eCommerce has changed significantly. Traditional methods for getting your eComm business off the ground are more difficult than ever. If you “Build It” they will not always come. SEO is a really long game with big brands dominating the results, Paid Search click costs are through the roof, and Conversions are tough to grab.
We are asked constantly by entrepreneurs for our advice on launching new products and how to go about it successfully. Times are changing and we really feel the formula below is the new blueprint for eCommerce newcomers:
Step 1 – Kickstarter/ IndieGogo
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns are often misconstrued as crowd funding campaigns, which is not accurate. When you think about it, they are actually pre-order campaigns. The reason why we like this as a first step is because these campaigns validate your product and are an early gauge for consumer interest. Like anything else online, there is a way to go about properly structuring and marketing these campaigns. There are specific agencies that can help with this and we recommend using one.
Step 2 – Amazon/Marketplace
So you fulfilled your Kickstarter orders and seemingly have a happy customer base. The next step is launching it in online marketplaces to gauge not only interest against other competitors, but also how well it reviews. Conversions are really high on Amazon, so getting sales—with review feedback—is quick and fairly painless from a cost perspective. Put it out there for 3-6 months, see how the audience likes it. If you have issues with the product, go back and fix them. If your reviews come back overwhelmingly positive, you are ready for the final stage, your own website.
Step 3 – Build Your Own Website
Your product has now proved itself through initial demand through Kickstarter and people have reviewed it well on Amazon. Now you are ready for the final, and most expensive part of the launch formula: your own website and all the marketing that goes with it. There are several things to think about when launching your own site:
- Platform – There are wide ranges of platforms you can go with. The most popular would be Shopify (entry level, works well for limited SKUs) or Magento (a little more expensive but can handle an entire catalog of products). There are others out there but 99% of the time either of these platforms are the way to go. They are cost effective and tons of developers out there that know how to use them.
- Marketing – There are so many things to consider here. Typically, search is going to be your best start at marketing. SEO is probably the most necessary, but you should understand it’s a long game. If you are a new website, it could take 1-2 years for rankings to develop because you’ll find that big brands are already dominating the top 10 results. Paid search on the other hand is a quick strategy, but often times the traffic is too costly to make real money. However, depending on your product’s niche, paid social traffic (i.e. Facebook) could be a good strategy to invest in as it typically has lower cost per click than search. If I were to organize the best strategy here here, it would be paid search to start so you can get data on what keywords work, then execute these keywords against an SEO campaign. There is nothing worse than working on a SEO campaign for over a year only to find out your target keywords do not convert.
- Analytics – Time and time again we have seen startups launch an amazing website that drives traffic and sales without investing in the time and energy to properly set up analytics (i.e Google Analytics). Analytics that is properly installed can share a wealth of information that can help drive your decision on what marketing channel you should invest in. At the minimum you should install eCommerce tracking so you can get revenue, transaction and average order size data. If you have the time and budget, utilize Google Tag Manager to set up micro-events and establish your shopping cart funnel. This will show you where and maybe why people are leaving your site or not buying.
- Conversation Rate Optimization (CRO)– Ideally this is something you would do from day one with your new website, but budgets are not limitless. Over time, your website will reach a point where all of your marketing strategies are running efficiently. You will notice you have hit a plateau in traffic and sales. The only way to increase sales is to increase your conversion rate. By understanding what your users are doing on your website and identifying where they continually “trip over the virtual rug” on your site, you can increase your sales. Continually A/B testing should eventually be part of your company’s culture as you never know what is truly going to connect with your consumer and drive your sales through the roof.
Of course, there might be many reasons why this strategy is out of order for some companies, not everyone will fit the same mold. However, if I were to give a family member advice, this is exactly how I would go about it.