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Lindsey Patterson

The Entrepreneur Blueprint: Five Steps to Starting an E-commerce Business From Scratch

4 min read

According to a 2013 study, about 65% of all millennials want to start a business of some kind, whether products or service-based. And now, with the popularity of e-commerce platforms like Shopify and Squarespace, it's easier than ever to do exactly that.

 

But before you go traipsing into the great digital unknown, there are some steps you need to take that could make the difference between selling your business for 10-figures in a few years time and abandoning the site within a few weeks.

 

1. Niche Down

There's an old business expression: "the riches are in the niches." In other words, if you want to truly succeed and separate yourself from the rest of the pack, you have to pick an industry and really nail down the demographics.

 

For instance, say you wanted to start a business that has to do with pets in some way. You could simply buy a pet-related domain and throw up some products that have to do with dogs, turtles, and guinea pigs, but if you truly wanted to make an impact, you should niche down further than that. Instead of simply saying "pets," try dogs, or to be more specific, German Shepherds. Now, you'll have a smaller market with a fanbase that is raving about their animals, which means loyalty to any website that delivers a quality product.

 

2. Choose Quality Products

This is where you choose between developing your own product or "private labeling" a product already on the market. The advantage of the former is you have a product that is truly your own, but if you decide to private label a product, it'll be an easier and quicker path to market.

 

If you do decide to private label a product that's already in existence and put it under your brand, try to modify it in some way so that it fits your target market. To private label a chew toy, for instance, make it tougher and bigger to fit the size of the average German Shepherd's mouth. By doing this, you'll give your customers a reason to choose you over the next shop.

 

3. Build a Brand

The difference between entrepreneurs and "wantrepreneurs" is whether or not you sell a few products or whether or not you build a brand; product selection is quick, but brand building is scalable and, most importantly, transferable if you decide to sell.

 

Brands are built by developing relationships with your customers, developing content that customers can rely on as resources, and building a voice that is purely unique. Whole Foods is successful from Walmart in that they stay true to the mantra of organic and healthy food first, despite the fact that Walmart has pushed in recent years to include more organic offerings in their supermarkets. By defining their niche and having a consistent voice, you can build a brand that is valuable by itself.

 

4. Build a Platform

There are advantages to using one e-commerce platform or the other, such as cost, ecommerce website design, functionality, or the like, so make sure you do research to discover which one is the best fit for your business. Consider not only the ease of use but also integration with external applications, customer service, cost for adding multiple product lines, etc. It's much easier to pick the right platform now than to have to migrate your shop to a different service later.

 

5. Focus on Marketing

One of the best ways to start your business off on the right foot is by generating anticipation for your launch, which can be done by using paid advertising to create leads or give out coupons for a launch sale. Focus on building an e-mail list of customers who are anxious for your product and use retargeting pixels to keep reminding them to return back to your site. Assume that no one will find your shop unless you reach out to them first and be prepared to put some money into the marketing engine to drive that traffic to your doorstep.