The Myths and Realities of Starting a Successful eCommerce Business

Starting a new business can be exciting and stressful at the same time, filled with long hours and a lot of living on an extremely tight budget in hopes of getting your business up and running. There are a lot of misconceptions about how the businessworld works, but we’re here to set the record straight so you can successfully get your eCommerce business up and running.

Here’s a look at some of the most important myths and realities you should know before starting an eCommerce business.

The Myth: Build it, They Will Come

Back in the 1990s, when the Internet was essentially brand new, websites were popping up at rates so fast it was causing whiplash. Unfortunately, many of these fly-by-night websites didn’t do anything or offer anything by way of products and services. They were just websites, filling up space.

The Reality: Substantial Content is Essential

The biggest mistake you can make when starting an eCommerce company is assuming just because you have a clever name and lots of high resolution pictures people will magically appear and start buying from you. Ask yourself this question: “When has this ever happened in the real world?” You should quickly realize it hasn’t. It doesn’t work in the online world, either. You need to have solid substance on your site, solving a problem people have or answering their questions. Make sure you do your legwork beforehand to know what these problems and questions are and the effective ways to answer them.

The Myth: You Don’t Need any Experience

Prospective business owners are constantly told they don’t need any experience to build a successful online company. This is typically the pitch from get-rich-quick scammers who are proving to every sucker who pays them the truth of inexperience: it’s very costly.

The Reality: You Do.

Would you ever consider starting a brick-and-mortar store in the real world if you had no idea what you were doing? You’d be out of business before you got started, for one simple reason: Your competitors do know what they’re doing.

Not only do you need to fully understand the type of eCommerce business you’re starting, you need to know the fundamentals of online commerce. These include things like electronic payments, shopping carts, product catalogs, social media (social commerce), networking, and commerce, social proof, marketing and advertising, and driving traffic to your website.

The Myth: Low Prices are the Most Important Thing

If all things were equal then price would be the deciding factor. In a perfect world, all things would be equal, but we live in a different kind of world, and it is the imperfections that allow for eCommerce business owners to find a competitive edge.

The Reality: Most Businesses Can’t Live on Low Prices

There is plenty of consumer research showing price is not the most important factor in a purchasing decision. To be a low-price leader a business generally has to have massive buying power. Consider Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart, and Costco. They buy more products in a day than most companies will sell in a year. This translates directly to pricing smaller companies generally can’t get.

The edge for any business comes in the form of customer service. For eCommerce merchants this comes in the form of:

  • Hands-on, concierge-style service
  • A means for customers to rate products and leave feedback
  • An active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube at a bare minimum
  • Fast response to customer inquiries
  • Easy-to-use website and shopping cart
  • A willingness to meet your customers’ needs

Consider the reasons you’re willing to spend more than you have to for the products and services you purchase and you’ll discover it does come down to the little things merchants to do make your shopping experience pleasant and agreeable. Emulate the things you like from your shopping experiences into your new eCommerce business.

The Myth: No Business Plan Necessary

The big lie here is that online eCommerce businesses are somehow different than traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. Aside from the lack of physical presence in the real world, there is little difference.

The Reality: Business Plans are Essential

A business is a business whether it’s totally in the real world, totally in the virtual world, or a combination of both. A business plan is the blueprint of your business, and writing one is the first step in creating your new eCommerce business.

Business plans address aspects of your business, including:

  • The overall vision and mission of the company
  • Biographies of essential personnel
  • Market research
  • Defining your competitive edge
  • Financial requirements and consideration
  • Legal and regulatory requirements for your business

When you write a business plan you are fully familiarizing yourself with what you’re proposing to start.  The process gives you a chance to finely hone the ideas that will propel your eCommerce company toward success. Also, if you don’t know everything there is to know about your new business, who does? If that person is not you then you’re on a fool’s errand and setting yourself up for failure.

The Myth: All eCommerce Products are Alike

Without a fundamental understand of shopping carts and payment platforms, it’s easy to just assume they all do the same things in the same ways.

The Reality: You Wouldn’t Want Them to Be

While the functionality of product catalogs, shopping carts, and payment platforms does follow certain fundamental aspects of commerce, no two are truly the same. If you’re a small company with a handful of products, you certainly don’t need the same eCommerce solution as Amazon.

The complexity of your eCommerce solution can directly impact the shopping experience. If you are a small shop with a small catalog, your goal is to get your customers from product page to checkout as quickly as possible. Take the time to research eCommerce solutions and choose the solution that best fits the size of your company.

The Myth: There are no Roadblocks to Online Success

A lot of scammers will have you believe there’s nothing to starting an eCommerce business and instantly being successful. This is more of that “build it, they will come” mentality, which we’ve established is wrong.

The Reality: Success Takes Hard Work

Businesses face daily roadblocks to success and it doesn’t matter whether you’re starting a brick-and-mortar business or an online shopping portal. Online businesses have their own sets of challenges, the least of which is meeting the demands of customers who prefer shopping with mobile devices.

Some of the challenges you’ll face and have to address when starting an online eCommerce company include making your site mobile-responsive, having a defined social media strategy, as well as creating and using coupons and promo codes.

Now You Take the Necessary Steps

Now that you know the realities of starting an eCommerce business, it’s time to take the next step. Success doesn’t happen without a focus and attention placed on certain required details. Here are the next three steps you should take.

Know the Business You’re Starting: It’s imperative to have a concise vision for your new eCommerce company. Know the products and services inside and out, be able to share the purpose of your business in clear language and with enthusiasm, and know how you’re going to compete in the overall marketplace and in your specific sector.

Create a Professional Website: Gone are the days of “anything goes” in terms of website design and development. The competition is fierce and consumers will leave your site as quickly as they get there if it looks unprofessional, is hard to navigate, and doesn’t give them a confident feeling.

Tackle the Legal and Regulatory Issues: Online businesses need to be just as compliant as brick-and-mortar businesses. This means taking care of things like business licenses, creating the legal entity that will be the company, complying with requirement of the various government taxing agencies, getting all the professional licenses necessary, and registering your business name and domain name.

Your eCommerce can be successful by not being duped by myths and by following the right steps to create an online business. Avoid the pitfalls listed above, take care of the small details, treat it like any other business, and you’ll give yourself a head start in achieving your entrepreneurial dreams.

Image courtesy of rakeman on Flickr.com.

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