1. What is eCommerce
So as I said in ‘How Not To Start & Grow an Ecommerce Business‘, ecommerce can literally be used to describe any kind of business transaction online.
E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-commerce
So technically every single post I write on this blog about starting a lifestyle business could be lumped under the ‘ecommerce’ banner, but for the sake of this article I am specifically talking about the sale of physical products vs digital products or services.
I’m going to niche it down even further for you, I’m not even going to discuss Amazon in this guide. (I’ll do a separate guide for Amazon FBA)
I’m talking very specifically about you setting up your very own online shop and selling tangible items of your choice which get shipped out to buyers. (Exciting!)
If it’s Amazon you’re looking for, you can read about our Amazon journey here.
2. Is ecommerce for you?
Of course I can’t answer this for you, but I can talk a little about the pros and cons and the type of personality required to run an ecommerce business.
The awesome things about this business model which are really the same for any lifestyle business model out there are;
- You get to create something from your passions if that’s what turns you on.
- You get to work from anywhere in the world (my entire brand motto)
- You get to sell to a global marketplace (although be careful with this one because of shipping costs – I cover that in the shipping module) – but literally from day one you are an ‘international’ brand.
- You can get started without even seeing what you’re selling (although I don’t advise it). Seriously! You don’t have to have any inventory to hand, you don’t have to store anything and you don’t even have to be responsible for shipping et al!
- You can also get started with relatively low up front investment. You will need a few quid to get your platform setup, get some designs done for your site etc, but you don’t need to layout $$$ up front to buy stock (the downside of Amazon)
- Depending on the ‘type’ of entrepreneur you are (as discussed below), potentially you could have multiple stores in differing niches all earning you a pretty penny.
If you’ve just called your entire family into the room to read out how exciting this venture is and ‘someone pop the champers, this time next year we’ll be millionaires’, just hold your horses! (Brits will get that, everyone else google it). 😉
There is some downside.
Firstly its bloody hard work. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say and neither will your store be. (Well technically that’s not true, you could actually have a store up and running in a day). But….
Once your store is live then the hard work really starts.
There are a lot of stores out there including of course the big hairy monster Amazon all vying for the attention of your potential audience.
So standing out in a crowded marketplace is going to be tough.
In my experience there are really two main types of ecommerce business builders;
Type 1 is the ‘content driven, invested in the brand’ entrepreneur.
This person loves their brand, wants to be able to offer top quality products. Lives and breathes their message and is impassioned by the idea that they can spend their days talking about their brand, showcasing their products, adding value, solving problems, and growing something with meaning for them and their audience and customers.
This my friend is me. This blog you’re reading, my articles, videos, podcasts, the FB Community, is all born out of my passion for freedom, for travel and for building lifestyle businesses that give us that choice.
Some other awesome examples of this kind of entrepreneur include;
Rachel Hollis is an author, a speaker, an entrepreneur, a Mum, a TV Host, a cook, a podcast host, you name it! Just your all round average superwoman! You can find out more about her through her Instagram profile – https://www.instagram.com/msrachelhollis/
Jenna Kutcher is a photographer, entrepreneur, podcast host, influencer and a huge advocate for female empowerment! You can find out more about her also on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/goaldiggerpodcast/
Ladyboss aka, Kaelin Tuell Poulin is an author, entrepreneur, weight loss specialist, coach, and speaker amongst her many talents. You can find her here – https://www.instagram.com/ladyboss/
Very sadly Cindy Joseph herself passed away in 2018, but the brand which is owned and managed by probably the best in the business Ezra Firestone is set to generate over $20 million in revenues this year (as explained by Ezra himself in a recent podcast with Michael Stelzner creator of Social Media Examiner)
I’ll be referencing and linking through to some awesome resources from Ezra more through the next 30 days 🙂
This is a long term, brand building strategy that will not happen overnight. It’s going to take some time to grow your audience and your brand unless you’re adding a store to an already well known brand and if that’s the case you’re on a winner my friend!
Type 2 is the ‘data driven’ entrepreneur.
This person is all about the numbers. They wake in the morning just to flick open the FB Ads Manager page to see which ads are winners or losers. What they don’t know about ad objectives, conversions vs page post engagement, lookalike audiences, custom audiences, video watch times and cpc’s isn’t worth knowing.
I’m using FB Ads as the example here, but I could just as easily be talking about Google PPC, Amazon Ads, YT Ads.
They are less concerned with the niche they’re in, or their brand. In fact they probably picked the products based on what’s popular right now.
This my friend is certainly not me and is in fact more like my hubby to be. He couldn’t care less about content marketing or being the face of a brand etc. Are the dollars rolling in? That’s his only thought each and every day. Hence why he’s quite good at Amazon and it bores me to tears. (A match made in heaven you might say.)
You may have noticed that many of the groups and forums dedicated to building ecommerce businesses online are more for data driven entrepreneurs. They have enthralling conversations spouting numbers and acronyms which are well above my non linear mind!
This route is typically the ‘faster’ route to sales as you’re buying attention and getting your products straight out in front of your potential audience, however the ‘content driven’ route will likely stand the test of time far more robustly.
The obvious choice would be to utilise both methods, and for this particular guide we will be focusing on the ‘brand driven’ model first, followed by paid advertising and some more ‘data driven’ methods.
If this is currently all like reading Chinese to you, then unless you are indeed Chinese, fear not, I will clarify all of this through the 30 days ahead and by the end you’ll be totally fluent!
I honestly believe ecommerce is for anyone who has a desire to sell an actual tangible item and who is willing to undergo a steep learning curve (and steep it is) and work their buns off.
If that sounds like you, consider me your female (and considerably better looking if I do say so myself) version of Yoda and continue will we!
3. The Different Ecommerce Models
Print on Demand
So I talked a bit about print on demand, in ‘How Not To Start & Grow an Ecommerce Business‘.
But just in case you didn’t read that, (although I recommend you do), Print on Demand is basically what it says on the tin.
Rather than selling bulk items, you’re selling an item that is then printed on demand. So if someone purchases just one of your items, just one product is printed and sold.
Over the years various companies have sprung up that offer a range of products including t-shirts, mugs, socks, shoes, iPhone cases, wall art and all sorts.
All of these products are left completely blank for you to add your own design.
Case in point;
They all have a cool backend allowing you to select the product, add your design and then add the designed product to your store so it looks like a ready made product.
Here’s a great example of how to create a product using Printify;
Then when someone comes and decides to buy it, the order goes to the print on demand company who print your design on said item and send it out!
It’s a great model, but the downside is the cost price of the items from these platforms is high. So you need to add a pretty big markup to see any profit and you could end up pricing yourself out of the market.
We’ll discuss that later in the 30 days but other than that I would say it’s the fastest way to launch a brand and a store quickly with minimal setup.
Here is a great roundup post from Shopify comparing 10 Shopify Compatible Print on Demand Companies by ‘shipping, printing options, unique features, recommended for, and product catalogue overview’.
But Print on Demand is only one of several types of ecommerce business. Here are some of the other most popular models;
Also fairly quick & easy depending on where you source products & potentially higher profit margins.
With dropshipping you source products that other people manufacture. You promote those products on your site and when the customer buys, you then order the product on behalf of the buyer and the product gets shipped directly from the manufacturer to the customer, meaning that once again you don’t have to invest in up front inventory.
This is a great model, but the bulk of your success will be based on the quality of the product, so you need to be spending some time sourcing quality products.
But it does have its downsides and it’s not as easy as many of the articles and ‘gurus’s’ selling drop shipping courses would have you believe.
I will dedicate some time to this model in the next 30 days so you’re clear about the ups and the downs.
So the word arbitrage means;
‘Arbitrage in online selling means sourcing products online with the specific aim of exploiting a price mismatch between two marketplaces, so you can resell them at a profit.’ SRC – https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en/news/online-seller/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-online-arbitrage
In the ecommerce world this is basically translated as heading out to a car boot or garage sale, buying stuff cheaply and then listing and selling for a higher price typically on eBay / Amazon.
I personally haven’t done this myself, but there is an excellent site called The Selling Family. These guys specialize in this strategy and have some great stories so go check them out if you fancy this model!
Not yet though! I still have more to share with you!
This is the model most popular with Amazon FBA Sellers. (And how we’ve supported our lifestyle over the last few years).
You create your own brand. You find a product that’s already selling well on Amazon, then head to a site like Alibaba to find someone who supplies that product. You then negotiate a minimum order of said product and add your own branding to the product and / or packaging. Usually upward of a few thousand units.
You ship your order to wherever you’re going to be storing your stock (if selling on Amazon to their warehouses) and away you go.
The upside to this is it can be very profitable. The downside is you need some money to invest in stock to get started & the risk levels are higher.
As I said above, we have run our own brand on Amazon for a few years now, having built it quickly up to 7 figures in our first year.
I will be publishing a 30 Days to Start & Grow Your Amazon FBA Business guide in the not too distant future, but for now if you’d like to read the story of how we got started on Amazon here are the most relevant posts.
Designing & manufacturing your own products.
This is the next step up from private labelling & we’re now getting into the big bucks, both in spend and potential profits.
Quite simply you would create your own patented designs of products and have them made bespoke for your brand. Not something I’ll be covering in this article!
4. The Different Ecommerce Platforms
Let’s start with the behemoth in the industry – Shopify.
As I said in my experiment post, Shopify is for ecommerce what WordPress is for blogging.
It’s a complete bespoke website with most of your bells and whistles built in, like product pages, cart page, checkout page, shipping settings, payment settings etc. It even has pre written emails for product sales, abandoned carts, shipping etc.
It connects to social media, and integrates with a gazillion cool apps connecting you to email platforms, upsell software, FB ads etc.
Like WordPress, clever techie people have come along and built awesome themes and apps that enhance it’s features and functionality but to be honest you can get started with just the basic features.
Here is a blueprint to starting your ecommerce business with Shopify, by Shopify. It’s a great resource to have to hand, but like so many it’s a mass of information, hence why I’ve tried to break the journey up into a 30 day structure which you can take a step at a time!
But Shopify is not the only ecommerce guy in town.
You have options!
I’ll link to a great comparison site below, but the top 3 I know of other than Shopify are;
I haven’t used any of them so can’t comment from personal experience therefore I won’t!
Here is a superb roundup of 10 of the Best Ecommerce Platforms Compared & Rated for 2020 by Darren DeMatas over at Ecommerceceo.com
Initially it looks like it’s just an Infographic, but scroll down a bit and there is a full run down of each platform.
For the sake of this 30 day training guide I will be focusing my info on Shopify, because it’s the one I use and in an already steep learning curve it’s the fastest, the easiest and the most user friendly option in my opinion!
So are you ready my awesome action taker?
OK then lets get started! 😎