Getting into eCommerce has been one of the best educational experiences of your life. The things you learn by actually starting a business would be challenging to find in an MBA or any business course.
With that said, you are bound to make mistakes when first starting up your business. Each mistake sets you up to do better in the future, as long as you reflect on what you could have done differently. Here are 10 missteps you can hopefully avoid to succeed even faster.
Mistake 1: Rushing the math
Seasoned business owners would agree that the most important skill in running a business, is math.
Business maths is very simple. To see how profitable your business can be, use this formula: Profit = Demand * (Revenue – Expenses). By using this formula, you can avoid the trap of ending up in a niche with good demand but not enough revenue potential.
Mistake 2: Not finding a gap in the market
It is paramount that you differentiate your store from others. Unless you provide value to the situation, prospect customers will skip over your business and you become another 'me-too' business.
Research your competitors to see what the market’s situation is like. The easiest gap to find is an information gap: you don’t need much of a financial investment, and your business’ worth will not only be that of your products and customer list, but of your content, too.
Mistake 3: Spreading yourself thin with products
Make sure you build on your brand. Your brand image (brand equity) is what your business is actually worth.
For example, if you sell eco-friendly recyclable bags, it could be a wise decision to add other eco-friendly products from your supplier to your store.
Mistake 4: Not having a content plan
It’s difficult to write content for a boring niche. One of the best things you can do is content market not according to your products, but according to your customers. Do some research on your clientele and get a real sense of what their interests and hobbies might be.
Like our previous example, if you’re selling eco-friendly recyclable bags it’s likely that your ideal customers are into yoga and natural wellness, so it makes more sense to content market according to their interests.
By building your content marketing around your customer, rather than the product, not only do you have more to write about but you are also able to connect with your audience better.
Mistake 5: Not thinking freebies through
Freebies, contests and giveaways are an effective way to market a product, but they aren’t a good fit for every niche. Things like perishables – skincare, food, supplements tend to work well as freebies, but items such as clothing are harder to make work.
Freebies don’t actually drive sales, they build brand. And to build brand; you need a plan.
Mistake 6: Running a contest without a plan
Next time you plan a contest, ensure that you plan for the aftermath. It’s essential that afterwards you are continually engaging with your audience.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc are great for starting a conversation. It's simple to do things like; find content to share every day, put your own content out regularly to connect with your audience. You don’t want your followers to forget about you after a contest.
Mistake 7: Wasting too much time with menial tasks
In economics, there is a concept of opportunity cost. Essentially, when you choose to pursue any one opportunity, the ‘cost’ of that to you is that your time is no longer free for other opportunities.
Menial tasks come in two varieties: necessary and unnecessary.
You want to try and automate as many menial tasks are possible (like inventory uploading, data entry etc.), and while this process costs a bit of money, it’s worth it because of the time saved in the long run.
Try not to tinker too much with unnecessary tasks like; your site's logo, fiddling with with a few pixels in image size and other minor changes that only you would have noticed.
Mistake 8: Not knowing who your ideal customer is
Doing niche research comes in two parts: finding a product and knowing your customers. One problem is that you can have customers and build a product, but it’s tough to do it the other way around.
Most of the conventional wisdom says to look at numbers and analytics when researching a niche, and that’s absolutely necessary, but a crucial step you should do is find an ideal customer and build a customer profile.
If you dig deep enough, you will find that niches have niches within them. The more you can target, the better, since it will be easier to identify with your customer’s needs.
Mistake 9: Not having a solid marketing plan
When you set up an eCommerce website, and you know who your customers are and where you can find them, setting up your marketing plan should be easy.
Doing the research on who your customers are, and where they receive most of their messages before you set up your marketing plan is crucial. Make sure you know which channels are best for your audience and select a few to work with -- whether that's email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or SEO.
A ‘spaghetti-on-the-wall’ approach to targeting your customers never works and also wastes time.
Mistake 10: Falling for PPC company sweet talk
Pay-per-click companies that we’ve come across have two pay schemes: a) they charge a fee, and out of that fee, they will use a fixed amount towards your ads, or b) you can spend as much as you like on ads (above a fixed minimum) and pay them a set percent of your ad spend on fees.
With scheme (a), you as a small business will throw a lot of capital into just paying for the service without getting much return, and with scheme (b), you need to have a large budget to start with.
If you manufacture your own products, or source them in such a way that you have very comfortable margins, then and only then can you even consider going this route. Many companies are wildly successful with PPC, but it’s just a matter of getting your numbers right.
What we recommend to new entrepreneurs
1. Research your niche: is there demand?
2. Know your customers: who exactly are you solving a problem for?
3. Find a gap in the market: is there some value you can add, or are you just a me-too store?
4. Have a marketing plan in place.
5. Avoid wasting distractions.
6. Think carefully about companies you work with and avoid anyone that ‘guarantees’ grand promises.
And last but certainly not least: persevere!
(excerpts from Shopify article, written by Shabbir Nooruddin 10/07/2014)