4 Tools That Make E-Commerce More Accessible
Image credit: Wallpaper Flare
When online retail first started to gather momentum, it was fairly exclusive on the merchant side. The internet was a place for tech enthusiasts: people passionate about programming and willing to work long hours to cobble together systems that would be considered poor today. The notion of someone with no meaningful tech savvy moving into e-commerce as a solopreneur was rather comical. They could hire a developer to assist them, of course, but that was their only route.
Since then, though, the e-commerce industry has changed dramatically. In addition to simply being bigger in every meaningful way, it’s also become remarkably accessible for, well… everyone. Anyone who has an interest in selling online can do it: they don’t need to have any technical skills, or even know much at all about retail.
There’s something to be said for the sheer breadth of options available to sellers through easier fulfillment methods such as drop shipping or print-on-demand, but we can be more specific than that. In the end, the ease is due to the development of hyper-convenient software tools - and while there are many hundreds out there, I’m going to point out four worth checking out.
In almost all cases, successful e-commerce starts with product research. It’s somewhat rare for a seller to launch with their own products, which is understandable since it’s far harder to come up with a viable idea - and steer it all the way through manufacturing - than it is to take advantage of products already in existence. But what if you’re a total novice? With so many options out there, how can you decide what to focus on?
Google Trends is such a well-established part of the digital media world that it’s easy to forget just how valuable it is. Google’s search engine lies at the heart of the internet in general, and that influence certainly carries over to online retail. Since most buyer journeys start with Google or Amazon, knowing what people are searching for is invaluable for prospective sellers.
Leaning solely on Google Trends for a couple of hours, it’s possible to come up with a solid strategy for a new store. No investment needed, no consultations, no speculation or gut feeling about which products are primed for success. Just a clear focus on what the data says.
I mentioned drop shipping as one of the fulfillment methods that makes e-commerce easier, and it’s surely the easiest way to sell because it allows you to go through the entire sales process with minimal effort and involvement. Drop shippers select products offered by third-party suppliers, list them in their stores with profit margins added, then pass any resulting orders back to the aforementioned suppliers for processing and shipping.
Effective drop shipping requires careful selection of products, though, and something like Google Trends can only go so far because general trends won’t necessarily help you choose between two similar items. That’s where FindNiche becomes so useful. Aimed at people drop shipping through Shopify and AliExpress, it provides a frequently-updated list of available products and allows you to filter them in various ways.
Most notably, it’s completely free to use (though you do need to create an account). Many comparable tools require you to pay, so it’s worth a look for that reason alone.
Once an e-commerce seller has got their start, they’ll need to learn how to earn customer loyalty. That’s the lifeblood of online retail, after all. A brick-and-mortar store can pick up some loyal customers through having a convenient location, but location is immaterial on the internet. Anyone can go anywhere at any time, which means that keeping someone’s custom is huge.
The key to winning customer loyalty is understanding and providing what your customers want. You need them to be as happy as possible about buying from you. In the end, it’s positive experiences that will keep people coming back - and SurveyMonkey is ideal for learning about how customers view your store so you can accentuate good things and improve bad things.
There is a free account with limited features, but it’s something worth investing in, so anyone who thinks it might serve their purposes should go for it.
Visuals are extremely important for online sellers, particularly when they’re trying to offload products that can also be found elsewhere. Imagine offering an item that’s subsequently filtered and listed alongside nine other listings of the same item. Will your listing in particular stand out? It will most likely come down to the quality of your included visuals.
That means having great product images, but it also means ensuring that your brand looks professional in general. You could hire a graphic designer and a photographer, certainly, but it’s much cheaper to use something like Stencil. You can browse stock images, tweak them however you like, add text, and ensure that the result perfectly fits the limitations of the platform on which you intend to post it.
Not only do you not need technical or retail skills to become an e-commerce seller, but you also don’t need graphic design skills. If you’re at all interested in e-commerce, why not give it a shot?