There has never been a better time to start your own business. For most first time entrepreneurs, the easiest way to dip their toes into entrepreneurship is to start an e-commerce business. Flexible and easy to use platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce & WooCommerce have certainly reduced the time and money it takes to go from idea to execution.
There is a tiny but significant little detail, however, that most entrepreneurial success stories seem to miss. While it’s never been easier to start an online business, staying in one and making a success of it is a totally different story. Entrepreneurial blogs and websites will have you believe that as long as you have a good idea or a great product, you can have a successful business. Seasoned business owners, however, will tell you that execution is just as important as the idea itself.
Let’s look at 6 most common mistakes that a new shop owner makes.
1. CHOOSING A NICHE THAT’S TOO COMPETITIVE
You have created an awesome collection of T-shirt designs and identified an excellent supplier based in China who will dropship the T-shirts for you. Does that mean you are ready to take the plunge and start the business? That depends!
- While T-shirts might be high in demand, it’s also a highly competitive market. Do you have all the resources (skills, money, time) to beat your competition in your chosen niche?
- T-shirts are a low-value product (unless you are luxury brand). Do you know how many T-shirts will you need to sell in order to break even and to become profitable? Get a handle on the numbers. Do the math!
The key is to identify a niche that is high in demand but low in competition. (A beard & moustache line of products perhaps?)
2. NOT KNOWING YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER
So you have identified a product in a niche that is high in demand. But do you know what your ideal customer looks like? What are their pain points (if any)? What’s the need they are trying to fulfill when they are looking for a product in your niche? What’s their motivation? Where do they shop from? What motivates them to buy? Who are they influenced by?
There is no better research than actually talking to your ideal customers and gathering insights. Once you start talking to ‘real’ people who represent your ideal customer, you’ll be surprised at the insights you generate from these conversations. Once you have the insights, you’ll need to define your audience and build a customer persona.
All of this is hard work is time consuming but once you understand what goes on in the mind of your ideal customer, your product strategy, messaging and marketing will all become a lot easier. Most businesses miss this step. By making sure you don’t, you’ll be able to connect with your customer in a way that your competition can’t.
3. NOT HAVING A MARKETING PLAN
You’ve got a product to sell. You’ve built a fancy new website and you are ready to launch. You make a launch announcement to your email list – which is basically 40 of your family and friends. How many pieces do you end up selling on the day of your launch? One. Because your mom loves you!
It’s easy to build an online shop. It’s hard to do it right. Without a proper marketing plan in place, all you have a great product and a beautiful storefront. Once you know what your ideal customer looks like and where to find them, then a creating a marketing plan will be easy.
- Decide whether you should run PPC ads, do blog posts, Youtube videos, social media posts, or (likely) some combination of these. Your customer research should uncover what channels will be most effective with your target audience.
- Start thinking about creating an email list of potential customers way before the launch. Designing the product, finding the right supplier & building a website, all of this takes time. Why not build excitement in anticipation of launch during this time?
- You’ll need to add a ton of value through your marketing content. What is of ‘value’ to your ideal customer should be uncovered in your customer research.
- Don’t jump on the Freebies bandwagon too soon. Don’t get me wrong, freebies, contests and giveaways are a great way to build a brand, generate a following on your social media and get more email addresses; but they don’t necessarily drive sales. You need to have a content marketing and email marketing plan in place to convert your newly acquired audience into paying customers.
4. STARTING TOO BIG
Do you know the most common reason why most online shops fail within the first two years? They run out of money! You don’t NEED a fancy site with all the latest bells and whistles. You don’t need to make 500 iterations of the logo in order to make it ‘just perfect’. You don’t need 150 SKUs to launch with. What you need is to do is validate your idea/product as quickly as possible. You do that by starting small!
- If you start small you’ll quickly be able to test and make changes to your product, pricing, website design, etc.
- Building your website can be easy and quick if you use any of the popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Etsy, BigCommerce etc. These don’t require you have a technical expertise and you don’t to hire a development team to bring your idea to market.
- Most first time entrepreneurs make the mistake of spending almost all their money on building a fancy website and populating it with a wide range of products. What you should instead be doing is making sure you have enough money to test and acquire what Kevin Kelly likes to call your 1000 true fans. This small but highly targeting group of customers will love your product (if its any good), spread the word about your brand and bring you new customers.
There is a famous quote by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
5. NOT MEASURING ANALYTICS
If you are running an e-commerce store on any of the popular platforms like Shopify, you’ve got access to a tremendous amount of data. The question is, what are you doing with that data?
Without analytics, you are simply shooting in the dark. By integrating your shop with tools like google analytics, you can draw some highly valuable insights that will help you grow your business. Then there other third-party optimization tools such as Whatify that help online Shopify and Etsy shop owners increase traffic and conversions of their store.
If you are not measuring your data, you won’t know what’s working and what’s not. As the old adage goes, ‘What gets measured, gets managed’.
6. DOING EVERYTHING YOURSELF
If you are starting a bootstrapped business, you’ll be tempted to do everything yourself – designing, creating the website, marketing, sales, packaging, logistics, customer service, admin. That’s a BIG mistake! While you may have limited resources to work with it, you need to make sure that you have your eye on the ball at all times. That’s difficult to do when you are in charge of EVERYTHING.
- Identify the tasks that are necessary but easy to do. Outsource these tasks to an assistant. You can easily find one (depending on your budget) on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
- Identify tasks that are necessary, specialized and that you are not good at. Hand these over to an expert. This will free up your time so and you can mainly focus on areas that are good at and really focus on growing your business.
When in doubt, ask yourself, are you running the business or is the business running you?
What are some of the other mistakes that you think new online shops make? Share your experiences in comments.