So You’ve Decided to Start an eCommerce Business

Joel Gerschman

So you’ve just decided to start an eCommerce business. In a few months, you’re going to be rolling in the cash right? WRONG.

The only people who think building an eCommerce business is easy, are the ones that haven’t tried yet. Those who have, know how hard it is. It takes grit, determination and resilience (and lots of coffee and wine).

When I started my first ecommerce business, I was in for a real shock. There were so many things I had to deal with that I hadn’t foreseen. From logistics and inventory issues to unreasonable customers, all the while money is flying out the window. 

But I made it through to the other side and you can too.

If the above hasn’t scared you off starting your eCommerce business then here are some of the top tips of advice I’d like to share with you.

1. Set Really Clear, Detailed Goals.

Set really clear and realistic goals for your business. What do you plan to achieve in the first year, 3 years and 5 years? Get clear on those then work your way backwards. What is it going to take to get your business there? How much inventory are you going to need? How are you going to market your brand and products? Will it be Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Search Engine Optimisation, or something else?

We’re big fans of OKR’s. Developing your own OKR’s will help you get really clear on what your ultimate objectives are, the numbers you need to hit to meet those objectives, and what initiatives you’ll implement to hit those numbers. Perdoo has a great breakdown of OKR’s here.

Once you’ve got those set, make sure they’re highly visible and you regularly review and measure your progress. But more on that later.

2. Test, Test, Test…Then Test Some More. 

Marketing is as much of an art as it is a science. Yes there are rules and processes to follow that will make success much more likely. But the truth is, you don’t REALLY know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work until it goes live and the data comes rolling in. 

Very often, your assumptions are incorrect. Your instincts are off. What you thought for sure was gonna kill, bombs, and what you threw out there “just to see what happens” goes viral. 

So the most important rule when it comes to marketing – especially with an ecommerce business – is Always…Be…Testing. Test everything from product price points, down to the colour of the add to cart buttons.

Start with easy to test elements that are more likely to have a big impact first. Examples of this are pricing, free shipping, adding in trust elements, product names, product lines and bundles, images, headlines, concepts (eg. positioning your product as a solution to a problem vs positioning it as an aspirational product). 

Then move onto the elements that take more work to test but still likely to have a big impact. This could be rewriting the product/sales pages, making a new promo video, 1 page checkout vs 2 page checkout, testing popup offers, or adding in a complimentary product line. 

Then you can get into the nitty gritty. The details such as button colours, order of carousel images, icons etc. At this point you should have something that’s working and you’re simply optimising. 

As the ecommerce landscape changes, and new ways of marketing and selling develop, you’ll never run out of things to test. 

But be methodical about it. Make a list of everything you can test and throw them into a spreadsheet. Then rate them by how easy they are to implement, and how big of an impact they could potentially make. Then combine the scores and prioritise accordingly.  Happy testing!

3. Build a Supportive and Inspiring Team

Nobody is positive and confident all the time. We all have our moments of weakness. That’s why it’s so important to have supportive people around us for when we fall down. 

It can be a really lonely road and one that’s hard to share with people that don’t understand what it’s like to run a business. Get yourself a good network of support people to be able to share ideas and compare notes with. 

There are loads of business groups on Facebook where you can connect with like-minded people that you can bounce ideas off and share your knowledge with too.

The downside of Facebook Groups is that anyone can join, and there are a lot of unserious tire-kickers and time wasters floating around.

So you might want to consider joining a paid community or membership where you get access to a higher calibre of entrepreneurs. These paid communities often come with excellent training and insider knowledge too.

You also want to consider your own strengths and weaknesses and try to surround yourself with people who compliment those strengths and weaknesses. Where is your team lacking? What kind of person would fill those gaps? These are the things you want to think about when building a business.

4. Don’t Skimp on Audience Research 

Struggling to hit onto a winner? Maybe you don’t really care about your customer.

Ok that might be a bit harsh.

But if you look at the ecommerce businesses that are crushing and the ones that don’t last 6 months, the difference often comes down to how well they understand their target audience. If you don’t understand your audience (or are targeting the wrong audience), then all your efforts are doomed to fail.

Talk to your customers and do it regularly, really get to know them emotionally and psychologically. If you don’t have any customers yet then do lots of research on your target audience. You can never do enough research on your audience. 

Develop a “customer avatar” – that is a persona profile of your ideal customer. What characteristics and demographics does your ideal customer have? What are their interests? What keeps them up at night? What are their goals? Where do they spend their time online?

If you’ve been in business for a while, you might already know who your ideal customer is – you just need to find more of them. Writing down exactly who they are will help you communicate with them more effectively. If you don’t know who your ideal customer is, you’ll need to research the types of people who repeatedly buy products similar to yours.

You need to know them intimately enough so that you understand their pain points, their dreams and desires. You want to be able to meet them in the conversation they are having inside their head with the solution to their problems – ie. your awesome product.

5. Measure What Matters

Goals and tests won’t mean much if you’re not tracking the results. It would be like playing cricket without keeping track of the score. 

You must know your numbers intimately. You need to understand what’s working and what’s not. Where changes need to be made, what can be amplified, what needs to die (you don’t want to spend money on a losing campaign).

Get really familiar with your google analytics account and make the time to understand the data. If you’re not a numbers person then invest in hiring someone that can teach you how to read and interpret the data and then know what to do with it. 

Understand what’s not working in your business and try testing something else. Keep testing until you find a winner then do more of that before you move onto the next part of your business to test. 

Getting to the Next Level

Starting an ecommerce business is HARD. But with the right vision, mindset, strategy, and support, you can make it happen, and build something great in the process. 

Which of the 5 tips do you think is most important? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’ve already embarked on your ecommerce journey, and need an ecommerce marketing agency you can rely on to take your business to the next level, click here to book a FREE Strategy Session and find out how Digital Autopilot helps ecommerce businesses.

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