By Akshar Bonu, Co-Founder and CEO of The custom movea marketplace for custom sneakers, clothing and more from independent artists.
Today it is easier than ever to start your own ecommerce business. There are tools that take over the once difficult, taxing and time-consuming process and make it painless, easy and affordable. However, with lower barriers to entry for anyone to launch their own digital store, the competition is fiercer than ever — a megatrend that has hit nearly every industry, from mattresses to eyewear to sportswear.
With this in mind, while it may seem easy to start your own ecommerce business, it’s important to think about how you stand out so that you maximize your chances of your venture ultimately being successful. To help you out, here are three things to keep in mind when starting your own ecommerce business.
1. Find a niche that is underserved by the market.
While this may sound obvious, ecommerce is more competitive than ever, but try to find a niche that isn’t competitive or has few or no competitors! Look for spaces and niches that are underserved by existing players. This can make it much easier for you to succeed than entering a crowded market with incumbents who already have a bigger following, more brand awareness and more years of experience than you do.
However, finding such an opportunity is easier said than done. It is often difficult to identify spaces that are underserved due to the number of people looking for them and how lucrative they can be. One way to make this discovery is to diligently study markets that interest you (after all, why spend years working in markets that don’t?) and identify emerging trends and changing needs. A handy tool is Google Trends. It’s especially promising if you can find themes or topics that are rapidly gaining in popularity as they can suggest new, emerging, and potentially underserved markets that could be viable for your ecommerce business.
2. When entering a space with competitors, know what makes you different.
If you’re trying to beat competitors, you need to know how you’re different and why you’re superior. Is it because your product is of better quality because of an innovation you discovered in manufacturing? Do you have a new business strategy or supply chain process that allows you to offer the same product at a lower price or with a faster turnaround time?
It is important to make sure that your “difference” is material to the consumer and can move the needle in their purchase decision. For example, if you offer a product that is cheaper than a competitor, but target consumers are not price sensitive, they may stick with products they are familiar with. To avoid this pitfall, talk to your customers as often as possible to understand their needs and pain points.
It should be noted, one advantage of evicting an incumbent in an established market compared to targeting a subdued, emerging market is that at least you know a market exists for what you are building. When looking for a new and underserved market, it is more difficult to estimate the market size or be certain of its potential.
3. Understand the dynamics of the tools you rely on to sell.
When you start your ecommerce business, you will likely use and rely on different platforms and tools to reach consumers. These can be e-commerce marketplaces, social media platforms or search engines. For any platform you rely on, it’s important to understand what it takes to succeed on that particular platform and optimize your products and strategies for it. At the same time, these platforms are constantly changing and evolving (just as new platforms are constantly appearing), so being aware of new trends and being agile is essential.
For example, if you’re reaching consumers through Instagram, you may need to change the type of content you create to showcase your work with the advent and success of Instagram Reels. On most marketplaces and search engines, descriptive titles and tags make your products easier to find for consumers using the search features. Across all platforms, it is essential in today’s visual age to have beautiful photography and presentations that uniquely resonate with your target audience.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are three things to keep in mind when starting your ecommerce business. At no point in human history has it ever been easier to start an e-commerce business, so it’s no surprise that millions of people have done it. At the same time, competition is fiercer than ever. So if you’re taking the plunge, these areas may be valuable to consider to maximize your chances of success.