E-Commerce in 2018
Let’s talk about e-commerce in 2018.
To start with a trite question: “Does e-commerce work in 2018?”
Yes. Obviously. Commerce is pretty much all e-commerce and nothing’s going to change about that.
Can a small-time guy get into e-commerce? Absolutely. It’s quick and easy and you should probably consider doing it.
But most people who try and get into ecommerce somewhat surprisingly do it wrong. Luckily, I’m here to correct the record.
Let’s talk about dropshipping first, because everyone equates e-commerce with dropshipping.
How Do I Feel About Dropshipping in 2018?
I’m pretty sceptical about dropshipping as a business model in general. That’s no secret to regular readers of the blog.
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However let me throw in some caveats with that statement.
Most dropshipping is done poorly by people who are new to online business and are looking to make quick money. If that’s you, then do what you have to do.
My major issue is that it’s not a particularly strong business model. You have little control of the product, shipping or packaging, and you have to deal with the issues arising from that anyway.
That said, dropshipping is a good entry point into a market because of the low overheads. It’s better for product research than just guessing, and it’s better for raising money for a business than dealing drugs or whatever. But long term it’s risky, and you want to minimise risk over time.
Here’s what I recommend you do then.
E-Commerce in 2018: The Strategy
Start with an audience in mind. I see too many people – and used to work with too many people – who’d start things like GreenPencilDiscountStore.com and then wonder why they weren’t making millions.
E-Commerce stores aren’t like niche sites where you drill down endlessly. They aren’t blogs where it’s a personal brand. They are instead actual stores and so your ecommerce site should act like a store.
What do stores have in common? They market themselves around an identity. (This is aside from the Walmart’s and other bargain-basement stores, which you shouldn’t target because you don’t have money to throw at 0.0001% profits.)
So, you start with an audience.
You find products. Ship them to yourself. Test them or get someone to test them. Make sure they’re good enough that you’d pay for them.
Then if you want to dropship you can otherwise send out small amounts until you get a cashflow going.
Eventually, move to fulfilment and then to private label and original design manufacture.
Unless you have a big bank balance to start with, you can’t and shouldn’t start with the ODM and fulfilment. Even if you have a balance, you still need to test the market first, so keep your wallet closed.
Gradually scale up, and by the time you’re making decent money, you do the fulfilment and later original designs so that you limit your risk (You have the product and later own the design) whilst increasing the value of your business and differentiating you from anyone who tries to follow you up the ladder.
Marketing Your Ecommerce Store
Facebook advertising is the obvious and easy option. If you have a sales/subscriber list, then build a lookalike audience from those.
If you don’t have a list and haven’t installed the Facebook pixel, then do that ASAP and start with retargeting until you get sales.
I’m no expert on FB advertising and there are about a billion different tutorials that all explain the same things I could but better, so use the terms above and hop around.
Same with Instagram… apparently everyone uses that but I haven’t yet. Will put it on the to-do list.
Here’s what I can say from experience:
- Most E-Commerce sites are terrible for SEO. This is as everyone uses the same images, content and product descriptions.
- So do basic SEO steps: Have a few buying guide articles, rewrite the product descriptions and have a basic blog with list posts to your products and stuff.
- Social media works but e-commerce isn’t about your store. It’s about the niche you identify with. Use memes, questions and don’t be afraid to be obnoxious in a way a personal profile couldn’t get away with.
- Some people are doing cool things with gamification and ecommerce stores. Quizzes for discounts and that type of thing.
- Whatever anyone tells you, email marketing is still the king of everything.
Building Your Ecommerce Store
I probably should have started with this, but I prefer not to interrupt the train of thought goodness.
Most people online recommend Shopify. It’s a hosted platform and if you pay their monthly fee, they host your website, provide the Shopify ecommerce software and have a bunch of themes (free and paid) and plugins (free and paid) which you can use.
If you don’t know anything about building websites or otherwise can’t be bothered with the fuss, that might make sense.
If you’re willing to put in a few hours learning about websites and a few more hours building your site, then I’d strongly recommend not going the Shopify route.
Whenever someone else has access to all of your stuff, there’s a risk. They might go bust. They might shut you down. I’ve written about this and Shopify before, so read here if you’re interested.
Anyway, I can only recommend what I actually do. In this case, get some web hosting, a good domain name and then use WordPress + Woocommerce.
Like Shopify, Woocommerce has a ton of plugins, themes and other stuff. Unlike Shopify, you host and control it yourself.
Pick a theme that looks like the other sites in your market. Use high quality images and if you’re pulling them from a manufacturer site (or AliExpress) then edit them so they look better.
Don’t just upload thousands of products. Curate them and rewrite the content so that it appeals to the market you’re targeting. This will put you ahead of 90% of the newbies who never get that far.
E-commerce is – despite millions of irritating YouTube videos to the contrary – less saturated than content marketing-based business is. The ceiling is so much higher because while not everyone needs a millionth blog on motivation stuff, you could sell a million pairs of shoes and still be nowhere near a market-saturating monopoly.
Because the market is so much bigger, saturation is barely possible. Also, outside of the unicorn-marketing make-50k-per-day dropship gurus, ecommerce is not competitive. The SEO is less competitive. Existing companies have terrible websites and no marketing skills.
So there’s a big market and it’s easy. Hooray!
Here’s the key take away though. Don’t fall for the unicorn business marketing, be willing to work hard and get out of the 90% of people who think they can throw up a dropship site and make thousands overnight doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same niches as everyone else.
All things considered though, it’s a good year to be in e-commerce, and the opportunities are available.
Stay tuned and we’ll talk about this more in the coming months.