- Choose the right e-commerce platform: E-commerce tech is innovative and you have tons of high-quality options to choose from when you’re ready to build your store.
- Source your products and prepare your inventory: How much of your product to make? How often do you need to replenish your inventory? How will you scale your business as you grow?
- Create a plan for digital marketing: To reach your target audience and make sales, you need an ongoing plan for marketing your e-commerce products.
With the advent of the internet and robust sales technology, it’s now possible for brands to sell their products directly to consumers without the help of a retailer.
This process is called direct to consumer (DTC) sales. There are several ways to sell your products directly, including investing in flagship stores, pop-up stores, kiosks, and outlet stores. However, this guide will focus on the pros and cons of the most popular and lucrative direct to consumers sales methods—e-commerce.
What is e-commerce and how does it work?
You participate in e-commerce everyday anytime you use an electronic device to purchase a new outfit, your favorite coffee pods, a stack of books, or, well...anything! E-commerce is growing rapidly every day, and anyone who is anyone sells their products online. E-commerce primarily works by picking an e-commerce platform and setting up an online store on your website. To help you determine if you’re ready for e-commerce, it’s important to understand the top advantages and drawbacks of e-commerce. Let’s discuss them.
Cost-efficient. A physical store requires you to lease a building, set up utilities, buy furniture, and manage all other costs related to owning a physical store. You don’t have any of these expenses with an e-commerce store.
Global customer base. When your sales are limited to a brick-and-mortar store, only the people within a reasonable traveling distance have access to your products. E-commerce allows you to reach an international audience.
Round the clock sales. Brick-and-mortar stores close every night. E-commerce stores don’t ever close. Business 24/7 = boosted sales revenues.
Scaling is easy. The only cost associated with scaling an e-commerce store is renting a larger storage unit for your products.
Online customer service. When you have a strong online following, it’s much easier to engage your customer base via content marketing.
Automation and reporting. E-commerce stores are digitized and automated, making it easy to track and manage all logistics. Additionally, hands-on access to real-time reports makes it easier to run a successful e-commerce company.
Less personal. While it’s true that you can engage with your customers via digital marketing, you lose the personal touch that comes with a face-to-face interaction.
Shoppers have to wait for their merchandise. There is no way around it. If you run an e-commerce store, your customers will have to wait for their products to ship. Waiting around for products is the exact opposite of experiencing the instant gratification that comes with shopping.
Not tactile. Many customers like to check for quality by physically touching a product or trying an item of clothing on at the store. When your store runs online, you have to come up with creative measures to guarantee quality (e.g., providing free returns, offering money-back guarantees, seeking influencer endorsements, etc.).
Security concerns. You would rarely lose out on a sale because a customer doesn’t want to hand a credit card over to a sales associate physically. However, one-third of shoppers worry about the security of their credit cards online.
Not tax-free. Back in June of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that states could charge sales tax on e-commerce transactions. Depending on the state where your business operates, you could be subject to e-commerce taxes.
Shipping is challenging. As your e-commerce business grows, so do the logistics of shipping. Thankfully, there are several companies, e-commerce platforms, and shipping companies that will help you navigate organizing your shipping processes.
How to start your e-commerce store
If you have already set up your business legally, your merchandise is ready to roll, and you are convinced e-commerce is right for you, then here are the steps you need to follow to get started.
1. Choose the right e-commerce platform
E-commerce tech is innovative and you have tons of high-quality options to choose from when you’re ready to build your store. For fashion brands, the top e-commerce platforms include Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce,and Magento, although Webflow and Squarespace are now making big pushes into e-commerce as well.
Here are some of the features you want to look for in your e-commerce platform:
- Help with your online storefront design
- Mobile-optimized platform
- Check-out customization
- Scalable catalog
- Tax automation
- Native credit card vaulting for multiple gateways
- Customer segmentation
- Shipping fulfillment and tracking
- Staging environment
- Refund and return
- Reporting and analytics
- Coupons & discount functionality
- Digital wallet integration
- SEO capabilities
- Drag-and-drop functionality
- Customizable merchandising
- Cross-channel commerce
- Localized payments (if your brand is global)
The platform you end up selecting will depend on your preferences and whether or not you already have a website up and running. Regardless of which e-commerce platform you select, it will be easy to create unique and engaging shopping experiences.
Why? Because all of these platforms are extremely intuitive and designed for e-commerce success. The platform will lead you step-by-step through the process of adding a store to your website (or creating an e-commerce website), listing your products, setting up secure payment methods, managing your process, and tracking orders, inventory, and shipping.
2. Build your website
Some platforms will allow you to purchase an e-commerce plan and build your website through the platform (e.g., BigCommerce, Squarespace, etc.). Other platforms will work as a plugin for your WordPress site.
How you end up building your online store will depend on the needs of your brand and what functionality you want your website to have. The best thing to do is to consult with a web developer to find out what is best for you.
3. Source your products and prepare your inventory
Once you have selected an e-commerce platform and built your website, you’re ready to source your products and prepare your inventory.
This step will require research on your part to determine how much of your product to make, how often you need to replenish your inventory, and how you will scale your business as you grow.
4. Create a plan for digital marketing
Unfortunately, getting your website up and running and building a stock of inventory isn’t the end of the e-commerce road. To reach your target audience and make sales, you need an ongoing plan for marketing your e-commerce products. Take the time to consult with a digital marketing professional and determine your ideal customer profile (ICP), how you will reach your target customer, and what kind of budget you need to lead consumers to your website successfully.