2020 saw an explosion of eCommerce product businesses, with more than 26,000 launchings according to research.
With continuing uncertainty in the job market, many workers furloughed, and more people enjoying the benefits of home working, the idea of a home-based business that offers flexibility and control is becoming more and more appealing.
With the low barriers to entry thanks to websites like Shopify, which allow you to build a robust e-commerce website with no experience, it’s not surprising that selling products online has been the biggest growth area for UK small businesses.
If you are one of the many people who are thinking of starting a product business in 2021, here are some of things you will need to consider to maximise your chance of success.
Know your niche
The downside of this being a very good time to start an online business is that the marketplace is becoming increasingly crowded. You need to get clear on your niche, and how you are going to stand out.
If you are not sure of the answer to that question, then take some time to research your business idea before you go much further. Understand what is already out there, how your customer feels about what is currently available, and how you can do it better.
You don’t need to have an entirely unique idea, but you do need to have a clear idea of who you are targeting and why they should buy from you, as opposed to anyone else.
Make it easy
Online shopping has grown substantially during the last year as a result of the pandemic and the frequent closures of physical stores. It seems likely that online shopping will only continue to grow and this has opened up a huge opportunity for small businesses that can build up a strong digital presence.
The flip side though is that customers’ expectations in regards to the ease at which they can shop online have also grown. Over time, the big online players, particularly Amazon AMZN -2.5%, have re-written customer expectations around the speed of shipping and ease of purchase.
While customers are willing to be patient and wait for products from small businesses, recognizing that next day delivery may well not be an option, they still expect to have choices over their shipping speed and to be kept fully informed about their delivery progress.
They will also expect a first-class customer service. That means responding to their queries within a reasonable timeframe and being able to supply tracking information or delivery updates.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure that you are ready to offer your customers a smooth and professional experience. The long-term success of your business depends on your ability to create loyal customers who will come back and buy from you frequently, so don’t miss out on the chance to surprise and delight them with your customer service.
Share your story
Another reason that now is an excellent time to start a small business, is that customers are increasingly driven to “shop small” and support local businesses. Shoppers also want to support businesses that share their values and beliefs. This trend has been growing over recent years and accelerated during 2020. If you are thinking of starting a business in 2021, you have to be focused on the stories that you can share with your customers so that they can understand what drives you as a business owner, what motivated you to start your business, and how you can help them shop in ways that align with their ethics and values.
If you don’t have a compelling story to share, and you don’t have a reason for starting your business other than for purely financial reasons, it will be harder for you to catch the imagination of the 2021 consumer and get them to buy from you.
The exciting truth is that growing a substantial product business from the comfort of your own home is not just a possibility in 2021, but a reality for an increasing number of small businesses and start-ups. If you want to be part of this small business success story, start with your niche, create those connections with your customer and surprise and delight them every time they shop from you.