How to Start an eCommerce Business: 7 Steps to Launch Your First Product

starting an online business

You’ve had a million-dollar product idea that you’re convinced will make a successful business.

That’s awesome! But probably overwhelming, too.

There are hundreds of factors that go into starting a large to small business. You’ll need to lay the groundwork before creating the product itself. Then, once the product is in your hands, you’ll need to figure out how to place it in your potential customers’ hands, too. 

Luckily, you don’t have to do that alone.

In this guide, we’ll share exactly how to launch a product—starting with developing the initial idea, right the way to generating profit along with answering any and all questions that follow how to start an ecommerce business.

1. What solution are you providing? 

Every great product was created on the back of a struggle either the founder (or someone they saw) was suffering from. 

Take the shoe brand TOMS, for example. Their shoes were created when their founder saw people struggling to afford shoes. They decided that for every shoe TOMS sold, they’d donate a pair to someone in need. That concept became their entire mission and marketing strategy—a problem they were solving by launching their business idea. 

The first step to launching your product as a business owner is to think about what problem you’re solving with your new product idea. You can do this by thinking of:

  1. The reason you created the product
  2. The type of person you’re selling it to

Let’s put that into practice and say you’ve got an idea for a new exercise machine. You created the treadmill-style product because you live in a small home and it’s impossible to fit a life-size treadmill in there.

You’re selling the product to other people with small homes, this is your target audience. Your product is designed to be inexpensive and portable. So, the problem you’re solving is a piece of gym equipment that is small (and cheap) enough for people to use at home—even without a designated gym room. 

2. Think about the logistics

You’ve got your business idea and know which problem your new product solves. 

Next, think of how you’ll actually make the product, sell it, and get the item to your potential customers. Answer questions like:

  • How will you create the product? Will you manufacture it or outsource it?
  • Where will you source the materials? 
  • How will you sell the product (online store, at trade shows, etc)? 
  • How will you advertise and promote the item? 

The answers are something you’d include in a business model. That’s because they help make sure it’s actually possible to sell your product, and have a plan on how to do it. If you’re wondering if there are any platforms to help an eCommerce business like yourself, look no further with Shopify. Curious as to how to use Shopify and how it will benefit your company? Shopify is a top commerce platform used to create some of the best ecommerce websites by businesses of all sizes that help you make smarter decisions about the future of your brand. 

This can help prevent growing pains after you’ve launched your first product.  You’ve thought of everything that comes between creating and shipping the product. And with a plan for everything, you’re less at risk of running into logistical problems.

3. Create prototypes of your product

In the previous step, you’ll have made a plan of action on the product’s creation.

The important thing: don’t settle for the first version you’re creating. You might pick one supplier and another manufacturer—but your first choice might always be the best. Source materials from different suppliers, and test different manufacturers. Which combination gets the highest-quality end product? 

Once you’ve found the best combination, continue making different prototypes of your product. 

You should consider the competition at this stage, looking at the features their customers love the most. 

Social listening tools like Mention or Awario uncover your competitor’s mentions. You can spot tweets that say “I love [competitor] but…” Use those “buts” and think of how you could add those features to your idea—and do it better than your competitors do. 

Chances are, you could snatch some of their unhappy customers by giving your own potential customers what they’re missing. 

4. Start understanding your ideal customer

We’ve briefly touched on the fact you should know which solution you’re providing. Part of that involves understanding your target audience.

You’ll need to take that a step further at this stage, building a buyer persona—a customer profile that describes the person you’d sell the product to. It includes demographic information such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location

But customer profiles also dive into their online and purchasing habits, including payment gateway online options they prefer. 

Look how much they typically spend on a product like yours, and which channels they’re using. You might find that your ideal loyal customers are females aged 25-50 using Facebook, and typically spend $50/year on something like what you’re selling. 

This marketing strategy is gold dust for when it comes to promoting your product, as Matthew Ross of The Slumber Yard explains: “The best business tip for someone who is launching a new product is to focus on a specific niche, segment or demographic of the particular market you’re trying to penetrate.”

‘I think a lot of entrepreneurs focus too much on trying to capture the entire market. Instead, it’s often easier and more fruitful to first focus on an underserved niche or segment of your target market. By doing so, your product will have a better chance of standing out and gaining traction.”

“For example, if you want to launch a new mattress, target a specific subsegment of the market such as side sleepers, couples, heavy people, etc.”

Ross summarizes: “Brand and market your product around this theme so that it stands out among the crowd. You can always go after other market segments later once you find some success.”

5. Test, test… and test again

By this point, you should have a finished prototype of your product and a solid understanding of who will be buying it. Next, you’ll need to get real-life feedback on the prototype from those people.

The goal is to collect feedback from people similar to those you’ll be selling to, using questions like:

  • What do they like/dislike?
  • Which is their favorite feature?
  • Is there anything faulty with the product?
  • How much would they be willing to pay for it?

You’ll be able to adapt your product to make it launch-ready. If you find that people love one feature, make that your unique selling point. But if they dislike another, consider if you can make it better. If not, remove it entirely.

This customer feedback provides a superb way to collect some testimonials for social proof, too. Your surveys will return content like “this product really helps do [your solution]!”. 

Research shows that 92% of people look for that type of social proof before they buy a product themselves.

Its why Melissa Teng of Wit and Folly says: “My best piece of advice is to test out their product with real people as soon as possible. By getting at least a physical or digital prototype (if digital product) out into the market sooner than later, you can gain valuable information that will improve your product.”

“If you’re a perfectionist and wait until every little detail of your product is what you want, you might have designed a product for yourself versus the customer. In other words, try to find a way to create a minimal viable product and get that out into the market place to collect feedback.”

6. Craft your brand messaging

People need between 5 and 7 brand impressions before they’ll remember your brand. 

A brand messaging framework clearly lays out the nuts and bolts of your brand. It’ll help you build an identity around the product you’re creating, rather than being known for the product alone.

Your brand messaging framework should show who you do what for, and how you do it. 

Take Dollar Shave Club. Their product was created after the founder and business owner wanted a subscription package for affordable razors. Their brand messaging shows this, and catches the attention of their ideal buyer struggling with the same problem:

how to start an online business

A brand messaging framework should be your guiding point for any sales or marketing campaigns you’ll do towards your selected target audience to get the product off the ground. This helps with your product positioning—defining the “thing” your brand will be known for. 

Avinash Chandra of BrandLoom sums this up perfectly: “Your brand positioning is very important before you launch. This is because people will look for your USP in your story—customers today buy from brands they can relate to instead of simply picking anything up.”

“When you have your branding done, you can create the pre-launch buzz which will target your intended audience. You have a better chance of success if you can engage with your audience from the very beginning.” 

7. Create a go-to-market strategy

Congratulations! By this stage of starting your new business, you’ll have everything ready to launch. This is the exciting part: creating a go-to-market strategy that acts as a manual for releasing your product into the world. 

This go-to-market strategy should be your blueprint, containing:

  • Which marketing channels you’ll be using (Messenger Marketing, email, advertising, etc)
  • The type of content you’ll be sharing and how you’ll create it
  • The tools you’re using
  • The budget you’ve got for advertising and where it will be spent

“Ideally you want to get the word out about your product by finding the people who might need it and offering them something for free,” Dan Bailey of WikiLawn says.

“This might sound counterintuitive, but unless you’re selling a high-value product with low competition, you need a way to get people to pay attention to you.”

Bailey adds: “In the past, I’ve used Facebook and Google Ads to get people to a landing page with something free or heavily discounted. In exchange, they give their email address, and you start working on making them aware of that need and how you can fulfill it.”

Remember: the end goal is sales. Your go-to-market strategy is how you’ll show potential customers that your product exists.

Ready to launch your first product? 

The process of starting a new business and launching your first product can be daunting. But with this seven-step process, you’ll make sure you’re releasing the best product—one your target audience actually wants to buy. 

Remember to continually test your ideas, and create a small group of customers to get feedback from. That’s gold dust to any new founder and business owner. It helps you create the best possible product.

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