Guest Contribution by Claire Jane Ward.
Launching an online retail business sounds easy. You just find products to sell, start an online store, and everything just falls into place, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly work that way. It’s far too common that online retail stores, whether it’s an ‘official’ website or a seller account on a site like Amazon, fail to gain traction and end up closing shop. In fact, it’s estimated that around 80% of online retail stores fail within the first two years.
So to help you avoid becoming a statistic, we’ve put together this article with several examples and tips for successfully launching an e-commerce business, and getting traction out of the gate.
Research Your Niche
Before you decide what products to sell, you should research how you can fit your brand into the niche. It’s important to focus on your branding and persona before you consider what kind of products to sell. This is a great time to consider consulting an e-commerce agency.
So you need to research successful companies in various niches, and figure out what is making them successful. I can already give you a few hints – they most likely have great customer service, branding that connects with their audience, and take advantage of various social media platforms to connect with existing and potential customers.
What you want to avoid is niche markets that are already too crowded, and are dominated by major brand labels. You also want to avoid markets that have zero competition, because that means there’s no market demand. You need to find a market niche that is popular but has room for new competitors.
Deciding What Products to Sell
After you’ve figured out what niche to target, don’t immediately start thinking of all the products you’re going to sell. You need to figure out exactly who your customers are. As a few examples, if you plan on selling tech gadgets and accessories, you will probably be targeting a younger male crowd (women buy gadgets too of course, but not at the same frequency).
If you plan on selling baby apparel and baby toys, you’ll probably be targeting moms (and of course men buy clothes for their children as well, but not at the same frequency).
So let’s roll with the ‘baby apparel’ example. Overall you’ll be targeting mothers. Are you selling the latest baby fashion apparel with hip logos and words? Then you’ll be targeting young mothers in their 20s.
Are you selling elegant baby apparel like Sunday dresses? Then you’ll be targeting older mothers in their 30s. Every product is a niche, but there are niches within niches. Your objective is to boil it down to exactly who you are targeting.
This is when you should also be thinking about an e-commerce platform for SEO because finding the most popular keywords in your niche will help you identify your potential customers browsing and shopping habits. You can also take advantage of Metabox, which is a free WordPress plugin for starting an online business.
Branding Your Business
Now here comes possibly the most important part, branding your business and creating a unique persona for it. Imagine your business as a person, an entity. What kind of personality does this entity have? What image does it project to others? You need to project your brand image consistently.
Once you’ve figured out your brand’s image, now you can actually start figuring out product ideas. It’s a good idea to only focus on a few at a time, all related to each other. If you’re selling computer accessories, for example, you might start with gaming keyboards and headsets. If you’re selling baby apparel, then start with cute onesies and jumpers.
This is because if you invest in too many products at once, you’ll be left holding the bag (inventory) of things that didn’t sell. If you start small, you can test the waters with a few products at a time. You can also research affiliate marketing and drop-shipping.
Growing Your Brand
So let’s go back to the baby apparel example. Some of the products you invested in, like onesies and jumpers, are selling hot. You’re getting return customers, and people are connecting with your brand on social media pages.
Now you can ask yourself, is it possible to sell your own branded items? Can you sell white-label products that are rebranded to carry your logo? Experiment with this, the same way you experimented with a few products in the beginning.