Shopping online changed the way we shop. It came up with the convenience, luxury, and comfort it offers to everyone. It became a necessity too.
Ecommerce has grown so much that every owner can easily make thousands of dollars every year only if he/she is on the right track. And, you can also see an exponential increase in the number owners make due to the recent events.
Starting an online ecommerce store is completely doable with proper guidance. It involves many steps and decisions and requires consistent effort from you.
To help you get started, we’re having Charles Camisasca from EcommBoardroom.
Charles Camisasca helps aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners start and grow their e-commerce stores. He is passionate that anyone with a wifi connection and a willingness to work hard can start a successful online business. He’s the founder of The E-Commerce Boardroom and the creator of the 5 Step Framework for starting an e-commerce business.
Let’s hear from him what he says.
In 2020, US Consumers spent a mind-boggling $861 Billion online. That’s a 44% year-over-year increase! Most people know that e-commerce is exploding in popularity. What you may not know is that side hustlers can take advantage of this massive trend and make money from e-commerce using a unique product launch framework.
It’s a framework that I used to generate $28k in a single month…
And it can work for you, too.
Today, I’ll give you an overview of the entire thing.
If you want to take a deep dive into all 5 steps – like figuring out what product to sell, choosing a supplier, getting your store up and running, defining your target customer, or marketing – you can grab my free product-launch playbook here.
The Five Question Framework For Making Money From ECommerce
The best framework for how to make money from e-commerce is called The 5 Fundamental Questions. The idea is that you only really need to answer 5 basic questions in order to start an online business.
The 5 Fundamental Questions of E-Commerce are:
- What product(s) will I sell?
- How will I produce that product?
- How will I deliver that product to my customers?
- Who is my ideal customer, anyways?
- How will I convince my ideal customers to become repeat buyers and brand evangelists?
Seems obvious, right? The fun part comes in learning the “best practices” for answering all five. THAT’s how to start making money from ecommerce.
Let’s briefly review the different ways you can/should answer all 5 of these questions.
Question 1: What product will I sell?
One big misconception about starting an ecommerce business is thinking that you must “invent” a new product in order to start a successful online store. That’s not the case at all! Choosing a product to sell can be broken down into 2 sub-steps:
- First, Product Ideation: coming up with great product ideas that solve a salient pain point in a market that you already understand very well.
- How it works: I recommend you follow a simple brainstorming exercise. Write down your hobbies (the things you do), interests (the things you enjoy), and skills (the things you are good at). Each of these is a potential market! Then, for each market, brainstorm the biggest frustrations, pain points, or unmet desires that you or others you know have experienced in this market. Finally, come up with a conceptual product that solves each pain point. Let your imagination be the limit! Write down as many problem-solving product ideas that you can dream up.
- Second, Market Validation: conducting market research to understand the demand, revenue potential, and competition for each product idea.
- How it works: use tools like Aglopix and Jungle Scout to get a sense for how existing products are performing. These software programs will give you data like Total # of Monthly Orders, Revenue, and Customer Satisfaction for existing competitive products. Additionally, you can go to Amazon and search around, looking for similar products and reading reviews (especially, 1 Star Reviews) to gauge how satisfied or unsatisfied people are with the current offerings in the marketplace.
At the end of this 2-step process, you should have a shortlist of market-validated product ideas that solve a pain point in a market that you understand very well. That’s a great start! You’re on your way to making money from ecommerce. But next, we need to plot out how each product can be sourced.
Question 2: How will I produce my product?
There are really only 3 sourcing methods ecommerce entrepreneurs need to consider. Let’s briefly define all 3 and then I’ll give you some clue as to how to decide between them.
- Make: Hand-make the product yourself.
- Manufacture: Work with a manufacturing supplier to produce your product idea in bulk.
- Resell: Either through Wholesaling or Dropshipping, sell someone else’s product online for profit.
Every situation is different. However, if you are just getting started here are some recommendations:
- Making products yourself is not a scalable way to build a business. However, if you are a hobbyist just looking to monetize, then this is a great way to do so.
- Manufacturing offers the best profit margin and lowest cost per unit of all three methods, and gives you the unique ability to differentiate your product and form your own brand. However, it also carries the most risk because it requires upfront investment of time and capital. Manufacturing suppliers can be best found on Alibaba.
- Reselling provides a low-risk, low-cost way to get started. With a dropshipping model, you do not need to order any products in advance. However, the downside of dropshipping is that you won’t have as much brand control and your profit margin will be lower as compared with manufacturing. Dropshipping suppliers can be best found on AliExpress.
So what should you do? If this is your first e-commerce project, get started with dropshipping. Learn the ropes and get some proof of concept for your idea. Then, you can always escalate and boost your profit margin by working with a manufacturer in the future. Here is a post with an overview on how to get started with dropshipping.
And finally, below is a table that summarizes each product sourcing method:
Question 3: How will I deliver my product to my customers?
In order to make money from ecommerce, you will need to figure out the process of logistics. Your choice is one of the 4 E-Commerce Fulfillment Models:
- Seller Fulfilled: shipping the products out yourself. This is not advisable unless you run a small handmade products business, likely hosted on Etsy.
- Amazon FBA: This is one of the most well-defined business models in all of e-commerce. With this program, you can send products to an Amazon Warehouse, your product will be live on Amazon.com, and Amazon will deliver your product for you via Prime 2-Day shipping.
- Dropshipping: With a dropshipping model, your supplier agrees to allow you to put their product on your website, and will deliver the product directly to the end customer when an order is placed. You don’t have to buy any inventory upfront, and therefore can test out new product ideas quickly and inexpensively. The best way to do this is to set up a Shopify store and use the Oberlo app.
- 3PL Fulfillment: This model means storing your inventory with a 3rd party, who then delivers the product to your customers when a sale is made. Modern 3PLs have recently taken the market by storm. For example, ShipBob and Flowspace are great technology-driven 3PLs – meaning they integrate seamlessly with every major e-commerce platform.
Those are the 4 e-comm fulfillment models to choose from. How should you decide? Again, if you are new to this, I recommend you get started by dropshipping because it carries the lowest overall cost and risk. Then, you can pivot to 3PL Outsourcing model when your brand is a bit more established.
Question 4 – Who is my ideal customer, anyway?
Now, we pivot. The first 3 questions pertain exclusively to the structural pieces of an e-commerce business. For the final 2, we transition to talking about my absolute favorite topic: Digital Marketing.
The first step of digital marketing is having an understanding of who your target customer is. To do that, I recommend you follow these steps:
- Define the “WHY”:
- First, come up with all of the reasons why someone would want to buy your product. Brainstorm the “Psychographic Profile” of your ideal customer. What are their biggest desires, fears, pain points, questions, roadblocks, and aspirations? And how can your product help them resolve or achieve those things? This is key to understanding the psychology of why your end consumer would make a purchase with you.
- Define the “WHO”:
- Now that you know WHY someone would buy your product, it becomes a simple matter to define WHO would ever buy your product. Define the “Demographic Profile” of your ideal customer. What is their age, gender, income & education level, geographic location, ethnicity, and how do they spend their time?
- Find existing online congregations of your ideal customer:
- The internet has advanced to such a stage that online communities exist for just about every interest, hobby, and business market. Once you’ve defined your target customer per the steps above, it’s easy to locate their existing online communities.
- To put this into practice, conduct a series of Google searches and create a spreadsheet listing the Facebook Groups, Blogs, Forums, Podcasts, YouTube Channels, Keywords, and Influencers that are relevant to your target customer. Take note of the audience size, URL, and contact info of each community, if it’s available.
Perfect! Now you know exactly who your ideal customer is, and where to find them in droves online. It’s time for the final step in your pursuit of making money from ecommerce…
Question 5 – How will I convince my ideal customer to become a repeat buyer and brand evangelist?
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This topic is really the largest and most important step. In answering this question, you must learn to become a digital salesman. There is a vast amount of strategies you could employ.
In my opinion, the best route to take is not to focus on just one marketing tactic, but instead to deploy a system of strategies that work together to find leads, develop and educate them, close sales, and drive repeat business & word of mouth growth.
I call it a Systematic Marketing Strategy. Here’s an article I wrote for Zapier that talks about it. Let’s dive into the 3 components of a Systematic Marketing Strategy.
#1. Outbound Marketing
Outbound Marketing is any proactive tactic used by a company that is designed to interrupt a potential customer, capture their attention, and present them with an offer.
The most common formulations of this are Paid Ads and Cold Outreach (cold calls and cold emails). These serve to rapidly drive growth in traffic to your site, sales, and subscribers.
Tips for best results:
- Experiment with ad platforms, copywriting, targeting, and creatives.
- Be sure to use a mixture of prospecting and retargeting ads.
- Outsource key functions where you need help.
#2. Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is the creation of web pages and consumable content that resonate with your target audience. With Outbound, you proactively “go after” your ideal customer. With Inbound, on the other hand, you encourage them to come to you.
The way to implement inbound marketing is to first create carefully designed websites, social media profiles, and landing pages.
Be sure to craft these so that they quickly convey your main value proposition and are set up to capture the contact information of your web visitors.
The second step is Content Marketing.
This involves creating…content…that is curated according to the principle desires, problems, questions, and preferred media of your ideal customer. This could take the form of a blog, social media posts, a podcast, YouTube Channel, or many others.
Tips for best results:
- In web design, simplicity is key. There is no shortage of well qualified designers that you can hire to do this for you.
- For content marketing, check out the best performing content in your niche, and model off of them (but never copy!).
- Include a personalized lead magnet with every piece of content to dramatically grow your subscriber base.
#3. Subscriber Marketing
Subscriber Marketing encompasses every piece of content you send to someone that volunteers to receive messages from you.
This typically incorporates both social media followers and email subscribers. However, of the two, email marketing is by far the most effective. Whereas social media is primarily used for entertainment, the email inbox is associated in our minds with business.
As such, one of your business’ primary goals should be to grow your email list.
Notice how both Inbound and Outbound strategies produce email subscribers for your brand as a byproduct.
One of the most effective strategies for long term growth in sales will be following up with these email subscribers through a coordinated campaign.
Tips for best results:
- Use social media to grow your email list. Include a link to your best landing page on your social media profile, and include a CTA in your posts to go check it out.
- Don’t attempt to sell products in every email you send. Include a good mix of valuable content and product emails.
- Create a Welcome Series using the Soap Opera method to introduce people to your brand and make a special offer to them.
How to Make Money from Ecommerce: The Systematic Marketing Strategy
Wow. I know that was a lot. Hopefully you feel armed with the foundational information you need to get started with making money from ecommerce. And that’s the key – to start! You’ll learn far more by doing than you did by reading this blog post.
We just scratched the surface today, especially with that 5th question. But if you like what you read here, I’d encourage you to check out my site www.ecommboardroom.com, where I dive into all of these concepts in greater detail. Thank you for reading!!
Concrete Next Steps
If you want a detailed blueprint for starting an ecommerce business, check out my E-Comm Product Launch Playbook. This is the best shortcut available online to starting and scaling an online business. I used the information in this guide to do my first $100k in online sales.
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