So you want to start an e-commerce store. Well, you came to the right place.

E-commerce is all the rage right now and chances are you know someone who has or is thinking about starting their own e-commerce business.

But what’s involved in starting your very own e-commerce store?

We invited an e-commerce expert to our latest e-commerce event to find out.

Malcolm Bull has been in the E-commerce game for 20 years and has helped e-commerce businesses scale from zero to 7 figures.

His presentation is based around the experiences of when he worked with a client named Silly George which turned over some 4 million dollars last financial year by mainly selling one product.

Let’s get into it.

You can check out Malcolm’s full talk here.

The Four Pillars

So basically, Malcolm suggests that there are four pillars or areas to starting an e-commerce store;

  1. Your product
  2. Research and Planning
  3. Building your store
  4. Post Launch

Your Product

This is where most people get stuck and sometimes give up before they even start and rightly so because it’s often the hardest thing, to find what you want to sell online. 

Luckily, Malcolm has given us some ideas on how to overcome our first speed hump.

Firstly, there are three questions you have to ask yourself?

  • What is it?
  • What are you going to sell?
  • Where do you find it?

Now these questions can be solved by doing a little brainstorming on a piece of paper on these principles.

  • Solve a personal pain point
  • Appeal to hobbyists
  • Go after a personal passion
  • Consider your area of expertise
  • Capitalise on trends
  • Look at 3 star reviews (they tell you what’s wrong with a product or service)
  • Keywords (Google Keyword Planner)
  • Research products with high profit margins
  • Be always on the lookout

So for the sake of this blog, I am going to come up with my own e-commerce store idea by using a couple of these principles.

brainstorm

Wow. So underneath all that chaos and poor handwriting is an actual idea.

I wrote down some hobby groups off the top my head, some personal passions and a trend which happened to be vinyl which related to my passion and hobby group of musicians.

I took my idea further with my area of expertise being marketing and logistics where I found delivery as a viable option and data as a way to spice up the product offering.

So my final idea, send a random vinyl record to musicians and vinyl collectors based upon the data collected into our system. Cool.

Product Evaluation

Now you have an idea, its time to evaluate it.

So what is the best way to evaluate a product? How do you know your product has been successfully validated.

The answer to the latter is you never know if a product is successfully validated until you test it and sell it.

In regards to the best way to evaluate your product idea… Malcolm has again provided a checklist for us to go through.

  • What is the potential market size
  • Competitors
  • Is it a fad or trend
  • Can customers buy locally (Bricks and Mortar)
  • What is my mark up
  • How many SKU’s do I have to create
  • Can I run a subscription modal
  • What is the size of my product
  • Seasonality swings
  • Is it a passion or a pain point

So if I was to use my vinyl idea as an example. I would go through and evaluate my products against this checklist. Some of these are a simple yes or no answer but others require a deep dive into the industry and niche you hope to get into.

Getting the products you want

So now you’ve come up with your product idea and evaluated whether it is viable or not. Next step is getting the product in.

So what are the ways you can obtain a product?

  • Make it yourself
  • Wholesaler
  • Manufacturer
  • Dropship (if viable)
  • Combinations

You also have to consider storage and distribution.

Will you store it at home or use a 3PL to store and deliver your product for you.

Research and Planning

So know you have found your product, evaluated it and sourced your supplier.

Now you have to have to do further research into the market and make your action plan.

Find out who is selling your product who is your competition and who are your customers. Because after all, they are the ones buying your product.

Research your Competition

There are heaps of ways to research your competition.

From googling who your competitors are to checking out their website and social media.

However, what Malcolm recommends doing is a competitor analysis.

Not only on your competitors but also on the marketplace itself.

The easiest way to do a competitor analysis is by selecting 2 variables for example cost and quality. From there put them on an x and y-axis. and place your competitors along the axis.

competitor analysis

By doing a competitor analysis on your market and your competitors you will find out what’s wrong with your market and find out your edge on your competitors.

Finding your Customers

This often the most overlooked part of the research and planning when starting an e-commerce store.

In the 20 years that Malcolm has been in e-commerce, he sees time and time again people getting wound up in their product and how they are going to fulfil it and deliver there product to the masses.

But they forget about the customer the person who is actually going to buy your product and give your business life.

So before you go any further write up some buyer personas and find out who your customer really is.

The Business Plan

Ahh, the dreaded business plan. Many entrepreneurs think that a successful business needs a business plan which 30 pages long, highlighting every single little detail.

When in reality a business plan should be no larger than 2 sides of A4 and act as a road map.

Many entrepreneurs myself included get stuck in the planning and in the end, nothing ever happens.

The fact of it is no level of planning will prepare you and your e-commerce store for every little bit of uncertainty and challenge that comes your way.

Building your E-Commerce Store

Here comes the exciting bit. Building your store.

There are so many great e-commerce solutions out there which make it so easy for anyone with a bit of coding knowledge to build their own fully functional website.

But how do you know which one to choose? or where to start?

You start off with what do I need for my business and what do I need for my customer!

To choose the right e-commerce solution it comes down to what your business needs and what your customer needs. From there map it against a checklist.

  • Is it a dedicated e-commerce solution
  • Map against your requirements
  • Work for the customer on the frontend and you on the backend
  • Growth (is it going to scale with you)
  • Is it a marketing tool as well as a website
  • Running costs (assess the hidden costs)

By mapping your requirements against this list you are mitigating the risk of selecting the wrong e-commerce platform which is a painful and costly position to find yourself in.

E-commerce Post Launch the Essentials

You built your store, now the real work starts.

Getting customers to buy more and more and more.

Ideally, prior to your post launch you run a pre launch campaign. To gather emails, website cookies, interest to your store etc. So that you have some low hanging fruit to go after as soon as you launch.

However, whether or not you decide to do a pre launch campaign is up to you and there are some essential tactics or strategies you can use to get your first sale post launch.

  • Targeted traffic-crucial for brand new stores
  • Free traffic- go after low hanging fruit, build a content machine which gives you free sales
  • Paid Ads- Spending money to make money
  • Outreach- Social media build a relationship with your customer
  • Analyse and optimise- your first website that you launch is going to be perfect you have to analyse work worked and what didn’t and improve.

When you build your machine you gotta feed it.

A post launch is an ongoing process that never ends.

Remember your strategy and optimise the stuff that works and improve the stuff that doesn’t.

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