In 2016, What Is Ecommerce?

In 2016, and this has been the case for a few years already now, if you are starting an ecommerce business...

This is the order in which you should build your sales channels:

  1. Amazon
  2. eBay
  3. A third vertical relevant to your product category, e.g. Etsy
  4. Owned ecommerce site

Amazon and eBay are where all the customers are, and where they are all buying. Go there and sell your stuff to them, duh.

Your owned ecommerce site (i.e. yourcompanyname.com online shop) is mainly going to be useful for:

  • selling to repeat customers with better margins
  • special offers, vouchers, tie-ins, upsells, cross-sells, curated product selections
  • organic search traffic
  • advertising landing pages, email landing pages

An owned ecommerce site is not a way to create a selling business from a standing start. Selling to repeat customers, special offers / upsells / cross-sells, and organic search traffic: all of those areas are about growing an existing business, not about starting up a new ecommerce business.

The fourth point above, advertising, is also not advisable if you have not already created commercial proof of concept, and operational proof of concept, via a regular stream of orders (and happy customers) via Amazon and eBay. You can't start a new ecommerce business in 2016 by setting up an owned ecommerce site, and "driving traffic" to it via advertising. You can get traffic and sales but it would be so expensive to get the business to critical mass that way, that any business that could somehow make the ROI work would be better off going the vertical Amazon/eBay route first anyway.

So, to summarize:

Do not attempt to start a new ecommerce business, or a new ecommerce channel of your business, by building your owned ecommerce site first. You. Will. Fail.

Put another way, every startup business should be describing how they are going to succeed in Amazon and then eBay, and get to year 2 or 3 in their business plan before mentioning plans for improving profitability, marketing options, and customer loyalty through an owned ecommerce site.

Ecommerce software

To sell in Amazon and eBay you should be carefully selecting a multichannel selling system.

Unless you have extremely good reasons for wanting to get your business into the software development, you should avoid reinventing the wheel with your owned ecommerce site. Choose the cheapest and simplest solution you can get away with. Think Shopify and alternatives, maybe Woocommerce. Magento means you are committing to software development and support: don't do it unless it is part of the business plan of an already growing active Amazon and eBay selling business.

To reiterate, you should only be thinking about what solution to use for your own ecommerce site, once you already have regular sales through Amazon and then eBay.

If you can't sell on Amazon and eBay and make your business work, you sure as hell can't make it work through your tumbleweed own domain site.

If we already have our own ecommerce site?

If your business built and marketed an owned ecommerce site 5 or more years ago, and you built up regular customers, then you are in a position to try and grow that sales channel. However, you should still be selling through Amazon and eBay: are you? Those should still be your main sources of sales (for new customers) -- if you are not doing that, you're stubbornly leaving money on the table.


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