How to Start an Ecommerce Business: Building a Brand Your Customers Will Love Forever

Starting an ecommerce business requires a blend of strategic planning, market understanding, and creativity. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or a budding business owner, this comprehensive guide is your roadmap for building an ecommerce store. From initial market research to the grand launch, we'll navigate each step with professional insights and actionable advice.

Ready to take your business beyond a stall at the local market? Or, perhaps you’ve been sitting on an idea for a while, and you’ve saved up a nice pot of working capital to finally get it moving. Great! Time to create a website and start selling.

Not so fast though, the online space is extremely competitive. Just “creating a website to sell your stuff” won’t cut it over the long term. We’re here to help you create a lasting ecommerce business that people will talk about, tell their friends about, and create some waves in the water.

This comprehensive guide isn’t a roadmap to building an ecommerce store. It’s your roadmap to building a successful online brand, which happens to be an ecommerce store.

We’ll show you how to truly understand your market, your customers, and the importance of high-quality brand communication to create a special customer experience.

Don’t just sell products; connect with your customers on a deeper level, igniting excitement and solving real problems. That’s what this article is about – building a durable, high-converting ecommerce store that captures hearts, minds, and most importantly, sales.

Outside Expertise

Before we get stuck in, let’s talk for a minute about expertise. As you read through this guide, you might be overwhelmed at certain points, thinking “oh my, I know nothing about that!”

Which is fine.

Thankfully, there are plenty of experts out there in almost every step of the process. They already know more than you can learn in 5 years doing it all by yourself. So lean into that.

You have a budget and understand your strengths, so think about when it makes sense to leverage others’ expertise to level up your business quickly and efficiently.

In other words, don’t spread yourself thin.

Steve Jobs didn’t design Apple products himself, nor did he execute the brand and marketing communications.

In our experience, the best ecommerce business owners know their strengths and stick to them. They excel at sourcing and hiring talent to do the things they can't.

Successful ecommerce business owners know an incredible brand and customer experience is only possible by leveraging the knowledge of people who practice their craft each and every day.

Focus on building a high-quality team from the beginning and your chances of success increase dramatically.

"The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world." - Steve Jobs

The Different Types of Ecommerce

You can be forgiven for thinking ecommerce is all about physical products. The truth is, if you’re selling something online, you’re doing ecommerce.

Here’s a comprehensive list of typical ecommerce business models:

  • Business to Consumer (B2C)
  • Business to Business (B2B)
  • Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
  • Consumer to Business (C2B)
  • Online Retail
  • Marketplaces
  • Dropshipping
  • Subscription Services
  • Physical Products
  • Digital Products
  • Services
  • Direct to Consumer (D2C)
  • White Labeling
  • Wholesaling
  • Crowdfunding
  • Social Commerce
  • Voice Commerce

Before going further, it’s important to know what type of business you’re operating, this helps to guide the process. Things like choosing a website platform, delivery and logistics all rely on a solid understanding of your business model.

Stage 1: Getting Started (The Prep Work)

Every entrepreneur should appreciate the value of preparation. In fact, when building a brand, the prep work positions you to become a serious player in your market. So let’s get this idea of “website first, researching and branding later” out of your mind right now.

Before you open your store, or hear the ka-ching of your first online sale, you must put the time and effort in to deeply understand what your business and brand will be, and why.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • Your Market - Who you serve & current competitors
  • Your Product - What you sell & how you sell it (logistics)
  • Your Brand - Who you are & what you stand for
  • Your Service - How you serve your market better

Do the prep work. Put in the effort before you start on the website, the marketing and all the other parts that come together to be a business, and you’ll be setting yourself up for success for years to come.

Your Market

Building a successful store starts with understanding your market or who you’re selling to so you can cater to their specific needs. An equally important step is knowing who your competitors are, their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing this will help you position your brand in a way that deeply resonates with your audience and carves out a unique online space for your business.

Market Research

Market research is the process of gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about your target market. The insights you get from doing this process will help you make smart choices, from what products to offer to how you price and promote them.

The major perk of conducting market research is risk reduction. When you’re making decisions backed by data rather than a guess or a feeling, you can be confident you're on the right track and are more likely to succeed.

Market research also pinpoints opportunities previously missed. Imagine uncovering an under-served niche or a hot new trend that perfectly aligns with your brand. These opportunities could be the turning point that will make your business boom.

How to Conduct Market Research for Your Ecommerce Store

Market research can be daunting, so let’s break it down into manageable steps.

  1. Set Clear Research Objectives

Begin by making clear goals for your research. Are you trying to gauge if there’s a need for a new product you’re launching, or are you measuring how competitive your target market is?

An easy trap for entrepreneurs is doing lots of research, learning, reading… without direction, or action. Clear goals ensure you research with purpose, answer your questions, and then take that learning away to implement and build your business.

To build a successful ecommerce store, the following types of research are generally recommended:

Before you begin:

  • Market Analysis to examine the market's size, growth rate, and potential. It includes identifying target demographics, market segments, and market needs.
  • Competitive Analysis focuses on understanding your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, market positioning, and strategies. It helps identify opportunities and threats in the market landscape.
  • Product Research to evaluate the demand for a new product or service, understanding the features and benefits that are most important to your target market, and how your product fits into the current market.
  • Pricing Research to determine the optimal pricing strategy for your products or services by analyzing what your target market is willing to pay and your competitor's pricing.
  • Brand and Advertising Research to assess brand awareness, perception, and the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Brand research helps understand how your brand is/would be viewed in the market and identify ways to improve brand positioning.
  • Sales Channels and Distribution Research to examine the most effective ways to reach your target market, including online sales, retail distribution, and other channels.

Once you get going:

  • Customer Insights involve gathering data on customer preferences, behaviors, and trends. Customer research can include surveys, interviews, and feedback analysis to understand what drives customer decisions.
  1. Choose Your Research Method

There are two main ways to tackle market research. You either gather your own data (primary research) or use existing information (secondary research).

Primary research has the advantage of getting you up close and personal to your target audience. You will gather fresh market insights through surveys, interviews or focus groups.

Secondary research on the other hand, is recommended if you want to understand your market quickly and efficiently. Nowadays, it involves opening Google (or your favorite search engine) and searching around for industry reports, academic journals, or related info. Customer reviews, posts on forums and other customer feedback are excellent resources to get inside information on what your customers care about, and what’s currently available in the market.

Generally, secondary research helps you form the hypothesis and surface level insight quickly and with minimal cost, before investing in primary research to confirm your direction and understanding.

  1. Utilise Tools and Resources

Market research is easier when you leverage the right tools and resources to gather and analyze data.

Online survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms are excellent for conducting primary research. For secondary research, databases such as Statista, IBISWorld, or Google Scholar can provide rich insights into industry trends and market dynamics.

If you’re not a research pro, you can use keyword research tools like Semrush, UberSuggest, social media platforms, and Google Trends.

If you don’t feel comfortable using research tools, then using chatGPT for your secondary market research can be fine for getting started. Just make sure you check the sources to ensure the information is reliable. Be prepared to alter your market research once customer data starts coming in.

  1. Analyze Your Findings

Once you've gathered your data, the next step is to analyze it. Sift through the information looking for patterns, trends, and anomalies.

What do these findings tell you about your target market? Are there any needs not served, or customer preferences that you must focus on? How do these align with your business objectives?

The analysis will shape your business strategy and provide the evidence to make informed, confident decisions.

  1. Act on Insights

The final step is translating your research findings into actionable business strategies. Actionable insights mean refining your product offerings to meet customer needs better, adjusting your pricing strategy to make it competitive, or tweaking your marketing message so it resonates deeper with your audience.

The key is to use the research insights you gained as a guide to make smart business decisions so your brand will be best placed to serve your market as intended.

Note that market research is an ongoing process, especially since the business landscape is diverse and ever-changing.

Healthy businesses are continually doing market research to have a solid basis for major decisions – business expansions, marketing campaigns, new product offers, and branding.

In the next section, we’ll move on to the essential aspects of competitor research to set your ecommerce store up for success.

Competitor Research

One important part of learning about your market is studying your competitors. Just like the adage “keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” gathering information about your competitors – their products, pricing, sales and marketing strategies, how deeply they have penetrated your target industry, even their strengths and weaknesses – will give you valuable insights into potential opportunities.

When you’re closely observing your competitors, you avoid making the same mistakes they’ve made. This lets you focus your energy on strategies that are more likely to succeed.

Competitor research can also reveal gaps in the market that they haven’t addressed – a golden opportunity for your business to capitalize on!

Moreover, when you understand your competitors and how they’re positioning their offers, it will be easier to differentiate your brand by making your offers better or different, earning your business more market share in the process.

How to Conduct Ecommerce Competitor Research

Here's how to do competitor research in a step-by-step manner.

  1. Identify Your Competitors

Before starting your research, you need to name your direct and indirect competitors first.

Your direct competitors are those offering similar products/services as yours, while your indirect competitors are those offering alternative solutions to the same customer needs that your products/services are solving.

Once you've named them, list them down according to the two categories mentioned.

  1. Gather Data

The next step in competitor research is gathering information. But where do you start looking?

To begin collecting information, start locally by visiting their website, checking out their social media profiles, and read their reviews in Google My Business, Yelp, etc.

You can expand your research by checking out industry publications and reports (think Statista & IBISWorld). You can also look further if they're mentioned in online articles and publications and why, the awards they've won, and the recognitions they've received.

  1. Analyze Their Business Strategy

It's not enough to know your competitors. You need to dissect and understand their business strategy, how they operate, the business model they employ, their sales funnel used, their customer journey, and the key factors driving their success.

Take a closer look at:

  • Products & Services Offered - What do your competitors offer? Are they offering product bundles? Is there any gap that you can exploit?
  • Pricing Strategy - How do their prices compare to yours? Are they targeting a premium or budget-conscious audience?
  • Brand Messaging - How do they communicate to their market? What tone of voice are they using? What communication channels are they leveraging? How do they position their brand? What content do they produce?
  • Customer Journey & Engagement - How do they bring cold leads from stages of awareness down to post-purchase and referral? How do they nurture leads? How do they address customer complaints? What are they doing to keep customers coming back?
  1. Research Their Marketing Strategy

Dive into your competitors' marketing strategies to unveil insights on how they attract and retain customers, helping you refine your approach.

  • SEO Strategy Analysis - Use Semrush and/or SpyFu to examine your competitors' SEO strategies. Doing this will give you an idea of which high-performing keywords are pulling traffic to their website and what type of content is resonating with their audience.
  • Social Media Engagement - Analyse their social media presence using tools like BuzzSumo to see what content sparks their audience engagement. Look for trending topics or types of content to incorporate into your own strategy.
  • Email Marketing Insights - This might sound sneaky, but subscribing to your competitor’s newsletter is a good way to learn their lead nurturing tactics. You will see how they engage with their subscribers and convert them into loyal customers through email marketing.
  • Entire Funnel Analysis - Use Similarweb to conduct an in-depth funnel analysis. Through this, you'll see which channels they use to attract customers, the type of content that converts them, and how they move the audience through the buying journey.
  1. Research Operational Tactics

You will gain insights into your competitor’s operational tactics by directly purchasing their products and analyzing how they sell them. Doing this will let you have a hands-on approach in examining their:

  • Product Quality and Packaging - You can evaluate their product's quality, design, and packaging. This can give clues about their manufacturing standards, supplier relationships, and investment in brand image.
  • Order Fulfilment and Delivery - Note the speed and efficiency of order processing, shipping, and delivery times. This reflects their supply chain efficiency and logistics capabilities.
  • Customer Service Interaction - Engage with their customer service to inquire about the product or request support. Analyze the responsiveness, communication channels, and overall customer satisfaction level to benchmark against your operations.
  • Return Policies and Processes - Test their return process to understand how they manage returns and exchanges, which can reveal their reverse logistics efficiency and customer-centricity.
  • Product Innovation and Differentiation - Assess how their product stands out from the competition regarding features, technology, or user experience. Analyzing the product’s differences can provide insights into their innovation and market adaptation strategy.
  1. Monitor Your Competitor’s Performance

Conducting thorough competitor research is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and analysis. So, stay informed about your competitors' activities and strategies so you can adapt your approach accordingly. Monitor their market share, sales trends, and customer loyalty indicators to adjust your strategy proactively.

Remember to use the insights you’ve gathered from your competitor research as a guide in creating your own winning strategy. You don't have to copy what they do. Instead, be inspired, innovate and stand out!

Consumer Research

As the famous Patrick Murphy said, “Without consumer research, you’re just guessing.” Don’t guess what your consumers want - research and identify their needs, wants and desires, so you have a fully-formed idea of the people who will be buying your product. This makes your branding, messaging, marketing and more a whole lot more targeted to really hit the sweet spot and speak to the people you want to appeal to.

What exactly is Consumer Research?

Consumer research focuses on understanding everything about your target audience. It involves collecting data directly from consumers to get insights into their buying habits, how they use products, what they value in a brand, and what factors influence their purchasing decisions.

With consumer research, one can unveil not just what the customers are buying but why they are making those purchases – it’s like a compass pointing you to a deeper understanding of your customers’ buying and decision-making process.

Benefits of Consumer Research

Conducting comprehensive consumer research will let you have:

  • Deep customer understanding by knowing the demographics, interests, online behavior, needs, and habits of your audience. This knowledge will guide your product development, brand messaging, marketing messages and customer service, so you can ultimately create a superior customer experience.
  • Informed Decision-Making: By researching consumer needs & preferences, you can use those insights to make informed decisions based on real data. This reduces risk and positions your store for success.
  • Targeted Marketing & Sales: Understanding your ideal customer allows you to tailor your marketing messages and channels to more strongly resonate with them. This attracts the right audience and increases the chance of conversion, reducing your cost to acquire a customer.
  • Product-Market Fit: Research helps you identify unmet customer needs and tailor your product offerings to address them directly. This ensures your products are solving real problems for your target market.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: When customer feedback and preferences are incorporated into your business, you demonstrate that their voice matters. This fosters loyalty and encourages repeat business.

How to Conduct Consumer Research

Now that you know the significance of consumer research, let’s break down the process of doing it.

Define Your Objectives

Start by clearly defining what you want to learn from your consumer research. Are you looking to understand why a particular product is not selling as expected? Or are you interested in identifying features your customers would like to see in your products? Setting specific objectives will guide your research efforts effectively.

Choose Your Research Methods

Some of the methods you can use to gather consumer insights are:

  • Surveys and Questionnaires are excellent for collecting quantitative data from a large audience. They can be posted to public forums like a Facebook page, or invite-only to a survey page.
  • Interviews: Conducting one-on-one interviews allows for deeper insights into consumer attitudes, motivations, and behaviors with more natural discussion occurring.
  • Focus Groups: Bringing together a small group to discuss their perceptions and opinions can provide valuable qualitative insights.
  • Observational Research: Observing consumers in a natural setting can reveal how they interact with products or make purchasing decisions in real time.
  • Social Listening: See what people are saying about your brand, your competitors, and relevant industry topics by diving into social media forums and online communities. This can reveal customer sentiment and emerging trends.
  • Customer Reviews and Testimonials: Don't underestimate the power of what your existing customers are saying! Analyse reviews on your website, product pages, and external platforms to understand customer pain points and areas of satisfaction.

Utilise Tools and Platforms

Several tools and platforms can make consumer research easier and more efficient. Explore tools and platforms like…

  • Online survey tools like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Typeform for designing and distributing surveys.
  • Social media analytics tools to understand consumer behavior and preferences on social platforms.
  • Customer feedback software like Hotjar or Uservoice collects and analyses customer feedback on your website or product.
  • Analytics platforms such as Google Analytics to track and understand how consumers interact with your online store.

Analyze and Act on the Insights

Collecting the data is the first step; analyzing the results to uncover the insights is where the action is. These insights help you make informed decisions about product development, marketing strategies, and customer experience improvements.

Consumer research is indispensable to every ecommerce store owner. It unveils what your customers crave, assisting you in crafting targeted strategies that drive satisfaction, loyalty, and sales. Regularly doing consumer research keeps your store proactive and relevant, especially in a competitive industry.

The next chapter of refining your ecommerce strategy is to develop buyer personas. Let's break down what they are, their benefits, and how you can create them

Buyer Personas

If consumer research is a collection of puzzle pieces, a buyer persona is the picture that emerges when you put those puzzle pieces together.

Buyer personas are semi-fictional characters that represent your ideal customers. They are crafted based on the insights you gather through consumer research so you have a clear understanding who your audience is, allowing you to connect with them on an emotional level.

By going through this process, you may uncover multiple personas who would benefit from your product, whilst also being vastly different people.

For example, a product that increases energy levels and mental clarity, may appeal to both a young woman seeking a pre-workout formula for the gym, as well as a mature, male businessman who wants to be on top of his game for the next client meeting.

Both of these personas will approach your product differently, and your marketing messages may need to be split out to appeal to both.

Why Develop Buyer Personas?

The creation of buyer personas offers numerous advantages:

  • Sharpening your marketing campaigns. Buyer personas let you target the right audience with the right message on the right channel.
  • Enhanced product/service development: Understanding your personas' specific needs and pain points can guide you into developing products or services that have the right features to solve their problems.
  • Higher conversion rates: Buyer personas help in creating compelling content that resonates more with potential customers, leading to higher engagement and conversions.
  • Better customer experience: By knowing your personas well, you can design customer experiences more aligned to their preferences and exceed their expectations.

How to Develop Buyer Personas

Take note that if you opted for a market research expert from the very beginning, you can ask them to develop your buyer personas too!

Gather Consumer Insights & Identify Segments

The first step in developing buyer personas is to gather as much information as possible about your current and potential customers. From there, start identifying distinct segments by looking for patterns and commonalities within your customer base.

These segments might be based on demographic factors (age, gender, location), behavioral factors (buying habits, brand interactions), or psychographic factors (interests, values, lifestyle).

Build Your Persona Profiles

For each identified segment, create a detailed persona. Include the following information:

  1. Demographic Information
  • Age: A specific age or range.
  • Gender: Include how the persona identifies.
  • Location: Where they live can be as broad as a country or as specific as a city.
  • Education Level: Highest completed education.
  • Occupation & Industry: Job title and the field they work in.
  • Income Level: Can be a specific figure or a range adjusted for their location.
  1. Psychographic Information
  • Personality Traits: Introverted/extroverted, analytical/creative, etc.
  • Values: What they hold important in their life and in work
  • Interests/Hobbies: What they do in their spare time
  • Lifestyle: A broad view of their daily life, including work-life balance, health consciousness, etc.
  • Goals and Aspirations: Both personal and professional.
  • Challenges and Pain Points: What problems do they face that your product/service can solve?
  1. Behavioural Traits
  • Buying Behaviour: How they approach purchases in your category (impulsive, research-oriented, brand-loyal, etc.).
  • Media Consumption: Where they get information (social media platforms, newspapers, blogs, etc.).
  • Technology Usage: Comfort level with technology, devices they use, and software preferences.
  • Communication Preferences: Preferred methods for personal and professional communication (email, phone, in-person, social media).
  1. User-Specific Information
  • Device Preferences: Smartphone, tablet, desktop; iOS or Android, Windows or MacOS.
  • User Experience Preferences: Simplicity vs. complexity, visual vs. textual, level of interactivity.
  • Online Behaviours: Time spent online, preferred websites/apps, online shopping habits.
  1. Quotes and Anecdotes
  • Include direct quotes from research or interviews that exemplify the persona's attitudes, beliefs, or experiences. These add depth and relatability.
  1. A Day in the Life Narrative
  • Create a short narrative that describes a typical day for your persona, incorporating elements from all the above categories. Day-in-the-life stories help bring the personas to life and make them more relatable to you and/or your team.
  1. Photograph or Illustration
  • A visual representation can help you and your team remember and empathise with the persona. Choose or create an image that reflects the persona's lifestyle and demographic.
  1. Name and Identifiers
  • Give your persona a name and any relevant identifiers (e.g., "Budget-Conscious Brenda," "Techie Tom") to make them easily referrable in discussions.

Utilise Tools and Software

There are tools and software available to further enhance your research and persona-creation process. While not critical, you can always leverage them to your benefit.

  • CRM software: Platforms like Salesforce and HubSpot (if you plan to use them in the future) can provide valuable insights into customer behaviors and preferences, even if you don't have a store yet.
  • Persona creation tools: Online tools like UXPressia offers templates and guides to streamline your persona building process.
  • 2nd party research: Collaborating with research agencies or purchasing data directly from them can provide access to valuable market insights that aren't publicly available.
  • AI tools: ChatGPT is a great way to create rough personas without the need to gather data manually.
  • Design tools: Apps such as Canva are a great for visualizing your personas without the learning curve of other tools. They have many premade templates to choose from.

Refine and Update Personas Regularly

Buyer personas should never be static. They should evolve as you gather more data about your customers and as market conditions change. Review and update your personas regularly to reflect new insights and ensure they remain accurate and relevant.

What If You Have No Customer Data To Start With?

At this stage of your journey, you might not have any real customer data to work with. Here's how you can gather the necessary insights:

Leverage Publicly Available Data

Begin by exploring publicly available data and research in your industry. Look for market reports, industry trends, consumer surveys, and demographic information from government agencies or market research firms. This data can offer valuable insights into the general landscape of your target market.

Analyse Competitor Customers

Observing and analysing your competitors' customers can provide indirect insights into your potential customer base.

Examine their social media presence, customer reviews, forums, and other platforms where customers express opinions and preferences. Note common themes, demographics, and feedback that could indicate broader market trends and customer preferences.

Social Media and Online Communities

Social media platforms and online communities related to your niche can be goldmines for information. Engage with these communities, participate in discussions, and note members' common questions, pain points, and preferences. Social media listening software can help you track relevant conversations and trends.

Conduct Informal Surveys or Interviews

You can conduct informal surveys or interviews with potential customers even before you build your ecommerce store. Identify friends, family, or acquaintances who match your target demographic or use social media platforms to reach out to potential survey participants.

Tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey can facilitate this process, allowing you to gather qualitative data about preferences, needs, and behaviors.

Create Hypothetical (Proto) Personas

Based on the information gathered from these sources, start creating hypothetical buyer personas.

These personas should be informed by the data you've collected, but remember, they are starting points. Include assumptions you've made about their needs, preferences, and behaviours, but label them clearly as assumptions with a view to validate or change them later.

Leverage The Power of AI

While we don’t recommend developing personas without at least some data gathering or professional contribution, AI can provide some ideas which you can then further refine.

You could provide a prompt to ChatGPT or similar which includes the current data you hold, and ask it to “fill in the blanks” based on what you don’t know. Your prompt would look something like this:

“You’re a professional consumer researcher. Create three detailed personas for my [enter product type/industry/niche] ecommerce business. Use any data you can gather in your database, search engines and generally available data to make the persona as objective as possible. Please include the following information:

[Include the information relating to their demographics, psychographics, behaviors etc as listed in the “How to Develop Buyer Persona’s section above"]

Validate and Refine Your Personas

The most crucial step in working without direct customer data is validating and refining your personas as you engage with real customers. Once your ecommerce store is operational, collect data through every customer interaction: sales, feedback forms, or customer service enquiries.

Use this data to validate the assumptions made in your hypothetical personas and refine them based on actual customer insights.

As you can see, buyer personas paint a vivid picture of who you're selling to. The people you sell to can and will change over time, so make this a living document and refine them regularly as you learn more about your customers.

Strategic Planning

You have gathered intel through market research, sized up the competition, and built buyer personas to understand your ideal customer. In this section, we will bring all of that together with a strategic planning tool known as a SWOT analysis.

What is a SWOT analysis?

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool that dissects your business's current position. It helps you step back from the intricate details to see a broader overview of your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Strengths: The unique positive features your brand possesses that give you an advantage over your competitors. This could be your brand identity, product features, loyal customer base, or operational efficiencies.

Weaknesses: These are the negative attributes and limitations that currently exist within your business. Do you have resource constraints, high supply costs, gaps in product development, processes or technology, or weaknesses in marketing reach? Be honest (without being defensive) in identifying these in order to improve them.

Opportunities: These are areas that you can take advantage of and gain or keep an upper hand over your competitors. Do you see areas of growth potential? Are there emerging trends you can capitalize on, untapped customer segments, or gaps in the market your product can fill?

Threats:  These are external factors that could negatively impact your brand or business operation. While you can't directly manipulate these factors, you can identify them and develop strategies to mitigate or minimize their impact.

Examples include the shift of consumer preferences away from your product category, increased competition from established brands, an economic downturn leading to a decline in consumer spending, or the implementation of a new regulation that increases your production costs.

Why do a SWOT Analysis?

Taking the time to step back and look at your business from a broader, strategic standpoint is important. It is far too easy to get caught up in the granular detail we have been researching above, without taking stock of how everything fits together. This is a strategy tool, and when used effectively it will allow you to:

  • Sharpen Your Focus: Identify your unique strengths and weaknesses to build upon your competitive edge and address any limitations.
  • Spot Opportunities: Uncover market gaps, emerging trends, and untapped customer segments to fuel growth strategies.
  • Develop Winning Tactics: Craft effective marketing plans, assess product viability, and set realistic goals, all informed by your SWOT insights.
  • Navigate Challenges: Anticipate and mitigate potential threats before they arise, or put plans in place just in case certain situations eventuate.

How to do a SWOT Analysis

Your SWOT analysis must be based on solid information & insights. Once you have analyzed the data and learnings from your own market research, competitor analysis, and consumer research, organize those learnings using the SWOT matrix.

At this stage you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the broader picture. You then take a page or whiteboard, divide it into 4 squares, and label each one - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. List each insight or point into the relevant box to form a complete picture of your business.

Interpreting a SWOT Analysis

To interpret your SWOT analysis, remember to:

  • Find the Connections: Look for patterns and links between your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Can you leverage your strengths (like a loyal customer base) to capitalize on opportunities (growing demand for a new product category)?
  • Turn Threats into Opportunities: Identify weaknesses that make you vulnerable to threats (like dependence on a single supplier). Can you address these weaknesses (diversify your supply chain) to minimize the threat and/or turn it into an opportunity (negotiate better deals with multiple suppliers)?
  • Prioritize Your Battles: Prioritise each element based on its likelihood and potential impact. For example, a minor price increase for shipping would be less impactful than a technological shift that renders your core products obsolete. Weighing these factors in your analysis helps you focus on the most critical areas.
  • Make Informed Decisions: Use your SWOT analysis to compare different scenarios and guide your decision-making. Is launching a new product line the best way to exploit an opportunity, or should you focus on improving customer service to address a weakness?

Your Product

Chances are, you already know what you want to sell. You might be established offline, such as selling at markets or a pop-up store, or have an idea for products or product lines that will specifically serve one portion of the market better than the current offering (known as your differentiator—what makes you and your products different).

Regardless, now is the time to consider whether those products can be improved to be more desirable to your ideal customer. In this section, we’ll dive into product research and validation, sourcing, storage and logistics, and pricing strategy to ensure your product fits your market the best way possible.

Product-Market Fit

In order for your business to succeed online, understanding product-market fit, and how this carries through your overall brand, is critically important.

Product-market fit relates to how your product will satisfy your market better than your current competition. It’s the reason that your customers buy your products as opposed to a direct competitor.

Sometimes, it’s the actual product, such as the materials or ingredients, durability and quality or more being more effective at solving problems.

Sometimes, it’s more about the brand or what you represent. A luxury handbag is still a handbag - it’s the BRAND that creates the status symbol.

Ideally, it will be a combination of both. Using what you learned/decided from your market research, take time to look at how this will translate through to your products. Is there an opportunity to change/tweak/improve your product to better serve your market? Or maybe your current competitors have weak branding, presenting an opportunity for a beautifully designed brand identity.

Product Research & Validation - Removing Guesswork

To ensure the best possible product-market fit, don’t leave things to chance. You might find a genuine gap in the market, but only 0.1% of your customers actually care about it. This is where Product Research & Validation comes in - to make sure your hypothesis can turn into a real opportunity and avoid over-engineering something that’s just not that important.

The below tools will first help you understand the size and scope of a market while identifying trending content, ideas and themes you can use to your advantage. Following that, we'll discuss options to validate how your specific points of difference uncovered in the above section will translate into a tribe of passionate buyers who love what your products are all about.

Product Research Tools - Is there a market for your stuff?

1. Google Trends

Google Trends allows you to see how interest in specific topics changes over time, which can help you predict market demand and seasonal fluctuations. Spot trends in what people are searching online.

2. Jungle Scout

Jungle Scout provides detailed data on product demand, competition, and potential profitability to Amazon sellers (arguably the largest online marketplace in the world) which helps to gauge the viability of your product ideas.

3. Trend Hunter

Trend Hunter is the world's largest, most popular trend community. It offers insights into the latest industry trends and can help you identify emerging consumer interests.

4. BuzzSumo

With its ability to analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor, BuzzSumo is a powerful tool for social listening and content trend spotting. It can help you understand what products are being discussed and shared across social networks, providing insight into potential market desires.

5. Semrush

SEMrush offers a lot of website analysis, market analysis, search engine rankings and many other features. Particularly useful at this stage is the “Top Websites” section where you can explore the top ranking websites across various industries. Understanding what’s working for your competitors is a clear sign of active interest in similar products.

Product Validation

Thanks to your product research, you know that hand-made candle sales are booming. But, will those hungry candle buyers actually want your special 240-hour burn time monster, or would they prefer sustainable packaging? Say hello to your new best friend - Product Validation.

Validating your product means gathering evidence that people are willing and eager to buy your products before you fully commit to mass production, marketing, and sales efforts.

Product Validation Options

  1. Consumer Research

Hire a consumer research firm to conduct in-depth analysis and validation studies. They will arrange focus groups, detailed surveys, and one-on-one interviews to gather nuanced insights about your target market's needs and the potential reception of your product.

  1. Social Media

Use paid advertising campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms to serve polls and short questionnaires, and even build a list of potential customers who already want what you’re going to offer.

  1. Organic Social Media

While paid campaigns guarantee greater reach, you can also create polls and pose questions to relevant groups on Reddit, Quora, online forums, your own social media profiles and business pages.

  1. Crowdfunding Campaigns

When the up-front costs of development and bringing your product to market are prohibitively expensive, you can consider Kickstarter and other crowdfunding websites to secure orders & confirm interest well before you’ve entered into contracts for production.

Sourcing, Storage & Logistics

Another key area of preparation is the logistics side of your business.

There are multiple options available to help you manage the selling of physical products, and each come with advantages and disadvantages. We’ll run through the most common arrangements across sourcing your product, storing them, and how best to get them in the hands of your customer

Options For Sourcing Your Products

Dropshipping

You’ve probably heard this term all over the internet in the past few years. A customer orders, you place the order with the supplier and the product is shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. Low cost, no inventory to hold… sounds great right? Not really. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

  • Low Cost - You don’t buy any stock until you’ve got the order for the item.
  • No Inventory Risk - You don't hold inventory so there’s no risk of having something that doesn’t sell taking up space in the warehouse.

Cons:

  • No customization - You’re selling the supplier’s products, so you can’t brand them, change them or customize them in any way, including packaging (no differentiator.)
  • Low Margin - because the product isn’t special, you’ll find your margins are much lower, and competition at similar price points are high, because the supplier will dropship for other businesses selling the exact same product that you are.
  • Supply - you’re at the mercy of your supplier when it comes to supply. If they sell out, you can’t take orders. There’s a risk they’ll sell out _after_ you’ve already taken orders and there’s not much you can do about it.
  • Delivery - The supplier controls who they use to deliver the product, handling times, and cost of postage. This means your customers may face delivery delays that are not consistent with the service you wish to provide.

This all boils down to a lack of control. No control over your product, delivery or fulfilment. If you’re aiming to build a legitimate, long-lasting brand, we can’t recommend dropshipping to help you get there. It only serves a small portion of entrepreneurs building with almost zero budget. You want to control, develop, and improve the entire customer journey in line with your brand values, so this is our least preferred option.

Bulk Ordering

As the name suggests, it’s as simple as placing a large order with a manufacturer or wholesaler, to bring your unit cost down. The product is delivered to you in bulk, you store it, and ship it off to your customer as the orders come in.

Unlike dropshipping, you can control the fulfillment and delivery in your customer’s journey, but it still doesn’t allow for any product customization, apart from say branded packaging if you purchase this separately.

White-label Manufacturing

We’re getting closer to curating a complete brand experience with White-labelling. This is where a manufacturer will produce your product, with limited customization (usually a logo or simple design changes such as color.) It does allow you to create a version of your product that only your brand can sell, as long as you’re not looking at extensive customizations.

The manufacturer will make it and ship it to you in bulk, each time you order, enabling you to stock your shelves with YOUR products. They will have a minimum order quantity, however this is quite low depending on the manufacturer chosen, sometimes as low as 200 pieces.

Contract Manufacturing

This is where things get serious. You enter into a contract with a manufacturer with the machinery to make your product to your exact specifications in a certain quantity. The minimum order quantity is generally in the thousands, but if you have the budget, you can work with them to create a unique, complete product just for you and your brand, including customized packaging to meet your standards.

This is a deeper level of engagement, so do your research to choose a manufacturer with a proven track record for quality and consistency. They will often allow a visit to their facility to view their operations and make sure everything is to your satisfaction. Seek legal assistance to arrange a professionally drafted contract outlining your expectations, timelines, and quality standards to reduce any miscommunication.

Contract manufacturing allows you almost complete control over the product specifications, as well as allowing you to scale quickly when required, such as leading up to Christmas or other peak buying seasons.

Storing Your Products

Now that you’ve put the plans in place to source your products, you’ll need a plan to store them. You have a few different options to consider which will be impacted by your overall budget, the size and capacity of your storage requirements, and the level of control you require.

Self-Storage

For smaller operations, by all means consider self-storage options as a way to keep costs down whilst you scale and grow the business. Self-storage includes using your own garage/warehouse space in your own home, spare rooms/areas in your office or commercial building, or a rented storage unit at a facility where your products can be delivered in bulk.

You may find you quickly out-grow this option and want to move to a more scalable alternative to enable you to grow your team, your sales, and your overall operation without facing logistics bottlenecks, as is the case when you only have a limited amount of stock on hand at once.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers offer outsourced logistics services, including inventory management, warehousing, and fulfillment. Utilizing 3PL can be a game-changer, especially when you're scaling up. It allows you to focus on growing your business while experts handle the logistical complexities.

When choosing a 3PL provider, consider their technology capabilities, scalability, and reliability track record.

Integration tools like ShipBob or Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) can seamlessly connect your ecommerce store with your chosen 3PL provider, ensuring complete inventory tracking across both online and offline sales, such as at markets, events, or retail locations.

Your product is delivered to the 3PL warehouse, who also hold products for other businesses. So rather than a dedicated warehouse, you essentially share the warehouse with multiple other businesses.

The 3PL company have their own staff and systems in place to ensure your customer’s orders are picked, packed and shipped out promptly.

Own Warehousing

Setting up your own warehousing makes sense for larger operations, giving full control over your entire inventory and shipping process.

This approach requires a significant investment in time, resources, and infrastructure but allows you to create and work to your own logistics standards when it comes to crafting the ideal customer experience.

When setting up a warehouse, consider a location that provides a good balance between shipping times and costs. Invest in warehouse management software to streamline operations and consider the importance of a trained, efficient team to manage day-to-day operations.

Shipping Your Products

Choosing the right shipping strategy is critical for any ecommerce store owner wishing to build a strong, lasting brand. Your approach to shipping should go beyond just sending products from point A to point B as cheaply as possible.

You’re aiming to enhance customer satisfaction (maximizing reliable, on-time deliveries, providing express options, etc) while optimizing costs, and improving operational efficiency. Let's break down the what, why, and how of crafting an effective shipping strategy for your ecommerce venture.

What is a Shipping Strategy?

A shipping strategy encompasses the methods and processes you use to deliver products to your customers. It involves choosing shipping carriers, deciding on shipping rates and methods, and managing the logistics behind packing and dispatching orders.

The goal is to balance cost-effectiveness and speed, ensuring a delightful customer experience without compromising profitability.

Benefits of a Well-Defined Shipping Strategy

  • Customer Satisfaction: Offering various shipping options at different price points can appeal to a broader audience and improve the shopping experience. Conversely, a high-end brand should aim to deliver exceptional service at every opportunity, so you may consider express delivery as a standard offering.
  • Cost Efficiency: Optimising shipping costs can directly impact your bottom line, making your business more competitive.
  • Brand Loyalty: Reliable and fast shipping encourages repeat purchases, building a loyal customer base.
  • Operational Efficiency: Streamlining the shipping process reduces errors and saves time, staffing costs, allowing you to maximise your growth potential and scale with less resources.

How to Develop Your Shipping Strategy

  1. Analyse Your Products

Consider size, weight, and fragility to determine shipping needs and packaging solutions.

  1. Understand Your Audience

Know where your customers are located and their expectations regarding shipping speed and cost.

  1. Compare Carriers

Look into various carriers to find the best rates and services for your needs. Tools like Shippo or ShipStation can help you compare carrier rates and services.

  1. Decide on Your Shipping Rates

You can opt for free shipping (increasing product prices to cover costs), charge a flat rate, or pass exact shipping costs to the customer. Each method has pros and cons - your choice may depend on your competition, customer preferences, and overall service model.

  1. Implement Logistics Software

Utilise logistics software to automate and manage shipping tasks efficiently. Software services include generating shipping labels, tracking shipments, and updating inventory levels.

  1. Optimise Packaging

Use the minimum necessary packaging to save on shipping costs while protecting products. Consider branded packaging to enhance the customer unboxing experience (hop on YouTube and search “unboxing” to see countless unboxing videos that all help boost brand awareness.)

  1. Evaluate and Adjust

Regularly review your shipping strategy to ensure it remains cost-effective and meets customer expectations. Be prepared to adjust your approach based on customer feedback, shipping cost changes, and operational efficiency. As your brand grows and you’re sending increasing volumes of products, your negotiating power will increase and it’s worth revisiting local carriers to find the best available options.

Shipping Strategy Tools

  • Rate Comparison Tools: As mentioned, Shippo and ShipStation allow you to compare shipping rates and services, helping you make informed decisions.
  • Shipping and Fulfilment Apps: Most shipping and fulfillment apps integrate with popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce. Apps like Shipbob integrate with carriers, automate shipping processes and labeling, and provide real-time shipping information to customers.
  • Warehouse Management Software: Again, various options are available to help streamline your operations across multiple locations while integrating seamlessly with your ecommerce store. It’s best to research the app’s documentation to ensure it meets your needs. For example, ShipBob has a warehouse management feature built into its product.
  • Customer Feedback Tools: Use surveys and feedback tools like Zigpoll for Shopify and Typeform for WooCommerce or other ecommerce platforms. Implementing customer feedback surveys helps you understand customer satisfaction with your shipping options and make necessary adjustments.

Choosing and refining your shipping strategy is an ongoing process.

As your ecommerce store grows, what works best for your products, customers, and business as a whole will continue to change and evolve. Remember, the goal is to create a shipping experience that delights your customers while supporting the growth of your brand.

By focusing on efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and customer satisfaction, your shipping strategy can become a powerful tool in your e-commerce arsenal and a key part of the customer experience.

Pricing

It’s important to understand that the term “value” is very subjective. Understanding how people see value, and applying these principles to your business, can mean the difference between scraping by, and having a very profitable endeavor that your market raves about.

Most of the value that people perceive is outside of the product itself - it’s the brand, the service & customer experience, how desirable the product may be, the overall effects on the buyer, and how limited the supply may be.

All these factors should be considered, and to some extent engineered, to maximise the potential value your product provides to your customers.

Meeting Your Market

Now that you’ve completed your market research, you should have a pretty solid idea of exactly who your business is trying to appeal to. In order to price your items effectively, you must meet your market where they currently sit.

Consider their income and potential budget for your product. Do they have a lot of disposable income (or discretionary spending) for your product? Is your product a necessity, a want, or a luxury?

Necessities tend to be priced lower to be more accessible to people of all incomes - think basic foods, clothing etc.

Luxuries on the other hand, are purposely priced out of reach for many, to limit the supply and maintain the idea this is something special, something that not everyone can or will be able to afford.

The way you price your product must meet your market in order to be something they will want to buy.

Relationship Between Profit Margins & Volume

If you can sell many of something, you can afford a smaller profit margin. If you can only sell a few, your margins must be higher to fund overall operations.

Think about how often a customer will need to re-purchase your product, such as a monthly subscription to a consumable item versus a durable tool designed to last forever.

When building a sustainable brand with longevity in mind, profit on a single item/sale is less important than considering the overall value of a customer. Here’s an example:

  • Business 1 - Sells an ever-lasting torch that can survive all conditions and is guaranteed for 15 years. The torch gives you a profit of $150.00.
  • Business 2 - Sells a ready-to-drink health shake via monthly subscription. Each monthly sale provides a profit of $40.00.

Over a twelve month period, Business 1 makes $150 profit from each customer. Business 2 will make $480 from each customer. Over a 2, or 5, or 10 year period, the difference is astronomical.

Ecommerce Store Branding

Shopify store branding goes well beyond a memorable logo or a catchy slogan. It encompasses the entire experience your customers have with your store.

If the day-to-day operations of your online store are the brains of the business, then branding is its heart and soul.

It's the personality embodied in the visual aesthetics of your packaging, in the tone of your communication, in the emotions you evoke inside of your customers during the buying process and the customer service experience.

Branding shapes this experience, making your store not just a place to shop, but a brand that resonates with your audience. It's one of the main reasons your customers choose you over the competition, based on how deeply they can connect with you.

It’s about crafting communications that create emotional connection.

Take Nike for example, do you think people buy their products because of the features? Product development plays a role, yes, however the big reason why people buy is the identity and status it gives them.

Nike has worked hard to position itself as the #1 athletic apparel brand through high-quality design, aspirational content, community building, and celebrity partnerships, enhancing its brand image and driving sales.

Ecommerce branding starts with brand guidelines and is reinforced through marketing.

The benefits of effective branding can’t be understated. Consider this quote from the King of Advertising himself, David Ogilvy:

“There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents, and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.” - David Ogilvy.

As you can see, branding is critically important to the success of your ecommerce store. This is one area to invest in outside expertise to sharpen up the brand you’re trying to create and bring your ideas to life in a way that will deeply resonate with your target market.

How to Create an Ecommerce Brand Identity

Creating a solid brand identity for your ecommerce store begins with hiring an experienced designer whose work aligns with your vision.

This process involves a collaborative effort, where detailed briefings on your brand's mission, vision, audience, and personality are shared to inform the design.

Creating a brand identity document is central to this process, encapsulating logos, color schemes, and typography, ensuring every element resonates with your brand's core values.

Hiring a Brand Designer

  1. Find the Right Designer & Copywriter

Look for a designer with a proven track record in brand identity development for ecommerce stores.

Their portfolio should impress you and reflect your brand vision. Most user interface/user experience (UI/UX) designers offer complete brand identity kits, which is often a better option because they can create your website design without the need to brief a separate designer.

You can consider looking for a design agency that can include your brand voice or hire a separate copywriter for your designer to collaborate with.

  1. Collaborative Briefing

Engage closely with your designer, providing them with a deep understanding of your brand's essence. This foundation enables the designer to translate your business values into compelling visual elements.

  1. Brand Identity Document Development

Your designer will craft a comprehensive brand identity document that begins with your logo and includes vital brand elements like color schemes, voice, imagery and typography. This branding document will be your Brand Bible, and will serve as a blueprint for consistently applying your brand identity across all internal and external communication channels.

  1. Feedback and Revision

Open and ongoing communication with your designer is vital. The iterative process of feedback and revision is key to refining your brand's visual elements until they perfectly encapsulate your brand.

Your Involvement in the Process

  • Provide Inspiration: Share logos, websites, or brands that inspire you. This helps give your designer clear direction on your aesthetic preferences and expectations. Define your brand’s vision, mission, personality and values, and share core beliefs that you believe will resonate (based on previous research).
  • Active Participation: Actively participate in the design process by reviewing drafts, providing feedback, and asking questions. Your engagement is crucial to ensure the final designs authentically reflect your brand.
  • Implementation Guidance: After finalizing the brand identity document and logo, your designer should assist you in implementing these elements throughout your ecommerce store and marketing materials, ensuring a cohesive and engaging brand presence.

At the end of the engagement, you’re aiming for more than just a nice logo and a unique font. Your brand identity should form the base for your website, marketing and beyond. Ensure that what has been outlined in your Brand Bible has been completely translated to your business. Don’t rush this process.

What's in a Brand Guidelines Document?

  1. Your Brand Overview

Mission Statement: The core purpose of your brand.

Vision Statement: What you aspire to achieve in the future.

Brand Values: The key principles and beliefs that guide your brand.

Brand Story: A narrative that encapsulates the essence of your brand, including its history and evolution.

  1. Brand Identity

Logo Usage: Guidelines for using your logo, including size, spacing, what not to do, and variations for different contexts.

Color Palette: Primary and secondary colors with specific CMYK, RGB, and HEX codes.

Typography: Specifications for typefaces and fonts used in all brand materials, including headings, body text, and special stylings.

Imagery Style: Guidelines on the style of photography, illustrations, and any graphical elements that fit your brand's aesthetic.

  1. Brand Voice and Tone

Voice: The overall personality of your brand expressed through written and spoken communication.

Tone: How your brand's voice is adjusted based on the context, audience, and platform. Include examples for different scenarios.

  1. Digital Presence

Website: Design elements specific to your website, including layout grids, button styles, and navigation.

Social Media: Guidelines for profile images, post layouts, hashtags, and how to engage with your audience.

Email Communications: Templates for newsletters, promotional emails, and signatures that align with your brand identity.

  1. Print and Packaging

Stationery: Design templates for business cards, letterheads, envelopes, and other stationery.

Packaging: Guidelines for product packaging, including materials, textures, and how your brand elements are applied.

Merchandising: Specifications for branded merchandise, ensuring consistency in how your logo and brand colors are used.

  1. Advertising and Marketing

Ad Templates: Guidelines for creating advertisements, including billboard designs, print ads, and online banners.

Marketing Materials: Specifications for brochures, flyers, and posters, including layout grids and copywriting tone.

  1. Content Creation

Editorial Style Guide: Guidelines for writing and formatting documents and content, including punctuation, grammar, and usage.

Video and Multimedia: Standards for video productions, including intro/outro segments, lower thirds, and background music.

  1. Legal and Usage

Trademark Usage: Guidelines on how and where the brand's trademarks can be used.

Copyright and Licences: Information on copyright laws relevant to your brand's assets and how third parties can use them.

  1. Examples and Templates

Real-Life Applications: Examples of how your brand elements should be used in various contexts, such as on a website, in a brochure, or on social media.

Templates: Ready-to-use templates for common brand materials to ensure consistency and ease of use across your team.

  1. Revision History

Document Updates: A log of changes made to the brand guidelines over time, including what was changed, when, and by whom.

By following this approach, you create a visual identity and a comprehensive brand experience that resonates with your audience and differentiates you in the marketplace.

Remember, a well-crafted brand identity is foundational to building a successful online business, fostering customer loyalty, and enhancing your store's market position.

A Note on Trademarks

Trademarking your ecommerce brand isn't just about protecting a name or a logo; it's about legally safeguarding your business's identity, reputation, and ability to stand out in a global marketplace.

While the principle of trademarking is consistent worldwide, the process of providing exclusive rights to your brand elements vary significantly from one region to another.

Each area presents unique challenges and opportunities, from understanding the nuances of intellectual property laws in the US, EU, and ANZ to navigating the specific requirements in emerging markets.

It is therefore crucial and generally recommended to consult with legal experts in your area in trademarking your ecommerce brand to ensure it's protected internationally.

Whether you're an established player or just starting out, securing a trademark for your brand is an essential step in building a resilient and globally successful ecommerce business.

Your Service Proposition

Now that you’ve got your market, products and brand planned out, it’s time to think about your overall service delivery - how will you best cater to your market? What will they best respond to?

For example, general consumers want stuff fast, and it must be easy to order. They’re not very tech savvy and will turn to your competitors if they can’t complete their purchase in a couple of clicks, and receive their goods in a few days. They’re likely to be far more budget conscious and so your pricing strategy must be competitive.

Conversely, a niche, high-end market will be willing to wait for their specific product, because they’re unlikely to want, or be able, to get it elsewhere. There’s less competition because they don’t want any version of the product, they want YOUR product, with your brand attached to it.

Success in ecommerce boils down to creating a strong, successful brand and having all of the functional parts organized. From the products and ordering process to fulfillment and aftersales communication. Together, these complement your brand and service your customers in the way they value and appreciate the most.

Two elements that tie your overall Service Proposition together with your ordering process, shipping strategy and fulfilment process are Warranties & Guarantees, and Aftersales/Customer Care.

Warranty & Guarantees

Every online retailer MUST have a warranty and guarantee in place to give customers peace of mind. Why is this? Because too many scampreneurs have come before you, walking away with customers' cash with no intention of sending the product or sending a low-quality fake. Consumers are wary and need some reassurance that despite everything seeming to be above board, what happens if things don’t go according to plan.

Your competition may have a 30-day returns policy. Why stop there? If a product hasn’t been opened, is there really any problem accepting a return three months later?

Put the best possible warranty & guarantee in place to relieve customers of any concerns and encourage them to click the button and place the order. Attach it to your brand, and sing it with pride as part of who you are and what you do.

Act in good faith - the vast majority of customers will never need to exercise your returns policy, but those who do should have a good experience. A smooth, stress-free experience further highlights just how awesome your brand really is.

Aftersales & Customer Care

Zappos are a US retailer who have become famous the world over, for the quality of their customer service. Returning an item with Zappos is incredibly easy. They work hard to surprise, delight, and make their customer’s day. When a product doesn’t fit or arrives damaged, Zappos works hard to turn an unhappy customer into a delighted one with fast refunds and replacements.

How can you deliver best in class service to these customers? Will you leverage automations like chat bots, email, website portals to minimise human interactions, or embrace the telephone and encourage customers to call for a chat? There is always a balance here, with certain markets preferring differing levels of self-service.

Think of the person buying a customized Ferrari. I’m sure they could log in to a website and select various options online, but would they want to? Of course not. They’re flying out to the factory to sit down and have a chat with an expert who will listen to their needs and walk them through the process—not because they have to, but because they can.

Soon, you’ll be building out your actual store and the customer experience process. Keep this balance in mind so that your after-sales and customer care processes are congruent with the store and the brand you are about to launch.

Stage 2: Get going (Setting Up)

Your Store

With all that research and preparation done, we come to setting up your online store. An online store, or an ecommerce store, is a web-based storefront that allows businesses or individuals to sell products or services directly over the internet.

Essentially, an ecommerce store is where customers browse through your products, add items to their shopping cart, and make purchases with secure payments options. The front-end of your store is the part that customers see, a professionally designed web page that makes ordering and payments easy. This is connected to the back-end system where you manage inventory, fulfilment, customer accounts, and customer relationships.

Domain Name

Choosing a domain name can be difficult. If your business doesn’t have a unique name and the domain is taken or way out of budget for now, consider adding “buy” or “shop” before the name which will allow you to use your brand name without unprofessional hyphens.

Depending on where you target market is geographically, you’ll want to ensure the top-level domain (TLD) reflects this. If you’re going global or operating in America, then .com will work well. Alternatively, for geo-specific ecommerce sites, use a specific TLD such as .au or .uk.

Choosing The Right Ecommerce Platform

There are many ecommerce platforms to choose from. The best platform for you depends on a range of factors including scalability, ease of use, customization flexibility, SEO and marketing, performance, security and cost.

Let’s briefly discuss each major platform’s pros and cons so you can make an informed decision when choosing an ecommerce website provider.

Shopify

Founded in 2006, Shopify started as an online store builder for selling snowboarding products online. The app quickly grew to become the leading ecommerce platform in the world.

Pros

Ease of Use: User-friendly interface and straightforward setup.

Scalability: Suitable for businesses of all sizes, handling high traffic efficiently.

App Integrations: Extensive app store for enhanced features and functionalities.

Security: Robust security measures with PCI-DSS compliance and SSL certificates.

Cons

Cost: Monthly fees and additional costs for premium themes and apps can be expensive.

Customization Limits: Advanced customizations require knowledge of Liquid programming.

Basic CMS (Content Management System): Limited content management features, especially for content-heavy sites.

Transaction Fees: Extra costs when using external payment gateways.

Who is Shopify For?

Shopify is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups seeking an easy to use, scalable eCommerce platform. It's perfect for quickly setting up an online store without extensive technical knowledge.

Retailers expanding from physical stores to online sales and businesses aiming for growth and scalability will also benefit from Shopify's comprehensive features and reliable performance.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce was founded in 2011 by Mike Jolley and James Koster. It was originally developed by WooThemes, a company specializing in WordPress themes, before being acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, in 2015.

Pros

Customization: Highly flexible with extensive customization options.

Integration: Seamlessly integrates with WordPress, leveraging its powerful CMS capabilities.

Cost: No monthly fees, with many free themes and plugins available.

Community Support: Large community and numerous resources for troubleshooting and development.

SEO: WordPress is known for its powerful SEO features. If you want to develop a content strategy to build traffic to your store, this is an attractive option.

Cons

Complexity: It can be complex to set up and manage, especially for non-technical users.

Maintenance: Requires regular updates and maintenance for plugins and themes.

Hosting Costs: Separate hosting is required, which can vary in cost.

Performance: Can slow down with heavy traffic if not properly optimized.

Who is WooCommerce For?

WooCommerce is ideal for businesses and individuals who want extensive customization and flexibility in their eCommerce platform. It is particularly suited for those already using WordPress, as it integrates seamlessly with the CMS.

It's a great option for small to medium-sized businesses that have some technical expertise or access to developers and want control over their site's functionality, SEO and design without the recurring costs of a hosted platform.

Squarespace Ecommerce

Squarespace launched its ecommerce functionality in 2013. The platform itself was founded in 2003 by Anthony Casalena, originally as a website builder, but expanded to include ecommerce features to meet the growing demand for online retail solutions.

Pros

Design Quality: High-quality, professional templates with a strong focus on aesthetics.

Ease of Use: Intuitive drag-and-drop editor, no coding required.

All-in-One: Includes hosting, domain registration, and security.

Integrated Tools: Built-in SEO, marketing, and analytics tools.

Cons

Customization Limits: Limited flexibility for advanced customizations compared to open-source platforms.

Price: Higher pricing tiers for advanced eCommerce features.

Scalability: Less suitable for very large or complex eCommerce operations.

Transaction Fees: Additional transaction fees on lower-tier plans if not using Squarespace’s payment processor.

Who is Squarespace Ecommerce For?

Squarespace Ecommerce is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses, creatives, and entrepreneurs who prioritize design and ease of use. It’s perfect for those who want a visually stunning online store that can be set up quickly without technical skills.

Squarespace Ecommerce is best suited for businesses that value integrated tools for SEO, marketing, and analytics, and are looking for an all-in-one solution that handles hosting, domain registration, and security. It is particularly beneficial for those who require a sleek and professional online presence for their brand without much upkeep.

Wix Ecommerce

Wix eCommerce was launched in 2010 as part of the Wix platform, which provides users with tools to create and manage online stores alongside their websites. Wix itself was founded in 2006, but the specific ecommerce capabilities were introduced four years later to cater to the growing demand for online shopping solutions.

Pros

Ease of Use: Intuitive drag-and-drop builder with no coding required.

Templates: Wide range of professionally designed eCommerce templates.

All-in-One: Includes hosting, domain registration, and security.

SEO Tools: Built-in SEO features to improve search engine rankings.

Cons

Customization Limits: Limited flexibility for advanced customizations.

Performance: Can be slower compared to other platforms with larger stores.

Ownership: Limited control over site data and hosting.

Scalability: Less suitable for very large or complex eCommerce operations.

Who is Wix Ecommerce For?

Wix ecommerce is ideal for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals who want an easy-to-use, all-in-one solution for creating an online store without technical skills.

It's perfect for those who need to get a store up and running quickly and prefer a platform that handles hosting, domain registration, and security.

Wix Ecommerce is best suited for small to medium-sized businesses that prioritize ease of use and convenience over extensive customization and scalability.

Designing Your Ecommerce Store

Armed with market research, it's now time to design your store. Depending on the platform you chose in the previous step, the complexity of your designs might be limited, so be sure to discuss this with your designer so they can deliver designs that are aligned with the platform.

The design phase of an ecommerce website has several steps:

  1. Customer Journey Mapping
  2. Wireframes & Prototypes
  3. Core content
  4. Copywriting

Customer Journey Maps

When visiting a new restaurant, how do you get there? You probably open the maps app on your phone and put in the address so you don't have to remember the directions.

A Customer Journey Map (CJM) is like Google Maps but for your customers, outlining every interaction from first becoming aware of your brand to making a purchase and beyond. Your CJM details every interaction with your website and serves as a valuable planning tool for your marketing and Customer Experience (CX) strategies.

By planning the entire process from start to finish, you're taking the guess work out of building a scaleable ecommerce machine.

A UX designer will use tools like UXpressia to design your customer journey, making it easier to identify pages, content, and apps/plugins required for your ecommerce store.

Wireframes & Prototypes

The next step in setting up is designing wireframes and prototypes. Wireframes form the skeleton of your store, outlining each page and its elements without color, copy and content. The goal of a wireframe is to get feedback from you and other stakeholders to ensure the structure is optimal before spending time adding branding and content.

Think of this like building a house. The architect first draws the sketches outlining the structure of the house. Once the sketches are approved, they move on to building a 3D model to visualize the final design before the drawings are approved.

Next is prototyping, which as you may have guessed, is when the designer uses your brand identity document to fill in the design of your store. Prototypes can be static or interactive but fundamentally, they should give you a picture-perfect view of what your store will look like when its finished.

The designer should recommend content for you to create based on UX (User Experience) and conversion optimization principles.

Things like story sections, testimonials and UGC (User Generated Content), product demo videos and friction-reducing icons should be included. Animations should also be included, whether inputting these directly in the prototype or adding comments instructing the developer how to implement them.

Who Creates Wireframes & Prototypes?

A UI/UX Ecommerce designer or web designer creates wireframes and prototypes. These professionals blend buyer psychology with design best practice to design ecommerce stores that are easy to use, look great and are optimized to convert.  Look for a web designer with a portfolio of high-quality Ecommerce store designs.

A web designer with expertise in your specific platform (such as Shopify) can also tell you what apps or plugins you need when developing your store.

Core Content

Regardless of your method for designing your store, you will need a lot of “core content” to build out the final product. Core content includes things such as copywriting, FAQs and store policies, as well as visual elements such as the hero banner, product, lifestyle & other images, videos, 3d models or mockups - all the ‘bits’ that go in and around the broader design of your store.

Good enough is not good enough. It is well worth your money to invest in outside expertise to ensure the words on your website hit their mark, the products look amazing, and the overall experience of your customers reflect that which you are trying to create.

Nothing kills the excitement of a sale more than poorly written product descriptions or a fuzzy, pixelated image. Let’s explore these elements in more detail.

Photography and Lifestyle Shots

High-quality product photography is critical, as it's often the first thing a customer will notice about your product.

You also want your images crisp and full of detail whether they are viewing your store on a mobile phone or a large computer monitor. Lifestyle shots, which place your product in a real-life context, help customers visualize using your product themselves.

These images should be clear, well-lit, and professionally styled to resonate with your target audience and reflect the brand's image. Invest in a professional product photographer to ensure the best results.

Product Videos

Product videos offer a dynamic way to showcase your products, providing a closer look at features, benefits, and uses. They can significantly increase customer engagement and understanding of the product, potentially reducing hesitation in the purchase process.

Graphics

Graphics, including banners, infographics, and other visual elements, can make your website more visually appealing and easier to navigate.

They can highlight promotions, explain complex information more simply, and strengthen your brand identity. Hiring a professional graphic designer is not expensive and will ensure that your banners pop and your website sings true to your brand.

Models and 3D Renders

Depending on the products you sell, incorporating 3D models & renders into your Shopify site will offer a cutting-edge, immersive view of your products.

These elements allow customers to see items in a comprehensive, 360-degree perspective, enhancing their ability to understand the product's scale, texture, and functionality.

Many vehicle manufacturers make use of 3D rendering to show you exactly what the vehicle will look like, with your chosen colour, wheels and accessories, so the customer can view their unique version rather than relying solely on images of a particular model/configuration shown on the website.

Copywriting

Copywriting is the technical term for all the words on your website. An expert copywriter knows how to write targeted, effective messaging that will appeal to your target audience.

The copy on your website, from product descriptions to blog posts, your about page, FAQs, store policies about shipping and your guarantee, should all be compelling, informative, and aligned with your brand voice.

Great copywriting will be fun to read, convey the value of your products, persuade your customers to buy and vastly improve your conversion rates.

You should engage a copywriter during the design phase during the wireframing process and ensure they are working closely with the UX designer.

Including your copywriter in the design phase prevents rework due to the requirement for new sections after your copywriter has completed the copy or vice versa. It's best to let them work together to come up with the best design + copy combo.

Other Important Elements

Testimonials & UGC (User Generated Content)

Have you ever bought something online without checking the reviews first?

Me neither.

Photo and text testimonials and other social proof content made by your customers like unboxing videos and social media posts, are a conversion element you’ll see in most successful ecommerce stores.

TIP: consider working with an agency that specifically handles sampling programs and UGC to launch your store with a bunch of reviews and customer-generated content. This means customers won’t be umming and ahhing at the checkout, and you won’t have to wait ages for reviews to accumulate in your store.

FAQs

An FAQ section addresses common customer inquiries and concerns, enabling them to get their answer immediately and proceed to purchase.

You might have a Shipping FAQ, as well as individual product FAQs at the bottom of each product page.

By anticipating and answering these questions, you streamline the customer journey, making it easier for them to make informed decisions without contacting customer service, or just leaving the site altogether.

Store Policies

Most ecommerce platforms provide standard policies to meet regulations and provide a starting point, such as a returns policy, written in very generic language. However, these pages are another chance to showcase what your brand is all about.

Create an exceptional returns policy written in your brand voice, expand your shipping policy to clearly show how fast and efficient the ordering process can be, and use your store policies to let your brand shine.

Development

With all the hard work done in the design phase, it’s time to build a fully functioning store. Most web designers can also develop the store, but this isn’t always the case.

Make sure you ask the designer about the store development early and if they can’t do it then look for a web developer with specific experience in your chosen ecommerce platform.

Depending on the complexity of your designs, the cost will vary. We recommend finding an ecommerce developer or agency who can both design and build your store because this is often more cost-effective.

Part 3: Keep Moving - The launch, management and growth of your business

The Launch

The launch of your store is an important milestone. This is when you hit the “on” button and go live with your website, from which point visitors will browse and buy your stuff. Before you jump straight in, let's make sure both your store and your customers are ready for each other.

Soft Launch

A soft launch involves quietly opening your store to a select group of people before the grand opening. This strategy allows you to test your website's functionality, identify any potential issues that didn’t show in your testing, and gather valuable feedback without the pressure of a full-scale launch.

That select group of people can be your friends, family, and a small segment of your target audience. Invite them to explore your site and ask for their feedback on usability, design, and overall experience then refine it.

This phase is crucial for testing, gathering initial feedback, and making adjustments to ensure a seamless shopping experience for your customers. You may want to provide a special discount for these customers as they’re the very first people to set their virtual foot inside your brand new store.

Building The Pre-Launch Buzz

Don't launch your store in silence! The best launches have a level of excitement and anticipation around the event, just like when Apple releases a new iPhone. Spread the word, create a countdown and if all goes to plan, your store will launch with a bang!

Build up the excitement before your big day by implementing a Pre-Launch Marketing Plan. While not critical, doing at least a few of these strategies will give you a major head-start:

✓ Creating a prelaunch landing page to capture emails, and email your list periodically to get them excited for the big day. Offer them a special, insiders only discount to purchase on day 1.

✓ Post social media content counting down to launch day.

✓ Explore PR opportunities where you can guest post or be interviewed about your new store and what it means for customers.

✓ Create a special event like a pre-launch party.

✓ Open up pre-orders or offer samples in exchange for referrals or publicity.

✓ Give incentives to early adopters.

✓ Use social media influencers to help build hype by reviewing your product before people can buy it.

✓ Run a pre-launch contest.

✓ Run ads to build awareness.

Your pre-launch marketing plan should be assisted by a digital marketing professional who can consider your overall budget and ensure you get the best bang for your buck. We recommend engaging a PR agency specializing in ecommerce to get the full potential out of your marketing efforts, and engage potential customers both online and offline.

Final Testing

Test and double-check everything before your grand opening. Act on feedback and analyze the data from your soft launch. You want to be 100% confident that everything in your store is ready to go to ensure your first few interactions come with sales, rather than emails about broken functionality! You want to test each of the following:

  1. Check your integrations and sales channels.

Check that all of your sales channels and integrations are live and working as planned. This includes offline channels such as POS systems for a market stall or pop-up shop.

  1. Check your domain.

Ask a few friends or people who have never visited your site before to access your site, go through the pages, and then purchase something via a dummy card on their mobile and desktop. This ensures any technical, communication, or design bugs are ironed out before real customers access the site.

  1. Review your checkout experience.

Check that your customers can complete a purchase from your store. Fix errors and remove any friction at checkout to improve user experience and prevent cart abandonment. Ensure that:

  • Shipping rates are displayed clearly at checkout
  • Discount codes are functional
  • Images display as they should, the layout is as expected
  • Familiar payment methods offered (credit card, PayPal, etc.)
  • Order status tracking is available & working
  • Contact details are visible if a customer has any questions
  • Automated purchase confirmation emails are triggering as planned
  1. Shipping and Tax Settings

Check that your shipping rates, GST or other sales taxes are calculating correctly and displaying as they should in your chosen currency.

  1. Conduct a content audit.

Read every word on your website. Double-check your product descriptions, homepage copy, buttons, and footer information for accuracy, consistency, spelling, and grammar.

  1. Analytics and tracking.

Have your analytics up and running from day one. This will give you valuable insights on where your customers and site visitors are coming from, where they experienced friction, and how they are navigating your website. You can use the data to make adjustments for improvement later on.

We recommend Google Analytics for data storage, Google Tag Manager for collecting the data and Looker for data visualization and insights. Your digital marketing agency will help you with this.

  1. Legal Pages

Ensure your store has all necessary legal pages – Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Return Policy – easy to read and clearly accessible.

  1. Backup Your Site

Always have a recent backup before going live, just in case. Most ecommerce platforms such as Shopify allow you to clone your entire theme so that you can easily make changes without losing what you currently have. Make a duplicate so you can quickly roll back any last minute changes if there is any issue.

Launch Sale & Sweet Deals

Since this is a very important event, mark your launch with a special promotion to entice your first few customers through the checkout.

Consider offering limited-time discounts and/or free shipping to attract early customers and create a sense of urgency to buy on their first visit, rather than just check you out and come back later.

The Grand Opening

When everything is tested and in place, flip the switch and make your store officially live!

Release all your launch day content – social media posts, exciting emails and/or SMS messages – let your audience know you are officially LIVE and OPEN FOR BUSINESS!

Follow the launch day strategy that you’ve prepared beforehand, ideally with the help of your marketing expert.

You can be forgiven for sitting in front of your computer all day, watching for every single visitor and anticipating that very first sale—you’ve put in an enormous amount of preparation, time, and effort for this moment.

Monitor your website traffic, your social media mentions, and your customer interactions. Prepare to immediately address any issues that might arise and adjust your approach as the situation calls.

Post-Launch Analysis and Optimisation

The launch is just the beginning. What comes after are the optimizations from analyzing what went well during the launch and what didn't go so well.

  • Social media - track the engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares) on each platform to see what resonated with your audience.
  • Analyse click-through and open rates of your email and SMS marketing to determine which campaigns performed best.
  • Monitor your sales figures in Shopify and your website traffic in Google Analytics to gauge your overall launch success.
  • Analyse user behavior to identify bottlenecks in your sales funnel.
  • Collect and act on customer feedback to enhance usability and product offerings.

Marketing For Growth

For your online store to thrive, you need a robust marketing strategy to attract new customers, promote loyalty, and continues driving sales from an expanding customer base.

In this section, we’ll explore the various marketing tactics that you can use to position your business for ongoing growth.

Ecommerce Marketing Strategy

At its core, an ecommerce marketing strategy uses multiple channels and tactics to promote your store, products, and brand. The right strategy will increase your visibility, build brand awareness, and drive sales. It's about reaching your target audience, wherever they are, with messages that resonate and convert.

Leverage SEO to improve your site's visibility on search engines such as Google, engage with your audience on social media, and consider using paid advertising to reach a wider audience.

Build relationships with media and influencers in your niche, and create partnership opportunities with relevant industry contacts who hold an audience you want to reach. If you’re not a digital marketer or PR expert, we recommend engaging agencies with a proven track record for scaling ecommerce brands.

For example, Dose & Co, a globally successful health and beauty brand, launched with a mixture of PR, influencer marketing, sampling, email marketing and SEO.

They hit 3M in sales within four months off this strategy alone, later being bought out by venture capital firm working with Khloe Kardashian. This is a perfect example of research, branding and marketing coming together to create a successful and durable multinational ecommerce business.  

Marketing Channels

There are many different marketing channels that you can utilise to reach your target audience effectively. Consider which mix of the following would be most effective for your brand, based on where your target market is likely to hang out.

Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of your most powerful tools for nurturing customer relationships and driving sales. It boasts a very low cost investment and higher ROI compared to any other marketing channel, when executed well.

Emails allow you to connect with your audience directly and intimately via their inbox.

Apps such as Klaviyo and Omnisend are full-featured email platforms specifically for ecommerce stores that enable automated trigger-based emails such as abandon cart reminders, as well as campaigns sent to specific segments of your audience.

This allows you to tailor your content to resonate with specific customer segments and increase engagement even further.

Automated Emails

Automated email flows are pre-written emails that are triggered by specific customer actions. For example, when someone subscribes to your newsletter, your welcome email sequence is triggered to introduce your brand and build rapport.

Or, when a customer is in the process of checking out but does not complete the purchase, your abandoned cart sequence will remind them to come back and finalize their order.

When you have automated email workflows running in the background, you are engaging with your customers 24/7, with no additional effort from you.

Examples of automated email flows:

  • Welcome email sequence
  • Abandoned Cart sequence
  • Post-purchase email
  • Re-engagement emails
  • Upsell & cross-sell email sequences
  • Lead-nurturing email sequence
  • VIP/High-Value customer sequence
  • Onboarding email sequence
  • Feedback/Review email sequence

Email Campaigns

Email campaigns allow for targeted promotions and product announcements, as well as general newsletters to keep your brand on top of your customer’s mind. These are manually sent email campaigns to your subscribers at a set date and time, rather than a specific trigger.

Examples of Email Campaigns:

  • Sales Events & special promotions
  • New product launches
  • Newsletters
  • Sharing stories, reviews or customer feedback

Organic Social Media Channels

Organic social media refers to your brand’s Facebook or Instagram page, YouTube channel, TikTok, or any other platform where your target audience is hanging out.

Building a social media community takes time. So stay consistent by regularly sharing content, creating conversation, and running contests to organically build awareness without the cost of paid advertising.

To better leverage organic social media:

  • Create high-quality, entertaining content that resonates with your target audience. This includes product showcases, behind-the-scenes content, sharing user-generated content (UGC), or entertaining videos.
  • Build conversations by responding to comments and messages promptly, participate in discussions, and encourage your followers to like, comment and share.
  • Experiment with varied content formats, such as image posts, videos (stories, Reels, TikTok), live streams, or interactive polls.
  • Pay attention to online conversations surrounding your brand and industry to identify trends and tailor your content accordingly.

Paid Social Media Channels

Paid advertising is almost critical for online success. Some brands spend up to a whopping 30% of their revenue on targeted, paid advertising campaigns. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms offer sophisticated targeting options so you can reach your ideal customers with laser-focus.

These platforms have many layers of complexity, so we highly recommend engaging a digital marketing agency with a proven track record of success to assist you in creating campaigns that will generate a positive return on investment.

Once you have successful campaigns set up, it becomes incredibly easy to scale your revenue simply by increasing your daily advertising spend.

Influencer Partnerships

Another way of promoting your store is by partnering with influencers in your niche. This lets you tap into their established audience and gain valuable exposure directly (interviews, fireside chats) or indirectly (product reviews, recommendations, etc.)

Consider the following if you are thinking about establishing influencer partnerships:

  • Only partner with influencers who hold your target audience and are relevant to your brand.
  • Micro-influencers often have a smaller but more passionate and highly engaged audience than macro-influencers with millions of followers.
  • Offer specific discount codes or direct traffic to a specific webpage address so you can clearly see the results of one partnership versus your other marketing efforts.
  • Measure your campaign effectiveness by tracking the key metrics. This includes engagement rates, website traffic, or discount code usage.

Referral Marketing

This type of marketing utilises the power of word-of-mouth recommendations of your existing customer-base to promote your brand and acquire new customers. It remains one of the most cost-effective ways to obtain new customers with the highest purchase intent.

Consider an incentivized referral program to encourage your existing customers to spread the word. Here's how to do it:

  • Create a referral program that rewards customers with discounts, points, or exclusive offers whenever they refer family or friends to your store.
  • Integrate your referral program into your website, email campaigns and social media to maximise the visibility of the program.
  • Consider Shopify Loyalty program apps which often have extensive functionality built in for easy setup and maintenance, such as tracking points and redemptions and monitoring results.

Traditional Print & Media

With the digital landscape dominating marketing strategies, traditional channels still exist for one reason - they still work! Consider a mix of online and offline strategies to complete your marketing strategy.

Here's how to leverage traditional print & media:

  • Print Advertising: Run printed ads in niche publications relevant to your target audience. This includes magazines, industry journals, or local newspapers.
  • Television: Find opportunities to appear on the local news, interviews on relevant television shows to discuss your brand, or if budget allows, experiment with television advertisements to create a broader awareness of your brand.
  • Strategic Media Partnerships: Partnering with relevant media outlets can offer valuable exposure like sponsored content, product placements, or interviews with industry publications or radio shows.
  • Charities & Social Good: Partnering with a charitable cause which is aligned with your brand values can generate positive publicity and build brand loyalty.
  • Public Relations (PR): Building positive relationships with journalists and media personalities can lead to organic brand mentions and build brand awareness.

Offline Retail Strategies

There are advantages to traditional retail strategies such as a physical store and direct selling, depending on your product and target audience.

Brick-and-Mortar, Market stalls & Pop-up Shops

Having a physical location offers tangible product advantages as your customers can can see, touch, and experience the product in person. There is no delivery delay, if they want it, they buy it, and walk away holding it.

If your budget or product line prevents you from operating a brick-and-mortar store, consider getting your product stocked in major retail stores such as supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, supplement stores, or wherever your target customer purchases products like yours.  

In-store sales staff can communicate directly with your customers, provide assistance, and build rapport more easily than a website can. This creates a personalized customer experience that you can’t replicate online.

You also obtain free advertising via foot traffic. People walk past your store, see what you’re all about, and step in the door to have a look.

Direct Selling

Direct selling is an alternative to a physical location, which relies more heavily on personal relationships. Your products are sold to customers through a network of independent sales representatives called consultants or distributors (think Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware).

Sales representatives will be introduced to a customer, visit their home and provide product demos, answer questions, and offer recommendations based on individual needs.

This structure relies on shared commissions, which can be tricky to set up, but it is very effective for high-end equipment (high margin), social products such as cosmetics and kitchenware, or personal products that people feel more comfortable discussing in private as opposed to on the shop floor.

The Key To Effective Marketing

The key to building an effective, long-term marketing strategy is to keep your marketing efforts fresh - every successful marketing campaign has a use-by date. Then it’s time to create new content, new campaigns, and new angles to continue placing your brand in front of your ideal customers.

You don’t have to try all of these things at once - consult a marketing expert to help you understand what will generate the most impact based on your brand’s current level of awareness in the market, the target market you want to reach, and the types of products that you sell.

Always kill poor-performing campaigns quickly - there is no use throwing good money after bad in the hopes a campaign will miraculously start to resonate with your audience.

Analyze your results and put more money, time, and effort into campaigns that work. Avoid overspending on campaigns that don’t hit the mark.

To Your Success

So there you have it. Your comprehensive roadmap to building an ecommerce brand.

Follow this process carefully, take your time, and avoid falling for the general advice of “just create a website and sell some stuff” mantra that seems everywhere these days. The web is crowded with amateurs who don’t have the capital, experience, or skill set required to create a high quality brand that stands the test of time.

We won’t let you be one of them. Invest in the right experts and leverage their expertise to build a truly special brand that customers will be raving about for years to come. You’ll become the shark, feasting on the smaller fish as your brand grows into a household name.

Now go out there, and create a legacy.

Developer & Marketer
Ready to elevate?
We’re a design-led studio on a mission! 100% of profits go back into your community. Let’s chat about making your next project great.

Related posts

How to Build a Shopify Store
If you're just starting your Shopify journey, the process for building a store can be unclear. Quickly get up to speed with our step-by-step guide on building a high-performing Shopify store.
How Much Does a Website Cost?
Learn about the different components of a website and how much they cost. This guide details everything from domain names to the final launch. After reading this article you'll be equipped with the knowledge you need to budget for a website build.
How to Create A Website: Complete Beginner's Guide
Learn how to create a website with our complete beginner's guide. From branding to launch, we'll guide you through the intricacies of website creation. Whether you need an affordable small business website or a fully-blown web app, this guide is your roadmap to a successful digital strategy.
Website Branding: Make a Powerful First Impression [Guide]
Creating a powerful website is more than a great product or service. Learn what a brand identity document should include and how to implement it into your website design.
What is Web Development? Your Comprehensive Guide
Website development is a pillar of online presence and business strategy. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a seasoned business owner, or a tech nut, understanding the ins and outs of web development is essential. This guide aims to shed light on the significance of web development, differentiate it from related fields, delve into its basics, explore its various types, and guide you through the development process while providing valuable resources to further your knowledge.
How to Start an Ecommerce Business: Building a Brand Your Customers Will Love Forever
Starting an ecommerce business requires a blend of strategic planning, market understanding, and creativity. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or a budding business owner, this comprehensive guide is your roadmap for building an ecommerce store. From initial market research to the grand launch, we'll navigate each step with professional insights and actionable advice.
What is web design? The Ultimate Guide
Your website serves as a digital business card. Learn everything you need to know, from UI/UX design principles to the tools and frameworks that make website design easier.

Let's elevate your next project together.

We're ready, are you?

Subscribe to Take2 Elevate's newsletter!
Thank you! Your email has been added to our subscription list
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Thank you