9 Ways to Discover Ecommerce Ideas on Your Own

ecommerceEcommerce is on the rise. According to granify.com, more than $1.23 trillion in B2C ecommerce sales are expected this year. By the time 2013 closes, we’d have 3.5 billion Internet users.  Ecommerce is a good answer to entrepreneurship. Yet, you’d have to begin somewhere. You’d need an idea (while it doesn’t have to be brand new). How do you go about looking for the right idea for your new ecommerce store? How do you dig out ideas? What products or services would you sell? Is there a structured way to brainstorm?

Some of these approaches should give you a direction to follow or at least some food for thought:

Going Back to Tradition

Ecommerce means that the medium of transaction and the operational dynamics of the business changes while most other things remain the same. Instead of a brick-and-mortar office/warehouse/store, you’ll now get a digital equivalent of a store. Instead of having customers visit you in person, they’d come visiting the store. What used to be a cash-and-carry business now becomes a pay-to-delivery process. Payments end up as online transactions and feedback comes through as testimonials.

Sometimes, you don’t need a new idea at all. Pick up a traditional business and give it the ecommerce treatment.

Look around you: what are those classes of products or services that you’d still have to drive downtown to pick up? Your million-dollar idea might just be there. Go look for that spark of inspiration — that apple on your head.

Travel to Import Ideas to Your Market

Travelling, they say, teaches you a lot. It also has a lot to give you in terms of inspiration and adding to your idea bank. There could be tons of businesses operating in another country – they operate in a specific way, have their own style, and market in a particular fashion. Is there a way you could import that idea to deliver your own, customized version for customers in your country? Even if you can’t travel, there are sources such as Spring Wise that will do the job of spotting new entrepreneurial ideas, trends, and stories from all over the world.

Spot your idea. Import it.

Break Into Markets That Don’t Exist Yet

Some products are popular with respect to ecommerce: travel, tickets, events, electronics, books, apparel, and many more. However, there are many product classes and services that are not available online. Depending on where you live, find out some of these product classes that don’t have dedicated ecommerce outlets yet. For instance, we are yet to see an ecommerce store that sells only bed linen exclusively. Apply this approach to a range of products and you’ll have ideas popping up like popcorn. How about socks? What about selling distribution supplies or printing labels exclusively? Maybe you could specialize in printing products or supplies.

Go Specific: Dig Into Unexplored Niches

Niches are powerful. They give you exclusivity and enable you to quickly make a name for yourself within that niche. By picking up a focused niche, you don’t compete with the big boys such as eBay and Amazon. You are on your own and you’ll be known for that. What niche, exactly? Here are some ideas to kick-start your train of thought:

  • Apple products for self-employed professionals. Alternatively, sell Mac products only for corporates. More ideas? Sell stickers and designer covers only for Mac users.
  • Office supplies for work at home moms (and dads).
  • Web design services only for lawyers (or doctors, writers, dentists, video specialists, photographers, etc.).
  • Leather accessories for teens.
  • Travel for differently-abled people.
  • Apparel only for seniors.

That’s just the beginning. Grab a cup of coffee and brainstorm ideas as fast as you can breathe. You can pick and choose “the idea” later. You’ll know when the bulb goes on.

Ecommerce for Non-ecommerce Target Segment

Chances are that you live in a country where people might not be comfortable buying online yet. Or it could be a trend that’s still catching up only to raise its head slowly. Crash into markets like those and look to serve this entire group of customers who don’t wish to transact online.

Maybe you are looking at a target market that doesn’t qualify for credit cards yet (students, perhaps). Alternatively, set up an ecommerce store where they would place orders but you’d complete transactions traditionally by using modes such as “offline payments”, “Bank Transfers”, and “Cash on Delivery”.  Your goal – for this line of thought is simple – how do you bring ecommerce and wedge into a process that traditionally never had one? What customers don’t fall under the rush of ecommerce yet? Go serve them.

Reverse Ecommerce

We first heard about the term “reverse ecommerce” from Marc Ostrofsky who wrote the book Get Rich Click. There are likely to be segments of customers who’d never venture online to buy products or services. There might be customers who don’t even know (or don’t want to know) about such an option.

Think of it another way: there could be customers who still head to local malls and regular stores to buy products that are still expensive (owing to higher markups thanks to rent, utilities, and staffing that local businesses still have to pay for). Drive bargains to these customers. You can buy products on behalf of your customers on any of your online sources (and even bargain for deep discounts when buying in bulk) to make a profit off ecommerce without even putting up an ecommerce site).

Ecommerce arbitrage

Pick up products off an ecommerce store and sell it on another ecommerce store, which allows user listings. For instance, pick up products from Liquidation.com and then sell them on eBay.com.

Find closeouts, deals, and bulk discounts on other ecommerce stores to sell them again on your own ecommerce store for the usual price. It’s called ecommerce arbitrage and it’s a great way to be in business without actually scouting for products to sell and making deals with wholesalers and distributors (Note: this is not the same as drop shipping).

Learn From Others

There are plenty of ideas already in execution. You can learn tons from those ecommerce stores that have been put up and are already in operation. You could also learn from published ecommerce success stories. Gain inspiration from other entrepreneurs, throw ideas into the midst of communities and gain feedback from others. Contrary to what most people think, it’s ok to share ideas because most people won’t act on those ideas anyway. Even if people who can act and take advantage of your idea do spot it, they are likely to have too much on their plate.

Forget the Idea- Just Adopt a New Way of Doing Business

As we mentioned before, you don’t need any new ideas at all. You’ll just find new ways to do the old thing. Zappos isn’t the first ecommerce store that sold footwear. It’s, however, the first e-store that gave away 365 days of money back guarantee, no questions asked.  Try to find ways to do business that others did not attempt yet: provide free shipping and returns. Give unconditional money-back guarantees. Introduce sophisticated software on your apparel store that takes inputs from customers to determine the exact size.  Give freebies. Call up customers to invite them for lunch. Send them free coupons for coffee saying, “Enjoy the product. Coffee is on us”.

You get the drift, don’t you?

Which of these ideas will make you stare at the ceiling tonight? What’s on your mind?  If you are already on the road, go ahead and show off your ecommerce store. We’d love to visit.

Image Credit: Shutterstock mtkang

About Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, OnlyDesign and Moveo. He’s passionate about fitness, start-ups, entrepreneurship & all things digital marketing. Catch him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik or by emailing on web@pratikdholakiya.com to discuss on any of these topics.

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