There's no shortage of information available on how to start an online business.
A quick Google search reveals millions of articles, videos and books on the topic. Things get even more detailed when it comes to ecommerce businesses. Conversion rate this, SEO that, taxes here, order fulfillment there. It can get overwhelming. Here's the truth.
When you're first starting out, all that information is more of a hindrance than a help.
Why? Because you don't need more information. You need the right information at the right time. This is especially true when you're starting your first ecommerce business. I would know.
When I first started my journey as an online entrepreneur, I didn't know what to know, so I ended up trying to learn everything. The biggest takeaway from that? Trying to learn everything is a recipe for burnout, frustration, and more burnout.
So, before you invest thousands of hours (and dollars) into your ecommerce business--like your website, email list, or other online business essentials--make sure your business idea is rooted in a real, active need in the marketplace.
That's where your success as an ecommerce entrepreneur all starts. By testing and validating your idea, you'll be giving yourself a surge of sustained confidence. The best part is, you can do that by working through these three simple steps.
You may be thinking "What the hell is so important about a Google search?" One quick Google search can tell you who your competition is and if any of those competitors are actively advertising. Why is this important? Because paid advertisers are a very strong indicator of paying customers.
And without paying customers, everything from here on out is a waste of time. If you see there's a fair share of competition and advertisers, take your homework a step further. Plug your business idea into Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner.
Trends will allow you to see if your idea is on an uptrend or downtrend, and, with Keyword Planner, you'll be able to see just how much competitors are paying to get clicks from consumers who are actively searching for products and services related to your idea.
If other businesses are paying $2 or more for a click, then you're dealing with a product or service that's valuable and worth looking into further.
Searching on eBay, much like Google, will help you determine if similar products are popular (based on bid counts) and in demand (based on the number of active auctions, watchers, and listings).
You'll also get a clearer picture of the market pricing. Ideally, you'll want to step into a market with different tiers (high-end, low-end, mid-level price range, etc.). That way you can carve out your own space in the appropriate niche.
This is where things get interesting. Believe it or not, Amazon is a hotbed of consumer insights. These insights--namely, reviews from verified purchases--can confirm or deny your assumptions. You'll learn how to make your product better than your competitors just by reading through Amazon reviews.
Not only that, but you'll uncover pain points about everything from product quality and most-wished-for features to shipping times and customer service. Over time you can use this information to build a superior online business.
For more ways to launch your first online business, you can check out my short, ecommerce guide. But work through these three steps first. By the time you finish, you should know where in the market landscape your online business will fit, who your competitors are, what they're doing right (and wrong!), who they're selling to and how you can do it better.