E-Commerce Essentials: How to Start a Successful Online Business | Tracey Wallace | Skillshare

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E-Commerce Essentials: How to Start a Successful Online Business

teacher avatar Tracey Wallace, Director of Content @ Klaviyo | Creator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      The State of E-Commerce


    • 3.

      Finding Your Product Niche


    • 4.

      Evaluating Market Viability


    • 5.

      Conducting Competitive Analysis


    • 6.

      Setting Up Your Store


    • 7.

      Making Your Business Profitable


    • 8.

      Final Thoughts


    • 9.

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About This Class

Starting an online business is a great way to spark your entrepreneurship journey and build up passive income—but where to begin?

Join BigCommerce’s Tracey Wallace for this one-hour class where you'll dive into all the essentials and explore how to identify marketable products, create a store, and build a successful marketing strategy to drive traffic and sales. Tracey breaks down the process of getting started into a manageable step-by-step process that you can easily follow. You'll learn how to:

  1. Choose the right product by finding your product niche
  2. Ensure you can sell it by evaluating market viability
  3. Understand the competition by conducting a competitive analysis
  4. Determine the right platform for selling your product
  5. Make your business profitable by creating a content marketing strategy

Whether you've got a side-hustle you want to turn into a full-time gig, or have been looking for a way to break out of the 9-5 grind and work for yourself, this is the place to start. 

By the end of the class, you'll have the foundation you need to set yourself up for long-lasting success and a toolbox of tips that you can constantly draw from as you continue through your journey.


Start your online business today.

Meet Your Teacher

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Tracey Wallace

Director of Content @ Klaviyo | Creator


Tracey Wallace is Director of Content at Klaviyo. Prior, she was the editor-in-chief at BigCommerce, where she built their blog to more than 1 million sessions per month and 10,000 downloads per month. She works with retail experts and influencers to educate business owners, E-Commerce managers and the c-suite at large, enterprise retailers on how to drive more traffic, increase sales and connect disparate data streams to fulfill consumer shopping expectations.

With a strong track record in building end-to-end campaigns and programs to attract, inspire and convert B2B buyers, Stacey is a firm believer in the value of brand and narrative to build stronger acquisition pipelines and customer lifetime value.


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1. Introduction: Hi everybody. I am Tracey Wallace, the Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce and founder of Doris Sleep, and today I'm going to be teaching you how to start an online business. Working over at BigCommerce, I run their blog and all of their content, I interview hundreds of e-commerce owners and executives every single year to figure out how to advise people just like you on how to grow their online businesses, or in this case, how to start one. My most recent project is starting Doris Sleep, which is a direct-to-consumer online brand, and the way that I started it was by walking through all of the steps that I'm going to walk you through today so that you can also start your own brand. We have broken this course down into five simple steps beginning with figuring out your product niche, understanding market viability for that product, doing competitive research, figuring out what your options are in setting up a store, and then how to make that store profitable. My biggest hope for all of you watching that you get out of this course is confidence, confidence in your business idea and in your brand, be as competitive as we possibly can be, and confidence is a very key part for that. I am so glad that you are here today and that you are joining us in this course, so let's go ahead and dive in. 2. The State of E-Commerce: Over the last 10 years, e-commerce has really changed a lot. Gosh, even over the last five years there are a ton of disrupters, split you might call them DNVB's. So that stands for Digitally Native Vertical Brand. Those are the brands that you probably know and really loved to shop at. Those are the really cool brands, the Warby Parker's, and the Bonobos. So many examples of those. Then you still have your traditional brands like Gillette or Old Spice that are also launching very competitive e-commerce experiences to a lot of those DNVBs. There are thousands of these online stores. If you want yours to be successful, it's going to have to be differentiated. Clearly you cannot talk about e-commerce without mentioning the 800-pound gorilla or elephant or whatever you want to call Amazon in the room. But Amazon is real and exist and they have also really changed e-commerce. They launched a two-day shipping years ago, and now that is just a standard across all sites. They have their Prime membership which is really just a loyalty membership and that also pretty standard across all sites. Pretty much anything Amazon does, consumers get really used to and often really like. You see that trickle down into all of the DNVBs and the legacy brands that exist out there. On top of that, Amazon has become the commodity market. So if you need to buy toilet paper and you want to do it online, Amazon is a really great place for that. Or razors or whatever else there studies out there that show parents in particular, shop on Amazon and only Amazon, just because of the convenience factor of it. It gets to you quickly, you can buy everything that you need there for you though as a brand. But that ultimately means, is that you do have to be very particular about the product that you sell and how you build community around that product. Because why would somebody go shop from you or buy from you when they could just go to Amazon where honestly, it's probably going to be cheaper and the shipping is probably going to be faster? Now, there are strategies around how to get them to come to your site over going to Amazon. A lot of that is about content, a lot of that is about experience, and a lot of that is about competitive research to understand what is happening in the market right now and how you can build a platform that's going to resonate with customers. So let's walk through some of the newer DNVBs brands so you can get a little bit of a feel of what those look like and who some of those are. So first and foremost, let's go to one of my favorite new ones. So this is BON, they sell as you may imagine, bonbons online and in customized boxes, you can even go to their store and make bonbons with them which is this newer trait of a lot of the new DNVBs and that there is an online experience yes but also a really customized offline experience where consumers can get hands-on because that's part of the community building process. Then there are other ones like LARQ here which I actually first found them and saw them in a Southwest magazine on a flight. They took out a full page ad and I was like, "What is that?" That is another fun at trend or another trend that you see a lot of DNVB's doing, is around lunch. They will pull out a full page ad in something like Cephalus magazine or if you live in New York City, you've often seen these probably on the L train. All of the new brands that are lined in advertisements there. But this is live LARQ and their website is just fun and cool. It comes in as you scroll through and down. They have the drink with purpose which is so great, that's super important for helping to build community and you see tons of DNVB brands doing this. You think of Tom's. They were probably one of the original ones that really dove into buy our product and it has a purpose. So not uncommon for these new DNVB brands. One of the big differences between these DNVBs and maybe what you might see folks doing over on Amazon, is that you have these small little touches that help to build community. So like that offline experience that Bonbon is doing, or like the giving back to the community and the world experience that LARQ is promoting on their site. These reasons, these little small giveaways to audiences that encourage them to come shop here at this brand site rather than necessarily going over to Amazon and buying there. So the rest of the course is not going to just be me up here telling you about all the e-commerce trends or really diving into shipping or logistics. Instead, I'm going to be teaching you how to find the right product to sell, how to make sure that it's competitive in market, and how to do research all on your own and find DNVB brands like these or some of the legacy brands. Look at their sites, understand what they are doing to try to get customers to their site instead of to Amazon or what they are doing to differentiate themselves from their competitors, so that you can do the exact same thing. All right. So let's get started with the very first lesson, the very first step in this process. Finding your product niche. 3. Finding Your Product Niche: The first step before you can even begin to plan to sell online, so think of it as a plan for a plan, is you have to figure out what you're going to sell, what is that product going to be? So there are essentially two types of products that you can sell. There are commoditized products or commodities, and then there are unique products, niche products. Amazon rules in the commodity market. I mean, you go there to buy your toilet paper, and your razors, and your detergent, and your deodorant. Whereas more niche products, you can think of as the products that have really built community, that you go there and you buy from them based on an emotion. You have a reason outside of I need this, and I need it now, and I need it faster, and I need it cheap. For you, I would recommend selling unique and niche products. That's because you just have more opportunity there. Commoditized products, already being sold by Amazon and tons of other sellers. Commoditized products are typically those products that maybe a legacy brand with a lot more money and a lot more marketing power, can maybe go after those products and figure out a way to get into that market. Again, you think of the Gillette's or the old spices of the world. Whereas unique products give you the opportunity to come into market and really build a community based on the product that you've produced. On top of that, when you sell a unique product, nobody else is selling it. So you aren't competing against other people just for the exact same audience, or if you do decide to sell on Amazon, for that coveted by box. The three main ways for you to find and source products or find a niche that's really, really good for you is, one, find or identify products that solve a real problem, or find or identify products that already have a community, that other people are passionate about, or that perhaps you in particular are really, really passionate about. Or, the third method is, hop on a trend really, really early. We'll talk through how you can do that. So first, let's talk about brands that are selling products, that do a really, really great job at solving a problem. So our first one is a brand that I have been following for a really long time and really, really love. It is called a Sun Bum. They now have really expanded into other product lines. But when they first started, they were selling sunscreen. What their big differentiator was with the problem that they were solving was, in the United States, regulations around Sunscreen are a lot less strict than they are in places like Europe or Australia. So Sun Bum created a Sunscreen to the US market that hit those same regulations for skincare and skin protection. It wasn't something that was being done by a lot of the larger brands. If it was being done, they weren't necessarily marketing it. Like I said, they have expanded into a bunch of other product lines now. But if you head on over to their About Us page and scroll down, you can see that they are still really remaining true to some of that. Very beginning, I'm solving a problem. I'm really helping to get you an item that it's really hard for you to get in other places. So head on over to that page. You can look through here and see some of their additional information, where they are showing you why Sunscreen is really important, why some of the regulations in other countries are more effective for protecting your skin, particularly from cancer, which none of us want. They are just really continuing to drive it home. This is the origins of this brand. This is how they really began to be successful. For you, the lesson here is one, start with a single product, figure out a way that that product solves a problem for other people, and then as you grow and as you expand, very similar to Sun Bum, then you can begin to expand to other product areas that are complimentary to that original story, that original problem that you are trying to solve. The next example that I want to show you is one that I've already shown you a little bit in other lessons. But let's hop on over there. Again, they're live LARQ because they are doing a fantastic job at solving a problem, creating a single product that solves a problem, and then marketing that problem really, really well in terms of them being the solution for it. So Live LARQ is a water bottle that does water purification. You can't get that water from anywhere. If you are hiking out in big band, like I like to do, and scoop up some water from a river, you can have it be purified right there so that you are sure that you are drinking safe water. This is also really great. I live down in Austin, Texas, where due to some floods, not too long ago, our water system was not fantastic for a little bit. This would have been something really, really great to use a smoke circuit in a bunch of water bottles off the shelves. LARQ has done just a really amazing job at creating a single product that solves a real, real problem for folks throughout the country. The big takeaway here is, if you have a product to sell already, think about what problem that product solves for other people. If you are still looking for a product to sell, then begin thinking through what problems and small annoyances and nuisances am I running across in my daily life and can I create a product that will solve for those. Another really great way to find a product to sell online or to verify if the product that you are planning on selling is a really great one is to find a product that other people are really passionate about. So a product that already has a community built into it or, better yet, a product that you are incredibly passionate about. That gives you the leg up to write content, educate people on something that you already know, love, and very, very much deeply care about. So a really great example of a product that already has a fantastic community behind it are bikes and bicycling. So let's take a look at a company that I really like. They are called a Glory Cycles. So Glory Cycles is a brand that was established in 2001, which I know right now seems like that was a long time ago. But that does not really make them a legacy brand. Really what it was was a couple of founders who were avid bicyclists, who weren't really finding the products that they needed exactly the way that they needed them. So they started working with manufacturers to build out products for folks exactly like them. So not only does bicycling have this kind of pre-built in community, but the founders of this company in particular were also members of that community. They knew people in that community. They deeply understood the product and the problems that needed to be solved there and made it a fantastic vertical for them to begin going after. Now, they started only with some of them bike parts that you might need, and they have it now expanded into selling really customized bikes and other gear that you might need. Another really great example is a site that I really loved, called Olive Oil Lovers. Olive Oil Lovers is exactly what the name sounds like, which makes it great for SEO. But it is a brand that sells olive oil. If you love olive oil, like man do love olive oil, not just like the regular kind, this really dives into all of the different types that you can get, all the different quantity, types, and quality, types. I don't know those well. I get mine from just a local grocery store. But I am not the target customer for this product by any means. Olive Oil has a real community around it, from chefs to just really fantastic home cooks. This audience and this product is going directly after those folks, trying to solve a problem for them, but also trying to just build a community around really great products that they really, really love. So for your brand, as you are thinking about what product to sell, think about what you are incredibly passionate about, what you spend hours telling your friends about, over beer, or what you do on the weekends. Or if that isn't something that you think you could really sell a product into a figure something out there, instead, start looking around, talking to your friends, figuring out, what other communities exist out there, what products could you create to really rally those people around a single idea. Olive Oil. So the final way, one of my best tips for finding a product niche and a product to sell, is to hop on trends early. Now, to be really honest with you guys, this is the hardest one to do, but potentially, the most profitable. It's hard because, how do you predict the future? I mean, brands that started selling CBD oil a year or two years ago are booming right now. How can you figure out what those net new trends are going to be? So let's look at a couple of really good examples. So the first is a brand called Wone. This brand was started by a former employee of Nike, who has now launched what seems to be the next phase of luxury e-commerce online. So Wone has been able to hop on the trend not just of leisure and athletic wear, but also they've really tapped into this community that really desires experience. Like being early adopters and getting exclusivity to products. That is an online experience that hasn't really been made online yet for those kind of buyers and that audience that's willing to spend $300 on a pair of leggings or might shop at Louis that time. They don't have a lot of experiences online, and Wone has been able to come in and create that luxury offline experience in an online environment. Another really great example is Hyphen Mattress. Now, everybody has heard of, I don't know, name your favorite mattress company, whether it's Caspar or Parachute, just launched a new one. Hyphen is another company that pretty early on launched a mattress. I actually own this mattress. It's very, very good. But besides that, Hyphen Mattress is actually a direct to consumer version of their parent company, which is Diamond Mattress. So they pretty quickly early on saw the success that Caspar and other brands were having and said, "Oh, we actually have a product for that." Now, the product that they had wasn't necessarily a foam mattress that could easily be wrapped up into a package that can be delivered to your door. So they had to go in, and do some product testing, and make that come to life. But the trend was there. People were beginning to buy mattresses online. Because they moved quickly, and they hopped on to that trend, they were able to get a share of that voice and get a share of that revenue. So for your brand, what's the takeaway here? How do you find early trends? Honestly, the best answer to that is to, when you have an idea, follow through on that idea. If you see that there's an opening in the market, go for that. The only difference between a brand like Hyphen or brand like Wone is that the founders went after it. They saw a trend, they saw the opening in the market, and they created an experience and a product that fit that. This is not a strategy that would work for people who rest on their laurels, who aren't willing to put the work and the effort into it. So as those ideas come up, as you're joking around with friends, "Oh, I wish there was XYZ product or XYZ product," those are really great product ideas to begin putting a little bit of your time and effort and strategy behind in order to bring those to market so that you are head of the trend. Beyond that, there are a few tools that can help you do this. Google Trends is a really great one. You can head on over there and type in a few keywords. You'll be able to see some of the search terms that are beginning to trend on Google, and that can give you a fantastic indication that if more people are beginning to search for this particular item, especially if you see it's like a very high lift and a lot of people are really beginning to search for it, it's probably a really good idea to go ahead and create a product around that. Let's look real quick at one though. So CBD is a fun one to look at because it has really only begun booming. So you see over here, beginning in 2016, there was hockey stick growth for the amount of searches for this product. So again, that shows that it is a fantastic indicator for a product that you probably want to sell. There's more market demand for it and more consumer demand for it, which means you can create a product and get your products in front of those people faster than you could. If maybe you're going after a community or if you're trying to build a product, that solves a problem. Again, hopping on trends is probably the harder way to find a product, but typically one of the ones to become more profitable or profitable and successful more quickly. Once you've decided which product you want to sell, then head on over to the next lesson, where we're going to walk through market viability for that product. 4. Evaluating Market Viability: The next step after you figure out what product you're going to sell, is figuring out, is this product viable to ship? Is it legal to sell? Is it something that consumers actually want? We're going to walk through in this lesson how to figure all of that out. Overall, there are three main questions that you need to be asking yourself to understand if your product is viable for the market. So question number one, is this idea practical? Question number two, what obstacles stand in the way to making it really come to life and getting it out to consumers? Number three, will it need a support services? Maybe you're selling a product that needs a little bit more hands-on help to really ensure customer satisfaction. For that first question, is this idea practical? Think of something kind of like Jeni's Ice Cream, if you've ever heard of them or had their ice cream. It's amazing. Jeni's Ice Cream has been selling online for the past few years. One of the main hurdles that they really had to overcome in terms of, "Is this practical", is how the heck do you ship ice cream without it melting before somebody gets it. You don't want to just deliver a bucket of mush. So they ended up having to figure out that they needed to use dry ice in order to pack the ice cream in, so that no matter where they shipped it, it would show up still frozen. That is a really great example of, "Is this practical?" Do you have those resources? Is it going to actually make it to the customer and the shape and form that you need it to? That answer is no. You need to overcome an obstacle, which we'll talk here about in a second or two. Maybe you need to find a little bit different of a product. Maybe it isn't actually viable for the market, and that's why there is a hole in the market for that product. For question number two, what obstacles lie ahead in getting this to market? Think about something like CBD, which we talked a little bit about in our last lesson. It has been booming sense probably early 2016 or so. You might be asking, why haven't more people hopped on that trend? Why didn't more people see that coming? The answer to that is that a lot of people did. It just wasn't legal maybe in their state or in other states to actually sell CBD. That's a real obstacle that you have to decide. Am I going to decide to put money and time and resources into this to potentially have it all shut down by laws and regulations? Or is this something that I still want to continue to go after? Another really great example of a kind of unique obstacle in getting to market, is the mattress industry. So quick tidbit for you, just because you see a hole in the market, doesn't necessarily mean that people haven't been trying to fill that hole. So let's back up to maybe five, six years ago, maybe as Casper and some of those brands were beginning to come online. It's not that folks didn't want to sell mattresses online. It's that they couldn't figure out how to ship those items cost-effectively to people. The solution was producing foam mattresses that could easily be rolled up and put into a box and shipped over, and then you unroll it and it's still magically is the mattress that you need it to be. That was a true innovation, a true overcoming of an obstacle, that I believe it was Casper who was really the first to go into it. Now, that's common for all of us in terms of what we expect from mattress companies. It's happening not even just with foam anymore. Parachute now has a non-foam mattress that they roll up for you and send to your door. Again, that's an example of an obstacle that you have to overcome. Again, if you see that there's this kind of hole in the market, really begin to think through. Why does that hole exist and what kind of unique thought processes or innovations can I bring to that market in order to get this product to where I need it to be? Casper clearly did it and was incredibly, incredibly successful for doing so. Then the final question to ask yourself is, are you selling a product or have you chosen to sell a product that maybe is going to need a little bit of services or maybe some hands-on help in order to ensure customer satisfaction? So a really great example of this is succulents. So selling succulents online, great idea. They ship really well. They're small and expensive to ship. The problem though, is that if your customer doesn't take care of them, then suddenly, you no longer have a succulent. So a lot of succulent brands like Mountain Crest Gardens, for instance, have been launching education sites. Offering you videos and content and manuals to figure out how to take care of the plants, so that even their customers who don't have a green thumb can still log onto the site, get a manual sent to them, and make sure that the succulents that they paid good money for continue to live, and that that customer can get everything they want out of them. All right, so beyond those three kind of top-level overview questions, there are some more tactical things that you really need to think about. For instance, the product's weight and size because that is going to immediately affect how much it's going to cost you to ship that item to somebody. We know that shipping is a big reason why people do or do not buy something, and you can thank Amazon for that. What about it's fragility? Is it going to break on the way there? If so, how are you going to have to package it so that it doesn't do that? What about the amount of SKUs you have? So a SKU is an individual business unit or an individual kind of product unit. So, say, you are selling T-shirts. But each T-shirt that you make comes in red, blue, and green. On top of that red, blue, and green, can come in small, medium, and large. You suddenly have a lot of products. Now, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and consumers certainly like choice. But where that can kind of begin to affect you is, if you're using a third party logistics provider or if you are having to bulk order in the products that you're going to be selling, you're going to have to buy 10 to 20 to 30 of each individual SKU item. That's a lot of upfront money for you. So those are just a few of the individual questions that you need to be thinking through it in terms of the real tactical meat and potatoes. Does this make sense? Can I afford it? Will customers buy from me if I have to raise the price on them in order for me to afford it? Also think through product lifespan and seasonality. Seasonality, for instance, maybe think about products that people tend to buy only around back-to-school time, but then don't buy at all throughout the rest of the year. Now, that does not mean that that's not a great product for you to launch into. There's a community. There's probably a pain point to solve for all of the ideas and the thought processes that we've covered in other lessons. All of that's there. But it is important for you to know, as a business owner, that that business probably isn't going to sustain your entire salary or revenue for a full year. So maybe this is a part-time job until you begin to add on additional products, or how can you really win as much of that market as possible so that for that small window of time in which people are really looking for that product, that you are able to capture the largest market size. My most recent project is starting Doris Sleep which is a direct-to-consumer online brand. So let me help you kind of bring all of this to life because this is exactly what I did when I was launching Doris Sleep. So for Doris Sleep, product size and weight, I know what you're thinking. Pillows aren't that big. They're really soft. They're not that heavy. All of that's right and accurate, except for the fact that shipping is based, at least in the US, on dimensional weight. Which means, if you have a product that is bigger than it is heavy, you ultimately are paying a whole lot more to ship that item. It's kind of the same issue that mattress companies had before they really wrapped them up and made them really small. So with pillows, I could compress those pillows to ship them out much cheaper. The problem though, is that I don't sell pillows that have foam. So instead, I really needed to think through, can I add some kind of shipping buffer into my price? Do I think that consumers will still shop even if there's a pretty big shipping charge at the end? It's not a no-go if you can't maybe figure out a way around it. But it's definitely something that you really need to take into account as you begin to build out your strategy. Another one is SKUs. So I sell three pillows and each one of those pillows is sold in a standard and a queen size. Now, I could've also sold in a king size, but I have strategically chosen not to do that. Mostly because even though it looks to anybody coming to my site, that I sell only three pillows, I'm actually selling six. Which means I use a 3PL, so a third party logistics provider, and it costs me money to have those items sit in that warehouse and maybe be sold or not be sold. So I have to buy about 20 pillows for each one of those six individual SKUs. I have to continue doing that every single time that I order from my manufacturer. So it's just an additional charge for me, which those SKUs I am happy with, but if I added king to each one of those, that would have been three additional SKUs on top of that, and that is not something that I wanted to go after. So for product fragility, I sell pillows, so I'm not too terribly worried about them. But something to keep in mind or at least that I kept in mind in this regard is, product fragility doesn't necessarily mean will your product break. For me, nobody wants to get a pillow that's been shipped to them that's wet or, I don't know, has had whatever would happen in shipping done to it. So I make sure that all of my pillows, each one of them is individually covered with a plastic wrapper in order to make sure that if any dirt gets in there, if any water gets in there, it will not matter. Your pillow will be completely safe and fine. So definitely make sure you think about that. In terms of product lifespan, this is something really helpful to think through in terms of how often are people going to need to come back and buy from you. People should be buying new pillows about every two years. Now, do they do that? Not everyone, at least. Most of the people I've talked to don't. So that means for me that that's an education opportunity that I can build content around and really help people understand why you need to be buying a pillow every two years. This was also a concern in the mattress industry, as well, that Casper and others really had to deal with. Which is, when you buy a mattress, you don't need another mattress for 8-10 years. So where's the customer loyalty in there? Now, all of those companies have figured out ways to deal with that. Casper has a whole blog and education center on sleep habits, and they've expanded their product lines, but they have only done all that really more recently. So even if your product doesn't have an incredibly high lifespan in terms of people coming back and buying from you, that does not necessarily mean you shouldn't sell it. It's just a consideration factor that you need to be taking into account as you build out your strategy. All right, so we have thrown a ton of questions at you and you probably have so many little answers and thoughts running through your head. Just know that there are no right or wrong answers to any of these. Instead, it's really about trying to figure out if you are prepared for what the answers to those questions are, and how you can build a brand and a product and a community that addresses those issues while still getting you the margins that you need to be a successful and profitable business. So after you have thought about these questions and come to the conclusion that this product, the product you are planning on selling, is viable for the market, that the problems and the issues, and keep in mind, every product will have those, are things that you can address, then you are ready for the next lesson in which we walk through how to do a competitive analysis and see what other people selling products just like yours are doing. 5. Conducting Competitive Analysis: Now is the time to start doing the competitive analysis. So you might be asking, what is a competitive analysis? Fantastic question. All it is, is going through and finding the competitors to your brand. So these are people who are selling your product, either as part of a larger catalog or even people who are maybe only selling your product and those people might be a little bit more direct competitors. Then what you'll do once you identify all of those brands, is just make a list of them, and now you are going to go through and figure out what is their mission statement, how are they communicating, what customer service channels do they have, what is their pricing look like. A bunch of different factors because ultimately what that is going to help you do, is figure out how to price your product, how you can talk to consumers in a way that's differentiated from what your competitors are doing. Maybe a little like customer service tweaks that you can make. Maybe one of your competitors isn't using Facebook Messenger for instance, and you could. So just gives you a really good understanding of what's going on in the markets in particular to the product that you will be selling, so the brand you build out is as comprehensive and competitive as it can possibly be. All right. So let's dive in and walk through a real example of how to do this. We are going to provide you with a template, so that you can do this yourself. I did this not too long ago for my own company, so I sell bed pillows. So I really had to go out and figure out what competitors in the space are doing something similar. So one of my competitors, at least a tertiary competitor is Casper, and that's because while Casper sells mattresses, they also sell bed pillows as an upsell for them, right. So if we hop on over to the template, I'm just going to copy that URL and drop that in to the template here. Next I need to understand where their HQ is. Where are they running their business from. I'm going to go to Casper's LinkedIn. Awesome. So it's in New York state that looks like about all the information that I'm going to get from them. Next we need to understand what their mission statement is. Why did they start selling online or why are they telling consumers that they started selling online. Because there's a lot of different ways that brands really put their mission statements out there. Rarely is it going to be on a page that says, "Mission statement." So you have to go through and figure it out a little bit. So on their FAQ page, they have a link that says, "Tell me more about the Casper pillow." Perfect. I'd love to know more, and then it walks through exactly what their pillow is and it looks like ultimately what their mission statement is here is that their pillow has tiny silky fibers and a uniquely designed double layer pillow that won't pancake when compressed. So it keeps its shape. That is ultimately what they are trying to sell customers on. So I'm going to copy that, drop this into my template and then move onto the next thing which is product offerings. So we know that Casper offers mattresses primarily, that's their number one product and then they offer pillows as well though those pillows are more of an upsell. That's good for me in selling only pillows because for them focusing on their pillows is just a secondary part of their business. They're really more focused on the mattresses. So that gives me a good opportunity to come in on the pillow side. All right. Their sales channels. They definitely have their own online store. They have a very strong presence on Facebook so, yes there. I don't know if Casper is selling on Amazon and it looks like they are but always be sure to actually click on the Amazon links because sometimes it's not actually the brand themselves selling it but a third-party reseller and that's important to note. Don't let like massive Facebook following or presence on all the channels displayed your discourage you from doing this. All that means is that there are audiences on all of those channels that would be very interested in your product as well. Right. So really what this exercises is, is one, seeing what all of your competitors are doing, but two, what are all the different ways that seemed to be working for these brands because large brands like Casper are investing in these channels if they don't have to, if they're not incredibly profitable. So what are all the channels in which customers who are looking for your product all ready exist. So, this gets you to the strengths and weaknesses side and by now as you can tell. Sometimes, going through and finding the information up to this point is going to take you through the website, to their social accounts, to what they're doing on Amazon or eBay or anywhere else. So by now, you should have read enough about the company and their product to understand maybe what some strengths and weaknesses are for them. So one, one of Casper strengths is that they have a very large wide audience, they are well-known, they have a big name. So large, wide audience, well known, so on and so forth. Weaknesses for them though at least as it regards my product and my selling proposition is that their primary product is a mattress and it's not a pillow. On top of that, the pillow that they've created is using just regular polyester. So really dig into how are they making, it where they making it, how are they marketing it, there for me as I'm selling pillows with recycled plastic bottle fill, they're not marketing an eco-friendly side to this instead they're using it as an upsell to an all ready existing purchase. That's a win for me and a strength that I can come in and market against. In competition category, this is a secondary competitor, their main product is mattress not a pillow. A main competitor is going to be somebody who is selling primarily pillows, then maybe with other products surrounding that. Now you want to go through and do this competitive analysis for every single one of the competitors you can find, whether they are primarily, secondary or tertiary competitors because this is going to give you a fantastic overview of how all of your competitors are talking to the consumers that you also want to talk to. What channels they're selling on, which will give you a good idea of which channels you should be selling on. So what products are they selling is really important even if they're secondary competitors like Casper is for me where they're selling a mattress and then upselling a pillow. It's good for me to know that mattresses and pillows, not that it's like rocket science, but that mattresses and pillows go together. People tend to like to buy those products as a group. In the future as my brand grows potentially all want to expand into an additional category like that. But of course, in order to do that I need to start this whole course over again and begin to understand what are the opportunities, what are the costs, what are the obstacles, so on and so forth. All right. So these past three lessons including this one have gotten you to a really great spot in terms of figuring out what product you're going to sell, understanding if it's viable for market, and getting your hands on a competitive analysis template. So before you go onto the next lesson, go ahead and take a little bit of time to process all of that information to go through, fill out the competitive analysis and really begin to get your feet under you because our next lesson is going to talk about the different e-commerce platforms and options that you have to begin setting up your store. 6. Setting Up Your Store: Welcome to lesson six. By this point in time, you should know what you are going to sell, know that it is going to be viable in the market, that you are ready and willing to address the challenges that will come up with selling the product that you have chosen, and you have already gone ahead and done a competitive analysis to understand what your competitors are doing in the space, what their mission statements are, where they're selling, and where they are located as well as a quick overview of some of their strengths and their weaknesses. So now, what's left is there to do other than actually, picking a platform and getting your store live. It is time to start marketing and to start selling. The first step is choosing which platform you are going to use, and there are tons of platforms out there. There are three that tend to be the most commonly used for folks starting online stores and those are BigCommerce, Shopify, and Woo Commerce. Now, if you are already running a WordPress site than Woo Commerce, might make the most sense for you though. The Commerce has a WordPress plugin as well. If you aren't running something on WordPress, then the Commerce and Shopify are really probably the best options for you. That's because they are SaaS platforms. So SaaS stands for Software as a Service, versus Woo Commerce, which is an open source platform. Open source is great for a lot of things, but if you do not have technical experience, if you aren't a developer, then you're probably going to struggle a little bit in terms of really getting something open source to get up and running and be exactly what you want it to be. Whereas something like the Commerce or Shopify, which is SaaS, they take on a lot of that heavy lifting for you, so that you can really focus on the marketing and selling of your brand rather than some of the technical know-how that I know I certainly don't have. All right. So as you decide which e-commerce platform you're going to use, the very first thing you want to do is go look at their pricing pages and understand, how much those platforms will be charging you per month. It's typically the way they do it. Which payment providers do you want to use? Keep in mind, all payment providers are going to take a little bit of your revenue from you. So those payment providers are Stripe or PayPal, right? So go ahead and look at those e-commerce platforms you're considering. Most of them have pre-negotiated rates with all of the different payment providers and see, is one more expensive than the other. Some of it, honestly, is probably only going to be like a $0.02 difference. Does that matter a whole lot at first, maybe not to you. So it all comes down to a personal decision there. After you look at the cost of each platform, next, you probably want to go ahead and take a look at the design capabilities and functionality of each platform, because when you have an e-commerce store, the way your site looks is really the first impression that you have on the folks standing there. So most e-commerce platforms have themes and templates ready-made and out-of-the box that you can go and download and launch. So definitely go test those out, put in some of your product images or whatever it is that you want, and get a feel for what their templating processes is like. Once you have considered the cost of the platform and then actually trialed the platforms, tested out the design functionality, the ease of use on the backend, then you are ready to make a decision and launch your store. When you launch your store, it is incredibly important that your store looks professional. Then of course, you need to choose a fantastic domain name, that is the way that people are going to find you. Now, you have a few options in what you choose. You can make a domain name that is reflective of what your brand name is, or you can make a domain name that is really specific around the products that you're selling. So if you go the route of making a domain name that's really specific to the products that you're selling, you're probably going to have a little bit more of a leg up at least at the beginning. That's because you are creating a search-optimized URL names. So for instance, if you are selling paint online and you make a URL that is, US paint online, probably going to start doing better. Then if you called your paint company, gosh, I don't know, Ladder, and started selling things under that domain. One really, really good way to combine both of those strategies, because certainly you want it to be branded, is something similar to what I did with Doris which is, I sell bed pillows. So instead of getting doris.com, I've got dorissleep.com, really trying to go after the overall market that I want to build into. I ended up going with an agency to build out my site, feel free to go there and scroll through it and check it out. As mentioned though, a lot of e-commerce platforms come with themes and templates out of the box that are ranged from free to maybe $300. Agencies are often much more expensive than that. So let's take a quick look at a few other stores that are using just out of the box templates. You can see what they look like and the professionality of them, if that's a word or if you'll allow me to make that a word. So this is Packed Party, these folks are located in Austin, Texas and are blowing up, which is so cool to see, but they are using just an out of the box template. This is something that they just found on an e-commerce platform and then they went in and they put their own images in, they added their own products in. You can see just how it looks, again, out of the box. Another really great example is a brand called Spearmint LOVE. Now, I have been working with the fantastic folks over at Spearmint LOVE for a really long time. When I first interviewed them, they were stoked because their brand was growing like crazy. They were hitting over a million in revenue, and they were using a free out of the box template that they had put on their site from the moment that they launched. So to them, it was a real win because they've saved a bunch of money not having to use agencies. Now, their website today, it looks different than what it was when they first launched. That's because now they have gone in and they have another out of the box template that they are using. So maybe now they've paid $300 for a template versus the free one that they originally had, still using something out of the box, still dropping in their own images and really making it look cool and customized just to them. So this isn't just for you when you're starting a business. You can even use these templates and change templates and really do whatever you want throughout your growth cycle. Once you have successfully launched your store, congratulations, that is a huge deal. In the next lesson, I am going to give you some tips, on how to make that store profitable, as quickly as possible. 7. Making Your Business Profitable: Once you have your store up and running, the next question you are probably asking yourself is, how do I make this thing profitable? There are four key steps to making that happen. Those four steps are, first, you need to drive traffic. You need people to come to your site. Number two is you need to convert customers. You need a portion of that traffic that you are driving to your site to actually buy something. Number three is you need to start building community. You need to really make the people who actually bought your product, love that product, and once you tell everyone, they know about that product. Number four is you need another subset of those customers who bought from you to be loyal, to come back, to buy, maybe it's that pillow, in the next two years, or to be so loyal that when you launch another line of products, they are first in line wanting to buy it. So the easiest way to get started and driving traffic to your website is to optimize your site for search. This is often known as SEO, search engine optimization. There are so many different ways that you can go about this. But one of the most popular is to build out a content marketing strategy, to do some keyword research, figure out what consumers, looking for products like yours are on topics related to your products, are looking for online, and then building out content that answers those questions, that educates those consumers, and that gets them landing on your site so that then you can retarget those folks back over to your product pages, where they can ultimately checkout. The first step to driving traffic is to do keyword research. You got to figure out what are your consumers or your target customers. What are they looking for online? What are their pain points? What's stopping them from finding a product like yours or from being happy with a product like yours? Now, there are a few different tools that you can use to really begin to understand this, but the most widely known and free one is called Google. So you can head on over to Google, which I'm going to do right now, and just take you through a quick little example for something that might be related to dorsally. So for instance, if I am selling bed pillows, I need to understand or think through what do people do with bed pillows. If I enlarge, there's like two main things. One, you sleep on them or two, you use them to prop yourself up while you're watching TV, or reading a book, or whatever it might be. So first, what are the best sleep positions? Might be something that's super helpful and useful for me to talk about. So I can type in sleep positions into Google, and see what comes up. Fantastic, there are about 40,000 monthly searches for this. That's awesome. Two, there's already a bunch of people writing content on this, which isn't always the best thing to see, but it does give you a good understanding of the kind of content that you need to create to really get onto page 1. So what you want to do from here is go ahead and click on everything that's showing up on here, on page 1, because that's where you ultimately want to be, and read through those articles and get a good understanding of what makes a really great article on this particular topic. Another thing you want to look at is right up here, under this people. Also, asks section. You want to, essentially in your content, make sure that you are addressing each one of those questions. This is essentially Google telling you what other things people who search for this topic are searching for, what questions they have. If you can answer those questions effectively, it's going to help you get to the top of Google much faster. The other really great tool to use is called Ahrefs. I call it Ahrefs. That could be wrong. It's probably Ahrefs. It's not a free tool, but it is affordable. In here, you can go in. I'll just type in sleep positions again. Fantastic. So this tool is going to show me the keyword difficulty, how hard is it to rank for this content. That's going to be a really important factor for you as you begin to prioritize which content pieces you write out, which keywords you go after. So for sleep positions, it has an 18 keyword difficulty, which is relatively low. I would need about 20 backlinks from decently high ranking sites in order to get my content onto page 1. Now, backlinks are truly links from sites that are linking back over to your site and high-quality means. You want those sites to be trusted websites that aren't just spam. You also want those websites to be websites that are tangentially related to what you're talking about. So if I'm selling bed pillows, it would be really great to have backlinks to my site from lifestyle blogs that talk about home, and health, and sleeping, and self-care. So they can be tangentially related, but you definitely want it to be on the same topic. If I got a link back to my pillow site from a site that talked a lot about cars, probably not the highest signal to Google that that's a quality link. What all of this ultimately gets back to, is you building out your content strategy. On the commerce and Shopify or if you're using WordPress, it is very, very easy to launch a net new blog post and to optimize that blog post for the keywords that you are trying to go after. So all you need to do is build out a keyword strategy, figuring out which keywords are going to drive the most traffic with the least amount of difficulty. Again, Ahrefs can tell you that. You can type in all the different keywords you want, compare them against one another, even download a CSV file of them. Then you want to use Google for each one of those individual keywords to help you build an outline. What questions are people asking around this keyword? What other keywords are related to this keyword? That will help you get a good idea of what you should talk about, what stuff you can leave out, that might not be as important to people searching for it. Then yeah. Then you want to get onto your site, launch a blog post, get it up, and get it out. All right. Now that you have your blog post up and live, it probably is not going to drive a whole bunch of traffic over to your site all on its own. Now, you need to figure out a distribution strategy and, most importantly, a backlinking strategy. So in order to do that, head back over to Google for that keyword that you wrote the content on and find an article that's maybe one to three on Google. Keep in mind, these are the organic rankings, not the ads that are showing up. So for me, with sleep positions, it looks like Alaska Sleep is one of the top ones. So I'm going to go copy their URL, head on over to Ahrefs, and go to Site Explorer. Put that URL into the search bar there. Then over here on the side, I'm going to go look at their backlink. So that's the first link out under the overview and backlink profile. Awesome. From here, you can always export this. But just for a top-level overview, you can already begin to see. Elite Daily is linking to this, Health24 is linking to this, Sleep Sherpa, a bunch of things. This is fantastic information for you. Because now, you can begin to cultivate a list of publications that often link off to sites and articles, just like yours, and begin cultivating relationships with those editors, with those writers, and begin asking for backlinks. So the next step is, now that you are driving traffic, you need to convert that traffic. If you were following a content marketing strategy, like I just described, then you are driving what is called top of funnel traffic. These are people who are interested in the topic that you're talking about, and maybe some of them are looking for the products that you need, but certainly not all. So now, what you need to do is set up Facebook retargeting or retargeting ads across the web for anybody who lands on those pages to come back to your website and drop them on individual product pages so that those folks can begin to buy products from you. Beyond that, it's super important that you use a tool like Hotjar or any other A/B testing or heatmapping tool to understand that, hey, if I'm not hitting a two percent conversion rate, which is considered average across the e-commerce industry, understand why that's happening. That's really important because if you are spending money on Facebook ads to retarget top of funnel traffic onto your product pages, then you want to make sure that you are getting the most return on your ad spend as possible. So you need as many of those people to convert as possible. A tool like Hotjar will show you what people are doing when they land on those pages, and help you optimize maybe where they are falling off or the engagement that you built the page to have, maybe isn't working in its current form. Now that you are beginning to convert customers, you really need to start building a community. To do that, you're going to need reviews tool, of course, and you are going to want to have an email marketing tool. But beyond that, think bigger. Start reaching out to other brands and people who mesh with whatever the reason for you selling this product is. So for instance, with Doris pillow, we have an eco-conscious mantra, it's made in America. Those are two different groups of people that I can reach out to and really try to start building community with. One of the best ways to build community is by partnering with those brands so that you get in front of their community, you build friendships and relationships with their founders and owners. Ultimately, you're building a community not just for your brand, but for your customers as well. So once you have started to drive traffic, and convert that traffic, and build community, the next step is building loyalty. There are tons of different ways that you can do this. But one of my favorite examples is a company called BANGS Shoes. So BANGS Shoes sells regular shoes to an extent, but they have done an amazing job at building a community and loyalty around shoes that take you around the world. They do meet ups in cities across the US, with college age students, just trying to build this thirst for exploring the world and adventure. You can head on over to their site and look at some of the work that they do in terms of impact with the environment and helping to fund other people starting businesses. Or you can look at there and get involved, where you can get involved in their campaigns. You can join a meet up, you can become an ambassador, or you can check out all of the brands that they build community with and partner with. These guys are truly taking the entire funnel and making it part of their mission not just to drive traffic, not just to convert customers, but to build community and loyalty around a topic that is really, really important to the founders. The BANGS Shoes strategy can be the thing that makes the difference between just slow growth and really, really exponential growth. BANGS also, isn't spending a whole lot of money on advertising to do this. Instead, they are using their time and their resources to connect with the community, to connect with their customers, and to build loyalty outside of the Internet. One thing to keep in mind with all of these strategies, whether you're driving traffic, converting that traffic, building a community or building loyalty is that, these strategies change. The best practices and the best strategies change all the time. So it's really important that you, as you are really digging into this and building these strategies out, that you stay on top of it, that you read blogs, Ahrefs has a really great blog around SEO, that you find sites like BANGS, reach out to founders, build a community for yourself, of people who are constantly learning, constantly growing, constantly trying to better their business to be more competitive and won a larger market share. Ultimately, you are the only ambassador for your company, the only and the biggest. So it is up to you to constantly be looking for new ways to grow, new ways to impress your customers, and new ways to build your community. 8. Final Thoughts: You made it, you did it. You have finally gotten here to the end, I hope that you have watched all of the lessons and followed through on all of them, but if not, this will be here for you as a resource as you build your business. So come back, walk through it again. Remember, even if you are launching a new product line, this course can be incredibly helpful in determining who your new competitors are, or if you are needing to build out a business plan, all of the lessons that we walked through are the basics for beginning to do that. Or, if you were trying to figure out how to drive more traffic, or optimize your site for conversion, we've talked about how to do that and lessons as well. Everything that you need in order to grow your business is here. Now, it is just on you. If you have already built out your site, I would love to see it. Please upload it to the project gallery where you can see your site on there as well as the sites of tons of other folks who are creating sites and building businesses right now. We talked a lot about community and some of these lessons. This is a really good first place to start building that. The one thing that I really hope all of you are taking away from this course is just confidence. Confidence in the product that you're selling, confidence that you will be able to sell it, confidence in who your competitors are and that you have a differentiated message, and confidence that you can drive traffic grow a business and make this dream that you have a reality. Thanks so much again for taking the class. I cannot wait to see the businesses that all of you launch and watch all of you take over the industry. 9. Explore More Classes on Skillshare: