At its core, crowdfunding is a type of e-commerce, though not necessarily the straightforward kind of transaction that many people associate with an e-commerce. Platforms like KickStarter and IndieGoGo have made it much easier for people to support entrepreneurs and allowed for startups, small business owners, and entrepreneurs to get more traction on an idea in the early stages. But what about those businesses who see a huge response to their product and don’t want to create more e-commerce crowdfunding campaigns to continue to sell a product or those who want to move beyond one product and sell a whole brand or lineup?
The transition from the e-commerce crowdfunding model to a full-fledged e-commerce
Here’s how to transition from an e-commerce crowdfunding model to a more holistic, long-term e-commerce presence.
1. Use crowdfunding to build your brand
Your initial crowdfunding attempt is your introduction to the world. If your business is going to grow, some of that will depend on the success of this crowdfunding effort. It’s important to make sure that this is just as thought-out, researched, and organized as any other e-commerce launch. Having a solid idea of your target market, brand voice, an established look and feel, product benefits, and more will go a long way towards building your brand credibility, even in these early stages of business.
2. Make sure your product is solid
The most important part of launching a business – from scratch, from crowdfunding, or any other method – is to make sure that your product or service is one that has a market. If you’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign that failed to meet its goal, for instance, it might be important to look at your intended market, product quality, market research, or other factors to ensure that your business is viable. Conducting product testing, focus groups, and more will help you understand where you stand in an overall business marketplace and let you get a feel for what would need to improve or change in your product for a business based on that product to succeed.
3. Use email and social to announce your transition
Crowdfunding gives you a good amount of customer data, from email and mailing addresses to potential interests and product needs. If you’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on a site like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you’ll have a database of information to use as a base for announcing your transition from a single campaign to a full-fledged e-commerce organization. Encouraging former contributors to follow social media channels that will announce the official launch and release is a good way to start your communication plan, using contacts who you know have had past interest in your product. It’s also a smart move to announce special pricing, special access, or discounts to early customers.
4. Use crowdfunding to connect
Crowdfunding campaigns are essentially micro-financing opportunities. If you’ve developed and are selling a watch, each person who purchases one is essentially investing in the growth of your business or product line. But crowdfunding can also help you potentially connect with larger-scale investors. ReferralCandy tells a story about a creator who launched an IndieGoGo campaign and was able to secure more substantial funding, saying, “Indiegogo helped me soft launch the product and create a following among people who need or know people who need this specialized product,’ said founder Bombacino. For example, the campaign connected her with Randy Lewis, former vice president of supply chain and logistics at Walgreen Co. A successful campaign was then social proof there is a market for Real Food Blends. The company went on to receive additional funding from angel investors, and from Elevate Ventures.”
5. Consider additional alternatives to e-commerce
Some creators don’t create products or service that make sense for an e-commerce storefront. Comic book creators, for instance, might have a following and market interest but can’t gain traction with traditional publishing or find printing cost-prohibitive. These creators are still producing a valuable product with a viable market, so how can they grow an audience and customers? Many indie creators lean into platforms like Patreon, which fall somewhere between a Kickstarter-type campaign and a full-fledged e-commerce store. Patreon offers creators a way to get paid and gives access to customers who want to pay for their work – the model allows either a flat monthly fee for whatever creators produce, publish, and create or a pay-per-piece model that pays creators for each thing created.
Crowdfunding can lead to e-commerce success stories, though it often requires a good amount of patience and creativity. One of the best ways to pivot business models is through engaging with other creators and entrepreneurs who have achieved similar success. The internet is full of testimonials and case studies that can guide your research towards building successful e-commerce from the foundation of a successful crowdfunding campaign – RocketHub, for instance, was designed for entrepreneurs and features expert advice and articles on how to grow your business.