7 Steps to Start a Hands-Free Automated E-commerce Store
by Jennifer Xue
Retail (B2C) e-commerce is a huge market, which continues to grow by double-digit through 2020. According to eMarketer, in 2016, total retail sales across the globe reached $22.049 trillion. Moreover, the total retail e-commerce sales hit $1.915. In 2020, worldwide retail sales were expected to reach $27 trillion and $4.058 trillion in total e-commerce sales.
It has never been a better time to start an e-commerce store with such encouraging data.
With the right e-commerce platform, apps, and marketing strategies, you can expect to make a good living selling products online. And the great news is, running an e-commerce store today is far different from, say, ten or even five years ago due to the automation trend.
Now you can have a “hands-free” store, allowing you to focus on marketing activities rather than on sourcing, storing, and fulfilling orders. And it applies to those who have never started any business before. Yes, even a complete e-commerce novice will be able to find and operate hands-free automated e-commerce without writing any code.
Let’s discuss how you can start this exciting automated venture from scratch.
- Take inventory of your passions.
Most people have multiple passions and interests. Find out what yours are. If you like cooking and everything about foods and exotic cuisines, write down what you want about them.
Next, brainstorm on the various possibilities that those passions and interests can be turned into money-making opportunities. For example, perhaps you can sell cooking and food-related products? Write down as many things that interest you the most possible and review them. Then, find out the pros and cons of selling those items, such as the trend cycles and consumer demands.
- Take inventory of your skills.
Create a list of your skills and write them down as freely as possible. It’s useful to see the areas you already have covered, so there is a need to hire any professional to help.
For instance, if you’re good with graphic design or, at least, can manipulate photos with Photoshop, you don’t need to hire a professional to edit photos, which would save money. Likewise, to start an automated e-commerce store, you don’t need any web design skills because the SaaS e-commerce platform is built to be ready to do by design.
- Select a domain name.
Once you’ve known what products to sell, select a good domain name that reflects both the products and the excitement they bring. A domain name must be catchy, short, and memorable. You’ll be using it for years, so make sure that it’s a name that will remain relevant.
Some people prefer “generic” names, like Google, Amazon, Zappos, and Wayfair. Others prefer names that truly reflect what the business is about, like PayPal, Blinds.com, Pink Coconut Boutique, and Shoptiques.com. Whichever your choice is, the domain name is the business name which you’ll likely register the LLC or sole proprietorship under.
- Connect the domain name to a SaaS e-commerce platform.
You’d want to use a proven platform for a hands-free (well, almost) e-commerce operation experience. Unfortunately, while shopping cart WordPress plugins might also do the trick, like Woocommerce and Zencart, WordPress is primarily designed for blogging, not for e-commerce. Thus, it isn’t equipped with important e-commerce functionalities, like detailed listing and product categorization.
According to Inc, there are five top e-commerce platforms for 2017 to consider. They come with everything needed to run an e-commerce store with almost minimal effort, like a built-in shopping cart connected to payment gateways, one-click theme installation, and numerous supporting apps. They’re also responsive, meaning they work on desktop and mobile views.
- Install a drop shipping management app.
One of the biggest trends in e-commerce is drop shipping 2.0. Dropshipping itself is selling products without actually storing them in your warehouse. Instead, the products will be shipped directly by the wholesalers.
In Dropshipping 1.0, an e-commerce retailer operator still needs to upload hundreds of product images, which can be quite time-consuming. However, in Dropshipping 2.0, with management apps, sourcing products, uploading images to finalizing the store for launch will only take a few hours.
- Source the products to sell using the app.
Dropshipping management apps allow users to source products directly from the wholesalers’ page. It will enable users to locate products to carry at the store, select them and let the app does the rest, like uploading the images and publishing the products to the store’s site.
- Create an inbound blog to promote the store.
Has your blog ghostwritten by a professional blogger to have peace of mind that the quality and frequency remain consistent? In addition, a good professional blogger should know how to best promote your products without making the blog posts (articles) sound like advertisements. After all, inbound marketing aims to attract people’s site visitors with educational and informational articles that answer their questions about certain problems or products.
Running a hands-free automated e-commerce store is no longer a dream. Dropshipping-based stores have accounted for at least 34 percent in the last few years. As more and more stores adopt this business model, the more “hands-free” e-commerce entrepreneurs will enjoy their time on tropical islands. And one of them could be you.
Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author, columnist, and serial entrepreneur based in Northern California. She has contributed to Forbes Asia (Indonesia edition) since 2012 and authored White Paper Writing for Business (BookBoon) and Guide to Become a Management Consultant (FabJob). In the corporate world, she serves as a Digital Marketing Strategy Consultant for Oberlo. Her blog is JenniferXue.com.