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How to Start a Free Ecommerce Business

It’s not a coincidence that the richest man on earth owns the most profitable e-commerce store, Amazon. It shows that stupendous wealth is the reward for those who know how to sell effectively online. The interesting thing is regular folks, just like you, are also making a lot of money from their e-commerce businesses.

In fact, having your own e-commerce business is one of the most profitable things you could do. E-commerce sales are projected to reach $27 trillion by 2020. Wouldn’t you like a piece of the pie? When you have your own e-commerce business, you can access a global market (consisting of millions or even billions of buyers) and you can reach them using free (or inexpensive) online marketing strategies. You can sell physical or digital products. Or, you can sell services.

Truth be told, you don’t even need to manufacture, store, and deliver your own products; you can get started by leveraging a system where you’d simply focus on traffic generation, selling, and customer service, while the manufacturer delivers the products for you.

What You’ll Learn

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about drop shipping and the most vital requirements for starting your own free e-commerce store, if that’s what you prefer. I’ll also tell you what you should watch out for if you opt for drop shipping. What you’ll learn in this guide is proven, profitable, and actionable.

The following are what we’ll cover:

1. Types of e-commerce businesses

2. How to select a profitable niche

3. How to choose a good product

4. Finding reliable suppliers

5. How to choose a good domain name

6. Creating an attractive brand for your e-commerce business

7. How to build your website

8. Effective marketing strategies

So, let’s get started.

eCommerce Businesses Models

Would you like to manufacture your own products, warehouse them, and sell them yourself? Would you prefer to sell other people’s products? Would like to handle all parts of the e-commerce chain, or would you rather focus on sourcing the products, marketing, and customer service, while other facets are handled for you?

You’d be able to make the right decision after exploring the types of e-commerce businesses available. You’d find them below.

1. Drop Shipping

2. Manufacturing

3. Private Labelling

4. Wholesaling and Warehousing

5. Subscription e-commerce

Drop Shipping

This is the easiest way to get started with e-commerce. You don’t have to manufacture the products. You don’t have to warehouse and deliver them to buyers. Your functions are maintaining an online store for the products, generating traffic to the store, and customer service. The manufacturer or supplier of the product handles delivery on your behalf.

There are many successful drop shippers. But, you’d need to be very careful; because you are the brand the customers know and would be paying to. You are responsible for everything. If the manufacturer/supplier supplies subpar products or delivers them late, it’s your brand that’d suffer. So, you’d need to be very careful if you want to explore drop shipping.

Manufacturing

You could choose to manufacture and sell your products directly to buyers. This gives you absolute control over all aspects of the e-commerce chain. Naturally, this is more demanding, but the reward is also higher. You’d need to invest in a lot of resources to make this a success or you could start small, and scale after the business has been validated. If you’re already an established manufacturer or if the product is not difficult to produce, then using this approach to e-commerce shouldn’t be difficult.

Private Labelling

Essentially, a manufacturer manufactures your product for you, and it’d have your own branding. To the buyer, it’s your product. And, if the quality is very good, that’s all that matters. The buyer does not really care who manufactured the product. Private Labelling is more affordable than manufacturing the product yourself.

Of course, to make it work, you’d need to seek out world-class manufacturers. You’d be selling the product via your e-commerce store. It’s important we mention white labeling. In this case, you can sell another popular product, manufactured by another brand, using your own brand. In effect, it’s sold as if it’s yours. So, with private label, the product and branding are yours, while with white labels, only the branding is yours.

Wholesaling and Warehousing

If you’d want to sell a variety of different products in bulk, wholesaling and warehousing is the way to go. But, it’s capital intensive. You’d need to have a big warehouse, warehouse management software, keeping track of customer’s orders and shipping details, and a way to deliver your goods. You could outsource the delivery function, and concentrate on warehousing and wholesaling. It’s a volume business. So, you’d need to be selling a lot of products to make it worthwhile.

Subscription e-commerce

In this type of e-commerce business, you’d be selling goods or services at pre-agreed times and you’d be paid a recurring fee. It could be as simple as sending shaving blades to customers every month or a pack of beauty products. Ideally, the products and services are what people need on a recurring basis (not one-off). Your business provides it to them in a more convenient and affordable way.

It’s a great business model because of the recurring income. To an extent, you’d be able to predict your cash flow.

So, which type of e-commerce business is the best? It depends on your preferences, skills, resources, and income goals. Some people love to sell physical goods, others prefer digital products. Some people like to control every aspect of what they do, others prefer to outsource and simply focus on their core competence and what they enjoy.

Now, let’s explore how to choose a niche. How do you decide the right niche? There are so many niches. It’s easy to become confused. So, it’s smart to have proven criteria that’d guide your selection.

Selecting a Profitable Niche for Your eCommerce Business

By the way, what’s a niche? It’s a subset of a market. There are many large markets. Niches are a small part of a market. Take electronics, as an example. A big player with deep pockets may decide to sell all kinds, while you may decide to get started selling Smart TVs. Another example is fashion; there are many niches and sub-niches in this market. You may choose clothes, shoes, accessories...You may choose men’s clothes or women’s clothes...Amazon, Alibaba, Best Buy and their ilk sell a variety of goods. They have the resources to do that effectively.

You’re more likely to succeed when you select a niche. It allows you to focus on a specific segment. You won’t be trying to reach a broad category of people, you’d be able to easily build a database of prospects and your marketing is likely to resonate higher. Selecting the right niche is critical to having a successful e-commerce business.

The following will help you in selecting the right niche:

  • Passion
  • High Demand
  • Pricing and Profitability (Margin)
  • Knowledge
  • Competitive analysis
  • Target market/Demographics

Passion

Most people who achieve success in life are passionate about what they do. They love and enjoy what they do. Steve Jobs said passion is one of the main requirements for success because it helps you cope when challenges come.

So, apart from the fact that you’d have a great time if you choose a niche you love, hard times won’t affect you so negatively, too. In fact, the great thing about passion is that the e-commerce business, if it’s something you’re truly passionate about won’t feel like work.

But, you might be wondering, in what specific way can I turn my passions into an e-commerce business? It’s easy. Take a notebook, or you could use your smartphone or laptop. Then, write down all the things/hobbies you’re truly passionate about. Just list them. This could take you a few minutes. Go and do something else for a few hours (or even days).

Now, look at the list with your analytical eyes, and ask yourself which items on the list do you think a large number of people are also passionate about? Choose 4 items. They’d form the basis for your research, later on.

High Demand

The best niches have high demands. This is easy to understand because one can only have a successful business if a large number of people are interested in what one sells. So, it’s not enough that you are passionate about fashion, for example. It’s vital that if you’ve chosen women’s clothes, that a large number of people are also interested in the niche. Avoid niches that only a few people are interested in. You can’t build a successful business on them.

But how do you know if a niche has a high demand?

The following will help you select niches (and even products) with high demands:

1. Amazon’s Best Seller Lists

2. Pay attention to adverts that are repeated over and over again, over a long period

If you see an advert every day or every week, trust me, the niche to which it relates has a high demand, and the advertiser is making money from the niche. That’s why the person can afford to pay for adverts over and over again. Adverts are expensive. So, pay attention to adverts with high frequencies.

3. Use Google Trend

4. Use Keyword Research Software

5. Follow and study e-commerce highly-successful e-commerce entrepreneurs

A lot of successful people are generous with information. In fact, in many cases, spending time on their websites or blogs can help you harvest tons of valuable information. Some e-commerce entrepreneurs will even offer you research on niches to explore and those to avoid. And, some have highly valuable paid courses you could buy to help you with product selection.

6. Check the best sellers on Click bank (if you’re interested in selling digital products)

Pricing and Profitability

At the end of the day, passion won’t pay your bills. The profits from your business would. So, it’s vital, from the get-go, to ensure that you choose niches where the prices/fees are not too low. Some experts suggest at least $100, especially, if you’d be spending a substantial amount on shipping and marketing.

The price and your profit are related. If you choose a niche with products that are too cheap and you incur a lot in its fulfillment, you won’t make money. So, ideally, you want niches where you have high prices and minimal expenses.

Knowledge

We live in an information age. Those with the right and most up-to-date information about any field, and who knows how to apply same often turn out to be the most successful. So, choose a niche you’re knowledgeable about, or if you’re not, be prepared to do a lot of research about it. The more you know about a niche, the more you can easily take advantage of opportunities within it.

Let’s say you’re a tech buff, and you knew the app revolution was around the corner, and you applied this knowledge. You would have made a lot of money from apps.

You can buy books, special reports, courses on the niches you’re thinking of exploring. Of course, there’s the web, too. But, don’t allow what’s known as “analysis paralysis.” Don’t allow the flood of information stop you from taking action. As you’re studying, ensure you’re taking notes and writing down action steps. The goal is to translate the knowledge into profitable, actionable strategies.

Competitive Analysis

Some people advise that you should avoid competitive niches. I think this advice is naive. If there’s no competition in a niche, it’s either you’re the pioneer or it’s not profitable. It’s impossible to find a niche that’s profitable with zero competition. In fact, competition is a fact of life. It’s better you see it as an asset you’d use to build a better business.

How do I mean? Identify the most successful competitors in the niche you’re considering. (Technically, they’re not your competitors until you’ve started the business). If they are successful, study them. Emulate them. Study everything they do. If they’re successful, it’s because they are doing things right. See how you can adapt those strategies to make your own e-commerce business successful, too.

So, don’t be daunted by competition. It exists in virtually all facets of life.

Target Market/Demographics

It’s important to choose a target market that can easily afford what you intend to sell. This is one of the most foundational aspects of profitable marketing. If you choose a niche that many poor people like, you may not be able to make a lot of money. You may also need to do a lot of customer service because there will be a lot of complaints.

You’re better off choosing a niche that serves middle-class elements and the rich. They have the disposable income to afford their needs and wants. They also spend a lot on their hobbies. They are also highly aspirational, so buying expensive items is part of their identity. They won’t be complaining about how expensive the products are. They know that what’s valuable is often expensive. So, choose niches where people are already comfortable with paying for value.

We’ve identified some of the vital factors you need to consider in choosing a niche. Now, let’s check out those factors that’d guide you in selecting great products. Choosing the right product is probably the most important decision you’ll make. Some of the factors are the same or similar to what we explored above, in choosing a niche. In some cases, you may decide to manufacture/produce what you intend to sell.

How to Select a Good Product

Smart choices are mainly a product of research. There are times you’d rely on your gut feelings in order to get started choosing good products. You’ll still need to validate your choice by conducting research. And, there are tons of resources online that can help you with that.

I’ll list them below. They are so many, but I’ll just share 10. Then, we’ll check out the factors you need to consider in choosing a good product. If you’re thinking of selling on Amazon, Jungle Scout is a must.

Resources to Help You with Your Research

  1. Amazon
  2. eBay
  3. Alibaba
  4. Etsy
  5. AliExpress
  6. Kickstarter
  7. Jet
  8. Jungle Scout
  9. Quora
  10. Pinterest
  • Is the product easy to source?
  • Is it easy to ship?
  • Is the product in great demand?
  • Is there a consistent buying pattern?
  • Is it profitable?

Is the product easy to source?

This is the most important factor to consider. You need a product/products that you can source with ease so that you never experience stock-outs. If you’d like a long-lasting e-commerce business, one that has huge brand loyalty, it’s vital that buyers know they can always get the product to buy.

So, you need to do adequate research to ensure that you’ll have reliable suppliers. If buyers can always get the product, they’d easily recommend your store to others. But, if you experience stock outs often you’d lose their patronage, and this will have an adverse effect on your business. In fact, it could lead to its demise!

If you’d like to get started using drop shipping, www.oberlo.com is a great app to use. You can add it to Shopify. It allows you to select products from Alibaba, and add them to your store. Your suppliers help ship the product directly to your buyers. You won’t have to worry about inventory management or the risk associated with ordering goods you can’t sell. The app also shows your potential profit on each product.

Is it easy to ship?

Shipping is a key function in e-commerce. You need products you can easily ship yourself, or whose shipping you can outsource at affordable costs. And, the faster you can ship the better. Most buyers don’t like waiting for long, especially when you consider that they could easily walk into a physical store to get most products. So, easy, affordable, and fast shipping is a key factor to consider. The cost of shipping can easily add up. You’d want to consider the size and weight of the product, and how the cost will affect your margins.

Is the product in great demand?

It’s not enough that you like a product or that your friends like it, too. To build a profitable business, ideally, one that you can earn a lot from, and sell for a really good payoff later, you need a product that’s needed/wanted by a lot of people. This is one of the factors you need to validate from the get-go before you start investing your resources in the business.

Fortunately, you can easily determine if a product is in great demand.

Is there a consistent buying pattern?

Some products only sell at specific periods during the year. And, they sell well at such times. These are not the types of products you should build your business around. An ideal business has consistent sales day in day out. So, ensure the product you select meets this criterion. It must be something people buy at any time of the year.

Is the product profitable?

You know that profit maximization is one of the most vital business objectives. So, don’t confuse cash flow with profit. This is one of the mistakes beginners make. If you’ve sold goods worth $470,000 via your e-commerce store, it’s only a part of it that’s your profit. You’d need to factor the cost of purchasing the goods, shipping, marketing, and other expenses, to know if it’s really been worthwhile. What matters at the end of the day is the reward (margin) that accrues to your business. It’s critical that you choose products with high-profit margins.

It’s wise to have a simple projection (you’d find Excel templates) that’d help you to estimate what your revenue, costs, and profits could be.

In addition to the factors above, you can also decide to manufacture your own product.

Design and manufacture your own product

There could be certain challenges/pain points you’ve identified in your niche (and there are always several if one takes the time to look). Instead of folding your arms or complaining, you could study the challenge and create a solution, which you can turn into a business. If your product really solves a problem that a large number of people are concerned about and is affordable, you’d make a lot of money.

You don’t need to have a manufacturing plant in order to have your own product. There are tons of manufacturers who would gladly do it for you. Ideally, you’d talk to a lawyer before you start the manufacturing process to ensure that your interest is protected.

What kind of goods can you manufacture? It depends on what’d resonate with your niche. It does not even have to be a “serious” product. It may even be a toy. Or, educational toys, if that is what you’d prefer.

You’ve decided on the product. Let’s consider how you’d get it.

How to Find Reliable Suppliers for Your E-commerce Business

There are many ways to find reliable suppliers for your e-commerce business. I’ll share them in a minute. Before I do, what I’d suggest is that you’d need to perform your “due diligence” before you send money to any supplier. Just like in other fields, there are a few scammers. So you’d need to be careful in your selection. Don’t let the excitement of starting a new business drown your capacity for making objective decisions.

By the way, what do I mean by “suppliers”? Essentially, I am referring to anyone or any company that can provide you with high-quality products in bulk and on a consistent basis. So, manufacturers, distributors, drop shippers, and wholesalers are the suppliers you should be concerned with.

It’s smart to talk to other experienced entrepreneurs who have used such suppliers in the past and ask them for advice. When you’ve shortlisted the suppliers you’re considering, ask them to send you references --- details of those they’ve supplied in the past – those who can vouch for them.

And remember to ask the suppliers to send you samples of the products (if this is feasible). Because the success of your business is hinged on the quality of the products you sell. So, before you send money to any supplier take the time to perform basic checks.

You’d want to confirm that they have the products you want, that the products are of the quality you require, you’d want to know the prices, discounts, shipping costs, and the kind of customer service they provide. And, make sure to ask them for references.

A key consideration is whether you want to use domestic or overseas suppliers. Each has its pros and cons.

Now, how do you find reliable suppliers?

  • Ask Successful Entrepreneurs

If you’ve been paying attention, I actually hinted at one of the best ways in the second paragraph above. So let me elaborate. The best and the easiest way to find suppliers is to ask highly successful e-commerce business owners for recommendations. They have mastered how to find awesome suppliers, they know its intricacies, and they know its pitfalls.

  • Join Groups Dedicated to E-commerce Businesses

There are reputable social media groups you could join, where you’d have access to sellers and suppliers of various products. It’d be easy to connect with suppliers on such platforms. And, there’s something self-regulating about being in a group.

Most smart people know how valuable networking opportunities are, so they are often at their best. They know that a few negative comments could have an adverse effect on their business. Join the best groups. You’d learn a ton and you’d be able to find reliable suppliers.

  • Find Them Yourself

You could devote a few days to conducting research online, to ferret out the best suppliers for the niche and products you’re considering. There are popular sites where you can easily find suppliers, and there are also sites where you can check what others are review sites where you can check what others are saying about a particular company.

It’s not difficult to find good suppliers. But, don’t rush the process. Be painstaking about it, because there’s a lot at stake. The last thing you want to be worrying about is whether you’ve been scammed or whether your goods will arrive on time, or whether it’s actually the quality you’ve been promised that’d be delivered.

In addition to good ole Google, the following are great websites you can use to find reliable suppliers.

  • Oberlo
  • Alibaba
  • Alli Express
  • IndiaMart
  • Sourcify
  • ThomasNet
  • MFG
  • Marker’sRow
  • Kompass
  • TSNN
  • 10Times
  • Wholesale Central

How to Choose a Good Domain Name

Choosing a good domain name is a vital decision because it’s how you’d be known to customers and prospects on the web, and it’s a name that’d be with you for a very long time. Of course, you can change your URL by redirecting traffic from an old one (but that’s cumbersome). So, it’s better to get it right from the get-go. It’s your identity online. If you think of your favorite sites, you’d notice the domain names are very easy to remember

Think of Google, Whatsapp, Facebook, Yahoo... (You can’t forget them, right?)

The following are great tips to keep in mind as you choose a domain name:

  • Keep it short (if it’s long, folks are likely to forget it)
  • Make it memorable (this will help you stand out)
  • Use a .com extension (that’s what most people are familiar with)
  • Don’t use hyphens, underscore, and numbers
  • Avoid keywords in your the domain name (they make your URL similar to your competitors’)
  • Opt for names you can easily brand
  • Use Domain name generators

You can buy domain names on a host of sites. Bluehost, GoDaddy and Hostgator are the top dogs.

After selecting and buying your domain name, it’s time to create an attractive brand.

How to Create an Attractive Brand

Why would you want to create a brand? You’d make more money that’s why. Nice, right? You can get by without creating a brand. But, there are so many other e-commerce stores out there; you don’t want to be like most – unknown – and not distinctive. There’s so much competition, that’s why branding is a must if you want to survive and thrive. Folks buy brands, not just products.

What’s a brand? It’s a tad difficult to pin down, but I’ll try.

A brand is a powerful means of creating a distinctive position for your e-commerce business in the minds of your prospects and buyers. So, the grand idea is that you continually find ways to make your business unique (and of immense value). You want to build a loyal community of buyers (nay, evangelists) who are passionate about your business.

Think of Apple. Think of Coca Cola. Think of Virgin...

These are brands that need no introduction. They are known for exceptional quality and they have a distinctive positioning. They are providing products and services that are different and loved by their target market. And, they make out like bandits.

Your USP, Logo, and branding guide are the key pillars of your brand identity. By USP, I mean Unique Selling Proposition. What is it that makes your business unique? If it’s not unique, you’d have to make it so. If not, in a world filled with many options, there’s no reason for someone to buy from you.

And, by a branding guide, I mean a document that provides samples and concepts behind all your key branding decisions, so that they form a coherent whole. The colors, typography, themes...are all in the guide. It’s informed by the kind of business you are and what you stand for. It’s something you can easily put together if you work with professional designers.

Now, let’s look at some vital things you should do to create an attractive brand.

  • Provide extreme value (exceptional service is the name of the game)
  • Be different
  • Focus exclusively on your niche (don’t be a jack of all trade)
  • Develop your brand story
  • Invest in high-quality images and video (visuals are critical to branding)
  • Leverage content marketing
  • Use the social media platforms that your target market use
  • Engage a professional designer. Let her create compelling images for your brand. Avoid cheap and inexperienced designers.
  • Realize that you’re in the storytelling and entertainment business. You’re not just selling products. To create a captivating brand you’d need to regularly share scintillating stories in multi-media formats with your target market.
  • Create an exclusive “club” “community” around your business
  • Actively foster opportunities for customers to participate as you develop products and strategies (this is a great way to build loyalty)

How to Build Your Free E-Commerce Website

WordPress is the way to go if you’re going to be managing your site yourself or if you’re going to be bringing in developers to work on specific parts of the site later on. The WordPress platform is so easy to use and it’s free. You can “master” it if you devote 3 days to a week to it, and it’s so versatile, that’s why it powers about 75 million sites, that’s about 25 % of websites on the web.

There are free themes and plugins you could start with. But, I’d suggest you opt for premium themes and plugins. If you’d be involved in selling services, it’s better you use a theme for services, not for e-commerce. But, if you’re going to be selling physical products an e-commerce store is a must-have.

There are 3 parts to an e-commerce platform:

  • Product Pages
  • Shopping Cart
  • Checkout Process

It’s the plugins (small add-on scripts and software) that add e-commerce functionality. They turn your site into an “application”, not a mere electronic brochure.

If you’re going to design your WordPress store yourself, it’s really quite easy. Don’t be intimidated if that’s the route you’d like to take. There are excellent tutorials that’s guide every step. If you take the time to go through the tutorials such as this one, or this one, you can have a site ready in an hour.

If you have the funds, there are excellent e-commerce themes and plugins, that you can pay for and use to get your site up faster. The best are listed below:

  • Woo Commerce
  • Magento
  • Open Cart
  • Shopify

They are listed in terms of effectiveness and market-share. So, if you had to choose one WooCommerce is what I’d suggest. It’s not surprising that WooCommerce holds 31 percent of the market. It’s the e-commerce extension of WordPress.

And the good news: it’s free. So, you can actually start your e-commerce business with a free plugin. As you make money, later on, you may want to pay for some premium plugins.

Effective Marketing Strategies

You’ve put almost everything in place and your store is almost ready. Congratulations.

Now, how do you attract buyers to it and to your products on a consistent basis?

How do you ensure that the marketing strategies you implement are effective and profitable? I’m talking about strategies that’d help you create awareness for your brand, attract visitors to your e-commerce store, and, convert them into repeat buyers who are loyal to your brand.

Most of the strategies I’ll share are online-based. But, I’ll add offline methods, too. If your target market responds to offline marketing, it’d be smart to incorporate them in your marketing arsenal. As you apply the strategies, note that just as you can use them to promote your store, they should also be used to promote individual products, if you want to get maximum benefits from them.

Before we start exploring the strategies and techniques, it’s vital that I stress the key to effective marketing. It’s having a deep understanding of your target market and offering solutions that speak to their needs and wants. When you truly understand them, you’d know the kind of products and stories that they’d love. Your task, then, is to find captivating ways of offering it to them.

I’d also suggest that you learn how to use the major analytics software available. Google Analytics and Kiss metrics are great examples. If you have a good grasp of analytics, it’d be easy for you to easily detect when your e-commerce business is underperforming and the specific areas to improve. Not mastering and using analytics is like driving in the dark. You’d agree that’s dangerous, right?

Now, let’s check out some effective ways to market your business. There are so many, I’ll focus on a few.

Build Email Lists

Most people just want to sell products. Don’t make that mistake. Savvy marketers build online communities around their brands. Let’s look at the reason why. Let’s say you’re into men’s fashion. A dude comes to your online store and buys 5 high-quality Ties. You made really high margins on the ties. Have you maximized that opportunity?

Let me give you a real-life example: I am a bookworm. Naturally, I buy books a lot. I used to frequent two bookstores. I’d buy books. And, go back to my life. The stores were leaving a lot of money on the table because they were making a mistake many people make. They never once asked for my contact details! And, they never studied my buying pattern. If they did they’d have noticed that I buy certain kinds of books. It’d have been easy for them to upsell me, at any time. If they had my email address and were communicating with me on a regular basis, it’d have been a piece of cake for them to buy more books.

You’d have to generate leads and customers day in day out. But upselling is one of those easy and effective strategies you should be employing. The great thing about it is that it’s easier to do with those who have already bought stuff from you. They are not cold traffic. They have had a taste of your product, so, go ahead and offer them more.

Just be sure that what you’re offering is related to what they’ve already bought. Someone who buys Ties may be interested in buying shirts, cuff-links, cravats...When they’re buying or have recently bought, they are in the mood to buy. Make good use of it.

So, don’t just focus on getting the customer’s money. Always look for natural and easy ways to build relationships with customers. This is one of the strategies that will give your store a distinctive competitive advantage.

You can use high-quality information as a marketing weapon. The idea is not to send sales offers every time. No. There is a lot of information your customers will appreciate, that you can be sharing with them. This helps to position your brand as a resource.

A well-managed email list helps you make more money. And, should you decide to sell your business in the future, you’d get a better offer, if you have an email list, which ideally should graduate to a robust database that has vital information about your leads, prospects, and buyers.

It’s important you learn how to use email marketing effectively so that you don’t send emails that’d alienate your target audience. Some experts suggest that you devote about 80% of your emails to FREE and valuable information, that’d resonate with your target market, and only 20% to core sales offers. Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing strategies available, so, it’s smart to master it.

Lifetime Value of a Customer

This concept is known to and used by advanced marketers. It’s actually common sense if you think about it. Before I explain what it means, most sellers think in terms of transactions. They may think I am selling $75 Ties. That’s it. So, to them, a dude, who wants to buy such a Tie, is worth $75. He can go to hell J

Advanced marketers think in terms of relationships. You could think of it as a series of interconnected transactions, over time, if that makes it easier for you to grasp. An advanced marketer may see the dude as a $750 asset. Why? If the dude is satisfied with his first purchase and has positive vibes about the brand, it’s not a stretch to project that he may buy 9 other Ties from the store, in the course of his lifetime. (In fact, if the due’s really stylish, he may buy 9 ties in 6 months). And, in addition to Ties, there are so many other related items you could sell to the dude.

So, it’s smart not to simply focus on the “front-end”, but more on the “back-end.” The latter is where the money is really at.

Have an Optimized Website

Your website is the hub of your business and marketing. It’s vital you ensure it’s extremely user-friendly. It’s the face of your store, and it’d be what most prospects and customers think about when they think of your brand.

How can you optimize your website? What does it even mean to optimize? It simply means to improve. You can see that the work of optimizing is never done. On a regular basis, you’d need to be taking specific actions to make your site better.

You’d need to understand and apply SEO techniques (folks can’t buy from you if they can’t find you) and any other proven technique that’d make your buyers’ life easier. SEO is a wide field. (I’ll explore it in another guide). It’s highly important. If folks can’t find your store/products you sell via search engines, you’d have a hard time making sales.

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What other things can you do to optimize your website?

  • Ensure you only use professional photographs

We are all attuned to the power of visuals, especially in an age where images are reigning. We even have sites dedicated to images and video. The last thing you want to do is use cheap, mediocre images on your site. We (your buyers) make decisions in microseconds.

Some of these decisions are even unconscious. It’s ideal, therefore that you stack the odds in your favor, by using images they are captivating (not some cheap shots you took with your mobile phone). You know how powerful first impressions are.

  • Avoid Clutter

Attention spans have shrunk drastically. So, you’d want to avoid any form of clutter on your website, because folks don’t have the time to start trying to figure out what you really mean. Don’t put too many products on a page, for example.

Highlight the best products and use the “see more” option to link to other products. If you offer too many choices on a page, you may end up with very low conversion rates. You want to use a lot of white space and you want to have an intuitive pattern for how your products are displayed.

  • Simple language

I hate to break it to you, but you’d have to ditch the dense, formal style you’ve been taught in school if you want to make a lot of money from your e-commerce store. You’d need to master simple, conversational language. Avoid big words. Nobody’s going to use a dictionary while they’re in a store. If you can write in this manner, more power to you.

If you can’t, the writing to you’d have to learn how, or you outsource someone who’s a professional. Remember that it’s a combination of your words and the images on your site that’d be your salesman, your rainmaker. Don’t treat it lightly. Don’t forget that many competitors are just a few clicks away! There’s no room for highfalutin or confusing expressions. Simplicity is the golden ticket.

  • Live Chat

There are times when prospects and buyers don’t have the time to go through pages and pages of pictures and text. They may just want to buy, now! This is why it’s smart you use live chat software on your website. It’s incredibly powerful because prospects and buyers can actually interact with someone. If they have questions or requests, you can quickly address both and then close the sale.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media is so powerful. Consider that by last year, there were 2.46 billion social media users. In fact, it’s likely that each time you see someone using their smartphone; they’re on a social media site. It’s an effective means of driving traffic to your e-commerce business and for making sales.

How do you make the best use of this tool? Remember to focus on relationships, engagement, and connections. After all, it’s called social media.

The first thing is to realize that all social media sites are not created equal. It depends on the demographics you’re selling to. You won’t find teenagers on LinkedIn. You won’t find baby boomers on Snapchat. A lot of people (of all kinds) are on Facebook. But, if you’re selling to young people, you have to realize that they see Facebook as old school. The key is to know your target audience. Then, you can use the social media sites they love. Facebook is the most powerful social media site, if your target market loves it, then you’re in luck.

You could get started using free tactics. You can then start using paid options once you’ve started making money. The key to making social media marketing effective is to have content that’d always draw people to your store. Content that’s valuable to them.

You use social media yourself. So, pay attention to the sites you’re always drawn to and the reasons why. It’s so easy to grow your business if you pay attention to what successful e-commerce businesses are doing with their social media marketing.

You’d need to post on a regular basis. Social media is not a “set it and forget it” media. It’s about two-way communication. You have to be responding to posts and comments by users of your page. Ideally, you want to respond immediately after someone has posted something. If you’re not responding fast enough, folks will abandon your page, and store. At a point in your growth, you’d want to have a dedicated social media manager. In addition to crafting posts and responding to comments, this person should also be on top of your social media analytics. You need the data from the so that you can truly know what’s working and the areas to improve.

To make your work lighter, there are social media management software that’d help you post and manage many sites at the same time. They include:

  • Hootsuite
  • Buffer
  • TweetDeck
  • Social Oomph
  • eClincher
  • SproutSocial
  • Social Pilot

Leverage Video and Live Streaming

These days, a huge number of people engage more with video content. Truth be told, video is more interesting and entertaining. It’s no surprise that an incredible amount of video content is uploaded online each day. Consider these startling stats:

  • Number of YouTube users 1.3 billion
  • Number of videos watched per day 5 billion
  • Number of visitors per day 30 million
  • Hours of video uploaded each minute 300 hours

The videos you create for your brand does not have to be long or expensive. They need to be engaging. And, to do that effectively you’d need to be creative with them and make them valuable. Imagine you’re the owner of an e-commerce business that’s about men’s fashion. You could do a captivating series on Cravats. How and where they evolved? The appropriate occasions to use them and how to tie them... You could show how they are made. Or you could do a series on how to dress for formal parties.

You could do a series on The Fashion Style of Hollywood’s Leading Men...

The kind of content would naturally depend on what will resonate with your target market. For the men’s store, there are tons of content that’d resonate with them. It does not have to be directly related to what you’re selling. As long as it’s driving and keeping traffic on your store, you’d find smart ways to monetize the traffic.

Links to your products can be embedded in the last frame of the video or shown below the video.

Live streams are also a great way of leveraging video for marketing. They are highly popular because they offer immediacy, engagement, and real-time interactions.

Instant Messaging

As the name implies instant messaging is incredibly powerful. In most cases, communication is truly instant. IM platforms have become the main means of communications for many. And, a lot of marketers are making great use of them. The most popular are Whatsapp (1.3 billion users), Facebook Messenger (1.2 billion users) and WeChat (963 million). They are great for sharing a variety of content types. So, you’re not limited. And, their efficacy can be dramatically improved if you use chatboxes and artificial intelligence.

Facebook Messenger is so effective. You can achieve an open rate of 88% and a click-through rate of 56%.

Conclusion

We’ve explored several facets of what it takes you to start your own free e-commerce business. We covered a lot of ground. How do you decide on the type of business, how do you source products, how do you market your business...they’re all covered.

I’d suggest you read the article at least twice because it’s actually a treasure-trove. As you read the second time, you can take notes and make a list of what strategies/techniques you’d be applying and when. If you use it well, this guide can be the blueprint you could use to create a highly successful e-commerce business.