Launching an e-commerce store has become easier than ever, even if you don’t have a big budget. Check out these tips to help you grow your online store on a small budget.
Today’s tech startups are lean, mean bootstrapping machines. Online merchants could use some of that lean thinking for their own businesses.
Learning how to start an online business requires very little capital. It’s important to invest in your store and spend a lot of time optimizing it, but you shouldn’t have to pour your life savings into it.
Small businesses don’t have to turn to eBay or Etsy to break into the online business either. These sites can be helpful in terms of establishing a brand, but they can be a huge impediment when it comes to revenue growth. How many fees can you tolerate before finally set out on your own?
Looking to get an online store started quickly and inexpensively? Here are five great bootstrapping ideas.
Buy a basic shopping cart package
It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and buy all the trimmings available with a shopping cart software provider. But do you really need everything? Down the road, you might.
In the short term, though, all you need are the basics. The point is to grow in a scalable way. When you get to the next phase, your shopping cart platform should allow you to upgrade as you need it. Then you can add more products or hire that designer to create the perfect website.
Staying basic means:
- Only buying as much disk space as you need
- Choosing an inexpensive storefront template
- Starting with included features before upgrading to paid ones
- Working custom functionality into the system only when necessary
- Using a standard configuration for your website
Simple can be good, even in the business world. Starting with the basics is a good way to get some momentum before you start shelling out cash.
Use online chat for support
Manning multiple support lines can be tricky. Email support can be slow, resulting in lost customers.
For online stores looking to get started on a budget, you can’t go wrong with an online chat platform to handle customer service. This is a secret sauce for bigger companies.
Stay attentive to real-time customer interactions. It’s more than just an inexpensive support option – it’s also a truly efficient way to get more conversions and keep more customers.
Get started drop shipping
Drop ship sales take the shipping risk and investment burden off of your online store. All you have to focus on is actually selling the products.
First time hearing about this? Drop shipping is a method where you engage a wholesaler, drop shipper or other distributor to take care of product selection and shipping. All you have to do is sell direct to the consumer. A drop shipping system typically integrates with your shopping cart software.
First, you pick the available products that best fit your online store and upload them into the system. Every time a customer orders a product through your storefront, the order flows into the drop shipper’s system. They take care of product storage and shipping.
The only drawback of drop shipping is you won’t make a pure profit off of each sale. Because drop shippers take on extra risk and work, you’ll pay a cut to them.
If you market your store right, drop shipping can be a whole lot of payoff for a very small investment. That way, you can get some revenue flowing through your business before you start supplying your own products.
Here’s a really great idea to help you start an online business on a budget: specializing in a very specific product niche. Specializing is what made brands like Starbucks so catchy for customers. When you specialize, you have a much better shot at becoming an authority on your products.
Specializing helps budget-conscious businesses stay focused, too. By only ordering a few types of products at a time, you ensure that you won’t overwhelm your budget. As a result, you can put out a much smaller investment in the beginning. When you find success, you can expand into other areas if you think it’s necessary for your business.
How can you narrow your store idea to be more specialized? Check out a few examples below.
- A home improvement products store could be narrowed to just paint
- A candy store could be narrowed to just chocolate
- A car accessories store could be narrowed to just security systems
- An electronics store could be narrowed to just mobile accessories
Find ways to narrow your store to save money and dominate your niche.
Know anyone else in the ecommerce business? You could both split the load.
Setting up a direct affiliate partnership with another online store could be a great way to help a partner sell more products. At the same time, you’ll earn cash without the risk or upfront investment.
Typically, this will require a shopping cart that’s compatible (or at least flexible) with your partner’s inventory software. Either way, it’s an idea that could pay off for you and your partner in a big way.