If I told you that you could launch an e-commerce business this week, would you think I was crazy?
Well, it’s true -- you can.
Thanks to the internet, there is essentially nothing stopping you from creating and launching a product in less than a week. I’m not just talking the talk -- I’ve walked the walk. My teeth-whitening brand was brainstormed while on vacation in Hawaii and I launched it within a week of returning home.
If you want to do the same, follow these eight steps and you can have an online brand up and operational in a week.
1. Identify a high-potential product.
There are several things you need to consider when deciding what your product offering will be. You will want to find something that has a large global demand, high margins and can be easily warehoused and fulfilled.
Google Trends, eBay Top Products and Amazon Best Sellers are all great resources to help you identify hot products. For example, fidget spinners are currently the hottest products, with new websites selling them popping up daily. The earlier you can spot a trend, the better your chance of turning it into a thriving online business.
Pick something that you will be interested in, because you’re going to have to invest a lot of time and energy if you plan on launching a successful e-commerce website. The more enthusiastic you are, the easier it will be.
2. Lock down a manufacturer.
You might have a great idea and an endless source of website traffic, but if your manufacturer can’t keep up with demand, you are dead in the water. Communication is key, especially if you are contracting an overseas manufacturer that you identify through a resource like Alibaba.
When I was interviewing potential manufacturers for my teeth-whitening company, I started with dozens of companies. My initial inquiry to every one asked very specific questions. If they didn’t answer all of these questions in their response, I automatically crossed them off my list.
In the end, I had half a dozen companies to speak with in more detail. I didn’t focus on cost alone, either -- I considered communication more important. As a result, I have 100 percent confidence in the company I eventually signed on with.
3. Come up with a brand name and secure your online presence.
Your brand name needs to be not only memorable and appealing to your target audience, but it also needs to be available in the form of a domain name and social media handles. I suggest going for the dot-com version always, even if you have to pay a premium for it from a domain flipper.
My brand’s name, "Sexy Smile Kit," was available as a dot-com, as was @sexysmilekit on all the social networks we planned to use -- Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. As soon as that was confirmed, the name was finalized. If you are having a difficult time brainstorming brand names, try Shopify’s business name generator tool.
4. Develop your website.
I already had a website layout and logo concept sketched out -- I did it on the flight home from Hawaii. Then, I sent it over to one of my freelance designers as soon as I touched down and we had the entire design and layout finalized in two days.
I decided to use WordPress and WooCommerce, but there are other options available. Shopify is a great choice for those who don’t have the technical know-how or budget to create a custom website. Shopify has several themes that can get you up in running almost instantly with very little technical knowledge. Big Commerce and LemonStand are additional plug-and-play options.
5. Figure out your fulfillment and shipping.
You need to decide if you are going to handle the order processing and fulfillment in-house, and a lot of that has to do with the type of product you are selling. Some situations will require a drop ship business model, where you act as the order taker and a third party (or the manufacturer) handles the fulfillment.
If you are selling smaller items, like phone cases, then in-house fulfillment becomes much easier. To ship our teeth-whitening kits, we use ShipStation, a shipping and fulfillment solution that integrates with almost everything.
We also decided to exclusively use USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate shipping for two reasons. First, it allows us to send the customer a tracking number as soon as the shipping label is created, which eliminates the order status customer service requests. Second, it gets our product to our U.S. customers in two days. While it isn’t the cheapest option we could use, the customer experience is better, which is always something to consider.
6. Establish revenue goals.
You can’t go into this blind -- you need to know your numbers. How much does your product cost, per unit, landed to your front door? What are your shipping costs, including all fulfillment components, such as staff, software, postage, etc.? What are your merchant processing fees?
I have extremely specific revenue goals, down to daily numbers. Our product has an expiration date, so hitting goals helps to ensure we don’t get stuck with unsellable inventory.
Also, look for ways to cut costs, because as your sales volume increases, it can be a way to drastically increase your revenue. “If you are doing a lot of volume in transactions, don’t be afraid to negotiate a better rate with your processing company. Every dollar saved is money that can be allocated to your marketing and advertising, helping to further grow your business,” says Benjamin Velner, CEO of Merchant Scout.
7. Design a marketing plan.
You have a product and a website, now you need to figure out how you are going to put your offering in front of consumers who are likely to be interested in whatever it is that you are selling.
If you want to start generating sales immediately, launch a Facebook ads campaign that also includes Instagram. You can also use influencer marketing to drive conversions as soon as you launch. While your marketing plan should also include long-term components like search engine optimization, you need to focus on generating sales and revenue right out of the gate if you want to scale quickly.
Make sure you track everything -- set up your conversion pixels and goals so you know where every single sale originates from. The more data and information you have available, the more targeted your campaigns can become and the quicker you can grow.
8. Launch your online store.
The most important piece of advice I can give you in regards to your e-commerce business is this: Do not wait until you think it is perfect to launch. You are going to need to constantly split-test and make changes -- it’s never going to be perfect.
I was so eager to split-test different aspects that I launched before my first shipment of product arrived. Don’t let excuses or fear get in your way -- you are never going to know if you have a viable online business unless you launch.
If you fail once, don’t quit. Try again -- and again. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs failed multiple times before ever experiencing a win.