E-Commerce is the fastest way to make massive money online.
When I started working on the first line, it sounded like a ponzi “get rich quick” scheme to me.
Much like MLM! LOL!
But you know what? E-Commerce is the next big thing in the world that is already taking the world by storm…
apart from coronavirus (Duh!).
This is just one article of the entire eCommerce 101 series. Here I will be covering the eCommerce basics, different types of eCommerce businesses and a brief on “How to start an eCommerce Business?”
What is eCommerce?
Ecommerce, also known as electronic commerce or online commerce is nothing but your regular business transaction that just takes place online.
It sounds “techie” but if you are a good businessman in person, you’ve got a great future in eCommerce.
It is often spelled like Ecommerce, E-commerce or eCommerce. Nothing is wrong with any of them. You can pick your own term.
I’ll be switching between terms just to play around and keep things interesting.
Future of eCommerce
As the world progresses, the need to consume stuff increases and hence the opportunities in business. There are literally more products that you can count and each and every product brings a new opportunity.
With the advancement of technology and ease of internet access, pretty much everyone can start their own business online.
And believe me when I say this, the opportunities are huge!
Don’t believe me?
I present before thee… stats!!
Head over to statista and do a quick search on eCommerce. Here are the three of the predictions that you can find.
- There are already 2 billion digital buyers purchasing stuff and the numbers are not going to come down in the near future.
- Global ecommerce sales have already hit $4 trillion USD in 2020 and are expected to reach more than $6.5 trillion USD by 2023.
- Out of this, about $43,000 million USD worth of transactions took place in India alone.
There is a lot more stuff that you can find over there. It’s a cool website, do check out some time.
Now! Let us look at the most successful eCommerce Businessman in the world. Jeff Bezos started Amazon to sell books online. Sure he caught the trend much early on but it is not too late.
Rather! I’d say right now is the best time to start.
E-Commerce Pros – IT’S NOW OR NEVER!
There has never been a better time to start an eCommerce business than now. Every big company has acknowledged it. And the companies that did not, are slowly meeting their peril.
Almost everything is getting sold online. Starting from a pin to supercomputers. You just need a piece of this action.
You just have to ride this wave.
One of the biggest reasons for e-commerce growth is the rise of smartphones.
Reports show that around 60-70% of traffic comes from mobiles and tablet devices.
And thanks to increased comfort from consumers purchasing via mobile, you’ll see mobile commerce continue to shine.
Heck! Some people are calling it M-Commerce nowadays.
Second, the increase in what the industry calls Omni-channel capabilities. For example, the ability to buy online, pickup in-store, return in-store, make it easy for shoppers to make purchases on the web conveniently (like Amazon & Flipkart), then take any additional steps at a physical store location.
The third is the increasing need for highly specialized or niche products.
So if you’re looking to find that cool funky lightsaber belt buckle, you’re unlikely to see that at your local mall.
But online, that’s an entirely different ballgame. Thanks to niche e-commerce sites and shopping feed sites, those hard to find products drive a significant chunk of online sales.
And last but not least, shoppers search for the best deals online.
Don’t you remember the last time you were in a store, and you went online to find a cheaper price or a coupon?
That behaviour is only accelerating, and e-commerce is the perfect platform for shoppers to compare prices and save a few bucks, which leads to even more industry growth. Now with all of this growth taking place, it’s an exciting time to be in the e-commerce game.
Commerce and eCommerce
Now eCommerce is on the rise all around and you want to learn too, but do you know what is more important than eCommerce?
Its commerce, a.k.a. business.
If you are good at business, if you are good at selling and good with money, you will score a fortune in eCommerce.
And this is what I say to all my clients,”Commerce is more important than eCommerce”.
Let’s see different types of business models out there.
Types of Business Models
Now, the business as a field is huge and it is difficult to centralise every aspect of it under one umbrella.
However, businesses in general have been divided into four categories based on
There are four main types of ecommerce models that can describe almost every transaction that takes place between consumers and businesses.
B2C: Business to Consumer
A B2C transaction is said to have taken place when a good or service is sold to a customer by a businessman.
So basically your local grocer or even your local shopping store is an example of B2C type commerce. If you take it online and make an entire retail online store, it would fit the description of B2C type eCommerce.
B2B: Business to Business (B2B)
This takes place when a business person or agency sells a product to another business or agency.
An example of this type of business model would be purchasing goods from manufacturers by a retailer. If you consider digitally, then, me providing digital marketing services for your online store is a B2B type eCommerce.
Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
This is the type of eCommerce that takes place in platforms such as eBay, Olx etc.
Here a consumer sells a product to another consumer. For Example, you sell your old laptop on eBay to another person
Consumer to Business (C2B)
C2B business takes place when a consumer sells her/his own product or services.
A great example of this type of eCommerce is influencer marketing.
An influencer is a person with a considerable amount of followers on a social media platform, who offers to showcase your products before his audience in exchange for a fee.
Business to Administration (B2A).
This model requires a lot of expertise. Really!
In B2A, a business agency sells its goods or services to an administrative entity, in short, the government.
An example would be the products and services related to government projects such as road constructions, social security, legal documents and stuff like that.
Consumer to Administration (C2A).
Similar to B2A, in the C2A type model it’s just that a consumer provides goods and services to the administrative entity.
Both B2A and C2A are focused on increased efficiency within the government via the support of information technology.
Types of Ecommerce Businesses
We just discussed some fundamental categories in businesses.
In the case of eCommerce there are various models that can be used to earn money.
Some of the most popular models are mentioned below:
Probably the best example of a retail online store is Amazon. In case of a retail store, a product is sold by a business directly to a customer without any intermediary. This is one of the most simple and most popular models of eCommerce.
When you are a manufacturer and wish to sell your products to a retailer (usually in bulk amount), a wholesale eCommerce type will be your thing. You generally sell in bulk so it slightly varies from the Retail eCommerce model.
An example of Wholesale eCommerce would be AliExpress.
This is one of my personal favourites.
In case of dropshipping you basically work as a retailer, except here, you don’t keep an inventory. As soon as you receive the order from the consumer you ask your manufacturer to send the product to the customer directly but under your branding.
Basically you’re a middleman here.
In here you don’t sell any product, but you are still a middleman. In case of drop servicing, you provide a certain service to the consumer.
You actually outsource that service to another expert and let him take care of the service completion.
You are a middleman again but, you do take care of bringing in clients and marketing.
Crowdfunding is a transaction that a company collects before even the product is released in the market.
They usually do so, in order to raise the startup capital necessary to bring it to market.
Subscription system is usually seen in software products wherein, in order to use the product continuously you have to keep paying.
Microsoft Office and Adobe Products are just some examples. World is full of them.
What can you sell online?
Anything and everything under the sun can be sold. Heck Water and even air are being sold if you observe.
What I mean is, in case of physical products, any tangible goods that need inventory can be sold online.
Example: You guessed it right, “AMAZON”!
Digital products mean downloadable stuff such as images, videos, eBooks, Songs, courses etc. These can be purchased online and licensed.
One of my favourite digital downloadable sites is freepik.com where you get all sorts of awesome looking vector images.
“If you’re good at something, never do it for free!”
That is exactly what happens here. If you are good at something and your skills are important to may be a person or business, you can sell them.
Just like this one, I sell my skills of making eCommerce websites and content creation in exchange for a fee.
How to Start an eCommerce Business?
If you are wondering about how to start an eCommerce business.. Let me ask you, how would you start an offline business?
You sure wouldn’t just dive in right?
As I said before, learning commerce is much more important than learning eCommerce.
There are a few steps involved that form the basis of any kind of business, not just the “modernized” online version.
Setting up an offline store would require choosing what to sell, research, building the store and launching it.. Right?
The same goes with an online store.
Let us see a step by step process of how to build an online store.
Off course we will be learning all that, in-depth, through the course of this blog but this is just to give a general idea,
Step 1: Choosing the Battle Field – Picking what to sell
It is said that half the battle is won by choosing the battle field right.
The very first step to starting an eCommerce business or any business for that matter is deciding what you are going to sell.
You can be a general store and sell everything you want, or specific market store where you stick to one kind of product.
An example of a general store would be Amazon, eBay, Walmart etc. A market specific store example would be Myntra or IKEA. They sell products related to only one specific market.
You can also open a niche store where you sell one kind of product. Or even better, a micro niche eCommerce store where you sell one type of product relating to one single topic.
An example of a niche store would be when you sell only t-shirts and sell only t-shirts. A micro-niche store is when you sell t-shirts which are specific to people who love, let’s say, dogs.
Finding a profitable store requires some digging and research, and throughout my entire blog I will take you through a journey of how to select a profitable product and sell it.
It’s essential that you choose products with healthy margins that will allow you to turn a profit and scale the business in the future. Once you know what you want to sell, you’ll need to decide how and where you’re going to source the products. But most importantly, it helps if you already knew about the product or it is something that you are passionate about.
For example, you could be a photographer and want to sell camera stands. You must really know how they work and what is the best quality of raw material used right? That helps build your business in a much easier way.
Step 2: Testing the Waters – Research and Planning
Remember I told you about having an idea about the product?
It helps to do research on your products.
Research is a very important aspect of any business, let alone eCommerce. Looking out for the best products at best possible rates with profitable margins is what will dictate how your business will run.
Also, analysing how your competitors are doing and how you can do better things or same things in a better way to serve your customers is an important part of research.
It is a good idea to draft a business plan, a worksheet that will serve as a guideline to begin your business.
Step 3: Creating Identity – Branding
The next step is to create a brand. Branding is an essential part of marketing. It is how people come to know about you.
It is essential to have an easy and catchy business name, domain name and logo.
Just take a look at big brands, Amazon, etsy, redbubble. They are all simple words that are easy to remember.
It also helps to have a branding close to your niche. For example, FlipKart, PayTM, SnapDeal etc.
Some attention to SEO will also help build a trustworthy customer database.
Step 4: Strategize your battles – Deciding how to sell
Now, you have done enough research, picked your niche, selected a business name and are ready to start grinding.
BUt… hold your horses.
There is one tiny teeny bit of stuff that you need to do before you jump into the eCommerce business.
It’s deciding how to market your product. In short, how to sell.
There are a plethora of marketing strategies. There is Search Engine Optimisation, Social Media Marketing, Influencer Marketing, Paid Ads management, Email Marketing, Cold Calls, even door to door sales, you name it.
Even social media marketing in itself is a huge topic, there is facebook marketing, Instagram Marketing, Pinterest Marketing, LinkedIN marketing, you name a social media and there are opportunities to market your product there.
Similarly with paid ads there are google ads, FB ads, Instagram Ads, Quora Ads, LinkedIn ads.
But, don’t get overwhelmed, you hardly need one or two of these strategies to run your business depending on your product.
You need to reach your audience where they hangout.
In case of a low budget or retail product, let’s say a t-shirt, just FaceBook and Instagram are enough. Probably more than enough.
But let’s say you are selling a professional product, let’s say, a technical course that will help people in getting a promotion in a job. In such a case, LinkedIN is the way to go because that is where such people will be hanging out all the time.
Again, let us say you are selling high end products like some AI softwares that probably cost thousands of dollars. In such a case, you need to have a sales funnel and a sales team to convert them into customers.
We will have a look into all of it in future articles.
Step 5: Marching to the Battle- Creating your Store
Now that you have properly done your homework, you are good to go and build your online store or eCommerce website.
It is easier to create a story by yourself now, and in this blog I will be guiding you how to do that.
If you really want to scale your business, you need a professional website. You need to hire an actual developer or atleast a designer to build it for you.
With tools like shopify, it is easier to create the store literally in minutes if not hours but they don’t allow a lot of customisations.
In case of WordPress and Woocommerce (my personal favourite), you can customise every single thing as per your needs but they need a touch of a designer.
I design eCommerce websites as a freelancer and if you feel like it you can hire me, or you can follow my articles which give you step by step guidelines to create your store.
Still… I’d recommend you to hire a guy who knows things.
Designing an eCommerce website is not enough. It needs to be fast, well optimized and secure.
So invest some money in designing and hire somebody who knows this stuff.
May be me or may be someone you know.
But the message that I wanna write here is..
You are a businessman… It’s not your job to work “in” the business. Your job is to work “on” the business.
Step 6: Win the War – Welcome to the Grind
If you have come this far, Kudos!
Most people get stuck and don’t take action. You have done something extraordinary.
This is where all your energies should be focused on. This is growing your business.
This is not my area of expertise. This is a businessman’s area.
But one piece of advice I can give after working on my father’s business is…
Create great value.
Build the best product that you can. Don’t cringe about money.
Customer satisfaction is the ultimate thing.
Build good content, create efficient marketing strategies and DON’T DO EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN.
Experiment, learn and grow.
E-commerce Cons- Where is it lacking?
E-commerce is on the boom right now and yeah it is probably the most efficient way to build a brand now.
But, there are a few aspects where you need to be careful. Here they are.
- Customers cannot physically test your product. With eCommerce, everything is digital. And because of this, it is hard to build trust. Heck, even you would not buy from any random store, would you? You’d rather go check it on Amazon. See if you can get a better price. And why Amazon? Because, they build their trust, you need to do the same. Create efficient branding. Interact with customers and be truthful.
Even in case of digital products, customers will only buy it, if you have built enough trust. Hence, my last point, create the best product possible is relevant here.
- Shipping delay are a b***h. Ok this doesn’t apply to digital products. But in case of a physical product, you are sending a product through a shipping company and if in case it gets delayed, you lose your customer’s trust. So always go with the most trustworthy shipping companies.
- Face2Face interactions. In traditional businesses, face to face interaction is what brought more sales. Customers buy more from you if they interact with you directly. It is because of this reason that offline retail stores are still profitable. But eCommerce wins because of the sheer volume of customers. It is essential to talk to people as often as you can. As referrals, ratings, give shoutouts and offers. This will create some sense of interaction and trust.
- Technology Breakdowns are worse than shipping delays. Let’s say your eCommerce website is slow or unavailable to your customers. That will create dissatisfaction and you won’t make any sales. It is always a good idea to keep your systems ready for all sorts of action.
We are at the end of this massive article. I have tried to cover all the basics of eCommerce in this and really hope it helped you learn something more.
This article is not a one step solution to your entire eCommerce journey but I wrote this to let you know what all things to consider before starting an eCommerce business. I hope it helps.
Thanks a lot for reading. Mention your queries in the comments, I look forward to reading all of them.