14 steps to get you started in e-commerce
The idea of creating an e-commerce business may seem very attractive.
And for good reason! This allows you to generate profits from anywhere, using only a computer and an internet connection. At first glance, launching an online store seems like an easy way to make money.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case! Upon doing your initial research, you may have found out that selling products online requires many skills.
The first is to know how to organize. We have created this article with this in mind, hoping that it will allow you, step by step, to see a little more clearly in this complex field.
This way you can make your wish come true!
Understanding everything about e-commerce
An e-commerce or online store is a website that allows users to order and pay for products or services online. This is why they are different from showcase sites, which are less expensive and easier to create, but which only allow you to display and promote your products without being able to sell them directly.
This translates into the presence of a shopping cart, a funnel, and an order summary on your website. Other features can be added depending on the type of product you sell (delivery management if it is a physical product, download management if it is a virtual product, marketing tools, etc).
The story of e-commerce
The history of online commerce began in the 1990s in the United States. Its growth will explode very quickly in the years to come with the arrival of broadband internet in most American homes. Companies such as Amazon or Ebay seize this opportunity very early and will soon become the giants we know.
In France, companies such as La Redoute are starting to sell their products online through the famous Minitel!
Over the past 20 years, the e-commerce market has grown by leaps and bounds. For example, in France, the number of people who have ever made a purchase online has risen from 11% in 2003 to 61% in 2017. With the health crisis and the numerous confinements instituted around the world, this market has been further propelled. So much so that it represents today 5200 billion dollars against 1000 billion in 2012. This is a 500% increase in 10 years!
The different types of e-commerce
There are 5 types of e-commerce. Here is the list of the top 3:
- C2C (consumer to consumer) offers sales services from individual to individual. We can find in this category Ebay which proposes auctions or Leboncoin, a famous French classifieds site.
- The B2B (business to business) offers its services only to professionals. This type of e-commerce is common in sectors such as catering, transport, or construction.
- B2C (business to consumer) offers sales services from professionals to individuals. They represent a large part of the e-commerce market. We can of course cite Amazon as an example, the world leader of the genre, whose turnover is expected to reach 470 billion euros in 2021.
Don’t confuse e-commerce and e-business!
This difference can be easily explained. E-commerce refers to your store. As for e-business, it refers to a set of strategies aimed at making your store prosper: marketing, optimization, customer loyalty etc.
The challenges of e-commerce
As mentioned earlier, the market share of online shopping has exploded over the past 20 years, and has seen a further rebound following the health crisis. This represents a very important ecological impact, even if today it is difficult to quantify it and to know if it is more important than the traditional trade. For example, the delivery of products purchased online accounts for more than a third of urban carbon dioxide emissions.
Consumers are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues. Here is a list of some statistics to illustrate this:
- 54% of European consumers believe e-commerce is a climate problem
- 56% of French consumers say that environmental issues influence their purchasing decisions
- 67% of French consumers are willing to pay more for a product if they believe it is less harmful to the environment
- 71% of French consumers are willing to spend more to achieve full transparency on the manufacture and production of the products they buy
It is therefore imperative for online merchants to align with these trends if they want to ensure they acquire and retain a customer base over the long term.
However, it is difficult to reconcile e-commerce and ecology. For example, you can prefer low-carbon delivery rather than express delivery. 70% of French consumers are indeed ready to wait up to 5 days for a more environmentally friendly delivery.
Ignoring these concerns could prove dangerous for your business as it could prevent you from reaching a large portion of consumers and building trust with them.
Now that we have seen what e-commerce was, what were the different types, how it had evolved and what were its present challenges, we will explain concretely how to embark on this adventure!
Our guide to getting started in e-commerce in 14 steps
Step 1: Find a product
There is no online store without products or services for sale. The goal of a merchant is not only to generate profits but also to allow his consumers to meet needs, desires. You also need to enable your customers to ensure that they can buy your product with confidence and that it will meet their expectations.
That’s why we advise you to offer products and services that you are familiar with and that mean something to you. If you have little or no interest in the products you offer, it will be very difficult for you to stand out in an environment where competition is overwhelming.
Look for original products, or that you consider more attractive than similar products sold by your competitors, by their means of manufacture, by their history or by the values they convey. Indeed, more than two-thirds of French consumers prefer to buy products from companies that largely share their values.
Step 2: Determine your customer base type
Ask yourself the following questions: Who are the people who are likely to buy my product? Are they important in number? What are the characteristics of your product likely to influence their purchase (price, manufacturing quality, delivery time)?
Do not hesitate to inquire on the Internet and even to personally interview people you know are likely to consume products similar to those you want to sell.
Step 3: Learn about the competition
Whatever product or service you offer, it is extremely likely that it is already sold elsewhere. Investigate and make sure that your product is not drowned in the offer.
However, there are many gaps to be filled, i.e. sectors where supply is not sufficient to meet current demand. Indeed, demand can change rapidly from one sector to another or within a sector. It is therefore essential to follow this trend and even to anticipate it.
This step and the previous one actually correspond to the implementation of a market study. This is a crucial and complex step that you can delegate to specialized companies. You will thus be more advantaged in ability to understand the ins and outs of the market in which you operate. This represents an additional cost but can be very effective!
Step 4: Make a business plan
A business plan consists of writing a document where you evaluate your development prospects. It includes the objectives you want to achieve, the means and strategies to put in place to achieve them. It also aims to inscribe these strategies over time.
A business plan has several advantages.
First, it is a starting point in the evolution of your e-commerce. It allows you to project yourself in time and specify your objectives to better organize yourself later.
Secondly, it is an extremely important document if you want to apply for a loan from your bank or find investors. It demonstrates your rigor and, if done carefully, will allow you to gain the trust of your partners.
Step 5: Write a specification
Once you have completed your business plan, you must be able to determine the services and infrastructure you need to carry out your project.
It is very difficult to launch your e-commerce without any help. It is a project that requires a lot of time and expertise on multiple topics.
That’s why you will most likely have to use providers for the various services you need. It is then preferable to present them beforehand with a document indicating as precisely as possible your expectations and your budget. This will avoid many misunderstandings and disagreements afterwards and allow you to have a reference so that you and your providers are sure to work on a common basis.
Step 6: Use a service provider
It’s important to remember that trust is paramount when choosing who you work with. Without a relationship of mutual trust between you and your providers, you will not be able to forge the same kind of bond between you and your customers.
When you delegate part of your tasks, it usually means that you lack the time or knowledge to carry out a mission.
This is often the case in the field of website creation which is a profession in its own right.
At Low Cost Web Agency, we offer personalized support from A to Z when creating your online store.
Our experience shows us that good quality support is very difficult to obtain for reduced budgets. Having attentive advisors will save you a lot of stress, time, and even money.
Build your e-commerce with us at an unbeatable price!
Step 7: Shape your brand identity
Having a strong brand identity is a great way to get your best out of the game! Your image must enhance you and attract your potential customers. This discipline is called branding. Here is a list of essential elements to study for optimal branding:
- the name of your e-commerce and by extension the domain name you use
- your logo
- your brand story or storytelling (this translates, for example, into the presence of a page dedicated to this subject on your site)
- the design of your site (it must be consistent with the type of products you sell)
- the price (some brands choose a discount image, others a luxury image)
- the values you convey
- your reputation
All of these elements must come together harmoniously to avoid your customer feeling lost or distrustful.
Step 8: Get a product catalog
Buy your products from reliable and passionate companies. This will make them much easier to resell.
Make sure that the production costs will allow you to make a sufficient margin to generate profit.
Choose products that are difficult to find locally and whose price will ensure you sufficient income. Feel free to increase your rates if the products you offer are of better quality or your customer service is better than that of your competitors. Always prioritize quality over quantity.
Offer products that need to be renewed, or subscriptions if you offer services. A loyal customer will always be more valuable than a one-time customer. It ensures you a better reputation and long-term income
Step 9: Determine the payment methods
There are many ways to make purchases online. Credit card, payment platform such as PayPal, virtual currencies, cash payment on delivery, direct debit…
Each payment method has advantages and disadvantages. We advise you to offer at least 3 to satisfy the vast majority of your customers.
Step 10: Determine the means of delivery
Delivery terms are the first cause of abandonment of a shopping cart when a consumer buys a product online.
So you need to choose efficient delivery methods.
There are several types of delivery: home delivery (preferred delivery method of consumers), relay point delivery, standard delivery, express delivery.
The more delivery methods you offer and the more reliable they will be, the less you will discourage your customers from choosing your services.
For example, you can offer subscriptions that allow free shipping, an amount above which delivery is offered, or a free product return service.
The more information a customer has about your delivery method, the more reassured, and therefore inclined they will be to buy your products.
Step 11: Get your products online
Be as rigorous as possible in the presentation, description, and enhancement of your products. As we have seen before, a lack of information and transparency will repel the consumer.
Good quality images in large quantities are needed. You can also use videos, consumer reviews, or articles describing your products. The customer needs to know exactly what to expect when buying. It only takes a customer to be disappointed once for them to permanently abandon the idea of buying from your online store.
Step 12: Build a professional website
Your e-commerce website must be cared for in every detail.
Make it intuitive and simple to navigate, on desktop, tablet, and mobile.
Remember to allow customers to discover your story, know who you are, and contact you. You can also set up a FAQ to answer the most frequently asked questions.
The construction and maintenance of an e-commerce website is quite difficult to understand because it has multiple facets, ranging from hosting to design through the content of the website, etc.
At Low Cost Web Agency, we assist you in the construction of your e-commerce site and also offer training, advice and solutions to your problems. We help you with the most technical aspects so that you can let your creativity express itself freely.
Step 13: Establish a Marketing Strategy
There are many ways to promote your e-commerce. We can mention in a non-exhaustive way the natural referencing, word of mouth, the advertising, the social networks etc.
Check out our complete guide to marketing here: 21 Steps to Successful Marketing Your Business (lowcostwebagency.com)
Step 14: Put your e-commerce site online!
That’s it, your site is accessible to the public, ready to receive many orders!
You can rejoice because it will surely have been a long road to get there.
But now is not the time to rest on your laurels. Indeed, you still have a lot of work to do: assert your presence on social networks, launch advertising campaigns, offer promotions, manage your orders and shipments, provide after-sales service, adjust the description of your products, collect reviews. The list goes on!
Some additional tips to make your project a success
Creating and managing an online store is a full-time job. You need to be proficient on multiple topics to grow your site. Every negligence will be perceived by your customers as a lack of professionalism.
Fortunately, a multitude of free and paid training courses exist on the Web on a wide choice of topics.
Stay curious and inquire about the latest advances in design, marketing, etc. This is the only way to stay one step ahead of your competitors.
Ask for help
At some point, you will be forced to delegate some of your work. Set a budget, choose your priorities, identify your gaps, and invest. Only teamwork will ensure that your project is solid and sustainable.
Seek advice from professionals or acquaintances.
Low Cost Web Agency