What is your best advice for someone looking to start an online retail store?
Someone I know wants to start an online store selling quality fashion goods imported from China, however she has hardly any experience in starting or running a website. What is the best startup advice you can give to someone in her shoes?
Research & Learn: Get to know who your Target Market are, Suppliers, Products, Logistics (Customs)
Plan: Business and Marketing Strategy
Cash flow: Understand and forcast your costs and profit margin
Niche: Explore what is different or unique about your product and service offering
Relationships: Find the right partners to help you build your business, Collaborate and build project teams of professionals yo help you fulfil different stages of your project
Technology: Find technology that is intuitive to use and has the capacity to scale your business.
Database: Invest time in developing helpful content that inspires your customers. Connect and engage regularly with the network you already have
Work to your strengths and ask for help: Learn to seek advice and delate tasks to professionals who are more experienced than you, they may also have a different persecutive or approach.
Be passionate and commited: Enjoy the process, it will be challenging but rewarding as well.
Best of luck:)
1. Get a friend to help you with the technology. It's a make or break pre-requisite.
2. The margins aren't that great. Think twice and be ready to spend huge on advertising and promotion.
3. Protect your brand. Create a brand that people can trust. How? Google for suggestions!
You could tell her – "Don't."
Or if her dream is to make a small fortune, tell her to start with a large one.
Of course, free advice is worth exactly what she pays for it, so it's likely she will proceed anyway.
In that case, I suggest she start with a plan. Several plans, in fact. the first would be a business modelling exercise. A very good template is the one provided in Business Model Canvas, by Alex Osterwalder. It very quickly tests viability.
Once she has established whether the business is viable, a marketing plan is required. It can be very simple, but needs to address three key areas:
1. Positioning – establishing credibility, clarifying value. People won't buy unless they feel they know and trust the supplier. And they won't make a commitment unless they understand the value being provided.
2. Attention – awareness, promotion, offer. The marketing message must address the prospect in terms she understands and is interested in, whether the tactics are PPC, social, offline, direct etc.
3. Making the Sale – persuasion, relationship, conversion. The site should be structured to motivate prospects and avoid the many mistakes made by inexperienced traders. Give prospects what they want and sell them what they need. Ensure return traffic and repeat sales.
If she can't or won't engage outside expertise, the road to riches is likely to be slow, expensive and wasteful. And simply copying someone else's apparent success can be incredibly frustrating (see Business Model above).
This is all an oversimplification, so firstly see whether she is approaching the idea with an open mind. After doing due diligence, oftentimes the best course of action is to not proceed at all.
I just answered this question here:
"The first step to starting an online store is to go to AdWords and do keyword research to find out what people are looking for, then use that to choose a niche (see below for link to resources by Andrew Youderian which cover other factors in selecting a niche).
You can then put up a very simple page using one of the many free services for doing so, that shows some products. You could, for example, setup a shopify store with some products in it. You then run an AdWords campaign and see if you make some sales. Don't worry if you don't have the ability to fulfil the orders yet, just see if you get some, then write to the customers and apologise that you don't have the item in stock and refund their money.
Once you've established how much it costs to make a sale, and whether or not there is sufficient volume for what you're selling, work out suppliers etc.
Watch this Mixergy interview that takes you through this process: http://mixergy.com/interviews/jonathan-beekman-man-crates-interview/. If you don't have a Mixergy premium membership already, you should get one so you can watch that interview, but also so you can watch all the other interviews and courses -- it's incredible. The most valuable business resource on the internet by far.
Also read everything here: http://www.ecommercefuel.com/resources/"