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Launching an e-commerce store in 2020 just got easier

The trillion-dollar e-commerce market is open to those who dare. It offers remarkable gains beyond Amazon, as many solo brands will attest. In the current economic climate, e-commerce stores are seeing peak performance levels and still: new entrants to the market.

Indeed it is also a challenge to find top talent: countries like the US, UK and Israel have record employment levels, driving demand but who will  produce on-site content, prepare the storefront and co-ordinate every aspect needed to launch your store? What is the best and quickest technology to leverage if you want to launch an ecommerce store? What are the long term considerations to take when designing a new online storefront?

Let’s take a closer look at what your best options are to get started and tap into the market right now:

WordPress is powering the worldwide web – Woocommerce is your ace:

The first question an entrepreneur would ask, is “what technology should I use to set up an e-commerce store?” Around 80% of all websites in the world run on WordPress if you had to exclude China, but in the western world it is closer to 30% – which is still gigantic. Developers have launched genius solutions at scale and today, WOOCOMMERCE is the preferred system to run a store at low cost and high scale. It means that instead of paying a developer $20K to make a custom storefront with another $5K to set up an affiliate management system – plugin based modules can now power both at a fraction of the cost, slashing startup fees by as much as 75%. Shopify and Magento have lost the race to WOOcommerce – and that is a verdict supported by the industry.

Begin with the end in mind: The key issue an experienced digital marketing & development team will point out, is that theme and plugin selection is important long-term considerations. For example, you’d rather opt for a theme with more than 5000 reviews and 20 000 sales than a brand new theme. Why? because the developer who sold his theme to thousands of web designers, will have the budget to keep up with top notch features, whereas less known themes and plugins, can easily go out of business.

Custom web development goes out the window: The idea of “custom web development” in the era of WordPress, is a red light for any e-commerce store as it is simply not necessary. Instead, when design teams work with the best in-class themes, they customize it to your precise preferences with a “no-coding” approach. You can even install a “no-coding” chatbot on your WordPress website these days!

Using Google and Facebook to break free from Amazon:

Retailers can easily get seduced by marketplaces, for the sake of selling with convenience. All this to find out that they are dependent on giants like Amazon, Ebay and Etsy. This leaves them at the behest of the marketplace when there are policy changes. Fear not, because with Google and Facebook Pay Per Click, businesses can still stand out as independent performers. This is typically the first step to take once an e-store has been set up: roll out some pay per click campaigns. But it goes a step further: ultimately, content marketing, email list growth and other aces up your sleeve, can also set you free from the prohibitive costs associated with pay per click in competitive markets. Alphabet earns $36 billion in revenue, the majority from businesses who advertise on it’s search platform – Facebook is not far behind. Global digital ad spend will be around $333.25 billion – so clearly SEO, video marketing and other channels make up a healthy portion of the channel mix.

What about affiliate marketing?

This dirty little secret is hardly mentioned by marketers. But take a closer look at any company report, especially when reverse-engineering a successful e-commerce business, and the one word that keeps popping up, is affiliates. Well, starting up an e-commerce store should also account for this, but just as Google ppc helps you to break free from Amazon, so does woocommerce affiliate management systems enable businesses to break free from expensive and over-hyped middlemen like clickbank, CJAffiliate and other affiliate networks. Today, there are complete affiliate management systems that takes care of onboarding, commission tracking, creatives and links all plugged into your own domain, run from a WordPress site. Top developers usually make use of AffiliateWP or similar solutions – but the secret lies in the copywriting and affiliate recruitment strategy, not in the system alone!

It is fair to call Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, a major benefactor of affiliates – and by virtue of his investment in BusinessInsider – many would call him an affiliate marketer too! At Amazon they earn money from referring affiliates – at BusinessInsider, they ARE a referring affiliate, even to causes like Udemy of all things…

So how much money can you make with affiliate marketing? Good question: As a retailer, if you have 100 Affiliates selling just $2500/month – do the math to see how much it ads. Recently, I saw how a small guest posting site added 150 new clients per month via B2B affiliates: average monthly spend being $3500/client. One thing is sure: it is not a magic bullet either. You need to have good support materials and know where to find good affiliates. Today, with record employment levels in the west, we rely increasingly on people in Africa and Asia to back SME’s as affiliates – since they have more time on hands. Established publishers though, like Mashable and Business2Community etc. are constantly scanning the market for new affiliate opportunities that are better paid.

Market research: Which e-commerce opportunities are the most profitable?

Now this is the interesting part. Many researchers would scan the Amazon marketplace to find best-sellers, then attempt to replace them cheaper or at a better quality, on their own e-stores. Some would try arbitrage to see what is more expensive on Amazon VS Alibaba, Ebay and so forth to try and spot gaps in the market. Well, all of this might just be a form of “crop farming”. Finding the most profitable opportunities is more about a combination of factors: For products, firstly, strong demand, secondly, the ability to have some type of exclusivity or monopoly on a product. For services – well, differentiation and positioning in cases where there is strong demand is a well-known and proven method. But there is one more ace: The marketplace. Today, those who use a marketplace to generate a portion of their revenue, can float anything on the marketplace and test it without cost. This luxury is not available for pay per click – but look out for those who do “product dumps” on Amazon and Etsy and you will understand why “testing the market” can turn up some interesting results.

Hint: We are about to see fierce rivalry also between B2B service-type marketplaces. An e-shop can be tailored also to take a piece of this action!

Final scoop:

Starting an ecommerce store today, is way more affordable and quicker than before. No longer do you have to fork out tens of thousands for the top web designers in town because the sharing economy and WordPress re-wrote the rules. No longer is the industry at the behest of a small click of affiliate networks. We now have image and video marketing at our disposal – which was never the case in the previous age of slower internet. The B2B marketplace now has accurate targeting of role-based profiles as an ace. Don’t let a lack of local talent hold you back from starting. Think of it this way: if we face boom times, people spend money. If we see recession times, people go online to try and SAVE money – so an e-commerce store is an “all-weather” scenario.

Suggested reading:

Wordpress companies to watch

There are numerous solution providers in the fast-moving WordPress space. These are good companies to watch:

Elementor (The web designers favorite tool)

WOOcommerce (Setting up shopfronts and maintaining them)

Paypal / Stripe (Enabling recurring payments)

AffiliateWP (Powering affiliate systems for WordPress)

Envato / Themeforest (The Web designers favorite site for themes)

 

 

 

 

Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs and international marketing consultant, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy. He covers mostly topics related to his qualifications. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Google systems. He also writes for Jpost.com, BestTechie, CEOWorld Magazine and other media outlets.
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