Entrepreneurship is on the march in France. Around a third of the country’s active population – more than 15 million people – are ready to create their own business or take over an existing one*. Strong growth in the online retail sector plays an important part in this, as more and more people in France see it as an opportunity to earn extra income, be their own boss or simply to do as a living what they’re passionate about in the first place.
If you’re among those dreaming of setting up on your own, we want to help. Our partner Shopify has shared five pieces of sound advice for launching an online store.
1. Find the right product or service to sell
Having the desire to create your own business is a good place to start but you need an idea of what it is you want to sell. This is where two types of would-be entrepreneur emerge:
- those with a passion or hobby that they want to explore further in a professional capacity;
- those who want to go into business by themselves but who haven’t yet identified what they want to sell.
If you’re in the first category, the path to entrepreneurship is shorter. You’re lucky enough to have a market that excites you and about which you probably already have a certain amount of expertise. Whether your thing is making jewellery or clothes, decorating houses or playing sport, you can exploit your enthusiasm to build your own business.
If you’re still searching for that big idea, though, here are some examples of products and services that currently sell well. As you’ll see, part of what you’re selling is your own expertise.
- Selling home-made products that you manufacture yourself (scented candles, soap or jam, for instance).
- The second-hand products market (used clothing or upcycled furniture).
- Custom printing services (printing bespoke T-shirts, mugs or mouse mats).
- Selling your skills (as a sports coach or interior designer, for example).
- Build an audience that you can monetize by becoming an influencer.
2. Do your market research
It doesn’t matter what product or service you decide to sell via your online store, you’ll need to assess whether your project is viable by carrying out market research. To do that, start by examining the existing competition. Is that market already well catered for? Is it flooded or dominated by one or two large companies?
Contrary to what one might think, the absence of competition is not always a good sign. It may be a case of insufficient consumer interest or a market that’s too specific or too niche to be able to sell enough volume to keep your business going. As well as your competitive analysis, you can also interview your target market to identify consumers’ needs and solidify your business idea. To do that, get in touch with the kind of people you’ve identified as potential customers and ask them questions to find out:
- What are they currently buying to answer their need?
- Is that enough for them?
- What are they missing?
- How much would they be prepared to spend to fully meet their need?
These kinds of questions (or rather, the answers to them) will help you find out if there’s a space in that market for you and how you could position yourself.
3. Register your company and open an e-commerce business account
Once your market research is complete and you’re happy it supports your business idea, you can move on to formally setting up your company. For this very important step, you can seek guidance from an accounting firm. This agency will take you through the administrative formalities, such as:
- choosing the best legal status and VAT regime for your needs;
- writing out your company statutes;
- the process for registering your company with the relevant authorites like the Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés.
One thing to remember is that you’ll need a separate, business account to be able to carry out your professional e-commerce activity.
4. Open your online store
With the paperwork done, you can now get your project up and running and focus your energy into making your online store a success. There are various technical solutions to help you create an online store, including Shopify.
To make the right choice, you should take the time to do the following:
- draft a mission statement and business specifications;
- identify your needs in terms of online features;
- assess your technical skills and your ability to create, maintain and develop your website.
It is important to acquire a certain amount of autonomy and to be able to manage your online store by yourself on a day-to-day basis. In fact, knowing your current and your future needs will be one of the keys to the success of your project, or else you risk slowing down your progress.
Make sure you define a future URL for your online store. It’s wise to avoid domain names that are over-optimized in terms of SEO, like mybargainproducts.com or cheapqualityclothes.com, which are too generic to be effective. Remember that the domain name for your store needs to be unique and reflect your brand identity. You can (and must) deal with SEO concerns later.
5. Promote your store online
The crucial thing now in your journey as an entrepreneur is to make yourself known to your target market; to launch your store successfully, you’ll need to communicate.
Your communications can start before you’ve even opened your store. You might, for example, want to take future customers behind the scenes of your company, show them what you’re doing in the wings via posts on social media. You can also create a pre-launch web page to grab your target’s attention and help you collect some email addresses and subscribers.
When your store is launched online, you need to up your efforts to gain publicity. Continue to update your social media feeds and build a community of customers and ambassadors of your brand.
Stay abreast of the new features being offered by social networks to traders, like product tags on Instagram for instance. To speed up your progress, you might also consider paid ads on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or Pinterest.
Expand your horizons and sell your products or services outside of your online store. You can pitch your product directly on social media, on comparison sites like Google Shopping and other marketplaces.
Don’t underestimate the power of traditional, offline sales channels. Shops, physical markets and salons are great for potential sales, as is home delivery if that is feasible. Organize sales evenings with friends or family and get your name known amongst their own networks.
To summarize, if you want to set up your own e-commerce company you need to start with an idea of the products or services you want to sell. It helps to choose something that you’re passionate about, something that will give you a great reason to get out of bed every morning and get down to business.
Then check the feasibility of your project and the habits and needs of your future clientele by carrying out your market research. If there’s an opportunity out there, seize it. Take the plunge and set up your business. Seek help, if necessary, with the administrative procedures.
Finally, publicize and make your company known to attract traffic to your site and drive your sales. In e-commerce today, marketing and communications make all the difference.