If you’re thinking about starting a new business, have you considered e-commerce? E-commerce involves selling products or providing services online, and it can be highly profitable if you get it right. Like all types of business, being successful in e-commerce requires hard work, the right preparation, and thorough knowledge of every aspect of your chosen industry.
In this article we will discuss some of the reasons why e-commerce has become so popular in recent years, how to set up your own online business, and our top six potentially lucrative business ideas.
What does E-Commerce Involve?
In simple terms, e-commerce involves selling products or services to online customers. Depending on what type of e-commerce business you set up, you can sell physical products like clothing or books, digital items like software, or services like foreign language lessons or IT support. With the power of the internet and its almost universal scope, there are practically no limits to what you can do with an e-commerce business.
In this day and age it has become increasingly easy to launch an Internet based store thanks to platforms like Shopify which allow users from all walks of life to set up their own shops in minutes without any prior coding knowledge required. In fact, all that is needed is a computer, an internet connection, and a winning idea.
Why has e-commerce become so popular?
The main reason why e-commerce has become so popular is because it has made retail and accessing services so much more consumer. It’s easier for consumers to get online, find and buy what they need, and get it shipped right to them rather than having to go out shopping. While e-commerce was already on the rise pre-Covid, there is no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated its potential.
Consumers are more comfortable buying things online nowadays, as payment options have become more secure, and customer reviews and ratings make it safer to know that a product or service is high quality.
How do you set up your e-commerce business?
Setting up an e-commerce business is surprisingly easy. The steps you will need to take will depend on what type of business you are starting, but these are some of the basic steps which are pretty universal:
- First, you will need to decide what products or services you will provide to your customers. There are so many opportunities (see our top ten below!), but just make sure that there is a gap in the market, and that you have a unique selling point which will enable you to stand out from the crowd.
- Next, decide which platform you will use to host your business. You will almost certainly need a website, but may also be able to sell products and services through associated social media pages. Websites like Shopify make it very easy to set up an online retail store, while a simple website with your contact details, price list, and testimonials will be enough to get started with a service business. If you are going to provide a service like language lessons or IT support, you will also need to have the relevant software such as Skype, Zoom, or TeamViewer.
- Finally, you will need to decide how you want to get paid. There are various online payment options which are very secure such as PayPal, or you can also set up your own merchant account.
How do you grow your e-commerce business?
There are many challenges that e-commerce business owners face, but one of the most important aspects of growing your online store is marketing. Marketing for an e-commerce business can be done in a variety of ways including SEO, email marketing, social media marketing and word-of mouth advertising. If you have not yet chosen which platforms to use to market your site then it’s best to start small with Facebook ads or Google Adwords until you find what works best for your company.
SEO is another simple method that will help increase traffic to your website by ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is a particularly effective method if you sell products based on specific keywords. SEO can be difficult to implement, which is why SEO experts and companies are in such high demand (see number six on our list below.)
Whatever marketing strategy you follow, make sure you provide your customers with a space to leave reviews and testimonials on your website and social media pages. These can be a game changer when it comes to advertising and increasing your customer base.
E-commerce ideas for 2021:
The opportunities to make money through e-commerce are almost limitless, and there is practically no product or service that cannot be provided online. The trick is to either provide something totally unique, or offer an already established product or service at a cheaper price than your competitors. Market research is vital to make sure there is a gap in your chosen market, and that you have a winning idea to fill that gap.
To help, here are our top six suggestions for potentially profitable e-commerce businesses:
1. A meal delivery service
The popularity of meal delivery services exploded during the Covid-19 Pandemic but the industry is showing no signs of slowing down post-lockdowns. Meal delivery services are a great service if you know your way around a kitchen, and have the resources to invest in food production and distribution.
People these days are more conscious about what they are eating, so you may want to consider choosing only organic ingredients and locally sourced meats. You will also need to be able to offer special meals based on people’s dietary restrictions, and ensure that all food preparation adheres to UK food safety guidelines.
Finally, spend some time on your branding so that your meal service stands out from the competition, and you could be on to a real winner.
2. An online clothing store
An online clothing store is a great business idea if you have a passion for fashion and an eye for a great deal. These days, most people prefer buying clothes online because it’s more convenient and there is a wider selection than on the local high street. Customers like to be able to browse clothes at their leisure, compare the prices of different brands and styles, and not be bothered by pushy salespeople.
One unique idea, is to sell rare or high-quality second-hand clothing to discerning customers. There is a huge market for vintage items, and because they never go out of fashion, you can guarantee repeat customers as long as your business is well run.
To get started, you’ll need to register a domain name, choose your web hosting service and source your inventory. Most importantly, you will need to find a reliable shipper, because the last thing you want is unhappy customers due to their clothing being damaged during delivery.
3. A handmade cosmetics store
Modern consumers want to know that products are safe and environmentally friendly, but it can be very difficult to find makeup in stores that are made from all-natural ingredients and with no harsh chemicals or fragrances. Enter: an online handmade cosmetics store! By creating your own cosmetics and selling them online, you will enable people to order virtually any type of cosmetic product they want – from mascara and lipstick, to face lotions and body sprays – knowing full well that every ingredient has been carefully selected by hand so as not contain anything harmful or damaging. You could even create your own line, or offer customers the chance to choose their own fragrances and ingredients so that the final product is totally unique.
The most important part of creating handmade cosmetics is sourcing quality ingredients. There are various ways to do this such as buying the ingredients wholesale or asking manufacturers for samples to test. Once you have formulated your cosmetics, you will need to create unique branding and packaging which will appeal to your target customers, and reliable shipping to ensure your products arrive in perfect condition. If your USP is environmentally friendly ingredients in your cosmetics, then make sure the packaging follows suit.
4. Online teaching
Online teaching is a great business idea that can be started in your free time or as a new career. Online teaching requires less startup capital than other types of e-commerce business, and it provides flexibility for people with full-time jobs or who want an extra money-making opportunity on the side. You can teach practically any subject online, such as language courses, ESL, math lessons, science courses, music classes and coding. The possibilities for you to share your talents with students really are endless.
To set up an online teaching company, you will first need to create an online course, find students who are looking for lessons and help them take the first steps. Here’s how:
- Create a website or e-commerce store that lists all your classes and prices. You can also use an existing platform like Udemy if you have enough content already prepared.
- Advertise yourself on social media platforms, local classifieds sites and job boards so that potential students know you exist. As you start to build your students numbers, it will help to recruit more by posting their testimonials on your website and social media pages.
- Choose a web conferencing programme like Skype or Zoom to conduct your meetings, and away you go!
In terms of lesson fees, you can charge whatever you want, but in order to stay competitive, it is worth checking out the pricing of your competitors so that you can set your prices accordingly.
Dropshipping is the ultimate low-cost product launch business model. You don’t need to invest in inventory or any products, but you can sell them at full price. Dropshipping involves finding suppliers who will send their items directly to your customers instead of having an actual storefront where they handle all transactions themselves. Once you’ve found reliable suppliers that offer quality products, all you need to do is set up your website with the products and the details of the suppliers. You will essentially be acting as a middleman between customer and supplier with the customer paying retail prices, the supplier charging wholesale prices, and you making the difference. The key is to find reputable suppliers so that you can guarantee delivery and assure yourself of repeat customers. Look into some of the big Chinese websites like Alibaba and you should be able to find what you need.
6. SEO services
Offering SEO (search engine optimization) services are a great way to set up an e-commerce business. In order to rank at the top of Google and increase traffic to their sites, businesses and individuals need strong SEO practices and this is where many companies fail – they don’t have someone who can drive their site’s ranking. If you are adept at SEO, and you have experience in web design, marketing and other areas such as SaaS (software as a service) or cloud computing, then setting up an SEO company could be an excellent option. You can offer customers advice on their on-site SEO, and help them to generate more traffic through a well-planned backlinks campaign. All you need to get started is the right knowledge and a great website, and everything else can be done through software like Surfer SEO and SEMRush. With the potential to secure clients on a retainer basis, you can guarantee monthly earnings which will help your business to succeed long-term.
To sum up
With so many opportunities to make money from online businesses, there really is something for everyone. E-commerce is the ideal way to use your knowledge and skills, build a business that you are passionate about, and create a bright financial future. As with starting any business, the most important thing is that you do thorough market research and that you deliver products or services that people can’t do without. Try out some of the suggestions in this guide, and you have every chance of making a success of your new e-commerce business.