When COVID-19 hit its stride, it drove the general public indoors, engineered the hibernation or collapse of many businesses, and led to the loss (or suspension) of many more jobs. The list of industries affected encompasses all of them to varying degrees, however, some were affected much more significantly than others. To see both ends of the spectrum, we can look at the retail world in general.
Traditional retail suffered greatly from lockdown measures, for instance. Grocery stores were able to stay open due to the essential nature of their goods, but other stores were left with negligible foot traffic if they were allowed to open at all (most weren’t). And with rental bills still to pay, plenty of those stores were ultimately shuttered with little hope of ever reopening.
Online retail, though, was able to endure very capably — and even thrive. Stuck indoors, many people turned to online shopping to safely procure supplies and splurge on purchases like entertainment systems and home improvement items to help them cope with extended isolation. And now that countries worldwide are making serious progress in emerging from lockdown, it’s one of the industries best positioned to take advantage of renewed economic activity.
If you’re looking to start a new business, then, becoming an online merchant is a perfectly sensible move — but given how much competition is out there, you need to approach it correctly to have a great shot at success. In this post, we’ll run through some strong tips for growing a new e-commerce business as the business world recovers from COVID-19. Let’s begin.
Choose a model that suits your abilities and resources
The very first thing you should do is think carefully about what kind of e-commerce business you can (or should) launch. There are plenty of viable methods, after all. There’s conventional reselling whereby you negotiate with suppliers, stock some products, and sell them on. There’s white-label selling that sees you buy generic products, customize them slightly, then sell them as your own branded items. There’s print-on-demand, an option great for graphic designers: pass your designs to print companies, then ship your customers the results.
Most popular for first-time e-commerce sellers is dropshipping, of course, which involves outsourcing almost every element of the retail process. All you need to do is choose the most suitable products from generic ranges (easier said than done, admittedly), tack on your profit margins, then leave everything else to the suppliers. Is it right for you? That depends on various things. How involved do you want to be? How far do you want to take your store?
If you just want to make a bit of extra cash on the side, then something like dropshipping or print-on-demand could work really well for you — but the profitability will be limited. If you want to make your store your primary source of income, then you’ll need to think bigger, and maybe even look into manufacturing your own products from scratch.
Research recent changes in consumer demand
People haven’t been buying in the same ways they did before COVID-19 started to rear its ugly head, and it’s unlikely that their patterns of behavior will revert to type now that its effects are beginning to diminish. After all, it’s sure to be years if not decades before those of us who lived through it will forget how it upended our lives and reminded us of how fragile everything is (our lives in general, and the global economy).
Due to this, before you think about launching your store, you need to have a strong idea of what your target audience wants. Not what it wanted before all of this, but what it wants now. Are the people you’re hoping to attract already seeing their levels of disposable income go back up, or are they likely to struggle for quite some time yet?
Has the pandemic changed which products they prefer to invest in? Some people have decided to spend more liberally following such an enormous reminder of how short life can be, while others have opted to save their money in an effort to guard against comparable catastrophes in the future (or simply further COVID-19 waves). Figure out how your prospects think, and you’ll start to determine how best you can sell to them.
Start small and scale up when you get results
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s essential that you start small. There’s still so much we don’t (and can’t) know about what’s going to happen in the next few years. Will we get COVID-19 totally under control, keeping the cases to a minimum until an effective vaccine is developed and made widely available? Will it come back even worse and plunge the world into a state of panic once again? The only way to find out is to wait and see.
Begin with a low-cost e-commerce platform, commit only the resources you can afford to lose and try various things. You may need to test myriad products or even models until you find something that gets results, so there’s no sense in putting all your eggs in one basket as soon as you kick things off.
Wrapping up, e-commerce has done tremendously well during the COVID-19 crisis and stands to do similarly well as the world recovers from it — but if you want to carve out a decent slice of the profits for yourself, you need to put in serious effort to follow the steps we’ve set out here.