Employees everywhere are voluntarily leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic—leading to a phenomenon called The Great Resignation.
A whopping 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021 alone. And those who haven’t quit yet are thinking about it: 48% report actively searching for new opportunities.
According to a recent survey, there are many reasons—44% seek better pay and benefits, 41% want to find a job they’re more passionate about, and 32% want to start their own business.
Working from home during the pandemic has made people rethink their relationship with work. More and more employees now expect to be able to call the shots. 62% say they want to start a business to be their own boss and have more control over their careers and lives. Americans have registered a record 1.4 million new business applications through September.
If you’re thinking about joining the great resignation to start your own venture, there’s no time like the present. But for many, the lack of clarity and uncertainty after handing in your two weeks’ notice can make the risk too high.
Enter: Ecommerce—a way to leverage your existing expertise to become your own boss without bearing a huge risk. Ecommerce has seen a decade’s growth in days due to the pandemic—you can start a profitable ecommerce store as a creator in five easy steps.
- The rise of ecommerce (and how it’s fueled creator commerce)
- Ecommerce boom presents an opportunity for creators: Starting your own business
- Entering the great resignation: How to start a successful ecommerce business
- Find an industry gap overlapping with your expertise
- Choose an ecommerce hosting platform and a domain name
- Add product data to your online store
- Set up shipping (and communicate about it clearly)
- Market and launch your online store
- Exiting the great resignation: Becoming a business owner
The rise of ecommerce (and how it’s fueled creator commerce)
According to McKinsey, ecommerce has seen ten years’ worth of growth in just three months due to the COVID-19 crisis.
And the trend is only going to continue: eMarketer predicts retail ecommerce sales worldwide will rise to a stupendous $4.9 trillion in 2021.
How has the pandemic fueled the growth of ecommerce? By forcing people to shop online for everything—from groceries to home decor. 75% of consumers tried a different store, website, or brand during the crisis, and 60% plan on continuing this trend post-pandemic.
Along with trying new stores, consumers also started using social media to shop online—leading to the rise of social commerce. In 2020, the U.S. had 79 million social buyers. According to Statista data, this number is projected to grow almost 37% by 2025.
Ecommerce boom presents an opportunity for creators
86% of workers who participated in a Monster.com member poll feel their career has stalled during the pandemic. If you are one of them, the growing ecommerce industry provides an amazing opportunity to start your own venture. In 2021, over 2.14 billion people are expected to shop online, and there’s certainly potential to convert them into your customers.
Source: Scientific Research Publishing
Entering the great resignation: How to start a successful ecommerce business
The journey to becoming your own boss is exciting but not easy. With ecommerce, you don’t have to take the risk of quitting your job entirely. You can run your business alongside your day job as a side-hustle for as long as you like. It’s also cost-effective and highly scalable—you don’t have to open up a traditional store, pay for the rent, or the store’s upkeep.
But ecommerce can also seem daunting. Where do you begin? How do you find a good business idea? How do you figure out shipping? All these questions can keep you up all night as a business owner.
Here’s how to leave your 9-5, leverage your expertise, and launch a successful online store from scratch in five easy steps:
1. Choose a market segment you’d like to serve
If you’re a newbie creator in the ecommerce world, you might be wondering what you should sell. After all, there are 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S. How can your ecommerce store win?
And it’s a valid question. Answering it begins with finding who you want to sell to.
The easiest way to find your target audience is by creating buyer personas—a fictional representation of your ideal customer. This includes asking questions like:
- What is their age?
- Where do they live?
- What is their income?
- What are their interests?
- What do they believe?
- What do they struggle with?
- What do they aspire for?
How do you find untapped demands from your target audience? By talking to them and understanding their pain points. Start being active where your consumers are already spending time. Search what your target audience is saying on social media, analyze the results for different products on Google Trends, and see what consumers complain about while writing their reviews.
Once you have a fair idea of who your target customer is, you can begin working on finding what you want to sell.
Find an industry gap that overlaps with your expertise
Be strategic in finding items that aren’t easy to find and have consumer demand. You’ll want to go granular and appeal to a niche audience.
You can also find a solid business idea by identifying unfulfilled consumer demands in popular product categories. Take Hitched—the company understood there weren’t enough brands delivering wedding bands to try at home in the market. To take advantage of this demand, they started their home try-on service, which enabled couples to try on five rings from the comfort of their home.
How do you evaluate if your business idea is good enough? Conduct a SWOT analysis of your possible venture—find out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in your idea.
Let’s say you want to start a sustainable skincare company for men. Here’s what your SWOT analysis would look like:
- Strengths: Multiple product lines, increase in demand for sustainable products, niche audience
- Weaknesses: Difficult to stand out, lack of knowledge of sustainable + healthy skincare ingredients
- Opportunities: Less crowded market, can position as an expert on men’s skincare
- Threats: Competition may rise in the future, a failure to create good skincare products that are also climate-friendly
Once you have your business idea in place, you bring in the big guns to turn it into something real.
2. Choose an ecommerce hosting platform and a domain name
After choosing your product and doing your competitive research, it’s time to find an ecommerce platform that can help you build your online store.
Here are some questions you should be asking when evaluating ecommerce platforms:
- What are the native features of this platform? Does it have crucial commerce features—like third-party integrations, SEO capabilities, mobile-friendliness, order management system, and product management—in-built? What’s already there, and what will you have to find an extension for?
- Does it have a variety of customizable features, themes, and templates? Can they be tweaked easily?
- The first five seconds of load time have the highest impact on conversion rates. Can this platform scale as your business grows? Will the site load speed or performance suffer if you experience huge traffic?
- Mcommerce is the practice of using wireless devices like mobile phones & tablets for commercial transactions including buying products, paying bills, online banking. And it’s activity is currently on the rise—mcommerce sales grew at 41.4% in 2020 in the U.S., and they’ll grow another 15.2% in 2021—reaching $359.32 billion. Does the website builder allow you to optimize your site for mobile?
BigCommerce makes it easy to set up your store even if you aren’t exactly tech-savvy. You can customize the open SaaS platform and design your online store however you wish.
You can also purchase your domain name for your store directly from BigCommerce. Your domain is essentially the face of your company—make sure it’s something memorable, short, and creative. It should ideally be under 12 characters and sprinkle some personality.
Here are a few examples of excellent domain names:
- Brandless: An environment-friendly omnichannel ecommerce company, Brandless, has a unique name. It conveys their value and principle—you don’t have to pay a hefty price for a “brand” name to get good products.
- Groupon: Groupon combined “group” and “coupon” to be descriptive, yet different. The cherry on top is their name describes what they do—give their consumers the ability to search for coupons for various local companies they’ve partnered with. Bonus points for being easy to remember.
- Grounds & Hounds: Their name conveys what they care about most with wit and rhyme—coffee and dogs. The clever wordplay and their mission makes them memorable for consumers.
Once you’ve landed on a domain name, you can dive deep into your ecommerce platform and give your store some life.
3. Add product data to your online store
After setting up your online store, it’s time to make your product pages.
Product pages are your chance to add persuasive product descriptions which hit home with customers. An excellent product description specifies the product’s features, addresses the customer’s pain points, and highlights how the product can benefit them. Here you can also talk about the various product categories, prices, and shipping information.
For example, Stasher—a company making non-toxic silicone bags—has a perfect product page. It specifies the different colors the bag comes in, has visual identifiers to list product features and contains information about the item’s return, warranty, and sustainability.
Like Stasher, you can work on making your product descriptions jargon-free, short, and easy to navigate.
If consumers have common questions about your product, you can make an FAQ section without crowding your product description space, like this example from the healthy cereal company, Magic Spoon.
Source: Magic Spoon
Another helpful tactic is adding “filters” for consumers to sift out items they want to buy. Baymard found even slightly optimized product filtering and lists translated to as much as a 4-fold increase in sales.
Standard filters include size, price range, and material. But you can customize them based on what your consumers might find useful.
For instance, fashion and lifestyle brand, Zalora, knows their buyers care more about shape while shopping for sunglasses than any other parameter, so they highlight it in their filter menu.
And remember: Product descriptions and categories need not be static. Keep adapting them according to context.
For example, during the holiday season, you can create a special category called “holiday shopping” or “gifting items.” These make discovering products easy and timely for consumers.
The next crucial element of adding product data is adding photos of your product. It’s an area where you wouldn’t want to skimp on quality: 62% of Gen Z and millennial consumers surveyed by ViSenze want visual search capabilities, more than any other new technology.
If you can afford it, hiring a professional photographer will give you the best quality images. But if not, you can DIY your photos with a homemade photography setup. Make sure the color, themes, and style speak in a consistent tone across channels. After all, your product images are representative of your branding.
For example, the men’s skincare company, Huron, has high-quality product photos which are simple and easy on the eyes.
If you sell items like furniture or clothing, consider getting 360-degree photos to help consumers envision the product better and see themselves using it.
4. Set up shipping (and communicate about it clearly)
With your product data in place, the next piece of the puzzle is setting up shipping.
According to a 2020 Accenture survey, 56% of American consumers said they’d never buy from a retailer after an unsatisfactory delivery experience. Consumers care about shipping policies now more than ever.
How do you guarantee giving the best shipping experience to your consumers? The first step is determining your shipping policy. Some questions you should be asking are:
- At what rate is it practical for you to offer free shipping?
- Are you going to go for a flat rate or a variable rate? Remember, Baymard data indicates 49% of consumers say extra shipping costs are the number one reason for cart abandonment.
- Are you planning to ship internationally? If yes, how can you expand your shipping zones and look at international shipping fulfillment?
You might work with ecommerce shipping solutions to automate your shipping. Partner with a software that easily integrates with your ecommerce platform and is customizable to your operations.
The next step is communicating every shipping detail to your consumers—loudly and clearly.
83% of consumers in a 2018 Narvar survey said they expect regular communication and updates about their orders. In a 2020 Convey survey, 57.8% of consumers said they’re somewhat or much more likely to purchase if retailers provide an estimated delivery date (screenshot) (EDD) in the shopping cart prior to starting the checkout.”
Be transparent about your shipping costs, delivery time, and return policy to customers. The fashion brand ASOS has a delivery FAQ page answering shipping-related questions consumers may have.
Don’t worry if your shipping takes time in the beginning. 55% of American consumers in a survey said they’d be willing to pay more for sustainable shipping.
5. Market and launch your online store
Phew! The heavy-lifting part is done. Now’s the time to check if you’ve got the basics right: smooth checkout process, high-quality images, mobile-optimized website, proper inventory listing and email opt-in, and working coupon codes/promotions.
But your job isn’t over yet. The time has come to begin ecommerce marketing for your store, through social media marketing—getting influencers on board to talk about your brand or doing paid advertising and spreading the word through PR.
Before you launch, develop a pre-launch promotional strategy. Pre-launch marketing allows you to build hype about your products even before they become available.
For example, swimwear brand Jumelle, leveraged social media to create anticipation around their new product line.
There are many marketing tactics out there to keep promoting your online store and acquiring new customers. Here are a few beginner-friendly ones:
- Email list: Despite social media, emails are still pretty hot—generating $42 for every $1 spent. Get started with welcome emails. They generate 320% more revenue than other promotional emails. Focus on growing your email list by creating personalized emails or giving a referral discount to consumers who share your site with friends and family.
- Show your socials some love: There’s no escaping social media for ecommerce businesses today. Nearly nine in ten consumers would buy from brands they follow on social media. If you’re a creator who already has a solid social media following, guide your followers to your ecommerce store. What should your ecommerce brand post on social media? Here’s what consumers in a Sprout Social survey had to say:
Source: Sprout Social
- Optimize your ecommerce site for SEO: Search-engine optimization can be a deep rabbit-hole. But you can’t ignore it—43% of ecommerce traffic comes from organic Google searches. In the beginning, focus on the on-page content. This would be your product titles, descriptions, blogs (if you have one), and any other content you might have. Write these in the way your consumer might search for them. You can use SEO tools like Ahrefs or Clearscope., to find out traffic for each term.
Maintaining your ecommerce brand’s online presence can seem challenging, but it’s certainly doable. Take it one step at a time, and don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at once. Choose a few marketing tactics that will generate the best results for your business. Keep tweaking them as your business grows, and you’ll soon start to see results.
Exiting the great resignation: Becoming a business owner
And there you have it—everything you need to know to start your own ecommerce business!
It’s never easy to quit your job. But the great resignation might present the perfect opportunity to take that plunge and start your own ecommerce business.
Being a business owner is challenging, but it’s also just as rewarding. The tools and opportunities ecommerce presents today make it easy for any creator to start their own online store and become their own boss.
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