Starting Up an Ecommerce Store: Do You Have the Right Business Model?
eCommerce: As We Have it Today!
Since the dawn of internet, information has become easily available to anyone who connects. The Internet era is rightly called the information age since one can find virtually anything online. From information useful for college papers to custom made travel itineraries; Internet has it all.
And since Internet caters to all types of information and knowledge seekers; it also serves commercial interests of individuals and organizations looking to earn their living by providing relevant information. And due to these commercial interests and the will of internet users to buy commodities online, e-commerce or Electronic commerce emerged.
How Viable Your eCommerce Business Model Really Is?
Apparently, the first business to consumer e-commerce concept was deployed in 1984 and since then, there has been no looking back whatsoever. According to some surveys, there are around 66 % American adults who have made at least one E commerce transaction in their life time. And for those who don’t know, e-commerce generally refers to conducting business on the Internet. The business can range from selling fast moving consumer goods to surgically niche products such as crude oil etc.
Since Internet has evolved dramatically and new technologies to empower it surface every other day, setting up an E commerce store has been made extremely easy and viable for everyone. And in order to provide safe and secure online business environment, many developed and developing countries have regulated the whole eCommerce process. This proves that buying and selling online is serious business.
So what do you need in order to start an E commerce business? Well, pretty much everything that you’ll need to initiate a business with physical presence. You’ll be needing investment, a product / services line, operational strategy and marketing to become successful as an E commerce businessman/woman. There are scores of online content pieces available that try to lure you into their “funnels” and other riffs and raffs promising free money online etc. Don’t fall for them! A business requires your attention and investment to operate and eCommerce isn’t an exception at all. If you are all set to embark an online store that sells anything other than prohibited stuff, then following are some generic guidelines you’ll be finding useful:
How to Start and Set Up an E-commerce Business Plan?
(Small business Vs. big business)
Yes, there is no getting away with this. But unlike those fancy and extra difficult to read long paragraphs of a conventional business plan, we’d suggest sticking to the basics. The basics are to answering some questions, defining your goals and setting up an operational and marketing strategy. The questions are why do you want to do business online? What are you going to sell? Who are you going to sell your product / service? When will you start selling, where will you sell and how will you do it? The answers to these questions are very basic but they will define the course of your online business. And these are the answers that you’ll need to derive business goals, mission and vision.
At Write a Writing, we have already covered drafting, developing and designing business plans to the core. You can check out our exclusive and comprehensive followed by complimentary readings regarding and . Remember, a business plan, whether for an online business or physical, is meant to ask questions from your own self and investors. It isn’t necessarily about filling up lengthy documentation. After you have your ecommerce business plan in hand, we believe that you’ll be well versed about your business model, SWAT analysis, operational strategies and marketing gigs. We also expect that you’ll be able to define the niche you are going to work on and the products or services you’ll sell online to make profits.
Investment, Cash, Funds; Do you Have It?
For setting up an ecommerce store, you’ll be needing investment in shape of funding, cash etc. This is absolutely necessary since internet might be free for information, but commercial interests require monetary inputs. You’ll need the cash or funds to buy a domain name, hosting, an ecommerce website developer, data entry staff, search engine optimizers, social media campaigners, PPC, PPI, CPP experts, content creators and marketers etc. And you’ll need these funds to purchase stock, book courier services etc. Thinking about starting an ecommerce store is free, but putting it into action needs funding and at times- loads of it. Your business plan must clearly state all reliable funding sources and personal investments that you are going to make. Otherwise, you might find yourself running out of cash quicker than anticipated.
Diving Into Action
Once you have the business plan ready along with adequate funding, you are all set to initiate your ecommerce store project. And following are the various development and deployment phases that you’ll have to go through in this project:
CMS and Shopping Cart Software
The first thing, while you are kick starting your ecommerce project, is to select shopping cart software that suits your need. There are variety of open source, easily customizable and manageable solutions such as Magento, Drupal and Joomla available for free. However, you’ll need an experienced ecommerce developer and designer to code the cart according to your need. If your budget allows, we’ll suggest hiring an in-house team that can code, design and maintain your shopping cart regularly.
For those on a budget, we’ll suggest exploring Odesk, Elance, Guru and vWorker.com for freelancers who can do the bid for lesser amount of money within an agreeable time frame. During this time, It is advisable to buy a relevant domain name for your ecommerce store and dedicated or shared hosting ( as per your requirement) from reliable online vendors ( we aren’t naming any domain and hosting vendors here; You can simply Google for them and select the one that suits your budget, is reliable and provides maximum uptime).
Uploading and Displaying Your Products
This is the key ingredient of your ecommerce store. Since you are selling stuff online, you’ll need to show what you have to offer along with the price tag. If you plan on selling a wide variety of stuff that has to be updated frequently, we’ll suggest hiring an in-house data entry team. This data entry team will be trained by your CMS workforce on uploading product pictures and descriptions. And if you can’t afford an in-house support team, then asking freelancers to do it might be your only option. While uploading products and descriptions, you need to ensure a consistent quality check to minimize chances of human and technical errors.
Comprehensive, well-explained and brief product descriptions are required to gather the attention of your prospect. For this purpose, you can either do it your self – if you are a one man team- or hire some freelance product description writing specialists to do it right. Take note that any grammatical and syntax error in your product description will leave a massively bad impact on your prospect.
Payment Gateway Integration
After you are done with setting up the CMS ( website), uploading product pictures and adding descriptions, now is the time to integrate a payment gateway that serves you cause well. There are many payment gateways available and all of them will require you to register as an online merchant. Also, you’ll need to check with your local tax authorities for any taxation related documentation and filings regulate ecommerce in your country. You can head to this post to find a brief comparison of payment gateways, their features, requirements and specifications.
Once you are done with setting up payment gateway on your ecommerce website, you are almost ready to receive your first order. However, before the order comes in, you need to make sure the pre and post order operations go smooth and glitch free. As for pre-ordering processes, you’ll need to ensure that all terms and conditions are communicated without ambiguities to your customer. And for post order processing or once you have collected the price from customer, it is essential to have a supply chain mechanism that ensures delivery of the product to the customer within the promised time period.
In the aforementioned paragraph, we nearly completed the site deployment and made it order-ready. Now comes in online marketing aspect that will make your ecommerce store visible online as a brand. Marketing is necessary since there are a billion websites online trying to sell something or the other. And if you want to beat your competition and want some real business flowing in, then search engine marketing along with paid social media ads and pay-per click campaigns are a necessity.
If your budget allows, it is better to hire an in-house team of online marketers that carry skills like content creation, buzz development, link building, social media marketing, ad copy writing and creation etc. But ecommerce store owners on a budget can either go for freelancers or web / online marketing companies that offer tailored packages for lesser prices with guaranteed conversions. All in all, these are the steps that you need to follow in order to develop an ecommerce store. We have deliberately missed on some stuff that isn’t generic. If you have a tip for a successful ecommerce store setup, please share it with us via the comments section.