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    Analogically, a business plan is similar to a travel plan. In planning for a travel/trip, we take into consideration all the important aspects like locational favourability, financials, conveyance, the roads to be taken, the food supplies, the bookings, passes and permits, etc. Similarly, in a business plan, we describe how we are going to achieve our business goals.

    There is an old proverb, “failing to plan is planning to fail”. It holds for eCommerce businesses as well. With eCommerce, there is a big FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) attached. People think that they will miss out on the next big idea if they do not act quickly. All starry-eyed eCommerce entrepreneurs want to become the next Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, but what they forget often is that behind the glowing success of these entrepreneurs was the good old style hard work. They built a road map, stuck to it, and kept improvising it.

    For your next Facebook or Tesla, you will also need a road map or a plan to succeed. In this article, we will discuss the basics of writing an eCommerce business plan for start-ups. For a better understanding, this process can be split into a few important tasks which we shall quickly cover in this article:

    1. Business identity
    2. Market analysis
    3. Marketing strategy
    4. Financial planning
    5. Other Operations Details
    6. Executive summary
    1. Business identity

    Giving an introduction to a company is not very different from introducing ourselves to others in formal situations. We ensure that all the information we present are correct, concise, comprehensible, and covers all the important and relevant aspects. In a business plan, we do the same thing in presenting the identity of a business entity. Such information includes:

    • The name of your company
    • Background information about your company
    • ECommerce business type, eCommerce business model, eCommerce revenue model
    • Regulatory licenses, awards and achievements
    • Ownership and Leadership
    • Your vision and mission statements
    • The nature of business and industry
    • Target market segment
    • Your offerings, USP, UVP, or any strategic advantage
    • Any other factual information that helps better define your company’s identity

    If you writing a business plan specifically for external stakeholders, then the presentation should highlight the best you have. For example, if you have a prominent personality in the top management or your company has an outstanding USP or UVP or any strategic advantage or your company has won some prestigious awards in the recent past, then it would be ideal to highlight such information in defining and introducing your company.

    Take your time and describe properly all the aspects listed above. It will help you in articulating your business idea and also help you in explaining the nitty-gritty of your business to your investors as well as other stakeholders. By ironing out the details listed above, a clear picture of your business will emerge in your mind and this will help in eliminating any errors at the initial stage itself.

    1. Market analysis

    A market analysis report presents the attractiveness and conduciveness of a market for business with a holistic approach. If a market does not show promise, it just does not; no one can make it good if it is not good for any particular business. And if it does; a market analysis report can tell us how it so. A good market analysis should at least cover the following:

    • Industry performance and trends
    • Market size and the demand estimates
    • Market trends
    • Availability of suppliers and distributors
    • Logistical ease
    • Demographics and customer profiling
    • Competitors and intensity of competition, the threat of new entrants
    • Substitute products, emerging products
    • Market-entry and exit barriers
    • Economic, legal and regulatory, political, social, technological, ecological factors
    • Bargaining edge
    1. Marketing strategy

    Marketing defines the fundamental success and failure of a business idea. Marketing begins with the business idea itself and extends to how that idea can be converted into and delivered as a solution to the customers. Thus, sales/selling is only a small fragment of marketing. Marketing is better understood with the concept of marketing mix which is also known as the 7Ps of marketing. But here, we will cover only the conventional 4Ps.

    • Product: A product is basically a solution to a certain set of needs and wants. A product definition should specifically answer its abilities in terms of problem-solving, need-satisfying, and desire-fulfilling. The core product of a product is the fundamental need that it fulfils. However, a product is also accompanied with essential features and most often, also with value additions. According to Philip Kotler, a product could be defined at 5 different levels.
    • Core Product
    • Generic Product
    • Expected Product
    • Augmented Product
    • Potential Product

    Such a detailed definition brings out a thorough assessment of a product. It can highlight the uniqueness of a product or throw light on the scope of product improvement or make necessary adjustments in the product to better suit the market requirements.

    • Pricing Strategy: How you price your product/service is a significant determinant of how the current market will respond to your offering. In a business plan, your product pricing strategy must establish how it is going to benefit your business. There are many popular pricing strategies like premium pricing, penetration pricing, economy pricing, skimming strategy, etc. There are important considerations to be kept in mind while choosing a pricing strategy like cost per unit, price elasticity of demand, level of competition, product homogeneity, existing market requirements, etc.
    • Promotional Strategy: In a business plan, a promotional strategy should present how a business is going to create awareness in its targeted market segment about its products and services towards the bigger goal of attracting customers’ attention and interest and eventually generate the desirable conversion (web traffic/footfall, queries, subscriptions, purchases, etc.). The key forms of promotion are:
    • Advertising (television, print media, social media, billboard, SEM etc.)
    • Sales Promotion (discounts, stock clearance sales, freebies, etc.)
    • Personal Selling (one-to-one communication)
    • Direct marketing (SMS, emails, door to door, etc.)
    • Public Relations
    • Place: The ‘place’ element of marketing commonly denotes the distribution strategy (of a business enterprise) i.e. how a business is planning to make the product available to customers. In a business plan, a distribution strategy should lay out the planned journey of a finished product from its source (manufacturing/assembling/becoming a final product) to its destination (retail stores, eCommerce platforms, direct customers) via intermediaries (the distribution network).
    1. Financial planning: We must accept that even if we have a splendid business idea it may not be commercially feasible. This is what we present in the financial part of a business plan – forecasting the financial feasibility of an intended business venture not just in the present or the near future but also in the long run. Some of the important principles, concepts and tools of financial management covered here are:
    • Assessment of capital requirements, source(s) of capital, capital structuring, cost of capital, terms of repayment, etc.
    • Operational expenditure budget
    • Sales forecasts
    • Projected cash flow
    • Planning for working capital management
    • Projected income statement
    • Projected profit and loss statement
    • Projected balance sheet
    • Break-even analysis
    • Ratio analysis
    1. Other Operations Details

    Supply chain and logistics – Production-related, distribution, and returns

    The organization, Human Resources, and Administration

    IT and technological platforms

    1. Executive Summary

    An executive summary is a pilot blueprint of your intended business idea. Mainly targeted at the investors, the executive summary should highlight the potential attractiveness of the business idea backed up the rest of the business plan. It should briefly cover all the important areas which could be of potential interest to investors and other stakeholders. The tone should be positive and affirmative. As a yardstick, you should consider fitting the entire executive summary in not more than two pages.  An executive summary may be prepared at last but be presented at first in a business plan.

    About us

    Your Retail Coach (YRC) is a retail consulting and outsourcing company in India offering a wide range of services in retail offline, retail eCommerce and retail omnichannel catering to a multitude of industries.

     

    PROCESS AUTOMATION

    The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

    In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

    Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

    Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

    YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

    VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

    No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

    Photography includes the following steps:

    • Cataloguing your products
    • Cataloguing your images
    • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
    • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

    DIGITAL MARKETING

    Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

    Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

    These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

    Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

    This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

    IT INTEGRATION

    Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

    YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

    IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

    This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

    Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

    WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

    • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
    • Where should your Warehouse be located?
    • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
    • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
    • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
    • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
    • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
    • How much space do I require for warehouse?
    • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

     

    At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

    We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

    Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

    UI & UX DESIGNING

    This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

    Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

    From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

    Part 2: UX Designing:

    “UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

    UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

    “As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

    An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

    Part 3: UI Designing:

    UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

    A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

    The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

    If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

    At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

    SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

    This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

    In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

    Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

    Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

    Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

    Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

    Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

    Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

    PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

    Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

    Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

    • In-house Design Team
    • Freelance Designers
    • Outsourced Design Team
    • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

    At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

    These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

    If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

    Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

    BRANDING

    Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

    Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

    It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

    ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

    Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

    SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

    At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

    CRITICAL PATHWAY

    Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

    CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

    CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

    At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

    BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

    Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

    Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

    Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

    YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

    MARKET RESEARCH

    Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.