Ecommerce 101: Why Now Is The Time To Start An Ecommerce Business

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And what do I sell?

Getting onto the ecommerce train is certainly an undertaking, but compared to other types of active investments, it measures up. Ecommerce naturally has far less overhead than opening a retail store. It can be managed remotely much of the time, and there’s plenty of support out there for people interested in starting their own business.

Entrepreneurs use ecommerce as both an end in itself, or as a stepping stone for creating a larger business network. It’s also absolutely necessary these days for retailers to start selling their products online.

The basic beauty of ecommerce is that your market is everyone in the world as opposed to simply those in traveling distance to your store. With ecommerce, you have significantly more flexibility and opportunity than traditional retail stores.

Great, so what kinds of ecommerce stores are there?

You don’t have to be an inventor, have a warehouse, or even have a product to open an ecommerce store. Here are the basic types of stores, and what they sell.

Your own branded products

If you are an entrepreneur, an artist or make any other type of custom or unique product that will disrupt the market, ecommerce is the way to go. Shopify stores let you integrate across multiple platforms so you can reach a wider audience. For example, if you are a wizard at making superhero-themed tapestries, you can sell them on Etsy, Amazon, Pinterest and Instagram, all through Shopify.

Online stores for existing retailers

For those who already own their own retail stores, you’re a few steps ahead of the game already. You already have an inventory system, product descriptions and pricing, and some knowledge about your customers. Opening an online store can help expand your market, target more types of customers and supplement your existing income. For those who visit your physical shop, decide not to buy, and change their minds, they’ll likely visit your online store.

Dropshipping stores

Dropshipping refers to a fulfillment method that involves buying and shipping from a third party. Essentially, you’re a middle man that makes a collection of products from wholesalers you think will sell well, marks up the price, and does the advertising. When you get an order, the item will ship from the wholesaler, so you don’t have to deal with keeping a physical stock or managing an inventory. Dropshipping has low overhead and is a great way to get started without much cash, or if you don’t already have products of your own.

Services and subscriptions

The service economy is huge. And as more and more services can happen remotely, it’s no surprise that ecommerce stores are capitalising on it too. If you have a service you’re an expert in, such as teaching an online course or offering interior decorating services via webcam, you can create an online store for that too.

Build-To-Sell and ecommerce flipping

There is a huge market for flipping (buying to sell) online stores. If you’re interested in opening a store for the short term, but have plans to do something else in, say, six months, you can develop an ecommerce store with the intention of selling it to a marketplace. Alternatively, you can jump in on the marketplace yourself and start buying others’ ecommerce businesses, improving it and selling it onwards.

What Can I Sell?

There’s no shortage of products to sell successfully. But what you choose to sell will depend on the financial capital you have to invest, the time commitment you’re able to make, and the market you have access to.

Focus your market with a niche

Start by thinking about a focused or niche market you are already familiar with. What’s something you want to buy, or know your friends and family do? Niche markets are a good place to start for ecommerce. Selling a type of product you already know can help you jumpstart your store, because you’ll already have an idea of what slogans are appealing, what type of people you might be able to target and what they’re passionate about.

Jump on a trend

Whether you have designed your own version or, more likely, are reselling; take a look for current product trends and get in on the game. Browse through sites like TrendHunter which compiles lists of all types of sectors, or Trend Watching which lets you subscribe to monthly trend insights. Keep exploring the trend and see what types of products are offered within it using sites like Pinterest.

Solve a problem

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can ask yourself the question, “what’s something that kind of sucks in my life, and does it suck for other people too?” The greatest entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. And hey, even if you’re not ready to spend a year developing and manufacturing a product, you could bring an existing product to a new market, or make it more accessible to people who would benefit. A good place to start looking is social forums, such as Reddit or Find it On Amazon.

Follow Your Passion

If you’re passionate about an issue, an idea or a particular product you use, start making it work for you. Passion in your business is one of the key drivers of success, and if you’re going to be dedicating hours and hours to making your business grow, you might as well care about what you do. Brainstorm your values, areas of your life that are particularly important to you, and the things that enable you to do them. From there, start digging for products online on sites like Alibaba or other wholesalers and see what you have access to. 

Check out Shopify’s full guide to choosing the right product for your ecommerce business.

Starting A Side Ecommerce Business Is No Easy Task

“Sidepreneurship” takes time, dedication, creativity and grit. It’s not easy, but it can be done. We at Elkfox are here to help you build a powerful and successful Shopify store. Contact us for help on launching and managing a great ecommerce business. 

Next Up In Our Series

We’re rolling out a series on launching your own ecommerce business. Next up: tips on building your online brand and logo.