Launch Your First eCommerce Website : Choosing an Industry, Product and process (Part 1)

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Launch Your First eCommerce Website : Choosing an Industry, Product and process (Part 1)

Launch Your First eCommerce Website : Choosing an Industry, Product and process (Part 1)

With higher Internet penetration levels, jumping into the online e-commerce bandwagon is fast becoming crucial for business survival. A recent estimate by eMarketer puts the online sales opportunity at over $27 trillion in 2020. Thus, any prudent sellers cannot afford to miss out on digital selling and opt only for the brick and mortar store given the huge market size, cost savings, access to a wide customer base and low barriers to entry in the online route. The e-commerce business is clearly here to stay. In this series, we shall explore the simple four- pronged approach to successfully launch one’s first e-commerce website right from start to finish. After you are through this series of articles, you’d realize that setting up and running one’s e-commerce site is no rocket science at all!

Choosing an Industry, Product and process

The products listed on an e-commerce site are its mainstay. Thus, it is important to zero in on the right industry group, list of product categories to be hosted on the website and the process of delivery to the final customer. The following are useful points to determine what inventory to sell and how to source the merchandise:

  • Research your niche: A good starting point would be to pick a competitive industry and identifying the successful players. This would ensure there is already a sizable customer base with latent demand to tap into. Alternatively, one could pick what’s on popular listing or a category with multiple keywords and trending on social media. Another approach would be to select what’s one’s liking and has experience in. After all the success of a business depends largely on the degree of commitment of the entrepreneur. Its highly likely that one would be more involved in a business vertical that one is interested in.
  • Source products: In case you are not keen on in-house manufacturing, you could also obtain inventory from other manufacturers. There are two options in this- either stock inventory or dropship the products i.e. ensuring direct product delivery from the manufacturer to the customer.
  • Contacting the suppliers: Having decided the products to be sold online, its imperative to find the suppliers of the products. In case one decides to host readymade merchandise or manufacture products, suppliers of the final goods or raw material sourcing is vital. Some popular routes include looking up online directories or searching for suppliers on the websites of trade organizations. For a more personalized approach, it might be a good idea to visit seminars, trade shows and similar events in one’s city to touchbase with potential suppliers. In case one already has contacts in a particular industry segment, it might make sense to go by referrals. Lastly, using social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook one can post an update or requirement or enter discussions in related groups, which might help win vendors.
  • Shortlisting suppliers: Having created a list of potential suppliers, its important to communicate and negotiate the terms and conditions. This would ensure no future misunderstanding as regards payments or wrong product delivery or description. It is also advisable to read supplier reviews on other websites to gauge their service quality. The following are some of the important parameters to be evaluated:
    • Terms of payment: Whether the vendor accepts cash on delivery, net 30 days, net 90 days or advance system
    • Minimum order requirements: Some suppliers mandate bulk purchases
    • Cost estimate: In addition to the cost of the products, vendors would charge for shipping, packaging and handling fees.
    • Insurance cover: Most suppliers insure the products against liability arising from product recall, damage during travel, malfunctioning etc.
    • Non delivery or late delivery: One must be aware of the vendor policy in respect of undelivered orders or late deliveries, so as to avoid souring business relationship with one’s customers.
  • Prepare a viable business plan: Having discovered your niche, zeroed in on the products, studied the profitability and demand potential and sourced the suppliers, its important to study competition and develop a feasible business plan. This would help differentiate oneself from the peers and win sales conversion. The business plan should cover diverse scenarios of base, best and worst case, with strategies to win new customer leads and grow traffic and to have a backup plan to keep the e-commerce business up and running throughout.

Now that you have the broad guidelines of starting an e-commerce in place, its crucial to move to the ‘tech’ aspect of setting up the online portal. We shall discuss the finer nuances of setting up a website and e-commerce platform in the next article in this continuing series.

Go Beyond the Zoom

4 Ways to Add Something Extra to Your Product Visualization

While online shopping comes with the pro of being anytime, anywhere, and wearing anything (hello, 2 a.m. shopping sprees in your Ninja Turtle pajamas), it carries with it the con of not being able to see the product up close and in person. Companies often try to compensate for this by taking a handful of shots of the product from a few angles — and of course, the viewer can always zoom in.

I’ve got news: It’s time to go beyond the zoom.

Ecommerce has been trending toward more sophisticated technological adoption, and product imaging is certainly at the forefront of this movement. Having the zoom option on product images is something that has unsurprisingly been popular in online shopping since it first appeared — we all love to look at the details of a product before we buy it! Also unsurprisingly, technology has adapted quite a bit since then, and it’s time to look into new ways to give your customers the in-person experience of the product without ever having to change out of their PJs.

1. Give them the full 360-degree experience
There’s something amazing about being able to turn a product around and view it from every angle just like you would if it was right in front of you — and that’s what a 360-degree view gives your customer. It can provide a lot more detail than a still photo and descriptive text can, and is far more interactive and immersive than a slideshow from a few different angles.

The best part about this is that you probably don’t need to invest much more than you already are. If you’re doing standard photography, you likely already have a camera, tripod, and backdrop. All you need to transform your plain Jane setup to a 360-degree extravaganza is a turntable and a remote shutter release. It does take more time than a standard few shots, but the payoff can be worth it!

2. Record it in action

If you’re looking for more bang for your buck, consider shooting some videos of your product in action, preferably with someone interacting with it. If you do it right, it can act as both a video marketing tool and a product description. It doesn’t need to cost a million dollars, either; take this simple but effective video of a guy using a Kelly side table. What it lacks in budget it makes up for in humor, and comes across as more endearing and genuine than a fancy schmancy ad campaign ever could.

If you want to produce something higher-quality, try focusing on just a few products, like a new line you’re launching or your best sellers. Then you can go the route of Glory Cycles (get it?) and shoot a really nice video starring your best stuff. The best part about that promotion is how simple and well-executed it is, showing just how effective that visual experience is.

3. Artificial Reality

We’re getting into the cooler (and more expensive) stuff now. You may have heard artificial reality and virtual reality used interchangeably, but they are quite different: Artificial reality is computer-generated imagery overlaid onto the real world (think Pokemon Go). This is perfect for a lot of products, because it can literally show the customer how the product will look on them, in their home, or in their world.

Go Beyond the Zoom

Sephora is quite a pioneer in the beauty world, so it’s no surprise that it has a virtual makeup artist. Using its AR, you can try on different makeup products without ever having to put them on your face — and of course, buy what you like.

Another great application of AR comes from IKEA, which has an app that lets customers hold up their phone and see realistic images of IKEA furniture overlaid onto their room. Far from a badly photoshopped insert, the furniture is accurately placed and measured to look as realistic as possible.

4. Virtual Reality

Finally, the really high-level stuff. Virtual reality is different from artificial reality in that it is a complete view of your surroundings through some sort of lens or goggles, like the Oculus. People call it the way of the future, but it’s still got a ways to go. Due to the cost and complexity, it’s no surprise that most companies have not embraced VR, but it can still spark your creativity and make you think about applications of your products that are a little outside the box.

A few companies have taken the plunge, though. EBay launched the world’s first virtual reality department store, in which customers could view eBay products as if they were in a department store. Shopify hasn’t come out with any VR experiences as of yet, but it has heavily invested in both AR and VR, and hopes to be used in the future as a place to host virtual reality experiences. It’s likely not within reach in the very near future, but it’s an exciting space to keep your eye on.

It’s all about the experience

As technology improves, your customers will expect you to take advantage of it to provide the best online shopping experience you can. How are you wowing your customers?

About the author

Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.