E-commerce is thriving. Online sales exceeded $4.2 trillion dollars worldwide in 2020 with over 2 billion people having purchased goods. In the year of the pandemic, worldwide e-commerce retail sales grew by 25 percent. New online buyer’s habits have been formed and they’re here to stay so this makes the future for product-based businesses very exciting to say the least.
However, launching a product into a new market can be tricky. With so many decisions to make along the way, often startups can feel overwhelmed, and most fail within the first three years because they do not do the necessary research about the actual product in the first place.
There is no point to starting a business only to find out no one wants to buy your product. This can be the most challenging part of the process if you have no idea of what to sell. Be prepared to spend a decent amount of time researching. Your product should solve a problem and add value to your customers.
Ultimately, you want your product to fly off the shelves, not being able to keep up with the demands of your ideal customers. This is what we call ‘product-market fit’. Achieving product-market fit is one of the most important goals for a start-up, yet it is also one of the least understood concepts.
To help, here are 10 steps to help get your product to market:
- Determine your Ideal Customer
Ideal customers ultimately decide how well a product meets their needs and whether it adds value. Use customer personas to dig deep into the demographics as well as the psychographics (activities, interests, and opinions) to segment the new market of potential customers with similar needs and behaviour.
Start with a high-level hypothesis of your ideal customer and continue to revise as you learn more about them. Identify their underserved needs that are not adequately met and refine and tweak the features of your product to improve it and add more value.
With this deep understanding of your ideal customers, when it comes to marketing to them you will know where to find them and use the correct marketing messaging that resonates with them.
2. Define your Unique Selling Proposition
Competition is inevitable, especially for ecommerce. What makes your product different and better than the competition? The unique selling proposition sets your product aside from the competition.
Choose which customer problems your product can solve and then figure out which unique features of your product will delight your ideal customers and how your product will outperform your competitors. You are not looking to be an inventor of a product, but rather to tweak an existing product, or a different way of delivering that product or customer experience.
3. Specify your minimum viable product feature set
Once you have defined your unique selling proposition, you will need to specify your minimum viable product feature set. Work out what functionality or design your minimum viable product will include.
The aim is to build only what is needed, creating enough value for your ideal customer to validate your product and ensure it’s heading in the right direction. From here you will tweak and iterate until you have the minimum viable product that customers agree is viable and adds value.
4. Create and validate your minimum viable product prototype
Before spending thousands on creating your product, create a prototype of the minimum viable product. Show your ideal customers this version and ask for feedback. If they can touch and feel the product, even better. Ask them a series of questions to get as much feedback from them as possible.
Carefully observe what the ideal customer says and does while using the prototype. Ask open-ended questions to gain deeper insights and get the most out of the feedback. Avoid asking closed questions that will only get a yes or no.
Identify common patterns of similar feedback and use this to improve your product.
5. Find a manufacturer and place an order
Most get overwhelmed by this! You want to use a reputable manufacturer. Try and keep the development and first order of your product local if possible. This will keep your costs down and the turnaround will generally be quicker. Not to mention the environmental benefits of staying local.
Sourcing from abroad often means higher minimum quantity orders and can take a couple of months to arrive amongst other logistical issues – and more recently, significant shipping costs. When you are ready for this, ensure you communicate clearly with your potential supplier and always ask for samples.
6. Build your store and choose your sales channels
There are numerous options out there when it comes to choosing a website platform. Research and decide which one suits you and your brand and build your store.
One of the best ways to reach new customers is to choose marketplaces where your ideal customers already shop. These channels have inbuilt audiences, and some customers do most of their shopping only on these channels so don’t miss out on potential sales.
Know all the costs involved when selling on these platforms to ensure your profit margin is healthy and with the correct mix of marketplaces together with your own website, this will support and complement your product visibility.
7. Build your audience on social media
If you want a great launch, start building your audience on the relevant social media platforms before your product has even landed. You don’t physically need your product to start promoting and intriguing your potential customers.
Take them on a journey with you throughout the process, after all, people buy from people. Build the know, like and trust factor to create front-of-mind positioning so when an ideal customer thinks of your product category, your product is the first that comes to mind. Focus on the platforms where your ideal customers hang out.
8. Build your email waiting list
Conversion rates on email are greater than those on social media and websites. Once your product lands and you launch, you want to be able to get as many eyeballs on your product as possible.
Incentivise your followers on social media to sign up to your email waiting list. This is your greatest asset when it comes to launching.
9. Decide on your marketing strategy
Visibility of your product is paramount! It’s a numbers game – you need to understand that sales conversion rates in most product categories are low.
Decide which organic marketing and paid for advertising strategies you are going to use. Be prepared for a little trial and error when testing these out. Always remember to analyse data to see what is working and do more of that.
10. Launch your product
The key to launching your product is to create as much hype before and during your launch. Don’t miss out on the opportunity of a well-executed launch. This can bring about a cash injection that can then help scale to the next level.
Ensure your website is working seamlessly, populate the website with great, legitimate reviews, set up your email campaign and launch! And test your website again and again!
Launching a product into a new market is as exciting as it is challenging. The process can be overwhelming at times, but it’s so rewarding. Take the leap and enjoy the process. Remember – be consistent.
Bridgete Combrinck is a product-based entrepreneur with 13 years of experience and a proven track record of success. Now helping other like-minded entrepreneurs start, build and scale ecommerce business.
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