How to start an eCommerce business - part 3
We're in part 3 of our series on how to start en eCommerce business, and today we've reached the point of adding more detail around the practical steps that are going to make the idea a reality. We talk about the need for a solid business plan, finalising your sales pipelines, and working out the logistics of the day to day running of your store.
By the time you get to this point, you should have a solid, well thought out plan for your business that's based on the real life needs of your ideal customer. Off the back of this you should create a business plan to put down in writing, with a good level of detail what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it. And this will help you to flesh out your plans for areas like what are your sales pipelines going to be, how are you going to handle and process orders, and how are you going to ship orders to customers.
Your business plan
A business plan is an essential, key document to create in the early stages of bringing your eCommerce store idea to life. It puts all the thoughts you probably have going round in your head down on paper, and adds a bunch of detail. The end goal is to give someone with no knowledge about your store idea a complete understanding of exactly what it is you're wanting to achieve, and how you're actually going to achieve it.
Your business plan will give you focus and direction when you're in the thick of it and the direction you need to go in might not seem as simple as it did before. It gives you confidence that you've done the preparation, you've done the calculations and your definitely on target to get the store online exactly as you've planned.
Unfortunately when you've actually gone through starting your own business, you quickly understand that what I've just said is infact make believe and it's never as simple as that. You'll find the reality is that they'll be eventualities you hadn't planned for, problems you could do without, and what you've budgeted probably isn't enough.
However your business plan is still a key document, and even though it probably won't all be smooth sailing, you'll still end up overcoming these extra challenges, and reaching the end goal you've defined.
The detail of actually creating a business plan is out of scope for this post, and requires research and planning in it's own right, but you might find the federation of small businesses guide a good starting point. But It's basically going to focus on where you idea adds value, the approach you'll take to promote and market your store, and what profitability is going to look like now and into the future.
Your sales pipelines
Whether you plan to have only one sales channel (for example just your eCommerce store), or multiple (for example also selling through Amazon and eBay), you're going to want to employ various methods to attract customers and make sales. Your sales pipelines define how this will happen and allow you to track the effectiveness of the different sales and marketing methods you're going to use to attract cusomers. You might only have one sales pipeline - for instance a single product store, but you may need multiple. Multiple sales pipelines might define a different approach for different customer groups, or different collections of products.
Establishing your sales pipelnes means you'll need to think about points like:
- Where are you going to source new leads?
- How will you contact them?
- What steps do you need them to take to convert?
- How will you track progress through each step in the pipeline?
- How are you going to retain customers?
- Are you going to offer some kind of incentive early on to get people buying?
- Will you be running an affilate scheme?
This isn't an exhausive list, but should allow you to think about other similar points you need to consider which are more specific to your particular business. Thinking about these points will allow you to put into place the practical things that are needed to make your sales pipelines work. So perhaps a range of products might have a good number of your ideal customers in particular facebook groups, while another range of products might be well suited to video demos in which case you will want to produce content on YouTube.
So, who will do the outreach on FaceBook? What kind of content will they be targetting? Has the keyword research been done tio determine the most SEO efficient content? Your domain will be new with low authority at the start so you'll need to be looking at low competition keywords but with decent traffic.
For YouTube how are you going to produce the videos? If it's in house do you know what equipment you need to buy? Where are you going to do the actual shoot? How often and how much content will you plan to produce? Have you budgeted for the additional expenditure here?
So establishing your sales and marketing approach and in turn your sales pipelines can lead to quite a few practical requirments that need to be in place. A hugely important aspect of this is making sure you can actually track the effectiveness of the content you're creating. If you have no idea where customers who buy with you actually began their journey, how can you make informed decisions on what approaches have and haven't been effective? When you have this information, you can do more of what works, and cut out what doesn't. A CRM is a great tool to track and manage your customer base, and make sure you have the level of detail and information about your customers you need.
Another area which has practical implications on how you run your store, and carries associated costs is the logistics of how you're acually going to fulfull and ship orders. Will you be storing stock yourself, or dropshipping? If you're storing your own stock where are you going to store it and will it cost? Will you need to expand storage in the future and how much might that cost? If you're dropshipping instead how is that going to affect profit on each sale?
If your operation is on a big enough scale to need a warehouse, you're obviously going to need to factor in costs associated with that, but more likely you're starting off on a smaller scale with stock stored in your office, or even home. Basically the higher the overheads associated with actually processing and shipping product, the higher the product price tag in order for you to retain a good profit.
At first, it probably makes good sense to keep the logistics related to order fulfillment and shipping as simple as possible to keep the cost low. As your business scales and grows and you start settling product in higher quantities, more complex shipping fulfillment will be less of an issue.
This is the stage where you can begin to see your idea become a reality. With a business plan created, your sales pipelines defined, and knowing what practical aspects need to be in place to support sales and shipping fulfillment, you can really start to imagine how the whole operation is going to work
Next week we look at sourcing your team to create your stores look and start the actual build. If you're already at that stage and you're looking for a quality eCommerce developer, we list lots of high quality, UK based, eCommerce devevlopers for your project right here at Developer Connection. Creating a project is completely free and connects you with 5 high quality, qualified and available developers for your project.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!