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e-Commerce Business

More than a website

We believe that the healthy fear which entrepreneurs felt when opening businesses has been diluted by the sense that an e-commerce store is not a business actually, it’s just a website.

This way of thinking is fatally flawed because it implies that you don’t have much to lose which translates into not investing enough. And if you don’t invest enough – be that time or money – you’re not going to be successful.

So let’s bring the fear back. Let’s talk about what goes into opening an e-commerce store and how you can improve your chances of success:

1. Be a little scared

If you’re going to open an e-commerce store, stop talking about “putting up a website”. You’re opening a business, an e-commerce business.

And if you were too scared to open a business before the days of e-commerce, what makes you think you’ll be a successful entrepreneur today? You’ll need to answer that.

But whatever you do – don’t go into opening an e-commerce business with a sense of just closing down the website if it doesn’t work. Plan to make it work, enjoy the adrenaline that a bit of fear brings!

2. What are you going to sell?

Forget about the fact that you’re looking at opening an e-commerce store. Focus on what you want to sell from your e-commerce store. So, rather than spending your time on looking at e-commerce platforms, study consumer trends and changing behaviour – you’re actually trying to figure out how you can make the world a better place. And for whom will it be a better place.

While you’re figuring out the product, start looking at Fulfilment and Logistics.

Might not be scary but it gets scary quickly if you get it wrong.

3. Who are you going to sell to?

Get into the heads of the people you want to sell to. What do they look like? What’s important to them? Where do they hang out? Why do they hang out there? What worries them? What are their attitudes to life? Again, don’t think e-commerce until you have figured key issues of your business.

Answering questions 2 and 3 will take you weeks, if not months. Be very scared if you cannot close your eyes and envisage who is buying from you.

4. What does your brand mean? What does it look like?

You really want to be a successful e-commerce entrepreneur? Good – make sure that your e-commerce brand stands out or differentiates. Most business success stories stem from the magic created at brand level and this seldom happens by accident.

Points 2 and 3 have generally involved desk research and a lot of navel-gazing. Maybe it was just time but time has a value.

You should be getting a little more nervous now. One, because you need to invest good money to bring brand specialists in to help you. Two, you’ll need to start committing to a certain brand positioning. It’s always a little scary standing out!

5. Taking it to market

You’re ready to build the platform (or website, if you must) but you’d better figure out what it’s going to take to generate revenue. You’re not going to get Sales just because you put e-commerce in front of website. What’s the marketing plan?

Might be a good idea to talk to a Marketing Strategy or Communications Company. There’s going to be some Google Ads, SEO, Facebook boosting, some PR. Now you need to walk the talk. You cannot expect people to find you (and buy from you) if they don’t know about you.

Scary – there’s serious money that needs to be found and committed to Marketing.

6. Building the business

So you’ve figured out the Product and lined up Supply Chains, you’ve buttoned down the Brand and you’re comfortable that you can afford to Market the business. Now you’re ready to look at the website. At last, can’t wait – it’s all happening!

So you just call up Dev Guy. You’re the tenth BEE (no, actually Budding E-Commerce Entrepreneur) he’s spoken to this month and yes, the smell of (your) money is as compelling as your e-commerce opportunity. But Dev Guy also knows that 90% of new e-commerce stores disappear within months and he knows why too.

If he is a Baddie Dev Guy, he’ll just rave about your e-commerce idea, build it, bill you and wish you well!

The Goodie Dev Guy will:

  • Find out more about your product and brand.
  • Ask you for your Business Specifications. If you don’t have detailed specs, then it’s a good idea to get super-scared because the project will overshoot budget, stretch for months or even not get off the ground. You need to describe in detail all the workflows that happen (or might happen) in your e-commerce business. If you don’t know where to start, a Goodie Dev Guy can help you (but will charge for this essential business analyst job).
  • Upfront, you need to advise Dev Guy what your budget is to build the e-commerce platform. Goodie Dev Guy will soon become Baddie Dev Guy if he spends all this time with you and there is no budget to do the job.
  • Goodie Dev Guy will probably tell you to start off with some basic features rather than spending all your savings upfront. He’ll tell you that in most instances, only 20%-30% of the services offered are taken up so rather go the less is more route, get into the market, get your processes right and let your brand start working for you.

Too many budding e-Commerce entrepreneurs concentrate on the actual platform or website in the beginning. We would advise any entrepreneur to concentrate on Product, Logistics, Brand, Marketing and Fulfilment. A good e-commerce Web Developer will put the platform in place.

In summary, become that e-commerce entrepreneur and only be scared if you’re not a little scared.

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