An Introduction To E-commerce: How To Build Your Own Audience and Gain Control Over Your Brand
How to start an online store – In last week’s blog post, Manuel explored in detail how to deal with overseas manufacturers and the best practices for Private Label. In today’s blog post we will focus about building your own E-commerce store. While selling on Amazon has numerous benefits, nothing beats the feeling of having your own store and having full control over your brand.
While the process is time consuming and requires some capital investment, in the long run it will pay off. Here at ImportDojo we always recommend to expand into new countries and to have more than one sales channel – nothing beats having your own sales channel!
The Importance of Having Your Own Store
1. Have a Stronger Online Presence
A website is not only an additional sales channel, but also an asset. If you manage to build up enough sales volume, the valuation of the site can be added to your company’s overall valuation. It’s never wise to build a business solely on someone else’s platform(Amazon/Ebay), by having your own website you have an additional channel to drive traffic to.
2. Control Pricing, Offers & Marketing
Marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay have a lot of sellers competing for the same customers. This causes price wars and more often than not, it’s a race to the bottom. By having your own website, you can control your pricing, make your own offers and be in control of what you charge.
3. Better Branding
A website offers endless possibilities when it comes to customization. Marketplaces have guidelines which restrict the amount of customization you can make. With your own site, you have complete say on what goes into the design, colours and overall branding.
4. Customer Relationship Building
Through email marketing and social media, you can truly connect with customers in a much more meaningful way than Amazon. Amazon limits sellers on having buyer’s information and restricts communication with them. When you have your own website, you can focus more on the customers and listen to their needs.
Although building an online store requires minimum capital investment, marketing will require a significant amount of money. This can be difficult in the early stages as you also need to outsource website copywriting, blogs and design.
This is by far the biggest challenge of an online store. With Amazon, sellers don’t need to focus much on traffic(except Amazon PPC) as the marketplace gets enormous traffic. With your store, chances are you won’t have visitors on day 1 so you need to dedicate a lot of effort for driving traffic. These include:
- Facebook Ads
- Blogging and SEO
- Social Media Marketing
Website Set Up
Luckily many platforms have made this part easy. However, you still need a lot of time to make the design of your store ideal. Most platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce have a lot of integrations which helps you sync inventory across all marketplaces.
Besides the design, the most important parts of a website are:
- Have an SEO friendly website.
- Design fits your brand and audience.
This can be easily done with the use of integrations, plugins and premium themes.
Between the blog, website copy and your email capture & sequence, you need to write a lot of content. If you’re not a good writer, you need to outsource all of the writing which requires a lot of capital initially.
When writing content, a good tip is to diversify content not just on your niche but the whole category or subcategory. Use different long tail keywords that cover different topics and once you monitor traffic and engagement for a few months, you will find out what your audience is interested in.
You can use the data to release new products based on what your audience wants.
Essential Pages & Content For Your Site
About US Page
The about us page allows you to tell your brand story, mission and goals behind your products. This page is very important as it gives a “face” to your brand that customers can identify themselves to.
The store should be simple and easy to navigate. Like Amazon, include keyword focused descriptions and great images.
A blog not only give important updates and information about your niche, but it also helps drive traffic to your site and build up SEO.
The most important policies you should put on your website are:
- Shipping & Returns
Building an Audience & Getting Traffic To Your Website
The beauty of selling on Amazon is that you don’t have to worry about driving external traffic to your products. Aside from Amazon Sponsored Ads and Facebook Ads, Amazon generates enough traffic to their marketplace. What makes Amazon unique is that the traffic is mostly buyers.
When it comes to your own website, getting traffic will be the major challenge. However, there are a number of ways to drive traffic(and sales) to your E-commerce store.
Pay Per Click Advertising
Like Amazon Sponsored Ads, pay per click marketing is very powerful in driving traffic towards your products. The most popular pay per click networks are Google Adwords and Bing, when it comes to these two however, you will have higher competition on keywords so your strategy has to focus on long tail, less popular keywords.
This is a similar technique to the one Manuel used for his French Press Case Study. When you’re a new brand, chances are that few people know about you. In this case you have 2 options:
- Build an audience yourself which requires time and money.
- Leverage someone’s existing audience to gain exposure.
Bloggers are perfect for gaining exposure! They are trusted by their audiences and gain consistent traffic to their blogs. When choosing bloggers to promote your brand or products, take into consideration the following:
- Are they well known and trusted in my category/niche?
- How much traffic does their blog get?(use Alexa to check this)
- Are they active on social media?
- Are they experienced in promoting products similar to my category/niche?
- What is their target audience demographics?
One advice is to find someone that truly fits your brand, audiences can tell if someone is truly passionate about your product(s), so be very careful in who you pick. Once you filter down the blogger(s) of your choice, you need to contact them. You can do this either via their website(normally they have a specific Advertisers page) or via social media. Based on experience, these two incentives work best:
- Money offer with no commission involved(This can normally range from $50 to $1000 depending on the blogger).
- A free product sent to them and they get commission for each referral. They can use the Amazon Associates program or you can create your affiliate program on your website.
The second option normally works best as the blogger will be more incentivised to promote your brand. Bloggers are a great way to drive high amounts of traffic both to your Amazon listing and your website. If a blogger proves very successful, a good option would be for your brand to sponsor the blog as you get a permanent advertising presence.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media Marketing is the number one tool to drive traffic to your website and get exposure for your brand. Although building a following takes some time, you can drive huge amount of sales and traffic with targeted discounts or giveaways. The most popular social networks for E-commerce are:
- Facebook – Great for all types of businesses and they have the best converting ads out of all social media networks.
- Twitter – Although not very ideal for promotions and showing your products, it’s excellent for giving news, updates and connecting with influential people in your category.
- Instagram – The most popular social network for E-commerce entrepreneurs, it’s design and features make it ideal to show your products. The only downside is that only the bio is clickable so you don’t have many options for driving traffic. However, it’s by far the number 1 tool for getting exposure.
- Pinterest – Another great social media platform ideal to show your products and branding through images. It is the only social network that has a majority female following, so if your target audience is in this group, it is recommended to focus your efforts here.
- Snapchat – This social media platfoorm is not ideal for every businesses, however, its popularity is growing and if you’re targeting millenials – you need to be on Snapchat.
- YouTube – Out of all the social networks, YouTube has the most power to drive huge amounts of traffic and make your brand go viral. The only downside is that producing videos requires capital investment and a lo of time. A way to go around this is to send your products to YouTubers who target your niche, by doing this you leverage the audience of the YouTuber.
Building your own e-commerce store requires a lot of work and patience. However, the benefit of having your own platform and customers is very rewarding. While the Amazon platform will most likely always be the main source of revenue, having an additional sales channel that you fully control is the ultimate step towards having a strong brand.
We hope this blog post was helpful in clearing up some issues you may have when starting your own website and while e-commerce is a vast topic, this guide can surely point you in the right direction. In next week’s blog post will will dive into Social Media Marketing. Social Media has become a really powerful tool to drive traffic, sales and awareness of your brand – so having a social media marketing strategy is essential to quickly grow your customer base.
If you have any questions regarding this blog post, please leave a comment below. The aim of this series is to find out your concerns regarding importing & e-commerce, so we would really love to hear from you!
All the best & happy selling,