March 20, 2015

How to Start an E-Commerce Store

start e-commerce store business

As a self confessed technological Luddite (up until a few years ago anyway), the fact that I am now the proud owner of an e-commerce store which is actually making real money has instilled a deep sense of satisfaction into this old man. 

I thought this was a story worth sharing because a lot of people often discuss an idea or a small business sideline which they think has potential but rarely does anyone​ get around to actually doing something about it. If I had to guess I would say the hit rate would be somewhere around 1 in 100 in favour of people who manage to get a successful eCommerce business off the ground. 

Why so low? Well, there seems to be a perception that the barriers to entry are high, when in reality, this is no longer the case. Granted, some basic technology skills are required to set up the bare bones of the operation but with platforms like Shopify becoming increasingly popular and getting cheaper, even a lack of web based skills is hardly the excuse it once was. 

So, how have I been making the big online dollars?

Well, I would not say that I will be purchasing my Sun Seeker yacht any time soon. 6 weeks in to my new enterprise, I have spent approximately $750 so far and have made a whopping $280 after Amazon fees. So, not at break even point yet but I am slowly getting there. I would like to think in another month or so, this product will be making a steady $20-30 a day. 

​I did think for a while about whether I would share the product that I am marketing and having decided that I was being paranoid about my burgeoning enterprise by keeping it a state secret, decided that it would be far more helpful if you knew what I was selling. While I wont be revealing the product name, I thought it would not hurt to know the category that I am selling in. 

Well here it is. Drum roll please..... BBQ Rub.

As a meat eating Aussie, I like to think over the years I have perfected the art of the BBQ rub. Ive tested thousands on pulled pork to brisket to fillet steak. Balancing the salt, the spice, the sweetness, its an art form and one I believe I have mastered. 

Getting the product to market

After making batches of my modestly branded BBQ rub for years, I decided to see whether there was  a market online. My platform of choice was Amazon. Except, in the USA, not here in Australia. Far more of a market and a lot of BBQ enthusiasts, especially in the Deep South! 

I thought my Australian recipe would stand out among the many on offer. Which to a certain extent has proven to be correct. Sales are kreeping up as my review scores improve. ​

It's not an automatic slam dunk once your product hits the market. You need to hustle for as well as beg for reviews. Steady sales and positive (but honest) reviews are required to elevate you up to the top of the rankings and onto the hallowed page 1! 

​Before all of that, you may be asking, how do you get to that point in the first place. 

Well, its not as difficult as you may think. Here is how I got my product onto Amazon in 5 easy steps.

​Step 1

Procure ingredients in bulk from a wholesaler here in Australia. 

​Step 2

Mix all ingredients together in a suitable food facility and package into empty containers, in my case I used, food pouches sourced from China. Once the product was in the bags they are heat sealed for freshness and to avoid contamination. Products are labelled in accordance with local law and a barcode purchased to go on the back of the product for identification when it arrives at the Amazon warehouse. 

​Step 3

Sign up for an Amazon seller account. Jump through a variety of hoops to enable you to sell in the Grocery section. Sign up for FBA or Fulfilment By Amazon , send package over to the FBA warehouse state side where Amazon pretty much take care of everything from storage, to packaging, to shipping, to customer returns. Sure they take their cut for doing so, but its a hassle I didn't want. 

​Step 4

Once the product is listed, start hustling for reviews. I gave away a large number of my products in order to garner review which help with organic rankings. This has been where most of the costs have been incurred as you still pay fees on everything, even when you are not getting any money for your product. I targeted Facebook groups of BBQ enthusiasts to find reviewers. 

Step 5

Rinse and repeat. Once this product has made a return I will be expanding with more and perhaps experimenting with pay per click as well as Ebay and maybe even Facebook. There is more than enough potential on just the Amazon platform alone but it does not hurt to expand ones horizons. 

This is not a difficult process by any stretch of the imagination. Take it from someone who could not switch a computer on 5 years ago. It requires just a little but of upfront capital and some time and inclination to learn the ropes and master the Amazon platform. There are forums and their customers service is excellent so don't be afraid to give it a go.

Pro Tip - Start by selling some old books and other items around the house that you no longer use. There is a market for almost anything on Amazon and by selling a few bits and pieces with your personal account you will get to grips with the system pretty quickly.

As for choosing a product to sell. ​These young chaps at StartupBros have come up with a pretty comprehensive guide that even an old buffoon like me can follow. 

The important thing is to just try something! Anything! I could count at least 15 mistakes I have made on this one product alone. But now I know what not do do next time and I would not have learnt unless I had tried. 

​I will leave you with a favourite quote of mine from Dale Carnegie:

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

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