How to Start ECommerce Business When you Have Little or No Money

How to start ecommerce business

Whenever people hear eCommerce business, they mostly picture this image of having a large eCommerce website like Jumia or Konga. Because setting up such large retail websites costs a lot of money, they believe eCommerce is beyond their business reach. There are ways you can start eCommerce business while spending little money or nothing at all. I will share those ways with you in this article.

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To understand what I’m about to tell you, let us understand what eCommerce really is.

eCommerce: /ˈiːˌkɒmɜːsnoun, business transactions conducted on the internet (source)

By the above definition, if you have ever conducted any transaction of any kind on the internet, you are already benefiting from eCommerce. I just want to get that very expensive image of what eCommerce business should be out of your head.

The purpose of this post is not to convince you on why your business should be online. I did that in another post. You will find it here. My aim is to show you ways you can start eCommerce business on a tight budget.

Before we dive in, while you can sell online without spending much money, it’s very important (even critical) to your long-term business success that you invest in building a website for your business. Building a strong online presence helps your business grow faster and last longer.

Let’s dive in…

use Social media to your advantage

What else can you do on social media apart from posting selfies? You can build your business, of course!

Social media is one of the cheapest, yet effective, methods of promoting your products and services, and building an online brand.

You can showcase whatever you do on Facebook or Instagram. The best part is, it costs you nothing – or almost nothing – if you leverage paid promotion. The second best part is, when you post your business on social media, you can get your friends to share your posts thereby increasing publicity. The third best part is you can sample anything so long as it is your business.

A friend once asked me if he could sell soap on Facebook (he is a distributor for laundry soap production companies). My response was, “why not? This is your network of online friends, right? Tell them what you do!”

You can also get social media publicists – people who have large numbers of followers – to announce your business to their followers. Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, do not buy any Facebook or Twitter followers from anyone selling them. Learn how to create your own Facebook page here.

Read This: 5 practical steps you can take today to sell more on social media

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Advertise your products

You can advertise your products/services on websites and blogs. This works best if you are advertising services. It is also one of the best ways to introduce a new product into the market. Is it an effective means of making sales? Oh Yes!

Note the following points before you advertise on a website/blog:

  • Make sure the website you want to advertise on has enough traffic to generate leads. If not, you would be throwing your money away. Find out their social media follower count and how many, if any, email subscribers they have.
  • Advertise on websites/blogs that are relevant to your brand. Don’t advertise hair care products on a dog training website/blog.
  • Choose the form of advertising that works best for your product. You may wish to display banners showing your products/services or you can go for a sponsored article. There is also an option to insert links to your product on the website but this usually works if you have your own website to link to. Among the three, I find sponsored posts to be most effective but then it depends on what works best for you.
  • Cheap is not always best. Websites that have very cheap advertising rates are usually low-traffic websites. Advertising will cost you money, not as much as building an eCommerce website but usually costlier than low-traffic websites. Don’t always go for cheap. Go for whatever gives you the best return on your investment.

Leverage online shopping websites

There are online marketplaces that allow people to advertise and sell products using their platform. It is a no-brainer in terms of cost effectiveness.

Someone contacted me a few days ago to help her set up an online shop on Konga but she was not sure if it was a good place to sell her jewelry. I explained to her that online marketplaces like Konga and Kaymu are the best places to sell your products online if you have no website of your own.

Konga, for example spends lots and lots of money to establish their brand as an online marketplace in Nigeria. When you sell on Konga, you are effectively tapping into all their advertising/promotion budget. You don’t need to do anything else, just deliver when you make a sale. And unless they changed their policy, you don’t pay to set up with them. You pay when you make a sale.

Be careful not to sell fake/substandard items on such places. Things like that give online shopping a bad name and this is not good for anyone.

I once bought kitchen items online that all turned out to be fake. If we keep this up, sites like Konga will close down because of low trust with people, then we will all go back to setting up shops in Oshodi and Alaba or you build your own website.

Whatever you sell on Konga, please make sure it is of the best quality. People choose quality over cost; that is why Shoprite sells more fruits (at insane prices) than the woman in your street.

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Integrate an online shop on your website/blog

if you have a website for your business (I don’t see why you shouldn’t have a website, really), you can integrate an online shop quick and easy without knowing anything about coding. You can do this in two ways – I will explain them below:

  1. ECWID: You can set up your online shop on ECWID just as you would on Konga. Shopify has a similar program too but ECWID has a free plan where you can list and sell a certain number of products without paying first.

The good twist is that when you set up with them, they provide you a code you can insert on your own website. When you insert the code, your online shop will appear on your own website. It would be as if you designed your own eCommerce site. It is by far the cheapest means to integrate an online shop on your website. It works just the same even if you don’t have a website.

  • Install an eCommerce plugin on your website: when you install an eCommerce plugin, like WooCommerce, you can set up an online shop and sell whatever you like right on your own website. This way, you can make money and build your online brand. This requires a bit of tech knowledge, plus you need to install/buy a WooCommerce compatible theme, so you can get someone to set it up for you if you understand little about tech.

The major downside with everything I’ve said above, if you don’t build a business website, is that you would only make sales, usually a good thing except you would miss out on building your brand too.

To last long in business, you need to also think about building your online brand. When you set up your shop on your own website, you can point everything else – social media, adverts, etc – to your website thereby promoting your brand in the process.

Now, you can see you have no excuse not to take your business online. If your business is not online in 2017, you really have no business. I will be sharing with you on this blog more ways to do better business and become a better entrepreneur. So don’t miss anything.

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Now go ahead and take your business online. If you have any questions/contributions, comment below. Before you leave, share this article with your friends on social media.



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