discover an opportunity for grocery supply in small towns of your state. But there must be some reason why your competitors are not doing it already. If there’s a genuine gap to fill and the competitors have missed seeing such opportunity, that’s your spot!
However, as we discussed, we’re not covering the financial aspects in this guide. You need to figure out if such business model matches with your financials.
D. What are the region and audience type best suitable for your product?
For example, if you’re offering Adult Diapers, United Kingdom would be the least favorable region and Japan would be the best because of the highest number of senior citizenship.
You need to understand the best demographic area and best audience that fits your product. Otherwise, the efforts that you’re investing would be in a completely wrong direction. The demography and audience selection will also be helpful in further stages where you need to prepare a marketing action plan for your online store.
So, to start an online store, market research is utmost important. Research is something that will be helpful to you for a long period, even in the future as well. Make sure you don’t compromise with research at any cost.
2. Finalize Your Offerings (Product)
The second step of starting an online business is to select the right product. Considering you have chosen the niche, it would be a little easier for you to pick the product(s). There are various ways to finalize a product(s) for your online store, here are some known ways:
A. Find The Customer Pain Point & Solve
Solving a customer’s pain point is usually a great way to gain surety that your products will be sold. As customers are already looking for such product, it would be easier to cover the market and gain initial attention.
B. Pick The Enthusiasts
Many brands sell products specifically to enthusiasts. You can take inspiration from brands like Converse (focuses only on sneaker lovers), TAG Heuer (focuses only on premium watches), or Dango Tactical (focuses only on multi-purpose wallets.)
These brands have identified the need of enthusiasts for a specific activity and designed various products accordingly. For this method to work, you need to clearly understand the psychology of such a group and pick products (or maybe design products) accordingly.
C. Pick Your Passion
Just like the niche, you can select the products by following your passion and target customers that resemble the same passion as you. For example, The Stray Whisker – An Australian Grooming Brand. The founder Con Kazantzidi followed his love for beard and grooming and picked the products like beard oil, beard wash, and accessories.
D. Consider Your Professional Experience
We have seen this so many times in the tech industry like Ex-Googlers co-founded Instagram, Ex-Yahoo employees co-founded WhatsApp, and many more. Basically, your professional experience can help you infinitely in your new startup. You can pick the product that your ex-firm was missing, or you can be fierce and jump right into the competition.
E. Follow The Trend
You can follow the new wave of trend and offer something that people are looking forward to buying. Just to put a tag on it, you can offer VR headboards, quadcopters, tech gadgets, etc. Of course, you can increase your product base as the trends grow.
F. Higher Profit Products
If you’re open to selling any product online, here is a quick & unique way to think. You can just search for the highest margin products and pick them as your offerings. For example, if you have selected Fashion as your niche, selling jewelry can give you very high margins compared to apparels and accessories.
Of course, there are zillion ways to pick the right products. Even, you can get the idea just by looking at Amazon’s Trending products for your niche.
Let’s move to our next step, i.e. creating a stunning online store.
Take a deep breath, and keep reading!
3. Create A Stunning Online Store
Creating an online store for your business is a complex and dependable process. Complex, because it involves a long list of small elements that you need to take care. Dependable, because it requires eCommerce development and coding skills.
To create an online store, you might need external help from eCommerce development agencies that will help you in deciding which platform you can start your online business. There are so many eCommerce platforms out there to create an online store. Earlier this year, we have created an in-depth article on how you can pick the right eCommerce platform according to your need. In that article, we talked about leading eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, SquareSpace, and many. Be sure to check out the article to know more about this subject. However, for this guide, we have picked two best platforms that can make things extremely easy for you.
Let’s talk about BigCommerce and Shopify, and understand how they can specifically help you in starting your online business.
BigCommerce is one of the fastest growing eCommerce platforms (along with Shopify, of course!) with its user-friendly themes and easy-to-use interface. With big brands in its bag like Toyota, Kodak, and Ben & Jerry’s, BigCommerce is witnessing an average growth of 28% year over year. After BigCommerce decided to upgrade their framework from Blueprint to Stencil, they have witnessed amazing growth year over year (YoY.) Let’s have a look at BigCommerce theme and understand how it can make things easier for you.
BigCommerce themes are best known for its simple and responsive designs. There are more than 100 themes available on BigCommerce themes store where 7 of them are completely free. Rest of the themes costs between $145 to $235. Since BigCommerce is a growing platform, independent agencies also develop premium themes. So, there are lots of options available for your store. For example, PSDCenter itself has designed some premium and free BigCommerce themes for after understanding the requirements from our customer base. There many external sources where you can purchase your themes, and they usually offer below features:
- BigCommerce themes are precisely designed to satisfy multiple niches.
- Excellent ability for customization according to your needs.
- Themes are responsive and they satisfy every type of users on mobile, PC, tablets, phablets, etc.
- Themes come with advances search features so buyers can find the right product.
- With various filters and sorting options, buyers can categorize the desired products.
- Themes have banners to display the latest promotions and offers on homepage and category pages.
- Separate sections on the homepage like trending products, popular products, best selling products to increase the exposure.
- Product cards with a quick view, add to cart, and product comparison features.
- Blog section in the bottom to showcase your latest news and articles.
- Fetch Instagram posts on the homepage to gain more exposure to your brand.
At PSDCenter, we develop classy and premium themes for online businesses out there. Be sure to check out our theme store to know more about BigCommerce themes from PSDCenter.
Advantages of Choosing BigCommerce
- BigCommerce plans are very practical and designed to offer growth.
- Plans designed for every size of business – small, medium, or large.
- Sell unlimited numbers of products.
- Add ratings and reviews functions to your online store.
- Automatic image optimization to load your store faster.
- AMP to load pages faster on mobile devices.
- No transactional fees on any order.
- A wide range of payment gateways.
- Abandoned cart feature.
- SEO optimization fields to rank better on search engines.
- Easy interface to handle your store, even if you’re a newbie.
- BigCommerce mobile app to handle your store remotely.
Apart from these features, there’s a talented BigCommerce developer community that can solve any of your problems. In short, BigCommerce is without any doubt a platform that you can entirely rely upon to start your online business.
Let’s have a look at our second eCommerce platform and understand how it can help you.
Shopify and BigCommerce are often compared because of their similar offerings. If you’re interested in that comparison, we have already created an in-depth article on BigCommerce Vs Shopify as well.
But, let’s just talk about Shopify here.
According to Shopify & You, more than 600,000 merchants were using Shopify platform generating more than $673 million in 2017. Needless to say, Shopify is growing tremendously and choosing it as your eCommerce platform would be a wise decision.
As we have seen theme and features for BigCommerce, we are mentioning the same things for Shopify as well, so you can get a clear picture of what to choose. Let us clarify that there are no significant differences between these two platforms. Both of them offer similar features, ease of use, mobility, and amazing themes.
Shopify themes are best known for their minimal approach and sophisticated designs. There are more than 100 themes available on the Shopify theme store offering 10 free themes. Premium themes usually range between $140 to $180. Here are some of the features you’ll find in Shopify themes:
- Responsive and minimal designs that work best with every type of device.
- Open to customization according to your needs.
- Image optimization to load theme faster.
- Custom SEO fields to optimize products for search engines.
- Customizable content selection on the homepage.
- Ample filters and sorting functions.
- Social media integration.
- Built-in style and color pallets.
- Ample space for content in product pages.
- Instagram feeds on the homepage.
- Life-size banners for promotions and offers.
- Showcase your latest blogs on the homepage.
- Sections like best selling products, trending products, products of the month, etc.
- Supports high-quality images.
Apart from these, Shopify dedicatedly updates every theme, so you can expect periodic updates to enhance user experience.
Just like BigCommerce, we have created special themes for Shopify as well. Be sure to check out our themes store to explore them as well.
Advantages of Choosing Shopify
- Shopify stores are designed to keep optimization in mind; hence they load very quickly.
- Shopify has multiple layers when it comes to security. So, do not worry when it comes to your important data or customer details.
- Shopify is largely depended upon add-ons and apps, so there are multiple solutions for one requirement.
- It has an excellent inventory management system.
- Outstanding SEO and marketing features.
- The editor is very user-friendly. So, don’t worry if you’re entirely new to this.
Just like BigCommerce, there’s a huge Shopify Development community all around the world. So there’s a lot of external help available.
4. Set Up a Marketing Strategy
Assuming that you’re all set with your brand new store; the next step is to set up a marketing strategy that can give you conversions. We will be discussing three significant parts of eCommerce marketing that can help you in selling your products as well as brand building. We will be talking about
A. Search Engine Optimization
B. Paid Ads
C. Social Media Management
A. Search Engine Optimization
Starting with the first, and the most important method of marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEO). Search engine optimization has been around for almost three decades now. This field of marketing has seen a lot of shifts in these years, and Google’s dominance has been an important turning point.
Before we jump into how to design an SEO strategy, let’s understand the term SEO in simple layman terms:
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your web pages and blogs according to search engines to get considerably higher results on various search queries performed by end-users.
According to Statcounter, Google holds more than 92% of the total market share. So, whatever we are about to discuss will be largely in terms of Google.
It is worth talking about Google as it has completely changed the meaning of SEO in the last decade. From pointless keywords stuffing to user-driven content, Google is driving SEO, without a doubt.
Now, your next step as an online store owner is to set up a right eCommerce SEO strategy, and that’s what we’ll be discussing in this segment.
Keyword Research & Competitor Analysis
We have combined these two processes as they go hand in hand. To establish a sensible SEO strategy, you need to find out the right set of keywords for each product.
To perform keyword research, you can use various tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or even Google Adwords. To understand this process, let’s take an example. How about starting your online clothing store?
Moving forward with our example, we will be using SEMrush to search keywords. Let’s say, you’re offering sweatshirts for men as one of your products. You can simply search “Sweatshirts for men” in SEMrush and find the monthly volume and related keywords. Have a look:
Some of the keywords will be most important, some can be used in blogs and content, and some will irrelevant for your products. But, you’ll get the exact idea on what people are searching precisely when they want to purchase Sweatshirts.
The next step is to find which store is ranking on such keyword and analyze other keywords. For our sample keyword, here are the top 5 results:
If you copy the first results of the query and make an individual search in SEMrush, you’ll find on what other keywords this competitor page is ranking. The good thing is, most of those keywords will be relevant to your product. Like this:
Where To Use These Keywords?
The keyword research will be largely used in two things:
- Product & Category Pages Meta Tags
Meta tags include the title & SEO title of the page and meta description. These are two ways to let search engines know what exactly your page is about. You can also assign a focus keyword, so search engines get a clear idea and rank you on the relevant queries.
Let’s talk about content now.
It is one of the most powerful tools to lift your search engine rankings. Writing blogs and article on your niche can bring relevant traffic and popularise your store across the web.
Content can also be referred in terms of product page descriptions and details. Covering the keywords in product page can directly impact on your search position.
But is SEO just that?
No, the things that we’ve discussed until now is just the half part of SEO – On-Page SEO. There are some different set of activities that can help you popularize your online store and help you build more links. That part of SEO is known as Off Page SEO.
Google gives preference to the pages that have multiple backlinks from other domains. That means more recommendations your product has, more it is beneficial for organic results. Off-page SEO helps you in the same direction, and usually comprises of following activities:
- Directory Submission
- Product Listings
- Local Listings
- Guest Posting
- PDF submission
- Social bookmarking
B. Paid Ads
Paid advertisement is another viable way to drive relevant traffic to your online store. Considering you have a separate budget to spend, paid ads on search engines and other platforms can give rapid results.
Now, the paid advertisement is entirely a different subject to discuss, and we can talk for hours. In this guide, we’ll have a short overview of what Paid Ads are and how it works.
What are Paid Ads?
In simpler terms, the initial few results with a green “Ad” label in search results are paid ads. Basically, you can pick the keywords of your choice and showcase your result on search engines on top, without getting into the long tiring process of SEO. Whenever any user will click on your result, there’s a specific amount cut from your campaign budget. That’s is the reason why this whole process is also known as Pay Per Click (PPC).
Specifically for eCommerce, Google has Shopping advertisements where you can display your products in a panel above organic search results, like this:
Apart from search engines, giant product engines also have their own PPC programs. Amazon – The biggest search engine for products has its own PPC program where you can highlight your product above organic results. Here is an example of PPC on Amazon for “Watches for men.”
Irrelevant of the platform, you can get high visibility with PPC that can lead to higher traffic on your product, and eventually to higher sales. Of course, PPC is a costlier option for many startups and small businesses, but it can offer quick sales to gain momentum in the business.
C. Social Media Management
Social media is huge, period.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter has grown tremendously in the last couple of years, and now they all have become a part of our life. In business, products related to health, fitness, beauty, fashion, and art have seen amazing returns from Instagram and Facebook. So when it comes to online selling, we just can’t ignore these channels.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help you in two significant ways:
- Selling Online
Branding has always been a strong benefit for Facebook and Instagram. Companies have been promoting their products and services on social media since the beginning. With the right techniques, you can spread your brand name and products and reach to a gigantic audience.
But, both of these platforms have started their shopping facilities where you can list and sell your products directly. You can sell your products on Instagram and Facebook by integrating your account with your store.
On Facebook, you can open up your store within the platform and list your products. When users feel the need to buy the product, it will lead them to store URL to complete the order. On Instagram, you can tag products on pictures and direct customers to your store. Like this:
Social media is the place where the target audience resides, hence it’s a great channel for eCommerce. Social media not only spread a word of your brand but also add an effective channel to gain new customers. So it is very evident to consider these platforms.
Of course, there’s a lot more to digital marketing like Facebook & Instagram ads, content marketing, sponsored content, etc. There’s a whole new world to explore!
But, to start an online business, these are the essential things to accomplish. We hope this guide will give you the right direction to start your online business in 2019.
PSDCenter is a Charlotte-based eCommerce development & marketing company with more than 10 years of diverse experience. We have industry experts for BigCommerce, Shopify, 3dcart, and other major eCommerce platforms. Connect with us today to start an online business in 2019.