How To Get Your Ecommerce Business Off The Ground On A Budget

Today's post is a guest post by Victoria Greene - an awesome branding consultant and freelance writer!

Credit:    Max Pixel

Credit: Max Pixel

Starting a business is a challenging but exciting time for any entrepreneur. There are several important things to consider when taking those first steps into the world of ecommerce, from choosing a platform for your products, to creating a buzz around your brand.

Ecommerce can be a difficult nut to crack. If you already have a bricks and mortar establishment, transitioning to a virtual store allows you to extend the shopping experience of your loyal customers. It also allows you to move your brand into new and extended marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy etc.

For startup ecommerce businesses, things aren’t always quite so simple — budgets and dreams can quickly start to unravel when faced with the realities of commerce. However, there are a range of things a new business can do to stand out in the crowd, without having to break the bank. 


Identify Your Niche

One of the first things that needs to be identified when starting an ecommerce business is your niche. This is a free marketing exercise that will help you target your brand to the right people — without breaking the bank.

Identifying your niche market before you decide on the brand detailing will set you up with a sellable product to build your business around.

Your niche doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of specialised products for a particular industry, it can also be what your company does differently from your peers – your brand culture or mission.

TOMS is a great example of a company whose true niche is their message, as much as their product:

Credit:    TOMS

Credit: TOMS

They sell shoes on a “one for one” basis. This means that for every pair of shoes they sell, they send a pair of shoes to a child in need. It’s a very simple, effective, and memorable story to tell — and makes them unique.

Get a feel for profitable niches by researching through your competitors and browsing websites up for sale to see what sort of stores people are selling and buying. You may even find a ‘diamond in the rough’ you could polish up!


Build Your Website The Easy Way

Hiring the help of a professional web agency to start your ecommerce journey can be a costly option — taking several months to complete.

For businesses looking for a low-cost and faster route, using an online platform is a great way to get up and running without breaking the bank.

Shopify is a great example of an online platform that you can use to set up your ecommerce business, but you’ve also got the likes of Weebly and Squarespace to consider.

Most of these products incorporate a range of apps and plugins and have a free trial period, so that you can decide whether the software really works for you. An online platform can be customised and have the added bonus of full support and backend functions, from payments to order fulfilment — so you’ve got everything you need to run a professional business from day one.

Web builders come with a range of options dependent on business needs, from product listing templates, SSL website certificate inclusion, and reporting.


Exploring Business Models

For startups with a product-based inventory, it’s important to cut down the costs surrounding buying, storing, and managing stock.

For budding entrepreneurs, money can be tight, so exploring non-traditional commerce models may be helpful to get an idea off the ground by validating a product market.

For example, drop-shipping and print-on-demand are both ideal ways to start a business on a budget.

Instead of owning physical goods and distributing them from your warehouse, the products you sell are despatched by a third party vendor. This lowers your overheads, as you do not need to buy in your stock and only sell your goods on an ad hoc basis. (But you will have to shell out to the supplier for every order you make — squeezing your margins).

Wayfair are a company that has been hugely successful at using the drop-shipping model.

Credit:    Wayfair

Credit: Wayfair

This company specialize in selling home goods and claim to have 8.3 million customers, along with a recent second quarter growth of 42.3% (taking their revenue for that quarter to $1.12 billion).


Emulate a viral buzz

Marketing a new ecommerce business is an important step in reaching an engaged target audience. Once you have identified your audience, completed your branding, and got your ecommerce site set up, there are a number of ways that you can start to push for sales and brand awareness.

While marketing campaigns can be expensive, if you want to push your shoestring budget in the most profitable direction you should look no further than learning lessons from viral marketing.

Viral marketing takes advantage of the huge reach of social media, by creating campaigns whose purpose is to be shared, shared, and (yes) shared.

A truly brilliant example of a viral marketing campaign is Dollar Shave Club and their Our Blades Are F***ing Great video:

The video has received over 25 million views and led to 12,000 customers signing up to company’s service within 48 hours of it being released.  

Creating a viral buzz as far reaching and profitable as that enjoyed by Dollar Shave Club won’t be possible for everyone (much as they may try).

However, you can still use the basic principle of seeking social sharing with your marketing campaign. By investing time and effort into producing a piece of marketing that is unique, funny, and informative, the potential rewards for your ecommerce business are huge.

Create campaigns that have sharing built into them, are cheap to create, and that resonate with your audience on a deep level. Make sure that you have a deep understanding of the psychology of online sales.

With the changing landscape of retail, ecommerce offers the chance to reach both local and international customers — it’s the ideal way for savvy bootstrappers to grow their reach. Even with minimal business experience, it’s possible to learn on the job. Good luck making those first sales!


Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how writers can hone their craft. She is passionate about using her knowledge to help ecommerce brands improve their content strategies.