Dan Matthews, editor of eCommerce journal www.esellermedia.com, explains the basics behind setting up an eCommerce business and selling in 30 days.
The truth is, you don’t even need 30 days to start selling online, anyone who has peddled their second-hand goods on eBay, Etsy or Amazon stores knows that it takes no time at all.
But for a strategic and long-term approach to selling online a month, give or take, is necessary to conduct market research, source products, set up your shop and create marketing materials that will attract customers.
You don’t need to worry overly about business structures, office space or hiring staff – these are all nice-to-have problems if and when your business gets going. For now, setting up and selling is all-important.
One caveat is that you must inform HM Revenue and Customs that you are self-employed (even if you are working full-time to supplement your business). You’ll become eligible for a self-assessment tax return which you have to fill in every year.
Week One: Research
Market research is the most important stage in any business’ beginnings. Without research you have no idea who your customers or competitors are likely to be. Go to eBay, find merchants who are selling what you want to sell and consider the following:
- How do they present their goods?
- What are their prices like?
- How quickly do they sell stock?
- What do they promise terms of delivery and returns?
- What other product lines do they have?
This is valuable information. It tells you how much demand there is for the products you want to sell; are they being well catered for, or is there a gap in the market to exploit? It also tells you how the market is being served by your future rivals, can you do it better than them<
Week two: Sourcing
Once you have established demand it’s time to find products to sell. For this you can visit trade fairs, car boot sales, online auction houses and even websites that help you import goods from abroad such as Alibaba.com
Negotiate the best price you can and don’t forget that, in order to make a profit, you must factor in the cost of sourcing, packaging, selling and delivering each individual item, and make sure the final sale price is greater.
Week three: Website
Websites used to be expensive, today they are cheap to create and even free. Type ‘ eCommerce software’ or ‘selling online’ in Google and you’ll see lots of results for companies offering to help you build a site for little or no money.
Most give you the basics for free – probably requiring you to feature their branding too, and will charge for the bells and whistles if you choose to expand. Again, research is key: look to keep costs down but also make sure you have scope to grow.
Week four: Marketing
The internet is a great marketing tool, because you can use it to broadcast to the world for free. Even if you don’t have an internet connection you can frequent coffee bars and restaurants offering free WiFi connections.
The best marketing is word-of-mouth, and the best way to replicate this online is through social media. Set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page and load in words and pictures that describe your business and what it stands for
Don’t forget to ‘connect’ with your audience by asking questions and chatting off-topic – it’ll give your business a friendly face and help to improve your brand, ultimately boosting sales.
Any days left?
If so use them to test what you have done so far. How are sales stacking up against the eBay merchants and is there anything you can be doing more of or better? Make a list of fixes and implement them while you have the chance.
And that’s it! Your thirty days are up. Keep researching, communicating with customers and refining what you offer until you get the formula right, then build your empire gradually until you (inevitably) hit the big time.