When thinking about an ecommerce venture, many entrepreneurs focus most or almost all of their time and energy on the product(s) they intend to sell – often neglecting other equally important elements of an ecommerce launch.
Here are our top five critically important to-do’s and considerations before you go down that road…
- Clearly Define Your Goals. Ask yourself: are you launching an online store to build on an already established bricks and mortar location, or is it to be a standalone business? Are you building an online business that is intended to compete with the Net-A-Porters of the world or do you have something a little more modest in mind? Who is your target audience? The answers to these and other similar questions will help you set realistic growth targets – and will also help you set your expense budget (yes, you need a budget).
- You Can’t Really Build a Great Website for Nothing. Yes, it’s true – these days you can put up a website very quickly and inexpensively. But the old adage is also true – you get what you pay for. You don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to build a website, but the more customized the site and the functionality you need, the greater the cost. Best to put together a wish list of features, and prioritize them in order of importance. You may find that, due to budget constraints, some of the desired features are not feasible at the outset – but depending on the versatility of the platform, they can very likely be built in at a later date (when budgets permit!).
- Don’t Underestimate Your Other Startup Costs. There are many expenses relating to the launch of an ecommerce business and many entrepreneurs often don’t budget for them. Here are some of these costs to keep in mind: branding, graphic design, photography and video, content creation (social media, blogging, etc), technology (hosting, hardware, software), payment processing, packaging and more. It isn’t necessarily required that you spend a mint on any of these things, but they should all be factored into your budget. A well-defined set of goals will also go a long way in helping you figure out how best to allocate your budget among these costs.
- Marketing is Critical. Many seem to be of the view that ‘If I Build It, They Will Come’.But this is most definitely not true. It is critical to develop a marketing plan and put the right resources and budget behind it. Generating awareness and driving traffic to your site, leads to sales; but only a small percentage of people who visit ecommerce sites convert to customers. So you’ll need to drive lots (and lots) of traffic to your site – on an ongoing basis – to generate and grow your sales. Here too you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune, but you do need some budget. And even more importantly, you need resources to market your site – through various channels on a frequent and regular basis.
5. You Can’t Do it All! Consider all of the skills and resources that you have at your disposal and what you will need to launch and manage your ongoing business. Do you have the skills or resources to look after technology, marketing strategy and execution, finance, logistics, etc? If not, you’ll need to figure out how to fill the gaps. Not to worry though – you won’t necessarily need to hire a large, full time staff. In many cases, the gaps can be filled by part time or contract experts – like us!