The idea of starting your own business may seem more attainable now than ever before. With many of us discovering that working from home is possible and in some cases preferable, our eyes have been opened to a different model for working. Not only that, consumer needs and demands have changed. Technology has kept us all connected throughout the challenges of 2020 but the way we work, shop, spend, and relax has shifted. For many entrepreneurs this represents an opportunity. If you have harboured hopes to one day go out on your own, now may be the time to launch the e-commerce business you’ve been musing over.
If you don’t have experience in e-commerce, it’s worth considering the pros and cons before making any decisions. While overheads are usually low for starting up your business at home, you may want to consider space if you plan to store stock, supplies, and packing materials. Other than that, all you should need is a corner to work in and a good wifi connection and you can get started. In addition to low overheads, you may also be eligible to claim some tax deductions if you run your business from home. Chat to your accountant to be sure of what is relevant to you.
A significant benefit when working from home is the balance it can offer you between work and family commitments. Yes, things can get hectic at times when you’re juggling family and work demands, but you have no commute, no boss to answer to, and the flexibility to build a business around your family.
When you’re ready to get started with your e-commerce business, here are a few things to bear in mind:
What are you planning to sell? Part of having a successful e-commerce business is to sell something that consumers want to buy. As consumer needs have changed, so has the demand for certain products online so it’s worth doing some research into what consumers are buying at the moment. But where do you start?
First of all, spend some time on Google Trends. Type in the product you’re thinking about in addition to your geographic region and you can find out how popular it is as well as whether demand has been rising or decreasing lately. It’s fascinating to see how consumer interest has changed and really useful in honing in on your product offering.
The next stop is to deep dive into what the ‘best sellers’ are on popular marketplaces
Finally, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Amazon ‘Movers & Shakers’ list. This is updated hourly and details the biggest gains in sales ranking over the last 24 hours. Combine with the research you’ve done above and you should have a good overview of what your target consumers are looking for. Use this information to shape your e-commerce offering and you’ll also build confidence that you’re supplying something your customers really want.
You’ve figured out your product offering, now it’s time to decide how you present it. There are a few options to consider when it comes to e-commerce set up.
Plug and play e-commerce
E-commerce solutions such as Shopify, WIX, and Square Space offer consumer friendly plug and play sites all ready for you to launch your business. For a monthly charge, you can select from a number of site designs and you’ll have the ability to load your products, information about your business and activate payment solutions through their intuitive platforms. No coding or graphic design knowledge is necessary and frequent updates mean you don’t need your own tech support. Simply log any issue you’re having and you can look forward to swift help in return.
Bespoke e-commerce design
If you’d rather design and host your own e-commerce platform and have the budget to do so, you can work with a web designer to get that underway. Be aware that you’ll need to ensure you have continued support built into any contract incase the site experiences problems. You could also consider up-skilling yourself on the back-end admin of the site. The more you can do yourself, the less you need to pay your web team each month.
If you’re not ready to launch your own e-commerce site yet or simply want to test the water with less exposure before you do, then marketplace sites are a great place to start. Take a look at Amazon, Etsy, Ebay or Not On The High Street where you can set up your own storefront on their platform. No tech, design or hosting is required from you. Plus you immediately gain access to a huge customer base which is a great way to test your product range. For every item you sell you’ll pay a percentage to the marketplace but considering the platform, customers, tech support and marketing support you receive, it remains a very positive launch pad.
It is now possible to sell products directly via your Social Media feed. Take Facebook or Instagram, covert into business profiles and you’ll find you’re able to sell directly to your followers without setting up a stand alone e-commerce platform. Many e-commerce retailers use these platforms as additional to their own sites but it’s also possible to test your products there before you go out on your own.
Once you’ve established your products and where you’re going to sell them, work through a few other things you’ll need to consider.
Do you plan to do any marketing or PR around your launch or as you scale your business? If so, put together a strategy and a schedule as well as an idea of the costs involved. Allowing some budget for marketing each month and knowing what your desired outcomes are keeps you accountable and means you can edit your plans accordingly.
If you’re selling physical items and shipping them, make sure your shipping options are clear both for your customers and yourself. Where do you ship to? Using what method? What packaging will you use? Is there a charge to the customer? What duties might be relevant when shipping overseas etc? Figuring out all these details up front can save you lots of stress further down the line.
How do you plan to engage with your customers? Will you respond to emails within 48 hours? Do you plan to have a customer service telephone number that you’ll answer yourself? Fleshing out a Customer Engagement Strategy can be very useful. Think through potential issues whether ordering problems or shipping delays, returns or complaints. It can be overwhelming but you’ll be pleased you’ve done it should these things come up in practice.
Setting up an e-commerce business from home can be isolating at times so it’s wise to find a support network if you can. Look for a local small business group or mentor program, stay in touch with each other regularly to share concerns, celebrate successes, and learn from your experiences. It makes a difference to have some ‘colleagues’ even when you don’t have a team yet.
Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.