Are you interested in learning how to build your own eCommerce business? There’s a big difference between starting an online store and building an eCommerce business.
I’ve been running eCommerce businesses for the past 6 years and have learned a tremendous amount about how to sell online. The first step that I’ve noticed many entrepreneurs looking past is to choose a product niche for their online store. With the holiday season quickly approaching, I’ve decided to put together a 12 column series that breaks down the 12 key steps that you can take to start and build a thriving eCommerce business.
Before we dive into the first step to choose your product niche, I’d like to give you a brief overview of what you can expect over the next 12 weeks as we head into the holiday season. I can’t guarantee that these steps will lead to incredible overnight profitability, but I can tell you that you will have a fully functioning eCommerce business that has the potential to create significant profits for you.
- Step 1: Choose a Product Niche
- Step 2: Choose a Fulfillment Strategy
- Step 3: Build Supplier Relationships
- Step 4: Choose a Store Building Platform or an Online Marketplace
- Step 5: Build your Store
- Step 6: List your Products and Set Prices
- Step 7: Create Customer Service Policies
- Step 8: Understand the Operations to Manage the Store
- Step 9: Launch the Store
- Step 10: Create a Sales and Promotion Schedule
- Step 11: Build an Affiliate Network
- Step 12: Hire Remote Workers to Handle the eCommerce Operations
As you can see, there is significant work that goes into the process of building an eCommerce business outside of designing the store and listing your products. In order to create a successful store where consumers want to shop, you must have all of your ducks in a row so that their shopping experience is a perfect 10. With the amount of competition on the Internet vying for consumer’s shopping dollars, you must go above and beyond so that your store stands out.
Step 1: Choose a Product Niche
You’ve decided that you want to start your own eCommerce business because of the potential you see in it generating extra income for your life or existing business. The first major decision in setting your business up for success is choosing the right product niche to focus on and sell products within. Some of the most successful eCommerce companies have started because they chose a specific niche that wasn’t yet dominated and made that their golden plan.
Amazon started as the best online store for books. They made their name through books and then slowly started to expand into new product categories for their customer base. Wayfair owned hundreds of niche websites for specific products like table lamps before they consolidated all of their products and websites into what is now Wayfair.com. there are dozens of stories similar to these of online retailers that started small and worked their way into an Internet giant. Some of them even still solely focus on their starting niche because of the dominance they’ve been able to build within that given niche.
Choose a Hyper Focused Product Niche
There is so much competition in eCommerce today that you can’t just start a store that has everything or that has products within a broad niche. For example, a new Home store or a new Kids store is going to be very difficult to grow because of the competition for those general product niches.
As a new eCommerce business, you must hone in on a hyper focused product niche where the competition is not thriving yet and where you can corner a specific set of online customers interested in your selection of products.
Instead of starting an online Kids store, create an eCommerce business focused on selling technology related kids products. You could work with the emerging brands for technological and STEM learning toys for kids. With their support, you could appeal to parents and customers interested in advancing their child’s knowledge of technology.
Similarly, start an eCommerce business targeting hard-to-find home decor pieces targeted towards the new home owner. Work with smaller manufacturers that have yet to reach the big box retailers, but that offer a customized and personal feel to all of their products. Change your inventory throughout the year to adjust to the seasons and create content that teaches your target customer about the unique decor that you offer. With such a personal touch to everything that you’re creating, you could appeal to design-centric shoppers looking for a unique piece for their home.
Research the Opportunity of that Product Niche
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of your top 3 product niches for your eCommerce business, you should perform additional research to understand the competition and potential of each.
An easy activity to understand the amount of competition for your product niche is to search relevant keywords in Google.com. You can look at the number of results for each given search term and scroll through the first few pages to see other competitors selling those types of products.
Here is an example:
Good Signs –> this could be a great product niche
- Your search results are less than 10,000,000
- The top of the page is not littered with advertisement spaces for other eCommerce businesses
- The first page is not dominated by top online retailers
Poor Signs –> this could be a difficult product niche to break into
- Your search results are well over 10,000,000
- There is lots of competition for ad space on the results page
- The entire front page is leading retailers
Perform Keyword Research
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and try to search for keywords that they would be searching for as well. More generic keywords will result in more generic search results where you may see lots of competition and ads. If you change your keyword string to be more specific to your product niche, you may see different results. It’s definitely worth searching for 5 to 10 keywords for each product niche that you are trying.
Expand Upon your Initial Product Niche Idea
Similar to what I did above with the kids technology store and the eclectic home decor store above, take the time to brainstorm what will make your eCommerce business unique to the Amazon’s and Walmart’s of the world. Why would customers come and shop from your site instead of just going to Amazon or Walmart? How will your products be different? How will your shopping experience be different? How will you treat your customers differently?
These are all important questions to ask yourself before committing to a given product niche. It can also be helpful to bring together a group of friends and run the idea by them. Ask them to be honest in their feedback and to ask difficult questions that they are thinking while you explain your product niche idea. They may suggest competition that you will be up against or ideas that could make you stand apart.
Pull It All Together
At the end of the day, you must make a final decision on the product niche that you want to start your eCommerce business with. If you fail to decide on a specific product niche, your business will be much more difficult to get off the ground and gain attention from potential shoppers.
If you’re nervous about the product niche that you’re deciding upon, create a backup that you can transition to if the time comes that it must take place. It’s never an issue to have a back up plan when starting a new eCommerce business.