How to Create & Launch an E-Commerce Brand in Under 30 Days
The D2C (direct-to-consumer) market is booming right now, with new brands scaling at a rapid rate and competing right out of the gate. This has resulted in some massive acquisitions. Dollar Shave Club was acquired for $1 billion dollars by Unilever back in 2016, and more recently another shaving company, Harry's, was acquired for a record setting $1.37 billion dollars by Edgewell Personal Care Company (They own the shaving brand Schick).
Now, while the odds of being acquired in a billion dollar deal are rare, it is possible to build a strong e-commerce brand that you can turn into a viable business. The barrier of entry when it comes to e-commerce brands is very low -- anyone can launch a Shopify store and start selling within minutes.
In order to be successful you need a great product, a strong brand that consumers connect with and a well-thought-out marketing strategy.
A few years ago I created a teeth whitening brand: Sexy Smile Kit. After launching that brand I decided to focus my attention on e-commerce direct-to-consumer brands, and that resulted in Uber Brands being launched -- a brand development agency that focuses on the health, fitness, beauty and lifestyle industries.
If you are thinking of learning how to start an e-commerce business there are some key areas to focus on. Here are six major steps required to accomplish an e-commerce brand launch in less than 30 days, while also building a foundation for a long-term brand.
Step 1: Select a Brandable Name That's Available Everywhere
Coming up with a brandable name isn't easy -- it's even more difficult coming up with one that is available everywhere. By everywhere I mean the domain name is available (.com is always preferred) as are all of the social handles.
You need a brand name that is easy to remember -- the shorter the better -- and one that you can lock in everywhere. While there are many different domain extension possibilities, I would suggest always going for the dot-com. Start there. Create a list of possible brand names based on the dot-com availability and then see if the names are already registered on social media.
I would suggest only entertaining brand names that you can register on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, at the very least. You want your brand name handle on those platforms -- @[brandname].
Step 2: Find a Manufacturer That is Easy to Communicate with and Can Handle Scale/Growth
The wrong manufacturer can quickly kill a brand, no matter how clever it is. Most problems with a manufacturer are due to poor communication.
Many people focus on price only when selecting a manufacturing partner, and this is the wrong approach. Yes, price is important, but so is meeting production deadlines, quality control and the ability to handle your growth and scaling.
When I set out to find a manufacturer for the teeth whitening kit, I spoke to several options and put them through a series of tests that I created to weed out the poor communicators immediately.
My goal was to find a manufacturer that we could grow with. It was important to find someone that would be able to handle our scaling as well as the introduction of additional teeth whitening products to the brand's line-up.
You have to have 100 percent confidence in your manufacturer. Poor quality, production delays, shipping delays -- these can all kill your brand. All it takes is one mistake to ruin everything, so don't be afraid to grill potential manufacturers with questions and make them prove to you that they can satisfy your needs.
I would also suggest you test the final front runners with small orders. I like to order a small run from the top three finalists. Even if your cost of goods sold is more due to small minimum, it's worth seeing the finished product from each. There is no better way to test quality and delivery time than actually placing an order.
Step 3: Get Your Logo, Packaging and Website Design Done ASAP
It's important to have a consistent brand identity form the start -- from your logo and website to your packaging. But, don't forget -- you can always re-brand down the line, so it doesn't necessarily have to be perfect. You want to go live ASAP and test to make sure that there is a market for your brand.
You don't want to spend a lot of money until you know that you have a business. You can get a log done, modify an existing Shopify theme and hiring a freelancer to do your package design. Often times you might want to consider launching without a fully branded product if you aren't sure you have a winner.
The teeth whitening company has been around for a while and we are now just getting around to going through a re-brand -- complete logo redesign, new packaging, new products and a new website.
Step 4: Launch Your Website
It's important that you get your website launched as quickly as possible so you can start to send traffic via paid ads in order to fine tune your conversion process and validate your brand.
One of the easiest ways to go live is to use a platform like Shopify and modify an existing theme, customizing it slightly for your brand.
You are going to want to make sure you have an e-commerce payment solution lined up with a merchant provider that aligns with the products you are selling.
Using paid traffic sources, like Facebook ads, you want to see how your website and offer converts on both desktop and mobile devices. This gives you real data to use as you fine-tune and optimize your website in the beginning.
You don't want to invest in SEO or dump a lot of money into a fully custom Shopify theme until you know that your product is a winner and your offer is going to convert well at scale.
Step 5: Roll Out a Marketing Plan Designed for Scale
Right now, Facebook ads and Instagram ads give you the ability to scale at an aggressive pace. Once you find winning audiences, targeting and creatives, you just have to increase the spend and optimize along the way.
While this is one of the easiest ways to get initial traction, you also want to look into Google Ads and influencer marketing, among other long-term strategies like content marketing and search engine optimization. If your goal is to build a long-term brand then you need to be thinking long-term from the start.
Once you identify that your brand and product has the potential to grow into something lasting, you have to think of how you can scale. Brands like Dollar Shave Club and Harry's weren't acquired for a billions of dollars just because they had great branding -- they had customers, and lots of them.
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. While Facebook ads are the focal point of most marketing campaigns, focus on all marketing channels that will contribute to the brand's growth.
Step 6: Create Revenue Goals for Long-Term Growth
If you try to grow without a plan you will fail.
You need to know your numbers inside and out. You have to know what your cost of goods sold are, and how to adjust due to things like returns, exchanges, damaged goods, expiration dates, shipping delays, variable productions costs, etc.
You need to know what you need to hit in terms of conversions on a monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly basis. The more detailed your revenue goals, the faster you can reach them.
Let's assume you need to sell 900 units a month. That's 30 per day. Or 1.25 per hour. When you know your number you can adjust and optimize in order to stay on track.
When breaking down your numbers you want to make sure you work in enough cashflow to keep your inventory fully stocked. If there are huge delays in restocking inventory you are going to start to accumulate customer complaints and brand disconnect. Cashflow is key to keeping your brand operating smoothly and positioned for growth.