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Article Contributed by Robin Behrstock

It’s true! You can build an ecommerce business that can be run from anywhere, at anytime. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Determine your product or product line

You may already have an idea for a terrific product. If so, great! However, most successful businesses have a full line of products, so think about how you might expand and offer a variety of product options. If you need help finding a product to sell, you can sign up for programs like JungleScout.com. This service shows you which products are selling quickly on Amazon. If that product has little competition, it’s likely a good option. Thoroughly research the competition… Are there many other sellers or ecommerce websites with the same products? Do you have a unique selling proposition that offers a higher value?

Arrange manufacturing process

Will you create the products yourself? Your sales capacity is limited if your production capacity is limited, so I encourage you to find a manufacturing solution that allows for growth. You can find a factory that makes similar products and hire them to make yours. Or import products from another country by working with a factory or trading company. You can get in touch with many factories around the world at Alibaba.com. If importing, you’ll need to hire a shipping company and customs broker who will help you get the products across borders and determine the import duties you’ll be required to pay.

Warehousing and Fulfillment

If you’re making the products yourself or just getting started, your sales volume is likely low, so you can warehouse the products yourself and ship each order. However, if you’re dealing with larger quantities, you should look into a 3PL (Third Party Logistics) warehouse. Stick to what you’re good at, and let the experts handle the warehousing and fulfillment logistics. Before sending your products to a warehouse, you’ll need to assign some identifiers to each product.  Each item should have a product name and SKU (stock keeping unit – a product identification code).  If you plan to sell your products via distributors or resellers, you’ll also need a UPC code. UPC codes may be purchased from GS1, or from a UPC reseller like upccode.net or simplybarcodes.net. If you want to sell your products on Amazon, Amazon will assign an ASIN number and barcodes that need to be applied to each item. Amazon has its own network of warehouses and can handle your warehousing and fulfillment at a low cost. If you use Amazon’s warehouses, your products will be eligible for “Prime” shipping and will have better sales results versus products that are fulfilled by you, the seller.

Build your sales channels

Now that you have products, warehousing and fulfillment set up, it’s time to sell! You can sell on an existing platform, like Amazon, Etsy, Jet, etc, or you can create your own ecommerce website. I recommend selling on several different platforms. Some people think building an ecommerce website is something only tech people can do, but nowadays it’s easy. If you are able to create a PowerPoint presentation, you can build a website. Companies like www.Shopify.com make it easy with templates and step-by-step instructions to get your products displayed, accept credit card payments, and even integrate with shipping software. You can also diversify your business with offline sales channels like selling to a distributor, selling via a rep group, and building a network of wholesale customers who will resell your products in brick-and-mortar stores. You’ll need to price your products with the appropriate margins if selling to distributors and resellers.

Accounting

Don’t underestimate the importance of accounting and taxes. Unless you have an accounting background, I recommend hiring an accountant to help with this. Tax rules are always changing, and it’s best to get your books organized sooner rather than later, before things get complicated. Keep your accounting books in the cloud using programs like xero.com or Quickbooks Online. This way, you and your accountant can access the same files without being in the same place.

Customer Service

Customer service is extremely important. Since there’s no face-to-face interaction like there is at your local gift shop, emails are everything. You need to answer customer emails quickly and effectively. Set up standard procedures for returns. Products can be returned to your 3PL warehouse, or to a different location where they can be evaluated and possibly resold as an “imperfect” item. Start doing customer service yourself, but eventually you should outsource this job to a virtual employee and focus on bigger picture aspects of your business. You can keep customer service requests well organized with programs like Zendesk.com.

Marketing

After your products are available for sale online, you need to help people find them. First, determine your target keywords for each product and incorporate those words as many times possible in the product name, description and metatags. If you’re selling on a platform like Amazon or Etsy, that company will introduce you to marketing opportunities. If you’re marketing your own ecommerce store, you should get started with Google Adwords and retargeting ads. You can try to set it up yourself and learn from online tutorials, or hire an independent Search Engine Marketing Consultant to help. Incoming links are often free and help improve search engine visibility, so get your website’s link published on as many other websites as possible. You can sign up for different directories, or write blog posts for other publications that direct readers to your website. Social media is also a great way to get incoming links, and more importantly, to engage with customers. Create a Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram account and build your audience by posting useful and entertaining content. Follow users who follow similar companies and they will likely be interested in your products as well. Use popular and relevant hashtags to help increase the reach of your posts. Lastly, collect email addresses and build an email marketing list. Sign up for an email marketing program like Mailchimp and send out emails to your database with exciting news like new products and sales.

Expand and Improve

For any successful product and business, competition is inevitable. Continue improving and growing your business by expanding the product line, sales channels and marketing efforts. Listen to your customers and create new products based on what you hear from them. Work on improving your operating procedures so business runs smoothly and you can outsource as much as possible.

 

Embrace the Freedom

All of these aspects of building and growing an ecommerce business can be done anywhere! So feel free to hit the road and work from coffee shops or wherever you find reliable wifi. Work hard, be nice, and enjoy life!

About Author

Robin Behrstock, author of ADVENTURES OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS: Stories That Inspire, started Alchemade, a copper mug business, just as they became a popular trend. In less than three years, she grew the business to annual sales of $3 million. Behrstock is currently a partner in Radius Partnership, a consulting firm focused on working with small businesses.

For more information please visit www.AWEbook.com.


 
 
 

 
 

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