If you are an entrepreneur, one quick scroll through your Facebook feed makes one thing appears to be evident — e-commerce is easy. Everyone is making piles of money, buying Lamborghini’s, living a luxurious life, all while not having to work hard.
Amazing, right? Sadly most of those ads are pushing courses, mentorship, and other garbage being slung by self-proclaimed gurus in an attempt to quick-grab $997 from you. Or, if you act fast, it’s only $297 — but that special price is only for fast-action-takers that enter in their credit card details before the timer stops — I mean resets.
There is a plethora of free information available online — from blog posts to YouTube videos — that will show you how to do things like product research to building a Shopify store. During the pandemic down-time, I even built a private e-commerce community that I plan on turning into a nice resource for those involved in the industry. We have already aligned ourselves with some amazing partners in the space.
It’s very possible to get a new e-commerce brand off the ground in 30 days. It’s also quite advantageous to come out of the gate quickly — the sooner you can validate your idea and get real test data, the sooner you can either scale it or clip it and move onto the next idea.
I’m not saying starting an e-commerce D2C brand is easy. It’s quite the opposite. But, it’s very possible — and beneficial — to launch quickly. If you are considering starting an e-commerce brand consider following the formula below to quickly determine whether or not you have something worth pouring your time, effort, and funding into.
Identify a Product with Potential, Low Competition, and High Margins
Timing is crucial when it comes to entering the market with a new brand. Imagine being one of the first fidget spinner brands to launch? There was a massive demand, insane margins, and no competition.
Once it became a hot new trend everyone and their brother were dropshipping them and building fidget spinner brands. It became oversaturated very quickly. Those that were late to that party got stuck holding the bag — literally. I know people with tens-of-thousands of fidget spinners taking up space and collecting dust in warehouses.
You always want to jump on a trend early, by being one of the first to identify it and being responsible for turning it into a trending product. Sometimes you have to ride the wave and get out before it’s oversaturated. Or be the first and with solid branding position your brand as the authority right away, commanding the majority of market share.
Find a Quality Manufacturing Partner
Rushing to find a manufacturer can prove to be very costly down the line. Starting a new brand can be very exciting and everyone you speak to is going to tell you what you want to hear. They will say their quality is superior, their pricing is the best, and they can meet whatever demands you require.
Spend the time to do your research. Do some digging. Make sure they are who they say they are — there are a lot of middle-men that act as if they are the manufacturer but they are simply just brokering out the deal. This can create a complete disaster.
Put potential manufacturing partners through multiple communication tests. Do video calls and ask for a tour of their facilities via Facetime even — if they balk at that request they are hiding something. Ask for business licenses, facility inspection documents, etc. — everything.
The inconveniences and hurdles at this stage are well worth knowing you are partnering with the right manufacturer. If you make a mistake at this stage your brand could be dead in the water before you even launch.
Create a Highly Brandable & Available Name
I have a simple rule when it comes to creating a brandable name: it needs to be available as a dot-com domain (either available to register or purchase from a reseller or broker) and it needs to be available on all of the popular social media platforms.
This will limit you, but branding is everything. If you get creative you can come up with something that works and is available across all channels. I spend a lot of time on the part, and I like to do it late at night.
While it’s quiet out and there are no other distractions I will open GoDaddy in my browser and all of the social media sites and just start to brain dump. I’ve come up with some of my more creative brand names between 3 am and 5 am.
Build a Shopify Store with a Free Theme
Shopify is the easiest way to launch an e-commerce store, and there are plenty of free themes you can use to get off the ground with minimal investment. I love custom themes developed around a brand, but only once it’s proven that the brand has potential.
Save your money on website development and invest that into split-testing ad copy and advertising platforms. Once you have proof of concept — and sales — you can then look into designing a custom theme and allocating some of your profits to your website.
If you are brand new to Shopify you can read a simple guide here that walks you through the steps and can have you up and running quickly.
Figure Out Warehousing, Fulfillment, Shipping, and Logistics
The e-commerce model you go with — fulfilling your brand or dropshipping — will determine what you need to line up as far as order fulfillment, shipping, etc. If you are going to be dropshipping in the beginning you will need to integrate your store with your manufacturer.
If you are selling your own branded products from the start you will need to figure out your warehousing and fulfillment needs. It’s important that whatever business model you select, speed is a major focus.
Consumers want what they order as quickly as possible. Read the reviews for some of the competing brands — the majority of the “bad” reviews are order fulfillment and delivery speed-related. If you are selling to customers in the U.S., find a manufacturer that will dropship in the U.S.
Waiting 30 to 60 days for an order won’t cut it, especially not when someone can go on Amazon and have what they want on their doorstep in less than two days. Now Walmart is stepping up their game, poised to go after Amazon for some of that market share. Spend the time to make sure this part of your business is seamless and will not cause issues down the line.
Set Sales and Revenue Goals
You have to know your numbers, both in terms of COGS and what you need to do for numbers to justify the business. Account for every penny going out and coming in. From packing tape to inserts and shipping labels — every cost needs to be considered.
The biggest mistake you can make is “winging it” and guessing — know your numbers and keep detailed records from the very beginning. Reverse engineer your business and set sales and revenue goals. Then, hold yourself accountable. If you hit them, great. If not, you might want to reconsider the business. The worst thing you can do is waste time and tie up money in a dud.
Map Out a Marketing Strategy That Aligns with Your Goals
Now that you have your sales goals, it’s time to get customers. Things like SEO can help, but that takes time to deliver results. I like to test quickly with highly targeted traffic, and there isn’t a better option than Facebook ads.
You can drive sales within minutes of launching a campaign. This is the best way to validate a brand or product. If you can’t get the product to convert using Facebook ads you more than likely are going to have an uphill battle.
Collect as much data as possible, because if you have a winner you can scale quickly. This is how so many new e-commerce brands hit the pavement hard right out of the gate. The sooner you can identify winning creatives and achieve strong conversion rates, the faster you can scale the brand. If you find success with Facebook ads you will then want to start mapping out additional channels — email, display, SMS, Google pay-per-click, SEO, etc.
Go Live Immediately to Collect and Analyze Data
Don’t wait for your store to be perfect — it will never be perfect. There isn’t a better time to go live than ASAP. It’s the only way to know for sure whether or not you have a winning product with potential or a disaster that needs to be scrapped.
The market dictates your success — if consumers love your offer and product they will buy it. Sales are the most important indicator. Without them, you have nothing. Having a feeling that a product or brand will do well is great, but unless the numbers back it up you have nothing.
Don’t get emotional with a new brand. Let the numbers control your direction, and if it doesn’t work out don’t give up. It might take several swings until you hit that home run. Some of the most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs I know found success after multiple failures — they never gave up and kept repeating the process until they hit with a winner.