Looking to give up your job and become your own boss? Do you own an existing business which is looking to expand online? Well if so this episode is for you!

This is our first episode in our “Starting Ecommerce” series which will be centred around those everyday questions an online seller will face when starting up.

What’s in this episode?

  • 5 questions you need to ask yourself
  • A breakdown of marketplace/sales channel
  • A recommended read
  • Opportunity to fire your questions my way

5 questions you need to ask yourself

Before you jump into the world of ecommerce there are 5 questions that you need to ask yourself:

Q1. Who are your customers?

So who are your customers? What are their buying habits? Are they looking for the cheapest option? or are they looking for something unique?

This is an important question to think about. Typically if your customers expect the cheapest option and quickest delivery then sites like Amazon are king.

Q2. What are your products?

Are your products unique to you? Do you manufacture them or handmake them? Are they white labelled products, where you buy them from a manufacturer and brand them as your own? Or are these a generic or high street brand which other sellers can purchase and sell?

This question will influence where you sell your products and your general strategy.

Your own product range

By having your own product range it gives you the option to market your products and demand a higher price. If your products are very high-end then you may want to even stay clear from the popular marketplaces to avoid diluting your brand.

Generic or high street branded goods

If your products are generic/high street brands which others are selling then you will, in most cases, be entering a price war.
By offering the best the shipping options, customer service and having a large range of products will help you in growing your business.

Q3. What’s your situation?

Are you in a full-time job with a limited budget? Do you have a new product with financial backing? How much time can you commit to this new venture? Do you have an existing business already? How will you fit it all in?

This question is important because there are two main resources an online business needs to be successful. Time and money.
The good thing is that even with the smallest of budgets an online business can blossom.
One resource it can not do without is time, you will need to be dedicated.

You will need to find time to list your products, answer customer queries, dispatch the orders and strategize to grow your business. But this initial outlay of time will be worth it in the long run.

Q4. What’s your experience and technical skills?

Most of us have shopped online, so we understand how ecommerce works from a customer sides but, if you have never sold online before there will be areas that you will need to learn.

Communications

From marking an order has shipped, answering questions and dealing with potential issues such as unhappy customers or missing items. Most of the popular marketplaces have metrics to record how quick you ship an order or answer a question, so you must be fully committed.

Technical terms

Ecommerce is becoming more advance and terms like SKU, item specifics and GTINs are a part of the everyday terminology. We will have a dedicated video covering these areas shortly which I will link to but in the mean time check these terms out on Google, start understanding what they mean.

Skillset

Being able to use a computer is always a great skill when starting an online business, but there is a major skill that you will need learn, Spreadsheets.
If you are not comfortable or don’t have a lot of experience with spreadsheets then it is time to learn. Spreadsheets can be used for updating stock levels or creating listings in bulk and this will become more important as you grow. The great news is that most major marketplaces and ecommerce platforms will allow you to bulk load your listings & stock levels via a spreadsheet.

Q5. Where do you see yourself?

So what is your vision? Are you looking to run this from home? Is the goal to get rich or have more freedom? Are you wanting to create a multimillion-pound/dollar turnover business? Do you have an exit strategy in mind?

This question is very important because whatever you want to achieve with your online business, it will take time & effort at the start.

Breakdown of the marketplaces/sales channels

Depending on your business you will most likely need to start on one of these sales channels: eBay, Amazon, a website or Etsy. Below I will give you a breakdown of each option so you can see what suits your business most.

eBay

Short breakdown

  • Low entry level
  • Great for most sellers
  • Average commissions & fees

Key to being successful

  • Create great listings
  • Offer free & fast shipping
  • Offer great customer service

eBay is the marketplace for most businesses. Whether you’re selling second-hand items, brand new items, your own products or branded products, eBay is the “market” of the ecommerce world.

It has a low entry level to get started with and the fees are average for a marketplace. Starting from between 9-11% plus PayPal fees (starting from 3.4% and £0.20 per transaction in the UK and 2.9% and $0.30 per transaction in the US)

If you are selling high-end, luxury items or products that are made to order then eBay is probably not going to be the right fit for you.

Amazon

Short breakdown

  • Medium entry level
  • Great for sellers of new products
  • High volumes of sales
  • Medium to high commissions & fees

Key to being successful

  • Be competitive on price
  • Utilise item specifics
  • Offer great customer service
  • Use FBA

If eBay is the “market” of the ecommerce world then Amazon is the “high street”. Amazon is the king of marketplaces and though you can sell secondhand goods on Amazon, the two types of online seller that will excel are the ones that have their own brand of goods (white label or self-manufactures) or are selling a generic/high street brand.

Amazon’s entry-level is a little more technical than eBay’s, so if you are selling your own branded products then you will need to create your own listings with a barcode (unless you have signed up on Amazon’s brand registry), item specifics, descriptions, search terms, bullet points etc…

If it is a generic/high street branded item you are selling then you will be adding your offer to an existing listing on Amazon. Here you will be competing for the buy box.
The main factors to win the buybox are price, your account health and to have your products in FBA (Amazon FBA), which allows Amazon prime members to be eligible for next day deliveries. (though some larger sellers can be eligible for seller fulfilled prime)

Though Amazon is highly competitive, you will get sales from this marketplace and tends to be the number one sales platform for most multichannel online sellers. (businesses that sell on multiple channels, that is for another episode)

Website

Short breakdown

  • Lot of investment needed
  • Great for high-end branded products
  • Needs to be done right

Key to being successful

  • Unique product/offering
  • Utilise full range of digital marketing (SEO, PLA, Inbound)
  • Match, or better the service offered by Amazon

For most sellers, a website is definitely an option they should consider but this is not always the best option to start with.

When you are building a website you have to remember that you are going to be competing with the larger marketplaces for both traffic and customers. This option will require you to learn about SEO, inbound marketing, Google shopping. It will take time, patience and money to do it right.

But if you have a great product, that is exclusive to you then this can be a great starting platform, especially if you want to sell a high-end brand.

Etsy

Short breakdown

  • Low entry level
  • Great for handmade products
  • Low commissions & fees

Key to being successful

Etsy is the marketplace for handmade items, though you can sell vintage items too. If you are handmaking your products then Etsy is definitely the platform for you. It is easy to start selling your products on and the fees are very low compared to other marketplaces.

Facebook

Facebook is an option that you should consider no matter where else you are selling. Though there are other social media channels that will be relevant to your business, Facebook pages, groups and friends are a great way to start promoting your business. This can be achieved with no budget at all, though a little would help.

A recommended read

Though this version of the book was published back in 2013, it still contains a lot of relevant information. Written by Dan Wilson, a member of the original team that brought eBay into the UK, the book is great for those starting out.

make money on ebay

Make Serious Money on eBay UK, Amazon and Beyond by Dan Wilson

Do you have questions?

SellerHub TV was made so new and existing online sellers would have a place to get help. We would love to hear from you, whether you are starting a new venture, need of some advice or have your own opinion that can help others.

So please comment below or reach out to us on social media.