Doing e-commerce: Where to Start?

Since the beginning of 2017, it’s been all about e-commerce. More and more marketers choose to try their hand at this, and a decent part of them succeed.

However, don’t be fooled. e-commerce might be simple, but it’s not easy. While it stems from (or runs parallel to) the regular CPA marketing, it requires a different kind of effort and investment.

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In essence, e-commerce is synonymous to drop shipping – delivering products from the manufacturer to the customer, without having to physically deal with stock. In its most popular form, marketers build their own webstores using Shopify and then ship products directly from AliExpress.

Yet there is much more variety to it and the opportunities are endless. There are local producers who know nothing about marketing and would love to have their products sold and marketed online. There are friends who make things that could potentially be interesting for a larger audience. Literally, any product that you can sell via your own store with a price markup is an e-commerce opportunity. Finally, there are e-commerce offers provided by CPA networks – these are easier to promote, as you don’t even need a web store of your own.

Getting into the “Real” Business

The reason why so many marketers are toying with the idea of e-commerce is that it offers much, MUCH more control over the process. You will no longer depend on advertisers’ whims and negotiate for payout bumps. With e-commerce, you decide what to sell and how big a margin you can set for it (up to thousands of dollars sometimes).

E-commerce is gold for those who want a taste of the “real white-hat business”. Additional efforts are usually necessary to advertise regular CPA offers on Facebook. A completely different story with e-commerce – it’s as white hat as it gets.

Scaling is a viable possibility with e-commerce, too – vertical (by increasing investment) as well as horizontal (by selling new products through the same or a different store).

Finally, you could sell the business one day, for literally thousands of dollars.

The cons? Well, it is a more “real” business. There’s customer service to think about, shipping delays to deal with, quality complaints and chargebacks to process, and storage for the goods to be provided.

Starting Out

Generally, there are three steps to take when starting in e-commerce:

  1. Choosing the products
  2. Creating a store and importing products
  3. Setting up promotion channels

Product Selection

The first stage – product selection – is an important one, as it can potentially save thousands in testing. One of the popular techniques is to target people rather than goods. Think of the audience first and choose the products to sell to them afterwards.

In line with this strategy, it’s better to choose a niche store over a general one. Selling everything to everyone hardly ever works and is tough to handle in terms of targeting. It can be useful, however, if you want to test hundreds of products in a short time.

When choosing the niche, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the target audience passionate? Do they have a pressing problem to be solved with your product? Do they have a sufficient purchasing power?
  • Is the niche evergreen or temporary? Temporary niches can be used for learning and testing (with caution), but the real profit is always in the evergreen area.
  • Is it safe to promote the products from this niche on Facebook? For now, the social media giant is an undisputed leader in promoting e-commerce offers. It’s also extremely (and often unreasonably) picky with is ads. Which means it wouldn’t be smart to limit your advertising ability by choosing a questionable product.
  • Does the niche offer horizontal scaling opportunities? In other words, are there related or similar products you could add to your range with time that would be interesting for your target audience?
  • Can you target many geos with it? Will customers from other countries be interested in what you are selling?

If the answer to all of the questions above is Yes, you have found a goldmine.

Alternatively (borrowing the best practice of the CPA marketing), you can research best-selling products on other Shopify stores. It will give you a pretty good idea of what sells, but increase the competition accordingly.

Once the niche is clear, define the products you will be selling. A perfect product is easy to find and ship, doesn’t weigh too much (to simplify shipping and storage), is trendy or consumable (to support demand), doesn’t cost too much (to target impulse buyers) and can potentially become a foundation for building a brand.

Creating a Store

The most popular platform for creating online stores is Shopify, and rightly so. It offers simplicity, diversity and virtually unlimited customization options for your store – all for a modest monthly price. Creating a store includes installing the must-have apps:

  • An app to import products from AliExpress (if that’s where you are drop shipping from). Oberlo is probably the most popular and convenient of them.
  • A mailer app. Having customers on your store has an added benefit of getting their email addresses. Provided you have selected a consumable product, you can offer a replacement or a related product through emails. You’ll also want to target abandoned cart users. Abandonment Protector and MailChimp are used most frequently for such purposes.

Choose a theme and a logo for your store. Don’t go for anything overly sophisticated – the highest profit is made where things are kept simple.

Importing products in your store with Oberlo is VERY easy, but you will have to keep a few things in mind. Even if you are not planning on doing any SEO for your store just yet, it’s worth to spend time on titles, descriptions and other SEO-related elements. Rewrite the descriptions of products (they are often not that user friendly), touch up the images and do all the other cosmetic changes. Don’t skip on the copywriting part. Customers want to be told a story before they buy. They also want to feel safe, so add links to social media profiles for your store.

A great place for inspiration is reviews of similar products on other e-commerce websites. You might discover new angles and appeal to unexpected desires of your customers.

When choosing the margin for your products, don’t forget to factor in all the costs – shipping, your Shopify subscription, advertising budget, etc. $50 – $200 markup is reasonable, but if your experience proves that a much higher markup is acceptable, don’t hesitate to use it.

Additional tips for your store:

  • Use several payment options – at least a PayPal and a credit card processor
  • Repeat the time of shipping several times in different places. Drop shipping from China takes weeks, unless you have a storage of your own, and your customers need to realize that to avoid chargebacks. To get even fewer complaints about delivery times, set an email sequence with updates on the order status.
  • Split-test after you started getting traffic. Test everything you would split-test on a landing page – images, CTAs, headlines, copy, security badges, count-down timers, pretty prices, etc.

Getting traffic

When the store is set up and ready to take traffic, head to Facebook.

Technically, several traffic sources work for e-commerce, including native, YouTube, and search, but Facebook dominates the playground. With its targeting and delivery possibilities, sky is your limit in reaching more potential customers.

When setting-up ads for your store, bear the following things in mind:

Focus on one product in every ad, which is why a one-image ad is better than a carousel ad

Tell the story with your ads. E-commerce is just the niche to sell the sizzle, not the steak

Test different options – free delivery, just-pay-shipping with an upsell, links to articles and presell pages instead of direct-linking, links to lead capture pages with a subsequent email sequence

Allow at least $3K – $4K budget for testing and don’t give up if you see no results from the start. Some niches are over-saturated already, and direct ordering from AliExpress gets more popular, which naturally decreases your target audience. In fact, some successful marketers choose to go through 3 different products to test a day! It might take time to find good products to sell, but once you do, the potential profits are significant.

Useful links:

High-paying e-commerce offers

Shopify store builder

Oberlo drop-shipping app

MailChimp for Shopify