The US e-commerce market is expected to skyrocket in the next few years, with over 50% growth projected between 2022 and 2025. For most entrepreneurs, it’ll be critical to get online in the next few years to remain relevant.
If you run a brick-and-mortar small business in Appalachian Kentucky and aren’t yet selling online, you may be leaving money on the table.
Many small business owners have a goal to open a second storefront. But, if set up well, an online shop can replace the need for one. Your online storefront could even become your top-selling “location.”
What’s stopping you from launching your business online? There are many common myths and misconceptions about e-commerce — and they’re holding back a lot of promising founders from opportunities to expand.
Making the jump to e-commerce doesn’t have to be scary. You can start small, build systems that grow with you, and stay focused on selling to your ideal client profile (ICP).
Many small businesses in Appalachian Kentucky successfully launched e-commerce and have seen great results. If you follow in their footsteps, your Main Street neighbors will no longer be your competition. Instead, you’ll be competing globally for customers.
If you still believe that e-commerce isn’t right for your business, it’s time to tell that naysaying voice in your head to step aside. Keep reading to learn how to let go of common misconceptions about e-commerce and launch your first online storefront.
4 common misconceptions about e-commerce
Before we show you how to open an online storefront, let’s address some of the most common misconceptions the SOAR Innovation team hears about e-commerce.
Myth #1: You should already have a lot of customers
You don’t need a large database of customers to launch your online storefront. E-commerce opens up a whole new pool of potential customers — your only true limit is how many products you can keep stocked in your inventory.
Myth #2: You have to be from a bigger city to sell online
For some reason, people still think you need to be in a big city to get involved with e-commerce. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
E-commerce enables businesses in small towns to source customers from around the world. It levels the playing field.
Plus, since you’re located in a lower-cost-of-living region of the country, your overhead costs could be lower than your competition, giving you an edge.
Myth #3: There’s too much competition
You don’t have to be Amazon-big to sell your goods online.
E-commerce allows you to target your niche of customers in a way that’s not possible for brick-and-mortar businesses. If your marketing efforts focus on what makes your company unique, the customers will find you.
Myth #4: Selling online is too costly for my business
We’ll be honest: setting up your online storefront will take time and some funds. You’ll also need to incorporate a system that covers order logistics, which may take some getting used to.
But these costs aren’t out of reach, even for solopreneur businesses. There are plenty of free and low-cost tools to get your e-commerce pages up and running. We’ll dive more into those later in this article.
A local success story from Big Bentley’s Pet Supply
Big Bentley’s Pet Supply is a shining local example of the growth opportunities to be explored through an e-commerce strategy.
Big Bentley’s products are currently sold in several brick-and-mortar retail stores throughout Appalachian Kentucky. The co-owners, Steven and Stephanie Evans, decided they wanted to build direct customer relationships and brand recognition — and turned to social media to explore the possibilities.
Steven and Stephanie tapped into the Pinterest-to-Amazon pipeline through the following steps:
- Created a Pinterest account for the brand.
- Developed messaging relevant to Pinterest users and their products: “How to remove pet odor” / “How to remove pet stains.”
- Used Canva, a free graphic design tool, to develop graphics.
- Linked their products from their Pinterest posts.
In just 30 days, Big Bentley’s Pet Supply received 26 Amazon sales, with 15 new customers leaving 5 star reviews on their page.
Over the long term, Steven and Stephanie want to continue using social media to attract users to their website, build customer loyalty, and generate more positive reviews and referrals.
Launching your e-commerce storefront
If you’re ready to delve into e-commerce for your small business, keep these considerations in mind. Your first step is to decide whether to launch your own storefront, get listed in online marketplaces, or do both.
What is an online marketplace?
An online marketplace allows business owners to create product listings and sell to a built-in audience. Many use online marketplaces to generate sales and handle logistics without having to launch e-commerce platforms.
Some marketplaces are global, such as Amazon or eBay, while others are more niche and industry-focused.
Pros of selling through online marketplaces
When launching your products through an online marketplace, you benefit from a built-in customer base, the size of which will vary by platform.
Some marketplaces offer logistics and shipping services for a convenient, all-in-one experience for sellers. Many offer free or paid marketing services to boost the visibility of your listings and get more customers to check out your products.
Cons of online marketplaces
The conveniences of online marketplaces come at a cost. There is often a flat or sliding-scale transaction percentage of every sale owed to the platform, plus potential membership fees, marketing fees, and other expenses.
To a certain extent, there can also be a loss of control. You may have to adhere to strict return and exchange policies, which may present challenges to both customers and your business.
Online marketplaces also have rigid product page templates. For some, this is a pro — especially if you don’t want to spend time designing attractive web pages. But for those who prefer to retain control of how their products are merchandised, this can represent a drawback.
Pros of selling on your own website
You can maintain more control over the customer experience when selling from your website. Customer service is under your roof, as well as online merchandising, pricing, and sales.
Building traffic to your website is valuable over the long term, especially if you aim to sell your business someday.
And if you leverage the free and low-cost tools available today, building your e-commerce pages can be cost-effective and straightforward.
Cons of selling on your own website
The drawbacks of opening an online storefront are pretty intuitive. It can take longer to build traction back to your website. Many businesses will experiment with listing on online marketplaces to start building a loyal customer base, then provide incentives to help customers transition to direct orders.
Managing your online shop can also be less convenient, especially if you’re concerned about the time spent shipping orders and processing returns. Be sure your pricing reflects these requirements.
Online marketplaces to consider for your small business
Preparing to launch your online storefront
E-commerce is much more than just launching a few web pages or marketplace listings. It’s about understanding your niche and how to funnel customers to your products.
To succeed, you’ll need to become fluent in online marketing best practices, including:
Don’t expect to become a global sensation overnight. Building an e-commerce business is like tending to a garden.
First, you’ll sow the seeds (setting up your website, marketplace listings, or both). The results will rely on your consistent maintenance and upkeep (marketing, sales, and optimization efforts). After some time passes, you can expect to start seeing some buds peeking out of the soil (new customer acquisition, building a follower and subscriber audience, and earning positive reviews)
All’s to say: you simply won’t go from storefront to Amazon-level sales — but you should expect sales to grow.
Stick it out, and discover the rewards e-commerce can offer in exchange for your hard work.
Reach out to SOAR Innovation for advice from small business experts
Reach out for SOAR Innovation’s free direct services, including help setting up a simple business website.
Download the Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship for step-by-step guidance on the marketing work that will bring traffic to your online storefront.
Contact the team if you have questions about getting started — and connect with former entrepreneurs who have launched successful e-commerce businesses.