In practically all the industries they have entered, startups have set trends and established new ways of doing business. The world today has a highly dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem that is constantly growing.
Electronic commerce has turned into a real competitor for stationary commerce. The online store industry is growing at a double-digit rate per year, with no end in sight. It is not surprising that ecommerce is an almost inexhaustible source of business ideas.
Now, let’s take a glance at what you should do to increase chances of becoming one of the best startups in the ecommerce sector. Then we will also observe some examples.
The key factors to make an ecommerce startup better
Statistics confirm that there are about 24 million ecommerce websites in the world. Thus, if you are an ecommerce startup owner, it is quite normal to be afraid of the huge number of competitors in your niche. But remember that a crowded field is also an indicator of existing demand, which makes ecommerce a profitable segment.
The good news is that you don’t have to beat ecommerce giants like Amazon, eBay, or Walmart to experience full commercial success. Finding market space and your own niche according to your target audience can help you grow your online store and stand out from other online merchants.
Here are your steps to get an edge over your competitors.
Research your market
Like any entrepreneurial project, an ecommerce startup must first go through an intensive research stage. Indeed, each online store evolves in its own environment which contains
- customers (audience),
- the tools used in the market,
- market history.
Each of the above points must be analyzed in order to work on your positioning within this market.
During this analysis, you will also have to work on your unique value proposition in order to highlight your company and its products against the competition and the needs of your target audience.
Once this step is completed, it is time to move on to the next point.
Understand and analyze your competition
With a few exceptions, it is very unlikely that your ecommerce project, however innovative, will be the only player in your market. In reality, even innovative/unique products evolve within a larger market in which they constitute a niche.
That’s why you need to carry out research in order to better understand your competitors, their strategies, and the results they obtain. To achieve this, several methods are possible, provided you have the right tools.
- Analyze your competitors’ traffic. Tools like Ahref, SimilarWeb, SpyFu, or SemRush will allow you to obtain valuable information on your competitors’ number of visits, AdWords campaigns, targeted keywords, countries concerned, and so on.
- Audit their technical solutions and marketing tools. Understanding the solutions and tools used by your competitors will allow you to solve part of the puzzle. To achieve this, free tools such as WhatCMS or WhatRuns will be of great help to you.
- Understand how they communicate. If you operate in a specific market, chances are that your competitors have already carried out the marketing analysis that led to their communication strategy. So subscribe to their YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or SnapChat accounts to decipher the communication channels and tools used by your competitors.
- Identify your competitors’ influencers. If you operate in B2C, chances are that part of your promotional operations will involve collaborations with influencers. In this case, look for influencers who already work for your competitors: you can then choose to include or exclude them from your influence strategy.
- Subscribe to their newsletter. What better than a newsletter to keep up to date with the latest competition advancements? Since they are most of the time in free access, subscribe to your competitors’ newsletters and dissect their communication.
Invest in your ecommerce website
If you are reading this article, it is probably that a large part of your business model is based on online sales. From there, the reasoning is simple: it is necessary to invest resources in the creation of your ecommerce website if you want it to generate traffic and convert your visitors into buyers.
At the creation stage, it is often tempting to bootstrap an ecommerce website with limited resources. It is indeed an interesting idea if your budget forces you to do so, but it has two big drawbacks:
- You’re off to the wrong foot for your credibility. If you’re launching a startup, you’re probably trying to convert your early buyers into brand ambassadors to feed your communications strategy. But be careful: word of mouth does not work if you have not thought about and optimized the customer experience on the website. And no, your first visitors will not give you a second chance.
- You are wasting your marketing budget on a poorly optimized website. It means that, essentially, you invest in acquisition campaigns (AdWords, SEO, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) that redirect your potential buyers to a website with low levels of conversion. As a result, you will literally be throwing money out the window.
Therefore, you have to prioritize certain aspects to maximize the user experience once the website is launched.
Here are some objectives to check before putting your ecommerce website online.
- Responsive website that displays well on mobile
- Secure site (SSL)
- Smooth order funnel
- Clear and intuitive navigation
- Detailed product sheets with high-resolution photos
- Well-organized back office
- Multiple payment and delivery solutions
An ecommerce website must be thought of as an investment since it will be the receptacle of your acquisition campaigns and the catalyst for converting your visitors into customers.
Work on your photography
Online, your visitors have no choice but to check out your images and videos to get a better idea of the product. In this regard, 90% of buyers believe that the quality of the photograph is a determining criterion before purchasing on an ecommerce site according to a study reported by Meero.
You will probably have noticed it yourself, the quality of the design of an online store often depends on the quality of the photographs.
Unless you specialize in resale, you should invest in quality photography for your products. This will have many positive effects on your brand awareness and on your conversion — i.e. two very important aspects of a successful business.
Depending on the products you are selling, you might want to think big and plan exhaustive photoshoots to provide several angles of view. Many buyers are indeed looking for as much information as possible when buying online.
YouTube, Instagram, and SnapChat: bet on influencers
The importance of influencers in marketing has increased over the last 5 years. Without falling into the cliché of a magic pill solution, it is true that the biggest stories of recent success (including Daniel Wellington or Kylie Jenner Cosmetics) have relied heavily on an influencer strategy to promote their brand and, consequently, their ecommerce website.
For example, on Instagram, the hashtag #danielwellington has been used more than 2 million times.
Obviously, the choice of platform will depend on your target customers, their expectations, and their browsing habits. It’s up to you to estimate what channels are most effective for reaching out to your audience. This choice will also depend on your sector of activity (some being more eligible than others) as well as your business model.
To find influencers, there are several networking platforms that will allow you to make contact, file a contract, and discuss your upcoming campaigns. You can find them by googling “find Instagram influencers” or “influencer platforms”.
Best ecommerce startups
As head of the Federation of Ecommerce and Remote Sales (France’s FEVAD) Marc Lolivier points out, “The presence of brands on the Internet is nothing new. What is changing today is their new approach to ecommerce. Ecommerce is at the dawn of a new revolution, and its shock wave will impact all commerce.”
Startups and digital businesses will undoubtedly be part of this revolution. We selected five startups from Josh Howarth’s list of the fastest growing startups in 2022. Let’s see what their strategies are and how founders of new projects can replicate their development pace.
SnackPass is a social ecommerce platform for online food delivery which mostly concentrates on pickup orders. Its founders decided to start this business at Yale University where they studied. It allowed them to develop their business among people accustomed to teamwork, in an environment full of mutual understanding.
As startup founder Kevin Tan said on TechCrunch, “We were in the back washing blenders so they could keep taking SnackPass orders.” The company has a great app, great branding, and a convenient loyalty program. SnackPass allows users to receive bonuses and share them with their friends, which undoubtedly adds to the attractiveness.
At the moment, the company’s funding has already reached $95.6M.
The main audience of the HungryPanda startup is the Chinese compatriots in Western countries. It means that, according to various estimates, the target audience for Hungry Panda amounts to about 50 million people.
The startup aggregates all the Chinese restaurants in the area. For the Chinese population, the delivery of authentic food with Chinese interfaces and food descriptions is an absolute discovery. The startup provides a WePay — a native Chinese app — as a payment option. Its funding has already reached $220M and continues to grow.
What can be learned from the success of HungryPanda? If you want your startup to succeed, you need to identify your key audience. Then, you must do everything to meet your target customers’ needs.
OnBuy is a marketplace offering B2C trading opportunities for both used and brand-new products. The advantage of this marketplace is that it does everything possible to promote sellers, and in equal measure for all of them.
OnBuy’s top priority is the convenience and prosperity of its sellers and buyers. It led them to raising $60.1M in Series A.
Leaflink sells medical marijuana. This startup captures 90% of the two most developed US marijuana markets, Colorado and Washington.
With more states legalizing marijuana, including online sales, Leaflink entered a rapidly growing and developing market. It is a niche that has not yet been captured, so an opportunity emerged for new businesses to evolve.
Investors also see great potential in Leaflink as the startup raised $379M of investments.
Jungle Scout is an ecommerce platform that helps Amazon sellers earn more in every possible way. Their idea is simple: find people who are already making money, then create tools for them to earn more.
JungleScout makes the sellers’ lives easier by providing opportunities for market research, competition analysis, search of products and manufacturers, as well as sales analytics and improvement.
In addition, Jungle Scout also plans to expand to other online retailers like Walmart. Overall, the key to this startup’s success is an easy and convenient solution that greatly simplifies many people’s work. The company raised $110M in private equity.
Nowadays, there are a lot of impressive startups in ecommerce. Those you read about in the article are considered the best startups of 2022. However, one should not get demotivated with how huge they are. As we see from the growth of the ecommerce industry, now is the best time to launch your innovative online store. Analyze your competitor’s strategies and products, and you will have all the chances to grow just as big.