Changing Phases of E-commerce: The Past, The Present & The Future- Nishkarsh Sharma

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E-commerce across the globe started in the mid-90s with companies like Amazon selling books, a very mocked upon idea of the time. With the dot com bubble, more companies like these came into play but eventually burst with the bubble. As the world kept getting connected with the internet, the idea of e-commerce kept garnering validation and e-commerce brands kept popping everywhere.

Ecom in 2010-2017:

E-commerce started in India with the rise of Flipkart, Myntra and Snapdeal around 2010. Internet was still in its early phase with users only in tier 1 and 2 cities of the country. Slowly, mobile phones users kept increasing in India and so did the sale of these companies, but e-commerce was still not democratized in India like the west.

In the meantime, countries like the US, the UK and Australia were pioneering the idea and an increasing number of e-stores were coming up in these countries. Then came the concept of dropshipping which truly democratized e-commerce. The idea of dropshipping using print-on-demand was slowly growing in the early 2010s which allowed anyone to start one’s own e-commerce business with little investment and no inventory.  And platforms like Facebook and Google were becoming more customer-centric using data. POD based dropshipping witnessed a sudden boom between 2015-17, making it one of the most lucrative businesses of the time. Many new entrepreneurs made a lot of money selling Chinese products to people across the globe leveraging Google and Fb ads. It worked wonders for them, but major concerns were product quality and delivery time.

2017-Present

To control the product quality and improve the delivery time, a new concept was introduced where print on demand products were procured from local country suppliers. We have also been in this domain since 2017 and have made over 4.5mn USD in revenue.

The Way Ahead

Upon resolving the issues related to product quality and delivery time, the biggest challenge in the POD business is the low entry barrier owed to lower investment, limited range of products and same audience. So, the bigger question is how does one stand out among many other POD stores selling similar products? 

The solution is developing your store into a Brand. When you target and cater to a specific niche then you look different from others in the market. Let’s understand this with the help of an example.

Suppose you start a general t-shirt store that sells products in different niches like relationships, basketball lovers, fitness, pet lovers etc. Based upon the inputs from the performance of your ads, you deduced that the relationship niche is working best for you which can have various niches within itself like father, mother, life-partners, friends, etc. Now, upon obtaining data from your ads, you deduced that the mother niche is working best for you. Again, you can classify it into various categories like mother of son(s), mother of daughter(s), single mothers who in turn can belong to a middle class or upper-class background. Now, upon further deduction, you realized that mother of sons is working best for your business. This niche is totally different from other niches in the mothers’ category as a mother of son(s) has a different mindset and a different relationship with her child(ren) as compared to a mother of daughter(s).

Now, you have narrowed down from a general store to become a store that sells products only to mother of son(s). You have become a niche store. Your competition is less, and you are now a specialist.

To scale this, you can work on the brand story by writing customer-centric content, videos, ads and focusing your social media strategy around this niche. This will eventually make you a Brand, a brand such mothers better connect with.

You can give your product a premium feel by adding your logo, improving packaging and overall branding which would allow you to increase your costs, thus better margins and overall different brand perception.

If you want to scale further, you can add various products or services to your store. For e.g., you can tie up with a parenting coach or a psychologist to develop a course or a curriculum for mothers with son(s). Or you can start a hobby-based class for such moms or products for their sons, or 3d miniatures, or any other product that celebrates the relationship between mother and her son. You can just sell anything to your targeted niche and your audience will buy from you as you know them well and you understand their emotions. They will always prefer you over another generic store.

All the companies that have made it huge in the e-com space have found a calling based on their interest and passions, started selling one thing, scaled it and made it a BRAND. Only upon success, they added more products and services for their existing customer base. Today’s world’s largest e-commerce brand Amazon started selling books in 1994, went public in 1997, added music and videos to its inventory in ’98. Following year, it started selling consumer electronics, software, games and toys. One of the largest e-com stores of the 2000s, eBay has a similar story where it started as an online auctioneering platform, then third-party licensing, then travel and finally became a success.

Although your passion can guide your store’s niche, you can always validate it by smartly using data in the modern era of advanced data science and machine learning.

This article has been written by Nishkarsh Sharma, an ecom entrepreneur and coach. He also runs a podcast to help budding entrepreneurs start and scale their ecom businesses. 

(Disclaimer- Brand Desk Content)

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