If you’ve been thinking that starting a business requires a ton of money, you’ve been fed the wrong facts. It doesn’t have to be that way; you only need a laptop or a desktop and a good internet connection.
No matter what profession you’re in right now, anyone can start an online business. It doesn’t matter if you want to sell T-shirts, jewellery or groceries, as long as you want your business efforts going completely digital, this post has got you covered
What is an E-commerce business?
In simple terms, any product or service that you sell online without a physical store is called an e-commerce business. E.g Amazon, Alibaba, Daraz
The five steps I’m about to reveal are not new to the world. But due to lack of experience and negligence, each step is undermined. You should follow these steps if you want to build a profitable ecommerce business. You can use these steps to sell both physical products and services.
Step 1 -Decide What to Sell
This is where your side hustle or business venture begins. It starts with deciding what you’re going to sell.
Most of us ignore the first step and try to sell anything and everything that we think can bring us a good profit. And I don’t think that’s a bad idea. But if you are really concerned about building a profitable eCommerce business that approach might not work in the long run.
As the greatest investor Warren Buffet said:
“Do not invest in anything that you don’t understand”
This quote applies in the eCommerce space too. When you don’t know the product space of what you’re selling, you might be in trouble when meeting the expectations of your customer.
Invest your money in something that you know and understand. Even if it brings a small margin, it can bring you the motivation and consistency to keep going during tough times.
And make sure your niche is competitive – the absence of rivalry usually indicates that there’s no demand for what you’ve chosen to sell.
Market Research – The important aspect in choosing what to sell is market research. If you want to be ahead of your competition and attract customers, market research is key. You should know your competitor’s strategies, branding techniques, marketing. We are in 2021 and all information is just a few taps and calls away.
Market research will help you to find strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your business. It is also vital for the growth and decision-making process of your business.
After the completion of market research, set out your strategies and tactics to capitalize on your competition.
Find Manufacturers and Suppliers – Finding a good supplier isn’t as easy as looking it up on Google.
You’ll need to dig much deeper. You can either find one local or overseas. It depends on what you intend to sell. If you go with importing your goods, keep in mind the taxes.
Do not forget to negotiate prices and make sure the quality is great, and that is what makes you stand out from the crowd
Step 2 - Building your Online Store
You can start with social media to build your store using Instagram and Facebook. But if you need a website, you no longer need to know how to code. There are many ways to create a website (WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, Wix).
You don’t necessarily need any technical knowledge to develop your own website. That’s the beauty of having an eCommerce business. You can manage all your orders and marketing in one place with WordPress system software.
Step 3 - Choosing your Delivery Partner
You can start with delivering your first few orders to get an experience of the service. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet your customers. But when you’re overwhelmed with the operation it’s time to hire a delivery company.
There are plenty of delivery companies in Sri Lanka. Not all provide a great service with attractive pricing. From months of research and customer testimonials, I found out some great delivery partners you can use for your own business too.
- Grass Hoppers – Great for eCommerce business. But you need a business registration to get started.
- Domex – They’ve been in business for a long-time. Their customer service is what needs to be considered.
Charges involved when using a delivery company
- Delivery Charges – It depends on the location.
- Commission – This differs from company to company. Often, charges are based on the type of product.
Either way, inquire about the hidden costs before you hire them.
(This step is excluded when you’re selling services)
Step 4 - Get Paid from Customers
There are three common ways of getting paid
- COD (Cash on Delivery) – The most common and preferred way that Sri Lankans use.
- Online Transactions (Credit/Debit Cards) – Integrate payment gateways to your website to accept online payments.
- Bank Deposits – This is the least preferred way of getting paid. Nevertheless, businesses still use this method.
Step 5 - Marketing
The traditional marketing method used by businesses to attract new customers.
This method is expensive compared to digital advertising. When done right, it can bring in huge sales for your business. But when starting out, this might not make sense (E.g., Television, Radio, Posters Banners, etc.)
There are 5 pillars under digital marketing
- Social Media Marketing
Have a presence on at least two platforms. Facebook and Instagram platforms work together and are easier to handle. Do not overwhelm yourself trying to be everywhere.
Here’s a tip: the majority of the social media users in Sri Lankan spend more time on Facebook
- Email Marketing
This marketing comes into play in the long run. The list of emails that you build can generate thousands of rupees and it builds a reputation for your online store. Engaging with your customers can be done easily through email marketing.
This is where your website comes into the picture. Installation of plugins like MailChimp can send emails to all your customers at once.
- Content Marketing (Value-based Marketing)
Content marketing is providing value or knowledge about the product that can be useful to the end-user.
If they find your information useful, they will return to you and end up being a loyal customer.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO means simply how people find your business on the internet. It’s almost impossible to ignore this! This is how majority of customers get to know your business online.
This isn’t rocket science and doesn’t get too technical. Here are some links that you might find useful information about SEO.
- Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing, in simple terms, means relationship marketing. With people who are popular in a particular or related industry.
For example, You will have to reach out to an influencer and request for a post if you need to promote your T-shirt brand (with a good number of followers). The only catch is it’s going to cost you a little money as no one does it for free. But it all depends on how you reach out to them.
If you want your business to look legitimate and professional, you might need to consider registering your business.
You need a business registration when importing goods for your business. You also need it when signing up for payment gateway and delivery.
Most popular methods to register your business:
- Sole proprietorship
- Private Limited
Starting an e-commerce business isn’t hard or impossible anymore. Following these five steps will make your progress much easier. It takes some time to produce a recurring revenue for you and your business. If you stay in the game, I’m sure you will make it. It takes a lot of patience, determination, and consistency to make it happen.
Nothing happens overnight and good things take time.
If you know someone who could benefit from this article, don’t forget to share and leave a comment below too.