Use the 4P’s to start your eCommerce business

Closeup businessman working with generic design notebook. Online payments, hands keyboard. Blurred background, film effect

Setting up your new online eCommerce business has never been easier.

Every day, people are jumping into great technology that enables them to go live very quickly, and in some cases within just days from starting up.

I’ve seen plenty of new online eCommerce businesses go very well through great planning, watching their cash and knowing who their audiences truly are. However, I’ve also seen plenty fail due to not getting the basics right at start up time. So here’s my top 4P’s for setting up your new eCommerce business.

But before we get into these 4P’s, a quick word on doing a MVP or minimum viable product as your first pilot.

A MVP is the baseline or foundation of your business model that you put up live and then test using real customers who are normally in your extended groups. It’s used in Lean Start up methodologies and works on getting you direct positive and negative feedback on your new business, model, innovation and products so that you can rapidly tweak and make the best changes possible.

The key message here is to go live with a MVP first that might only include about 30% of what you think you actually need as the perfect business, adding on the other features later once it’s tested and more established.

Back to the 4P’s. These are my key areas that you’ll need to get started with your eCommerce opportunity:

P1 – Protection: you can do the basics of  IP protection yourself and this includes:

Register your business with ASIC either as a sole trader or a company. Get some advice from a trusted accountant or a quality business advisory firm during this process.

Register your domain name, ensuring you at least have a “” for here in Australia and include the other key country domains too if you can. You’ll need the ACN/ABN from the above ASIC registration to get this one over the line.

Start the registration process of your trademark, by logging into the ATMOSS trademark database and starting a new eServices application. It costs just under $300 per category that you want to register your trademark against. And it’s good to get this one out of the way early on.

At the same time, it’s a good idea to get a logo designed up with someone you know or try UpWork, Freelancer or any good graphic designers in your local area. Just do the logo and brand colours – you don’t need all the business cards or stationary trimmings at this stage!

P2 – Platform: make sure it’s cheap, scalable and easy to use.

eCommerce online shopping platforms are everywhere. So without listing them all out, I’ll cut to the 3 top in Australia that I’d take a look at – Shopify, BigCommerce and NETO.

And to make this article even more streamlined, here is my eCommerce platform pick – Shopify.

Shopify wins for me when you’re starting out as it’s scalable, costs only about $360/year for the base-line package and has free templates to get you started (try “New Standard”).

One of the key reasons it wins is the way it simplifies the shipping activities. Often a key headache for many new businesses, Shopify can handle all the eCommerce credit card payment gateways (for a small fee) and also sets the shipping to be free or by other variable which is really handy. By the way,  I recommend having free shipping on your site if you can factor this into your margins – as it takes away a huge shopper pain point.

The other great thing about Shopify is all the apps that connect to it extending it’s capability and reach into digital marketing, SEO and finance systems.

To get started, you won’t need all of these apps however look for apps such as the Shopify Facebook Sales Channel to sell through your FB social channel, MailChimp to integrate your email marketing list into your store and Xero for online finance. Other apps for later use that are more advanced include ImageRecyle for image reduction, Shoelace for retargeting and Yotpo for reviews. A good example of a Shopify site that’s using all of these apps and Shopify add ons is Brisbane’s Buccaneer Grooming.

P3 – Product: test your products using your MVP!

Your product needs to be built and ready to go once you hit the go live button on your platform.

You’ll need to have a MVP product plan here to make sure testing is done in the right way and you’re not wasting yours or the customer’s time.

For example, it you’re selling dresses, then make up a sample batch of approximately 200 (or so) and vary the sizes, colours and prints to see which ones work, and more importantly which sizes, colours and fabrics don’t.

A good way to get true and accurate feedback from your extended networks is to transparently share the experience with your audience. In your correspondence on social media or by email, mention that you’re BETA testing your products via your MVP, they’re priced at a one time good price and you’d love their feedback in return.

Remember that people will become your product testing division, so make sure you respond to all the positive and negative sentiment on your products in writing and within a short period of time. It’s often the negative feedback that makes the most change to a product set.

A final word on product is from my experience the eCommerce businesses that ultimately win are the ones that have word of mouth or viral demand due to the quality, design or unique nature of their products. Think Black Milk, Beginning Boutique or Mura Boutique as solid eCommerce clothing stores with all of these attributes.

P4 – Promotion: build your tribe from day one.

Promotion of your eCommerce store can take time to build to the levels and return the investment that you’re probably expecting. So start your digital marketing, social media marketing and content marketing plans early.

As mentioned above, use your BETA test as the starting point of building your tribe and brand awareness.

Early on, the vast majority of businesses don’t have huge digital marketing or advertising budgets. So focus on the promotion areas that you can do yourself.

Social media is a good way to showcase your brand/store/products and respond to testing feedback. The key social channel’s I’d look at include:

  • Facebook – the social media mothership and the key one to use, even if it’s your only one.
  • Instagram – great for fashion, food, style or lifestyle products. Influencers via the TRIBE app are often a good way to get the right people seeing your brand and products on Instagram.
  • Snapchat – increasingly younger uses are jumping onto Snapchat and related promotions to these audiences (if relevant) are good here.
  • Pinterest – with a female skew, this social channel provides access into key lifestyle audiences.
  • Twitter – lower down the priority list but Twitter can compliment your social strategy as it alerts people to your news and content posts.
  • Canva – not a social channel as such but a great Australian tool for managing all of your social designs, templates and assets.

What you’ll need though is a content marketing plan.

A content marketing plan is often a comprehensive and detailed piece of work, so at the very least plan out who your audiences are, what tone and language they’re receptive to and when and where you’ll communicate with them.

Then plan, design and write relevant, quality and useful content including social posts, blog articles, videos and info graphics that promote your brand.

To scale your promotion and discover how paid performance marketing and robust SEO (search engine optimisation) can help your business, head to an experienced digital media and marketing agency. Try Reload Media for one that covers all of the above!

So there you go. Begin with the eCommerce 4P’s and you’ll be well on your way to eCommerce success!