The e-commerce industry is extremely competitive right now, but if done right, opening an online business can be a very rewarding and lucrative career. So how do you get around the fact that there could be anywhere between 12 and 24 million online stores already in existence?
Well, you start a niche online shop that offers something unique. That’s easier said than done though, right?
The good news is, if you do your research and put careful thought into your ideas, it is entirely possible to build a successful niche online shop from your home. And we’ve created this guide to show you how.
1. Decide on your niche and your products
The first important step on your business journey is going to be choosing your niche. The more specific you can be, the better your chances of making your business successful.
It’s also a good idea to go for a niche that isn’t already heavily saturated if you can avoid it. For example, clothing and beauty products are everywhere, so unless you have something very special and specific, trying to set up a generic store is likely to be much harder.
That said, if you can get really niche, this can help. So, perhaps you’re selling T-shirts made from recycled plastic or moisturisers that are made from natural organic beeswax.
The more niche and unique your offering, the easier it is to stand out in a crowded e-commerce market. It also helps you to focus on your unique selling point (USP) when marketing your new business.
So put some careful thought into your niche before starting your online venture and make sure it’s something you enjoy and are passionate about. Otherwise, you might find you fall out of love with your new business pretty quickly.
2. Choose between dropshipping or holding your own stock
Next, you need to determine whether your business is going to use dropshipping or whether you’ll hold your own stock. This will depend on the storage space you have and what you’re selling.
Dropshipping is the method in which orders are placed through your online store, but you don’t keep the products yourself. Instead, these are shipped directly from a third-party supplier who holds the stock. This can be beneficial if you don’t have the space to store items yourself, but it does give you less control over shipping items, packaging and even the quality of the products.
So, for more control and to ensure the best possible customer experience, it can be more beneficial to hold the products yourself if you have the space to do so. This means you can package them up beautifully, send them with your chosen courier service and have more control over the shipping times.
So spend some time carefully considering which option is going to be best for you and your business.
3. Choose a business name and secure your domain
The next thing you need to do to get your online business off the ground is choose a catchy name. Better still, if this gives some hint towards what it is you’re selling. After all, you don’t want a business name this is completely irrelevant from your product, or customers could end up confused.
Once you’ve got your name, you can secure yourself a domain name for your website and perhaps also your social media handles. It might take some trial and error to get this right, and you might need to do some research to make sure the name and domain hasn’t already been taken.
4. Decide which products you’re going to sell
Whether you’re dropshipping or storing the items yourself, you still need to put some careful thought into what products you want to sell. At this stage, it can be helpful to do some research into your target audience, industry and niche to see which products are best received.
If you’ve got a big enough social media following, you could even take to your accounts to ask your followers what products they would like to see if they were shopping with you.
If you’re using a dropshipping method, you’ll be able to look through dropshipping wholesalers to see what products they have on offer. Then you can make your decision.
5. Set up your website or online store
Just because you’re not a web designer, it doesn’t mean you can’t build your own site. Of course, if you’ve got the means, you might wish to pay someone to do this for you. If not, web building platforms like Wix, Shopify and WordPress make creating your own website much easier! Some even have click and drag functionality and helpful tutorial videos to get you started.
Once you’ve got your store set up, you can add your products, pictures, prices, etc., and get ready to begin selling.
It’s important to note, if you start making money right away, then you will need to register your business with HMRC as soon as possible. You can either register as a sole trader or limited company depending on what suits you best.
If you’re not sure, you can find out on the government website what the differences are between the two and then make an informed decision.
6. Begin marketing your online shop
Finally, your business is pretty much up and running at this point, the problem is, how are people supposed to know you exist, especially in the competitive e-commerce climate of today?
Well, the answer is a good marketing strategy – and you can begin this straight away. You can start by building your social media following and shouting about your products online. Relevant hashtags and perhaps even partnering with influencers in your niche are some good ways to do this.
You should also aim to build an email list through your website so you can target customers directly.
And finally, you should get a strong search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy in place from the start. This means sharing content about your business and optimising this with keywords to grow your visibility.
But don’t be fooled, your marketing efforts might take time and some tactics will take longer than others to see results, but if you get started right away, you stand a better chance of success.