E-commerce is a brutal space to compete in. The barriers to entry are relatively low, which is one of the reasons a 2014 estimate put the number of e-commerce sites generating significant income at around 110,000 and climbing, fast! E-commerce is a natural extension of the trend towards digitizing our currency.
First came the checking account, with check writing privileges. Then, came the charge accounts at stores. And, soon credit and debit cards followed suit. Now we’re using PayPal, and even alternative currencies like Bitcoin to purchase products and services online. It’s an exciting day to be alive, at a time when a mouse click on your home computer can mean a package delivery at your front-door tomorrow morning, or even later that afternoon in some markets!
The intrepid entrepreneur is probably looking at the low-barrier to entry and massive growth with a sense of opportunity and excitement. If you are one of the brave souls ready to enter the arena of e-commerce, I salute you, and wish you every success.
Based on more than a decade of consultation with e-commerce start-ups, I’ve gathered a few key pieces of advice below.
The More Niche and Underserved Your Market, The Better
I’m sorry, but the chances of a fledgling start-up competing with an e-commerce giant like Amazon, with literally thousands of product categories and broad appeal to virtually anyone looking to shop online is a pipe dream. You can get there, one day, but take baby steps.
As Mark Cuban is fond of saying, “You gotta crawl before you ball!” And crawling, in the e-commerce space, involves focusing all your efforts on catering to the needs of niche, online markets. The more customizable you can make your products, to meet a very specific customer’s needs, the better.
The odds are stacked against you if you are venturing into a much more competitive industry, such as foreign currency exchange trading (Forex). According to Forex Factory, about 95% of forex traders fail. You can still succeed, but you will need to research the market in depth and build an A team with forex brokers, lawyers and other professionals.
Engage Your Audience with Video
One of the biggest impacts on SEO today is the inclusion of quality videos on your page. Videos do two things: First, they keep interested viewers on the page longer as they interact with the video content. Second, it gives the site a living, breathing element that text and static images simply can’t compete with.
Use videos, strategically, to communicate value propositions and provide the viewer with a human connection to the site. Founder videos are extremely powerful, giving the human behind the brand an opportunity to reach through the screen and connect with the visitor. And, in the case of testimonial videos, consumers consider them to be significantly more trustworthy than written reviews on a site. And trust, in the e-commerce space, is everything.
Overseas Partnerships to Cut Down on Shipping Costs are Mission Critical for Attracting International Clients
The logistics of drop-shipping the items your customers purchase from your site is straight-forward when the order is placed by a customer in your home region. But great e-commerce startups are focused on a niche audience, and niche audiences are rarely located in a single geographic region. To minimize shipping and import/export costs, many of the startups I’ve consulted have networked with suppliers and even competitors in other regions to fulfill orders in a timely, cost-effective manner.
Shipping costs are a drag for online shoppers. Don’t let your more expensive competitors win because they provide free shipping by utilizing a better network of overseas partners! If you can build this network of suppliers and vendor partners around providing unparalleled service to an underserved, niche market, you’ll find your chances of success go up almost instantaneously. And a friendly video explaining your key value propositions in an entertaining way will go a long way towards boosting both your SEO and sales.