There’s no shortage of information online on how to start an ecommerce business. A quick Google search reveals millions of results on the subject. But all that information might be more of a hinderance than a help. Why? Because you don’t need more information. You need the right information at the right time.
This is especially true when you’re starting your first ecommerce business. At the outset, you don’t know what you should know, so you end up trying to know everything. That’s a recipe for burnout and frustration. I would know, I did it back when I started my hip hop jewelry brand several years back. It’s also why I tried and failed with so many ideas before I finally landed on a successful one.
Without the right information at the right time, you can end up running in circles with a product you love, only to find out a short time later that nobody else loves it. Now you’re out all of that time and money, and you have to start over. That’s no good.
So before you go get business cards made, start a blog or invest thousands of hours (or dollars) into building the perfect ecommerce site, make sure the idea it’s based around — the foundation of your business — is rooted in a real, active need in the marketplace that have you have the means to meet. You do that by working through these five simple steps.
Grab your notepads and power on your laptops, because it’s time to get to work.
1. Search Google.
What’s so important about a Google search? Actually, it’s real important. There’s power in simplicity. One search can tell you who your competition is and if any of those competitors are actively advertising. Why is this important? Because paid advertisers are a very strong indicator of — you guessed it — paying customers. Without paying customers, everything is a waste of time. Don’t forget that.
After you see there’s a fair share of competition and advertisers, take it a step further. Plug your ecommerce product idea(s) into Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner. This will allow you to see if your idea is on an uptrend or downtrend. With Keyword Planner, you’ll be able to see just how much competitors are paying to get clicks from consumers who are actively searching for it. If another business is paying $2 or more for a click, then you’re dealing with a great product.
2. Browse eBay.
Searching eBay, much like Google, will help you determine if similar products are popular (based on bid counts) and selling at a fast pace or not (based on the number of active auctions and listings). This will clarify whether or not you’re getting into a dead market. Ideally, you’ll want to step into a market with different tiers — high-end, low-end, mid-level price range, etc. That way you can carve out your space.
3. Read Amazon.
This is where things start to get meaty. Amazon is a hot bed of consumer insights, insights that should either confirm or deny your assumptions. You’ll learn all of this by reading through Amazon reviews. You’ll uncover pain points about everything from product quality and most-wished-for features to shipping times and customer service. Repurpose this information to build a superior brand.
4. Search SpyFu.
SpyFu allows you to take that information you found on Google in the first step and dive even deeper. While Google shows you the consumer facing info — like who the top dogs are in the search results and which brands are actively advertising — SpyFu will show you what the top performing keywords and advertisements are. Much like the information you got from reading Amazon reviews, you can repurpose this info as well.
5. Search AHREFS.
This tool, like SpyFu, will help you identify top keywords and determine how much traffic they bring in and which pages they’re linked to. But here’s the kicker: you’ll be able to see which websites the competitors link to most and which link back to them. Tons of traffic coming from Pinterest or Facebook? Now you know where to start your micro-testing with paid advertising or marketing, which should be your next step after following these five steps. If you’re stuck with that, I share a bunch of sample advertising and marketing campaigns in my new ecommerce startup guide.
Looking to get the most relevant press coverage? You’ll be able to see where your competitors were featured, what web pages were linked to in the features and how much traffic each backlink brought in. This will allow you to identify top-performing sites to go after right away, saving you lots of time and money on trial and error. If that’s not powerful data right there, I don’t know what is.
By the time you finish working through this process, you should have a very clear picture of your ecommerce idea and the market landscape it’ll fit into. You should know who your competitors are, what they’re doing right, who they’re selling to and how you can do it better. You should have a clear idea of who your prospects are, what their likes and dislikes are, and a compelling offer in mind that’ll turn them into your customers.
If you’re working with a low budget, it’s time to throw together a simple ecommerce store — I use Shopify –and start micro-testing through small, paid marketing campaigns. If you’re stuck, again, I walk you through the whole process in my step-by-step guide. Just remember not to get too bogged down in the details yet. Constantly ask yourself “What would this look like if it were simple?” Stick with that.