The Average Joe’s Guide To Setting Up An Online Business

By ecommercetips

March 6, 2017   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

setting up an online business

E-commerce can be a minefield to the average Joe. Many big decisions need to be made, from deciding what to sell to how you can start setting up an online business. But, don’t let the online world scare you. With the following tips, you will be well on your way to creating your own successful business.

Refining, Designing And Sourcing Your Product

There are lots of options when embarking on a career in e-commerce these days. You can design your product, employ a third-party company to do this for you or source stock and mark up the price to make a profit.

It doesn’t matter how you go about obtaining your product. What’s more important is that you take your time to make the right decisions.

The D.I.Y. Approach

Product design can be a long and arduous process. But, if you want to offer a unique and valuable product or service to your customers and succeed with your online business, then you need to be ready to do your homework.

Pro tip: To launch an online business with a self-designed and prototyped product, your product needs to be refined to meet the needs of your audience. This should involve rigorous product testing.

GoldieBlox is one good example. It has taken the children’s toy industry by storm with products designed to encourage young girls to pursue an interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

These construction toys were designed to overcome the societal obstacles that can afflict girls in early childhood development and make them believe that STEM subjects are off limits to them.

GoldieBlox craftstruction

Shopify entrepreneur and founder Debbie Sterling divulged that, to get her product right, she embarked on a long process of prototype testing and tweaking with focus groups to test on small children. Sterling created crude prototypes of her early designs and she employed children of differing age groups to play with them, observing them as they did.

Each focus group revealed new things to change about her products. One of her discoveries was that female children get frustrated with asymmetrical construction toys. As a result, she tweaked her designs to feature only symmetrical slots.

Debbie’s experiences teach us that all products need multiple levels of refinement and testing to ensure that they successfully fill a niche in the market and meet a customer’s needs.

Third Party Design

Third party design can be a great way to get your product ready to prototype or manufacture quickly. This method of design can speed up the process of getting your product ready to market in your online store and allow you to focus solely on marketing it and making sales.

Services, such as Viral Style, enable you to design your unique, personalized garments online, set your price and use their services to market the product through email placements and social media.

Here’s how it works:

  • You need to create your garment with the online design suite
  • Set a price at which you wish to sell your product online
  • Utilize Viral Style’s marketing services to gain exposure for your product
  • Collect a percentage of each design’s sales as a profit

However, this kind of design model is not without its drawbacks. For example, Viral Style takes a percentage of each sale for their service.

Despite this, by speeding up the product design process, third party designing services is still a good tool, especially since it can make your business more accessible to people.

Buying In Your Product

Is creating or designing a product not so appealing? If this is your concern, you should consider becoming an online merchant.

Being a merchant requires spending time doing a lot of research to ensure that you find the best quality products at the lowest price and then mark them up to make a profit.

Here are some ways you could source products and set up an online business:

Find a simple accessory niche – Merchants make most of their profits on the accompanying accessories to their products. These accessories, such as HDMI cables and phone cases, are less price-sensitive. Despite this, merchants can still make the same profit on an HDMI cable as they would do on a TV.

Consumable/ disposable and subscription products – These products often lead to repeat business, which is great for any merchant. If your product is regularly ordered, you could be on your way to generating a sustainable profit. Consider running a subscription service for guaranteed periodic sales.

Gaps in the online shelves – Perusing the online stock levels of products on Amazon or Ebay is often a good idea. Products which are consistently out of stock are a great business opportunity for you.

Be relentless: test your product, or do your research until you get it right. See our previous article on why your business ideas most likely need a little work.

Setting Up Shop

setting up shop

So, now that you’ve made or found your niche product, how do you get the ball rolling?

Here are some important points to consider when you are selecting which method to adopt in selling your product online:

The ability to showcase your products and brand through attractive imagery: Promote your products and brand with unique imagery, including crisp, high definition photos or infographics.

A clearly designed buyer’s journey: An easy to use online interface is required to convert your page visits into sales and avoid shopping cart abandonment

Communications with customers are key: Make the most of the online world by using calls-to-action to capture email addresses and click-through buttons to gain social media follows. You can then use social media and newsletters to advertise your products and get your brand heard.

Content value exchange is important: Linking your online store to your brand’s social media and offering other content, such as a blog, can be very useful. Your customers will be more likely to give you their contact details or business if you inform or entertain them.

Strategize your platform: Ebay, Amazon or Etsy are all fantastic ways to sell products online. However, if you want more control over the buyer’s journey, you should consider an all-in e-commerce platform.

See Also: How Online Blogging Is Influencing Business Trends

Marketing Your brand: Authenticity Is Key

A brand story is the foundation of any growth strategy.

Making your brand story clear and engaging with your customers is a great way to make your online business stand out from the crowd. You can also try giving your products and services a human face.

Invest In Your Brand Story

Your brand story should include:

  • The reason your company came to be
  • What motivates you and your team to come to work each day
  • An inside look at your company

High Brew Coffee, for example, engage their customers with an excellent brand story of their online store. The coffee retailer’s website boasts the story of how the founders first came to conceptualize the brand.

Their website even hosts a short animated video which transforms their story into stylized visual content. This is in keeping with their brand image and creates an emotional connection with the consumer.

The experience of buying from them is not like buying from a stranger as their brand story has put a face to the name High Brew Coffee.

See Also: 5 Smart Ways to Boost Brand Awareness 

Take Aways

Setting up an online business has never been easier but there are a few things you need to do before you set up your shop:

Refine your product: Whether it has been handcrafted or purchased online, make sure that your product fills a niche in the online market that guarantees sales.

Sell your products the right way for you: With so many options out there, it is worth doing your research to find the right way to sell your products online. Consider an e-commerce platform for greater control.

Be authentic: Let your customers know what’s special about your company by expressing your brand story and offering a face to your brand’s name.

Are you considering setting up your own online business? What lessons will you take away from it? Let us know in the comments.


Ecommerce entrepreneur, consultant & coach at ecommercetips. Passionate about helping #ecommerce #entrepreneurs and #startups.

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