The e-commerce market in India is accelerating tempting young entrepreneurs to begin their own endeavor.
As a startup, you cannot shell out too much money which is why every step of your e-commerce business shall be concretely planned using the right mediums and platforms for the right prices.
Mr Tejas Jhaveri is the founder of Flintstop, an e-commerce startup dealing in quirky, innovative and problem-solving products and also an e-commerce professor at IIDE. Here is what he has to say about “Everything you need to know before starting your e-commerce startup”
1. What product do you wish to sell?
Before you embark on your e-commerce start-up, you have to first decide what product you want to see. Here are ways you can do so-
– Don’t you wish to be a unique seller for a particular product online? Look for opportunities in untapped keywords, that would turn you into an exclusive seller in the online market.
Eg.2 years back there was no one selling the ‘3D Doodler’ Pen online. We made use of that untapped keyword opportunity and got ranked #1 on Google
– Sell a product online, which is difficult to find locally
Eg. Just before I started Flintstop, I visited a few exhibitions abroad where I saw enchanted with products like the Robot Vacuum Cleaner or the Wifi Doorbell. Since I couldn’t findthem locally, I started selling them online
– Have you ever played ‘Pokemon Go’ or used the ‘Hoverboard’? Well, these were early trends that eventually ware off. If you want to benefit from this then you have to Capitalize on these early trends.
– Look for an opportunity gap through product reviews
Eg. Find a speaker on amazon.com, on reading its review, you will notice that people are asking for feature that the product does not deliver like- wish the speaker was waterproof, had a battery indicator or has a longer play/charge time. These are factors you can take advantage of and develop a product meeting those needs.
– Find your customer paint points-Educate yourself about what you customers are passionate about (Photography, Biking, Music) and sell products which have a distinctive value proposition revolving around these passions
Eg. Flintstop sell a Fidget Spinner for the restless people, Universal Camera Clip lens for Photography lovers, Bike Mobile stand for avid Bikers.
2. Dig deep into what your competitors are doing
It is always healthy to so competitive analysis before you launch. Hereare some fancy tools to study what strategies they have been using:
– SpyFu helps you research and downloads your competitors’ most profitable keywords.
– Could you accurately guess how many unique visitors your competitors generate per month? Similar Web is primarily a competitive analysis tool for digging into a site, app or platform
– Internet Archive- The wayback machine- this helps to view previous versions your competitor’s website
– Built With- Helps you analyse where your competitor bought their domain from, where their server is hosted, backend used to build their website, analytics tracking, plug-ins and widgets used on the website.
3. It’s time to get to business now! – Formation of your company
*Prices may vary for different businesses and subject to market trends
4. Time to procure
Import, Manufacture or Outsource
Import – You need an IEC (Import Export Code) to procure products. Platforms like Alibaba and AliExpress can be used to find manufacturers globally.
Manufacture – This is the most capital intensive and a strenuous form of creating your own product(s) – Not something you would want to start with a nascent level.
Outsource – There are multiple people selling similar products both, online and offline. You can visit B2B platforms like Indiamart, Trade India and Exporters India to find distributors or manufacturers of the product you like.
5. Build your e-commerce gang
Your team is the face of your company along with the products and service you offer. An ideal e-commerce team looks like:
But, since you have limited funds at your disposal, you can go lean and start with a team of 2.
I was my only team member for the first three months. My father’s peon joined in to help with the packaging and deliveries. As there was a boost in the number of orders, we got our first intern. We now have 11 full-time employees and 2 freelancers working with us.
6. Get your name on the internet – Buy a domain
Your initial step has to be purchasing a domain name so that you can block your spot on the internet. Platforms like Godaddy and BigRock offer this at reasonable prices starting from Rs. 99 / year.
7. Build a reasonably priced website (Without needing any coding experience)
One of the biggest hurdles most startups face is the thought of hiring an IT professional or outsourcing to a digital agency to build a website – This is going to be costly!
Substitute it with one of the ready e-commerce CMS websites like:
Each of these platforms offers a monthly subscription where they take care of the web hosting, backend inventory and customer relationship management.
8. Get a secured payment gateway
A payment gateway is a merchant service provided by an e-commerce application service provider that authorises credit card or direct payments processing for e-businesses, online retailers, bricks and clicks, or traditional brick and mortar.
A few of them are:
- Citrus Payments.
- G2A Pay.
9. Time to tie up with logistic/courier partner
As the ecommerce market is rising there are multiple players in the logistics market. Some only intra-city, national as well as worldwide
– Easiest way is to tie up with a logistic aggregator – These companies liaison with top logistic companies which wipes away your task of typing up with them individually.
Eg. AVN Business Solutions, Shipyaari, Zepo Couriers
Or you can tie up with individual logistic companies – This will give you advantageous rates, but they will ask you to commit to a minimum order pickups/ day.
Eg. Bluedart, Aramex, GATI, EcomExpress, Delhivery, Gojavas and Trackon
– Have your own runners – This will be more feasible for orders within the city as you are headquartered at.
We recommend Fedex as a courier partner as it’s the cheapest option from all the others!
10. How to market your eCommerce startup
Via Social Media and PR:
– Have a social media ninja hook up your social media with no budget
– Run influencer campaigns – Give freebies to influencers for a shoutout
– Generate infinite backlinks – Make a list of top blogs/website / product review websites and send them an article to generate a backlink
– Remarketing – Drop cookies in your customer’s browser and throw back products on them which they last saw
– SEO the sh*t out of your website. Make sure your title tags, meta description, alt tags and keywords are in place to ensure better indexing on Google.
– Have an army of sales men – Best way is to get college ambassadors in different colleges
– Affiliate Marketing – Tell people on how they can make money from home / earn higher discounts by being an affiliate to your company (Go the Amway / Tupperware way)
Mails & Texts
– Email marketing – Highest conversions come through direct email marketing. Use software like Mailchimp and Pepo to run different email marketing campaigns
– Whatsapp marketing – In a country like India, in which every housewife, every kid, watchman, chai wala has WhatsApp! Tap into all their mobile phones and broadcast your messages.(Please keep in mind to talk what your customer wants to hear instead of what you want to speak – Don’t oversell only products)
– – It’s the only place where your customer will be able to touch and feel your products. Take part in Popups, Exhibitions, Tradeshows. ( Do make sure they match your budget )
11. Analyze and optimize!
Make sure of having Google Analytics integrated onto your website to see what conversions you are making from which platform.
Google Search console helps you with what keywords people are using to get onto your website
Even Social media insights will help you understand you target audience better.
Once analysed, make sure you are optimising your campaigns according to your research.
12. Customer review and feedback. (Freebies for Flintstopcustomers, little things )
Positive customer feedback helps improving seller matrix which leads to increasing orders. We entice our customers with freebies, discounts to remove the negative feedback.
Things flintstop does to keep their customers’ happy- We have a database of their birth dates, we gift them goodies for their bdays. A personalised hand-written post it, a free packet of phantom mint ciggies to each customer along with a portable mobile fan just to bring a smile on their face.