E-commerce is big business. There is estimated to be between 2 and 3 million e-commerce companies worldwide. This figure is even more staggering when you consider that it does not include those businesses in China’s booming e-commerce sector.
In 2017, global e-commerce sales totalled around $2.5 trillion, which is expected to double by 2021. It is not surprising, therefore, that more and more budding entrepreneurs are moving into this space and looking to set up their own e-commerce business. An e-commerce business can be a great way to make some extra income as a side-hustle. On the other end of the spectrum, with some investment of time and resources, it can grow into a profitable business.
With all this to offer, you may very well be looking to set up your own e-commerce venture. How do you know if this is the right move for you? Although this field represents great opportunity and potential, there are certain skills that all e-commerce entrepreneurs should have to ensure they will be successful in this competitive sector.
1. Basic Technical Skills
To be successful in the e-commerce world you really need some level of technical skills. This doesn’t mean you need to be a professional programmer or web developer, but at least a basic understanding of how websites and e-commerce platforms is essential.
A more than basic understand is highly desirable: technical elements, like all niche skills, can be outsourced, but this can get expensive. Managing as much of this yourself as possible will not only save you precious dollars, it will mean you have complete creative control over the end result. Fortunately, many of the best e-commerce platforms are easy-to-use and you can teach yourself to build and manage your own online store with relative ease, by investing a little time.
2. Strategy and Planning Skills
When starting, growing or managing any kind of enterprise, strategy and planning is essential, and e-commerce is no exception. There are certain elements and tactics which are key to the success of an e-commerce business. However, if these are not part of an effective and comprehensive strategy you are more or less doomed to fail.
Having a proper strategy in place will allow you to know where you are going, and plan how to get there. It is very difficult to reach your goals if you do not know what they are. This means that the success of you e-commerce business hinges on you being willing and able to clearly define your goals and map out a realistic and effective plan to achieve them. Of course, being able to stick to this plan is also vital!
3. Marketing Skills
At its heart, e-commerce is all about selling, and marketing is critical to sales. These are two very different things, but you can’t have sales without marketing. Marketing is necessary to promote your brand and your product, and bring the customers to you who will then make the sales.
Marketing your e-commerce business can take many forms, from content marketing to social media and SEO. Some of these are quite specific skills, and standing out in today’s competitive marketplace means that you need to be able to execute them to a high level. However, if this area is not your strength, don’t despair: there are plenty of resources, courses and so on which can help you to build these skills, and consultants you can hire.
4. Product Development Skills
How you market your products is important, but first you must have a strong product to sell. On the flipside of sales and marketing is product development: the vital process whereby you choose or develop a product which will put you in the best position to drive strong sales and therefore huge profits. Deciding which product to sell involves a large degree of market research: examining who your customer is, what their needs are, and what niches or needs exist in the market which could be filled by your products.
5. Financial Management Skills
The last word in “e-commerce business” is “business” after all, and building this kind on enterprise is like any other kind of business. And when running a business, strong financial management skills are paramount. It doesn’t matter how great your products are or how well you market them, if you can’t keep track of cash flow or balance your books, your business could easily crash and burn, perhaps before you really start.
Again, this is a skill that can be learned if it is something you don’t have already, but above all else you need to have an appreciation of the importance of good financial management, and the will to prioritise this in managing your business. In the midst of a long to-do list, avoid being caught up in other elements which may be more exciting and make sure you apply the strictest financial management to your enterprise.