By Akshar Bonu, co-founder and CEO of The Custom Movement, a marketplace for custom sneakers, apparel and more by independent artists.
Today, it is easier than ever to launch your own e-commerce business. There are tools that take the once difficult, taxing and time-consuming process and make it painless, easy and affordable. However, with lower barriers to entry for anyone to launch their own digital storefront, the competition has become fiercer than ever—a megatrend that has touched almost every industry from mattresses to glasses to athletic wear.
With this in mind, while it may seem easy to launch your own e-commerce business, it is important to think about how to stand out so that you maximize your chances that your venture is ultimately successful. To help, here are three things to keep in mind when launching your own e-commerce business.
1. Find a niche that is underserved by the market.
While this may sound obvious, with e-commerce more competitive than ever, try to find a niche that isn’t competitive or has few, if any, competitors! Look for spaces and niches that are underserved by existing players. This can make it far easier for you to succeed than entering a crowded market with incumbents who already have larger followings, more brand awareness and more years of experience than you do.
However, finding such an opportunity is easier said than done. It is often difficult to identify spaces that are underserved because of how many people are looking for them and how lucrative they can be. One way to go about this discovery is to diligently study markets that interest you (after all, why would you potentially spend years working in markets that do not?) and identify emerging trends and shifting needs. One tool that is useful is Google Trends. It is particularly promising if you can find themes or topics that are rapidly growing in popularity as these could suggest new, emerging and potentially underserved markets that could be viable for your e-commerce business.
2. If you’re entering a space with competitors, know what makes you different.
If you’re attempting to beat competitors, you need to know how you’ll be different and why you are superior. Is it because your product has better quality because of some innovation you have discovered in manufacturing? Do you have a novel business strategy or supply chain process that lets you offer the same product at a cheaper price or with a quicker turnaround?
It is important to make certain that your “difference” is material to the consumer and can move the needle in their purchasing decision. For example, if you offer a product that is cheaper than a competitor but the target consumers are not sensitive to price, they may stick with products they are familiar with. To avoid this trap, talk to your customers as often as possible to understand their needs and pain points.
It should be noted: One advantage of unseating an incumbent in an established market compared to targeting an underserved, emerging market is that at least you know there exists a market for what you are building. When going after a new and underserved market, it is harder to estimate the market size or be certain of the potential.
3. Understand the dynamics of the tools that you rely on to sell.
When launching your e-commerce business, you will likely use and rely on a variety of platforms and tools to reach consumers. These may be e-commerce marketplaces, social media platforms or search engines. For any platform you rely on, it is important to understand what it takes to succeed on that specific platform and optimize your products and strategies for it. At the same time, these platforms are constantly changing and evolving (just as new platforms are constantly emerging) so it is essential to be observant of new trends and be agile.
For example, if you reach consumers through Instagram, you may have had to change the type of content you make to showcase your work with the advent and success of Instagram Reels. On most marketplaces and search engines, having descriptive titles and tags allow your products to be more discoverable by consumers using the search features. Across all platforms, having beautiful photography and presentation that uniquely resonates with your target consumer is essential in today’s visual era.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these are three things to keep in mind when launching your e-commerce business. At no point in human history has it ever been easier to launch an e-commerce business, and so it comes as no surprise that millions of people have done so. At the same time, competition is also fiercer than it ever has been. So if you are taking the leap, these areas can be valuable to think through to maximize your chances of success.