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“Getting more organic traffic to your online retail store is tough. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. From product descriptions, external links to blog posts and infographics, you have lots of opportunities to put your business on the map,” – Neil Patel, Marketing Guru

E-commerce retail is a flourishing business. Commencing with an e-commerce business is hard and demands to make the right decisions and taking the right steps at the right time. It’s also true that now is the best time to be in the e-commerce business. Statistics show that 40% of worldwide internet users have purchased products/goods online from e-commerce businesses or stores.

More consumers are looking to shop online for a seamless retail experience. Buying from the smaller screen is becoming more prominent by the day, on account of better mobile networks. A digital marketing strategy represents an opportunity no other business model can replicate.

As per Forrester, online sales from e-commerce platforms are set to rise at the rate of 9.32% yearly over the next five years. US customer spending is poised to reach USD 523 billion by 2020. Customers browsing e-commerce businesses and stores or buying online are poised to hit 270 million, according to Forrester, and this is mainly smartphone-driven.

Honing an e-commerce strategy in modern times is profitable. However, building a successful e-commerce business is hard. Many online companies are well established are involved in the expansion. So, the focus is on building the brand and taking care of business aspects.

While earning a lucrative income from e-commerce platform brands is profitable, it is tough to market products without planning. Differentiating yourself from a host of e-commerce businesses that sell the same products and use the same channel is of critical importance.

Building a strong e-commerce brand is all about boosting customer experience. Building a loyal audience that connects with you emotionally for your online business is essential.   Here are the steps to setting up a profitable e-commerce brand.

Steps to set up an E-commerce Brand:

1. Product Sourcing or Manufacturing

A first step to building an e-commerce business is product sourcing or manufacturing. You need to know about the products you want to sell. Often, product selection & sourcing is considered the most challenging aspect of starting a new business. From selecting a product to evaluating and validating the market, sourcing inventory, online storefront, marketing, and fulfillment, a lot needs to be studied. Online business advise is crucial at this point.

A big hurdle for e-commerce entrepreneurs starting their online business is figuring out which products to sell online. To indeed find products, niches or even industries audiences are passionate about is the key. Following market trends is a great way to get an idea of the direction consumers are headed. Product reviews and discovery sites can also serve to create compelling designs and inspire. Understanding the difference between service-based, software, digital product, and physical product sales are just a start.

Before deciding what to sell, considering the different e-commerce business models is crucial. From drop-shipping to warehousing, the investment up front and the work involved should determine the type of product you select, as well. Check for subscriptions, where the set of products or single products curated are delivered at regular intervals to customers.

An e-commerce business model that attracts lasting profits is the key. Study marketing and branding costs involved, too. Choose competitive products. Picking an overcrowded niche is not desirable. The more specific you are about your plan, the less competition is faced.  Working with businesses in niches to cross-promote and grow your clientele becomes simpler. After coming up with a strong product idea, the next step is to figure out where and how one is going to obtain the products.

2. Project Feasibility:

For further evolution of a product idea, and its validation or capital investment, a project feasibility report is crucial. If you’ve found your product, evaluated its potential and sourced suppliers, you need to then focus on a project feasibility report, and move ahead with your business plan.

Thoroughly research the competition and your idea’s true potential to learn more about how you can differentiate your business. With competitive research completed, a feasibility report also helps you to come up with an effective business plan. The business plan is a roadmap for bringing thoughts and ideas together. A feasibility report helps in determining how to prioritize and effectively reach new customers.

3. Marketing & Branding

Marketing and branding tactics serve to drive traffic and convert traffic to sales. Whether it’s email or social media marketing, optimizing campaigns for high conversion and plugging leaks in conversion funnels is the key to driving more sales and revenue with targeted marketing strategies. Building an e-commerce business is challenging and exciting. There’s a lot to learn about choosing products, evaluating the viability, and developing online stores for marketing and selling to customers.

Brand building is about creating a meaningful and emotional connect with audiences in ways that optimize conversion. Goal-oriented marketing and brand-building are the keys to a successful e-commerce business.  Apart from finding the right product to sell online,  or marketing it well, determining the business and brand name to grow online visibility is incredibly essential. Creating a memorable brand is about building a stellar reputation.

4. Webstore and other supporting IT Infra set up

For a successful e-commerce store, optimal SEO techniques should be used. With a better understanding of search engines, building a store becomes easier. Many crucial elements are there to consider. High converting products, captivating pages, and descriptions and high-resolution product photography are some ways to stand out.

An ideal way to reach customers is to build your store with all the features clients are likely to need, from basic to advanced. So, from filtering and sorting capabilities to choosing the right channels based on products and target customers, there are many options to consider while complimenting self-hosted stores.

If one needs to strike the right note with customers, the key is a flawless web store with all the right features and functionalities. Solving a unique problem in the market in a distinctive way sets leading e-commerce stores apart from competitors lagging. Otherwise, customers lose connections. For example, the average e-commerce sites only get 500 fans on Facebook, in a study of 18,000 e-commerce stores by Yotpo.

Garnering Likes on social networks is not just a vanity metric, but a measure of social media connect. In the absence of a USP or unique selling proposition, it is impossible to gain the right customers or followers.

Compelling differentiation is the key to making a secure emotional connection with target audiences on e-commerce platforms. If customers can associate with web stores which are intuitively designed to solve their problems, your message will resonate with them. If a brand image is built around a strong word, it won’t just be about selling products.

Inconsistency in your virtual e-commerce storefront messaging, your content or your social network presence can dent you. Once the message is crafted, it is essential to be consistent.  Your website design should follow brand guidelines. This means the website, merchandise, marketing emails, social network messages, and ads should reflect the brand’s personality.

For this, store design should focus on consistent color palettes. The focus should be on a customer experience memorable for all the right reasons. From the about us page to the tagline, everything matters. Besides this, there will also be integration of many business apps to enhance the customer experience.

For an e-commerce website, CRM apps like HubSpot serve to build a relationship marketing approach critical for business growth. Online payment management modules and virtual PBX for customer calls, inventory management apps, etc. complete the lineup.

5. Team Recruitment & Training

Team recruitment and practice form the next crucial step for setting up an online e-commerce business. Once sales teams, marketing experts, and customer service experts are hired, a culture that reflects the vision and brand personality must prevail. All employees need to be trained to be clear and consistent in their communication with customers, and reporting to superiors or responding to subordinates.

6. SOPs:

In an e-commerce service, SOPs are essential. Deliver excellent service standards by drafting detailed SOPs. For this, an e-commerce expert is a must. A reputed e-commerce consulting services provider can ensure that your operations and strategies are standardized and streamlined to meet market expectations.

7. Supply Chain & Logistics

Putting together a business idea is only part of the process of building your business. Supply chain and logistics management form an equally crucial aspect of acquiring the products you are selling. When it comes to buying new products, several options are available. For purchasing product and inventory, e-commerce retailers can turn to manufacture, wholesale, or drop shipping models, depending on their growth goals and business objectives. Making the right choice for the business is essential, and for this, one has to rely on the product, market, and niche. Sourcing domestically or from overseas all impact cost, quality, upfront investment,  and marketing appeal.

8. Pre-launch preparation

As you prepare for the launch of a new business, shipping and fulfillment elements need to be considered.  Define KPIs upfront, so once it launches, there are many measures of success for tracking.  Your pre-launch checklist must find a powerful brand identity, a correct name, a sleek online store, stunning e-commerce features, telling a story audiences can relate to and highlighting the contact, and relevant details.

9. Launch your online business

Once the business launches, marketing campaigns intensify, and the purpose is driving targeted traffic. A variety of marketing tactics can help in the first months. Starting an ecommerce business is all about making growth goals achievable for the effective launch of your e-commerce business. Your Retail Coach can help in transforming business strategies into reality. Completing many projects successfully, YRC is a company led by e-commerce specialists, strategists, and teams comprising industry leading experts.

YourRetailCoach provides SOP, Market Research and Business Plan consulting. To connect, you can drop a mail at [email protected] or call at +91-9860-426-700.

YRC Related Articles: How to Write SOPs for Marketing?, 6 Ways To Grow Your Business, How to Start a Retail Business in India, Business Expansion Plan for Small Entrepreneurs, Six Steps to Writing a Great SOP for Retail, How to write SOPs for an Apparel Brand?, How to Develop SOPs for Quick Service Restaurant?, How to write SOPs for Furniture Showroom

 

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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.