In the near future, E-commerce is going to be one of the most prominent growth drivers of the Indian economy. According to a 2019 report by Deloitte & Retail Association of India, with the help of a fast growing economy, growing middle class & increasing internet penetration in the country the e-commerce market is expected to grow to USD 84 Billion by 2021.
This positive outlook for the Indian E-commerce market has renewed the enthusiasm of budding young Indian entrepreneurs, and many are looking to tap into this challenging but promising possibility.
E-commerce may be a great option for young entrepreneurs, but it is not something without challenges and pitfalls. In this field, one needs to plan meticulously, implement carefully & keep patients for results. Let us discuss some of the fundamentals that are essential for starting an e-commerce business & running it successfully:
1. The Right Product For The Right Audience – There are many Indian & international giants (Like Amazon, flipkart etc) who sell everything under the sun and for imagining a large scale organization like that, you need massive investments, both in terms of money and human resource.
But it is the beauty of the online platform that the influence of money is not a huge entry-barrier. If you are a creative and committed entrepreneur, you have the freedom of creating your own “niche product category” and promoting it online.
Deciding which product to sell online can be a tough task, but it is always advisable to stick to a product category that you are familiar with. And around that product category, you can design your very own niche. But, if you decide on a category that has competitors, you will also need to create a clear differentiating factor.
Once your product has been zeroed down, the next thing to figure out is “who to sell it to?”. Every business needs considerable research for finding out its “ideal customer”, and the e-commerce business is no different. Doing this however is absolutely necessary as it will navigate you through other major decisions like pricing, marketing & branding.
2. Create A Brand And Build Its Guidelines – After the product has been decided and the target audience has been figured out, the next step is to draw a unique identity around the product. In the over-crowded online space, it is very important to create a brand identity that will attract the attention of your target audience and tell them “what you do”.
The goodwill of a brand is something that takes time and requires tireless efforts and consistency; however, there are certain aesthetic and strategic aspects that can be managed at the starting point. In the beginning, you need to create a simple logo which is able to appeal to your target audience, along with other brand collaterals.
Another aspect that needs to be integrated into your brand identity is your USP, especially when it comes to a niche product category. The differentiating factor of your brand must come out to your audience without any ambiguity.
At some stage of your business, you’ll need to outsource some functions to digital partners like SEO agencies & content management companies etc. Before you do that, you must develop a set of brand guidelines that must be maintained across all your online assets like website, social media, blogs etc.
The brand guidelines will define the overall theme, colour palette, typography etc, and will help you maintain consistency and hygiene in your online presence.
3. Design A Smart Online Store – At least when you are starting out, your website/online store is probably the most important element, in which you need to invest most of your time and energy.
An online store is not a simple website; it has many aspects like home page, product catalogue, customer support, vendor support, logistics setup, and payment gateways etc, all of which have to be put together in a way that serves your audience seamlessly.
When it comes to niche product categories, you must stick to a simple & minimalistic design that has enough space to visually showcase your products. To add to this, you should also develop a user interface that is easy to navigate.
It is a good idea to have your online store audited by a Best SEO agency in Delhi, just to make sure if the website is optimized for search engine optimization. They will study the technical and structural aspects of your website, identify the gaps and suggest changes.
Remember! Your online store is probably the best branding tool that you have, design it well and use it wisely. If your audience likes your product and gets a seamless experience on your website, they will become your very own, free of cost “Brand Ambassadors”.
4. Reach Out To Your Audience – Many e-commerce businesses have used channels like TVC’s, OOH & Newspaper adverts etc, but the most cost-effective way to promote e-commerce businesses is through the online channel itself. Here are some of the most popular online marketing methods:
SEO – When it comes to reaching your target audience, there is no other online method that is as effective as SEO. But, one challenge of this method is that it requires clarity of purpose, consistent effort and patience.
To get organic and relevant traffic on your website, you need to develop a clear and long term SEO strategy. A large part of SEO is content driven, but it also has quite a few technical aspects, and a good SEO agency can help you deal with all these challenges.
Social Media – Apart from being a great space for promoting your brand, these days’ social media platforms like instagram, pinterest & facbook have become online stores by themselves. Social commerce, which basically means, selling through social media platforms has become the new buzzword and many brands have already adopted this new method.
Having said that, the power of paid ads on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram & Linkedin etc) can never be undermined. They are still one of the most promising ways to build brand awareness and running ad campaigns.
Content Marketing – Another great way of creating an impression in the minds of your target audience is through content marketing. You can publish blogs and articles related to your product category, which your target audience will also find useful. If, for example, you are a fashion brand, you can write blogs related to current trends, DIY’s & fashion tips etc.
Influencer Marketing – Influencer marketing has been one of the most effective ways to promote high-involvement niche product categories like cosmetics, fashion & food etc.
5. Maintain Operational Efficiency – An e-commerce business is as much offline as it is online. Apart from everything that happens online, there are major aspects like manufacturing or procuring your product, packaging & shipping etc that pose a challenge from a logistical point of view.
Needless to say, that in the long run, these operational aspects are even more important than marketing and branding of your product. In fact, the perception of your brand will be dependent on how well you manage your operations. By maintaining the quality of the product, timely shipping & good packaging you can add more value to the overall buying experience of your customers.
A great way to approach operational activities is to treat is as an integral part of the brand experience. All stakeholders involved in this operational work, be it your employees or business partners, will feel more motivated if they knew that their work makes a valuable contribution to the brand.
6. Analyse Your Performance – After your e-commerce business has become operational, you’ll have to start analysing how well it is performing. There are many matrices through which the performance of an online store can be judged, some of the common KPI’s (Key Performance indicators) are as follows:
– Traffic on your website
– Traffic source
– Avg. time spent on the website
– Conversion rate
– Bounce rate
– Return rate
– Avg. order value etc
There are many other indicators that help you assess the performance of your online store, many of these indicators may depend on the nature of the e-commerce business.
7. Create Brand Advocates – In e-commerce, customer service is in fact a branding challenge. It is something that can make or break your brand’s identity in the market.
Negative publicity of your brand can severely damage its reputation, and on the contrary, positive feedback and seamless customer experience, can over a period of time give you loyal brand advocates.
For creating effective customer service, you need to consider the entire customer journey, and device ways to help them at different stages. And every once in a while you should go out of your way to help your customers, just to create a “Wow Factor”.
Some of the best practices for e-commerce customer service include:
– Timely and effective redressal of complaints
– Interactive customer service
– Providing FAQ section on your website
– Collecting feedback
– Simple shipping, return and payment policy etc.
At the end of the day, like any other business, e-commerce also needs it share of hard work and dedication. But, along with the effort there is also a promise of incredible growth and great success. For young Indians who aspire to become entrepreneurs, e-commerce is one of the best options.