by David Jinks, Public Relations Manager and Publisher at ParcelHero.com
Kicking off your own online start-up can seem daunting to a budding young entrepreneur, but if you have the product then you are already half way there. Fortunately, the internet caters to both those with money and those without, so here are three things you need to do before launching your online start-up:
Who are you selling to?
With any product you need a specific customer base. Not everyone wants a designer handbag or custom made alloy wheels, but there is certainly a consumer base for both. Once you understand who these people are, then finding out how they buy their items is crucial. Distinguishing which online platforms and marketplaces they use is great place to start.
Handmade items sold by individual merchants are often sold on third-party platforms like Etsy and eBay, but improving your rankings on these platforms can prove very difficult. The alternative is to start your own site. Selling directly is, however, a difficult place to begin as it costs a small fortune to improve your rankings with Google, and is a highly competitive battlefield to step into. It will take time to establish your site on the Top-5 social media sites and build your brand’s prestige slowly and properly and earn that reputation. User engagement is key to understanding who truly likes your products and who will actually buy them.
Contacting other merchants is also a positive way to find out how to make the most of third party sites. Amazon, eBay and Etsy all offer tutorials on how to make the most of their platforms, which makes them very popular with new merchants. Reading market research conducted by major retailers also offers premium information into consumer habits. This is extensive research carried out by major brands which you can access, without having to commission it yourself. Gold dust, and sometimes it’s free.
Spread the Word.
Using established platforms like eBay and Etsy is a good place to begin, but, once again it’s difficult to establish your own space. This is why it is crucial to understand who your consumer base is in order to make the best decision. Consumers have become increasingly engaged with their retailers and appreciate consumer engagement. Small brands appear very human, and consumers warm to that – keeping a blog and actively talking to your customers will improve your reputation immensely.
Manage your social media either personally or use a trusted member of staff. Your reputation is everything – recent studies have shown that consumer loyalty with online retail is minimal, so this is an important aspect to your online business. However, creating stimulating, honest and engaging content about your product by promoting an experience can eventually transfer into direct sales – so start a blog! Online credibility directly leads to online sales as you piggy-back products on your human, engaging, hopefully shared stories.
Understand the Cost.
Although the internet provides a wealth of free tools and applications, internet search rankings, social media promotions and general online advertising is expensive. Let’s assume you don’t have pots of cash to splash. In comparison to renting a bricks-and-mortar store, e-commerce is a more cost-effective alternative, but it’s not cheap. Research and a very good understanding of how online retail works will be incredibly beneficial in the crucial early stages of your start-up.
Here is a call to reality. There has already been two-decades of internet start-ups, with millions of already existing websites vying for a better marketing presence than their competitors. This means you will need to invest a considerable amount of funds and time to give your brand enough of a chance to appear alongside your predecessors. The savvier you are, the less you will have to spend.
Using third party sites like Etsy and eBay is a way around this initial cost, although less desirable than running the show yourself. Think about selling your items via Etsy and eBay and building your online presence with an engaging blog. Then jump to your own website, or take your selling in-house. Build your customers and reputation and seek funding that will push your own brand, free from the constraints of third party hosting, to its ultimate potential.
David Jinks is an award winning journalist and blogger who specialises in logistics and transport. David was formerly Publisher at The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, where he ran the Institute’s journals, news bulletins and international newsletter. He is currently Public Relations Manager and Publisher at ParcelHero. You can contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org.