Nowadays it seems like everyone and their grandmother (and in a lot of cases, literally grandmothers) want to start an eCommerce business. It’s never been easier to do, quite honestly, as the barrier to entry is virtually non-existent. Because of that, everyone thinks they can follow a few steps from some marketing gurus selling snake oil, er, ecommerce courses online, dropship a few items from some manufacturer in China and be an overnight success and make millions of dollars in the eCommerce world. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. And right now it seems like everyone is trying to do that exact thing. Just remember, there is a big difference between “being in ecommerce”, and “being successful in ecommerce”.
Having no barrier to entry means that the market has quickly flooded with people who, to be blunt, have no business running an eCommerce store. If you aren’t sure if you fall into that category, I’d be happy to talk with you about what you’re looking to do. And I’ll be the first to tell you that you may not have what it takes to be successful.
Quite simply, it’s not for everyone.
If you’re not in it for the right reasons, don’t have realistic expectations and aren’t committed to the process, and aren’t willing to educate yourself and put in the time and effort to gain the experience that you need, then you should probably stop reading right now and move along to doing something else. Because at this point, you’re just wasting your time. After all, Shopify now has over 500,000 stores running on its platform alone, and it’s safe to say that at least 450,000 of them are garbage stores selling garbage products, with no business plan and have never made a sale (and never will).
That’s because even though an industry like eCommerce may have no barrier to entry, that doesn’t mean that there is no barrier to success. Like anything in life, success takes an investment of resources in order to happen. Those resources may be money, time, intelligence, patience, perseverance… even attitude. You must have at least some of these resources, maybe even all of them, to make this work. Oh, and a little luck never hurts either.
You may read about some eCommerce marketing guru somewhere out there who works 10 minutes a week and makes millions of dollars a year, and maybe you’re here because you expect to be the next one of those people. I’m here to tell you that this person doesn’t really exist, especially in the beginning. It takes time and effort, a good idea, and an even better plan that you will need to execute in order to be successful. It takes knowledge, experience and a relentless work ethic to back your commitment to be successful. You will need to treat it like a job, from day one – and in time, it will become one… and perhaps a very lucrative one.
But if you aren’t committed to it, you will fail and waste all of the time and money that you put into it. No coach out there is going to give you a great business idea or a great product, because if they had one, they would be focusing on it themselves. The only thing that someone can do for you, which is what I will try to do for you, is to teach you what it takes to start or grow your own ecommerce business. I’ll teach you what I’ve learned over 20 years of experience, and I will offer you my advice, guidance and recommendations.
I don’t mean to scare you, because you absolutely can be successful and you can make a lot of money in eCommerce. You could generate millions of dollars in profit (notice I didn’t say ‘revenue’ because profit is the only number that matters) or sell your business for hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) someday. I’ve been in the eCommerce world for 20 years now, and while things were much, much different when I started in this space, there are some key aspects that existed then, exist now, and will always exist when it comes to being successful in this space. Hard work is one of those things. So if you are still reading and aren’t afraid to roll up your sleeves with me and get to work, let’s talk about how to go about starting your successful eCommerce business.
The Different Hats of eCommerce
Depending on how you arrived at your decision to pursue eCommerce, you may have a preconceived notion about what really drives eCommerce success. Lots of people think of eCommerce as marketing only. You probably see a lot of people talking about digital marketing, or offering marketing webinars that promise overnight success. “You just create this simple marketing funnel, go to bed, and wake up filthy rich. It’s that easy!”
Many people think of eCommerce as a sub-component of marketing. Internet marketing, digital marketing, social marketing, email marketing, content marketing, paid search, and search engine optimization are all some of the aspects that people think of when they research their ecommerce business. But that is the first mistake that you are making. There is a lot more to eCommerce than just marketing. In fact, marketing is only the one piece of the eCommerce journey – and I hate to break it to you, but it’s not the first piece that you should be focusing on.
If you are trying to start your own eCommerce business, you are going to have to wear a lot of different hats. You don’t need to start by worrying about how to drive traffic to a site using Facebook ads just yet. In fact, there are several far more important questions that you need to ask yourself before you ever even think about any of those marketing tactics. For example…
Where would you send those visitors that you’re advertising to?
What product are you going to try to convince them to purchase?
What price are you expecting them to pay for this product?
How will you be processing these payments? And do you need to collect sales tax?
How are you going to manufacturer or purchase the product yourself?
How are you going to get it to the customer once someone actually buys it?
How much will you be charging the customer for shipping, and will that cover your costs?
What happens if that customer wants to reach out to you to find out the status of that order?
What happens if they receive the order and want to return it?
These are just a handful of the questions that you need to answer before you are ready to launch an eCommerce business. In fact, we have an entire checklist of things that you need to take care of if you are going to start an eCommerce business, and we’ll share that list soon in a future article.
Marketing is one of them, but not the first one.
We’ll break these items down into a few categories so that it is easier to manage and not be too overwhelming. These are also the six different hats that you’ll need to wear to be successful. They are literally the “departments” that I’ve created when starting up eCommerce organizations at places like Harley-Davidson or the Chive. If you have a business with people or teams to fill each of these roles, that is great. But if you’re starting out on your own as a single person, then you are going to be wearing all of these different hats yourself, and if you want to be successful, you’d better be very good at every single one of them.
These departments are:
Product / Design
User Experience / Technology
Operations / Fulfillment
In a nutshell, no matter what sized eCommerce operation you work at or are starting, these are the six main areas of focus that are grouped together most efficiently, based on roles and responsibilities. The order in which they are listed is also the order in which you should be thinking about them, as each one has a natural hand-off to the next department. We’ll start by discussing Product / Design in our next article, and will follow up in additional articles to review the other departments, and what they do and are responsible for.
And don’t worry, this article will be written just as much for the single person start-up as it is for the large eCommerce organization looking to create a better structure to operate its business.
If you don’t want to miss the next article in this series, be sure to sign up for our email list so that you can be notified when our next post is released.
And if you’re interested, join our private community where you can work directly with me, and other actual eCommerce professionals, to help you learn what it really takes to be successful in the eCommerce world. For less than $10 / month, you can get all of the advice and questions that you could ever ask for.
And since we’re new and just launching this business model, the early members will get much more than their money’s worth (as well as a special place in our hearts as we’re so very appreciative of your support as we LAUNCH this new business!).
Until next time…