Envisioned as a digitally native brand, Shopify India is revolutionising the e-commerce space. With ‘vocal for local’ initiatives helping small businesses blossom, a reliable online store platform is just what new brands need to test the market with their goods and price points.

TC46 asked Swati Poddar, Growth Marketing Manager of Shopify India some burning questions about setting up an online business successfully and marketing it the right way.

1. In your experience, which are some of the best business ideas that thrive & do well in today’s online market?

With more people shopping online, it’s important for merchants to focus on:

  1. Adopting an omnichannel model that allows them to sell to anyone, anywhere across different channels, whether offline in their store, or online on social media and e-commerce marketplaces among others. 
  1. Creating and sustaining their unique customer experience to more effectively engage consumers across all those different channels. The services which their customers need during the current COVID-19 situation, such as offering both in-store pickup and home delivery, in addition to browsing at the actual retail outlet.
  1. Identifying changing customer needs and expanding their offerings to meet such new requirements. Throughout this year, demand for basic food items, groceries, masks and hand sanitisers rose sharply and they continue to remain higher than usual.

2. What are some products that are perfect for online sale?

We are seeing significant demand in many categories including food, beverage and tobacco, safety essentials like masks, fashion and apparel, and consumer electronics. 

Another key factor for buyers is high safety and hygiene standards. These have become a top priority for consumers as we continue to cope with the coronavirus. Moreover, consumers are demanding convenience more than ever before. As a result, being able to offer in-store pick-up and fast delivery are now important competitive differentiators for businesses. 

3. Can you guide us through the steps to set up an online store for your business?

Before you start setting up your store, say, for example, if you’re using Shopify as a platform, it’s important to understand your goals. Ask yourself basic questions about your store.

For example, do you want to sell your products both online and in-person?
Do you want to sell your products through social media channels like Facebook?

This can help you to focus your attention and speed up your setup process. You might also want to think about which pricing plan meets your needs. 

However, you don’t need to choose a plan until the end of your 14-day free trial. Our platform offers a wealth of guides and other resources to help merchants get started which are available on Shopify.in.

Some of the main things you need to think about when starting your store:

  1. Brand Identity: Your logo, preferred fonts and more
  2. Product details such as names, available inventory quantity and price
  3. (Optional) Short product descriptions that describe your products and why people should buy.
  4. (Optional) Product photos to showcase your catalogue. You can take quality photos with most new phones.
  5. Credit card/debit card to link with the store.
  6. Payment Gateway Account to start accepting online payments. At Shopify, we have tied up with partners like PayTM who can help you get Payment gateway accounts activated in no time. 
  7. Finally, driving your customers to your store with marketing tactics is crucial, building trust with your visitors is equally imperative to go a long way toward gaining traction.

4. How can women entrepreneurs recognise the growth opportunities that exist for their small business?

Becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t require money, luck, or a background in business. All it takes is vision, drive and passion, while we provide the e-commerce expertise. Shopify’s mission is to help merchants survive, adapt and thrive through challenging times, by making it easy to build and manage an online store. We are helping aspiring Indian entrepreneurs, male and female, delve into business with the necessary tools, applications and resources.

In India, we are seeing women entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses across multiple sectors. These women are overcoming personal and professional challenges to create and scale up their business. Some of our most wel- known brands across FMCG, pet care, fashion and lifestyle are founded or co-founded by women. These entrepreneurs partnered Shopify to leverage market opportunities and establish successful businesses. Many of them also recognised that going online meant being able to establish a global brand that is able to sell to anyone, anywhere in the world. 

Some of the female-founded brands on Shopify include:

  • MCaffeine – beauty label started by Vaishali Gupta
  • Alicia Souza – stationery and design brand by Alicia Souza
  • Blue Tokai – a premium homegrown coffee brand co-founded by Namrata Asthana
  • Heads Up For Tails – Pet Care label by Rashi Narang
  • THERE! – High fashion denim brand by Ankita and Mallika Bansal

5. What are a few support systems that are available for small online local businesses? 

Every business needs a great support system while setting up and running. Shopify is one such platform which helps entrepreneurs and established businesses grow by removing the barriers that exist to selling online. We create an environment conducive to being entrepreneurial. It doesn’t require any coding or tech skills to get started and offers 24/7 customer support by phone, email and live chat. Merchants are provided with a variety of resources to solve any issue faster. We have experts, partner designers, developers and marketers to hold the hands of the businesses as they build their online store, boost engagement and grow their customer base. 

6. Can you tell us a few ways by which consumers can support these online local businesses?

Apart from patronising their stores by shopping, customers can also be of great help to small businesses by sharing reviews about them on social media platforms. Most of the time small scale businesses do not possess sufficient capital for large scale marketing. Promoting them on respective platforms as customers will help the business reach a greater scale of audience effectively.  

Consumers can also buy gift cards to support local merchants since these can be used to make purchases or as presents to friends and family during the festive season. This way, they can also introduce their favourite local merchants to more people.

7. Can you give us 5 insider tips that women entrepreneurs should keep in mind while setting up their online business?

To be a successful e-commerce entrepreneur, male or female, the first step is to know what products you want to sell. This is often the most challenging part of starting a new online business. You could decide to go with your personal passion or consider your professional experience. Perhaps you decided to start a business because you were frustrated at not being able to find a suitable product, or you might just want to sell something that’s currently trending. For example, some of the top trending products sold by Shopify merchants this year include nail polish, blankets, yoga and pilates mats!

Once you have a product idea in mind, how do you know if it will sell? This is where extensive market research is required in order to find out the potential market size, your target audience, number of competitors, whether similar products are easily available locally, and so on.

The next step is to figure out how you’re going to acquire the products you want to sell. The four most common methods of acquiring your products and inventory are: Make, Manufacture, Wholesale and Dropship. It’s important to understand each of these methods in order to make the right choice for your business. There are pros and cons to each of the methods, and depending on your product, market, and niche, one may be more suitable for you and your business than the others.

An important step is to name your business and create a unique and authentic brand identity. The brand could be fun or serious, trendy or timeless, but most importantly, it should be YOUR brand. In other words, it should reflect and represent who you are, and embody the values and qualities which you treasure. 

You’re almost ready to begin building your online store. However, before you jump into it, you should understand the basics of search engine optimisation so that you can properly structure your site and pages for Google and other search engines.

Another important tip is to find the right partner or provider who can offer you access to the technical knowledge, expertise and resources to start and grow a successful online store. These could range from beautiful store designs to high-converting product pages, search engine optimisation, marketing, shipping and fulfilment and so much more, all of which a platform like Shopify can help with!