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, the worldwide retail sales are expected to reach $27 trillion and $4.058 trillion in total e-commerce sales.
With such encouraging data, it has never been a better time to start an e-commerce store.
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 literally 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 found and operate hands-free automated e-commerce without having to write 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, for instance, write down what you like about them.
Next, brainstorm on the various possibilities that those passions and interests can be turned into money-making opportunities. Perhaps you can sell cooking and food-related products? Write down as many things that interest you the most as possible and review them. 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 in which you already have covered, so there is 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. 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-go 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 all 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.
For a hands-free (well, almost), e-commerce operation experience, you’d want to use a proven platform. 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 efforts, like a built-in shopping cart that’s connected to payment gateways, one-click theme installation, and numerous supporting apps. They’re also responsive, meaning they work on both 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 basically 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 one by one, which can be quite time-consuming. In Dropshipping 2.0, with management apps, the whole process of 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 allows 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.
Have your blog ghostwritten by a professional blogger, so you can have a peace of mind that the quality and frequency will remain consistent. A good professional blogger should know how to best promote your products without making the blog posts (articles) sound like advertisements. After all, the whole concept of inbound marketing is to attract people 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 at least for 34 percent in the last few years. As more and more stores are adopting this business model, the more “hands-free” e-commerce entrepreneurs will be enjoying their time in 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 contributes 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 Digital Marketing Strategy Consultant for Oberlo. Her blog is JenniferXue.com.