In these pandemic times, many people lost hope and felt demotivated. With their life on pause, entrepreneurs and business owners felt demotivated to run their businesses. However, it is essential to search for opportunities even in the darkest of times. The E-commerce platform provides that opportunity. The e-commerce platform enables people to buy and sell online, and after this pandemic- people have started to buy many things online. This kind of online platform helps customers to compare different products and choose the best one available.
The E-commerce platform is not only advantageous for customers but for business owners as well. For those entrepreneurs who are hesitating to start a business on an online platform- “do not worry”. Most times, the online platform is more beneficial than a physical one. By starting an online business, the business owners will have an opportunity to discover an expanded customer base, as anyone in the country or world can access the business’s website and look through the products that interest them. By increasing the customer base, the business will also be increasing its revenue stream. For example, The Mitti Ke Rang foundation is a “social venture working towards generating livelihood for women and widows.” MKR has an E-commerce website that helps in selling products made by women entrepreneurs. MKR’s E-commerce website enables them to sell their products all over the country, hence they can easily expand their customer base.
Out of all the times, now is the best one to start an e-commerce business as people are staying safe in their house and shopping online. Furthermore, the Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow 200 billion USD by 2026, thus proving that the e-commerce platform has a lot of potential in the present and the future. Besides, having an e-commerce business is efficient, affordable and the best option available. On the other hand, starting an eCommerce business from scratch is not a walk in the park. The business can face many challenges and difficulties if it does not have a proper, detailed plan. Thus, it is important to understand the three main aspects of starting an e-commerce business: 3-STEPS TO START AN E-COMMERCE BUSINESS
STEP ONE: DECIDE THE PRODUCT/SERVICE
The first step is to decide the product you want to sell online. There are many products that have a large customer base. This includes home accessories, furniture, jewelry, make-up, etc. Moreover, the product is one of the most important things in starting a business. Choosing to sell a product that has an increased demand or (stable demand regardless of the price can be very beneficial). Choosing to sell a product that is unique or innovative can also be beneficial in the long term. For instance: the Mitti Ke Rang sells products such as candles, birthday gifts, and soaps that are handcrafted by widows/ women. These products are unique because they are specifically handcrafted and the customers are encouraged to buy them as they support and empower widows/women too. Besides, you do not have to necessarily sell a specific product, it could be a service too. For instance: Businesses such as OLA and Uber offer car services; apps such as Zomato and Swiggy offer food delivery services. By deciding the product/service you want to sell, your business is narrowing down the target market where the customer base is specific to a certain age, gender, and/or location. Additionally, in these pandemic times, it is a better option to offer subscription packages in order to keep the customers interested. As there is competition in every field, it is important to show your customers that you have something unique and special to offer. This could include: offering a special discount during festivals or offering a unique item along with the product. For example, Mcdonald's offered a toy with a happy meal package. This encouraged the customers to buy this package for their children. Thus, you have to know and understand what makes your business unique and creative from other ones.
STEP 2: CONSIDER THE TARGET MARKET
After deciding on the product, considering the audience is important too. Your target market will refer to the group of customers who will want to buy your product. For example: on the one hand, an online business that sells jewelry and other accessories will target women because their product is gender-based. On the other hand, an online business that sells toys will target children from the age of 2 to 7, because their product is age-based. By narrowing the customer base, your business will be able to make any changes in the product according to customer preferences. Furthermore, knowing your target market is not enough. It is also important to understand your customers. As the business is on the eCommerce platform, it is essential to know how your customers buy products online. For instance: do the customers prefer a website or an app? Do they prefer to browse products through the means of social media platforms? Do they like to pay online or through cash on delivery? Understanding and answering these kinds of questions will help you to make a more detailed plan for your business. It will also help you to make critical choices for your business, this could include deciding whether to develop a website or an app. A good choice for a startup would be developing an app primarily since the future of the business would be uncertain still. For example one of the most successful businesses on the e-commerce platform is Myntra that currently sells clothing, accessories, and shoes for men, women, and children. This business first launched a website that was accessible from phones and computers. After the business started gaining success, the owners decided to develop an app. This is a safe and certain route for online startups because developing an app is expensive and could be a disadvantage if the business incurs losses.
STEP 3: HOW TO SELL ONLINE
This is the last and final step of setting up a business on the e-commerce platform. After deciding the product and the target market, it is important to know how you want to present your product online. This stage does not only refer to the development of the website, the business also has to consider some other factors. This includes deciding how the customers are going to pay for the product, how the product will be delivered, will there be a return policy, how the customers will provide feedback, etc. These little things matter because they help to build a loyal customer base. For instance: successful businesses such as Amazon have a clear-cut exchange and refund policy, customer service, and works with delivering services like FedEx to deliver the products on time. The business also needs to think about the long- term strategy. After developing the website and completing all the other tasks, the business will be ready for the short-term. However, it is also important to look for future developments. These developments can include improving the website to make it more user friendly or collaborating with other businesses to expand the customer base. The long-term strategy also incorporates knowing how to keep the customers interested in the long term. Will there be developments in your product? Will you introduce new products? For instance: one of the examples of a successful online business is Flipkart. This business was initially an online bookstore however with time, it also started selling other products such as clothes, shoes, home accessories, etc. This shows that a business does not need a range of products at the start for it to become successful, it can focus on one specific product, and in the future, it can expand. Nevertheless, answering these kinds of questions will not only help your business to understand the future developments but it will also help you to improve in the short term wherein the business has to take a lot of risks in order to become successful.
Finally, these three steps of knowing the product, considering the target market, and selling online are a guide to starting an eCommerce business. However, there are so many other unprecedented challenges that a business can face depending on the situation. A business will not be able to become successful overnight, it will face numerous difficulties. It could take years for a business to become truly successful. These steps will be able to guide you in the short-term, however, for the long-term, it is important to know your business’s strengths and weaknesses, your competition in the market, and your marketing strategies. In the long term period, it will also be essential to tie up with other similar businesses in order to remain successful. For example: in 2014, Flipkart acquired Myntra. This acquisition helped them both to expand their customer base and remain successful. In the end, knowing and understanding these aspects in the right circumstances will help your business to become successful, however, remaining persistent and disciplined will help your business remain successful.
Contributed By- Suhani Hirpara, Content Writer Mitti Ke Rang
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