How To Start An Affiliate Program For Your Ecommerce Store

How To Start An Affiliate Program For Your Ecommerce Store


If you’re struggling to get your products into more people’s hands due to the rising cost of advertising, you’re not alone. Here’s the good news. By tapping into the power of affiliate marketing to start an affiliate program for your ecommerce store, you can drive high-quality traffic and sales very affordably.

What is an Affiliate Program?

An affiliate program is a customer acquisition tool merchants (like you) can create to generate more sales with the help of publishers (like bloggers and websites). When a new publisher is approved into your affiliate program, they become your affiliate and get unique tracking links that they will use whenever they share your products online. Every time someone clicks through to your website with their link and makes a purchase, you generate a sale and they earn a commission of that sale.

As the program creator, you get to decide how much to pay affiliates and for what—such as a percentage per sale or a flat rate per lead. You also outline terms and conditions so they know what promotional methods they are allowed to use when marketing your brand to their audience.

Why Start an Affiliate Program?

Literally, anyone selling anything online can start an affiliate program, whether that’s physical products, digital goods or even services. The only requirement is that your stuff must be sold online through your website or on a platform that has affiliate tracking capabilities.

Here are some of the great reasons to consider an affiliate program for your product business:

  • Your Sales Will Increase: Quality affiliates send high-caliber traffic to your website, so your product sales will increase as a result.
  • You Only Pay for Performance: Unlike advertising, which can be risky, affiliates only get paid after they’ve generated sales for you first.
  • Existing Customers Already Want One: Customers already sharing your brand will be thrilled to hear they’ll now get rewarded for it, which will incentivize them to promote you even more!
  • It Boosts Your Brand Awareness: With affiliates talking about you all over the internet, your brand awareness will increase, leading to non-affiliate sales as well.

Affiliate Program Launch Myths

There are several misconceptions floating around when it comes to starting an affiliate program. Here’s a look at the most common ones I hear.

Myth #1: It’s too difficult to DIY the tech involved with an affiliate program

Even for the most tech-averse, the affiliate program setup process is fairly simple.

  • Most ecommerce sites easily integrate with affiliate platforms, and some even have affiliate tracking capabilities baked right in so you can go live with the click of a button.
  • For most merchants, setting up affiliate program tracking is relatively simple. You just add a piece of code (aka a tracking pixel) to your sales confirmation page and you’re good to go. Most affiliate platforms also offer step-by-step instructions or tech support to walk you through the implementation process.

One exception is software products and apps, especially if you want to pay on the sale instead of a lead. However, if you’re part of this field, chances are you’ve got an awesome developer on staff or contract who can tackle implementation for you.

Myth #2: An affiliate program sounds like a risky or expensive business investment

In my experience, starting an affiliate program is the opposite of risky or expensive.

  • It’s low-risk because you only pay affiliates after you get paid first (as long as you’re paying on sales) whereas with advertising and sponsorships you’re paying upfront with no guarantee of results.
  • It’s also one of the most affordable ways to acquire new customers compared to other high-cost marketing initiatives like pay per click advertising, podcast sponsorships, blogger giveaways, Facebook ads, and even content marketing.
  • If your platform has affiliate tracking built-in, you can launch an affiliate program for $0 or as low as $10 per month if it doesn’t. The affiliate networks with a $2,000+ price tag aren’t your only option!

Keep in mind, you should consult with a lawyer and/or educate yourself on Affiliate Nexus laws before launching to understand which affiliate States you can and cannot allow into your program.

Myth #3: It’ll take way too much time to set up, launch and manage my affiliate program

You don’t have to invest tons of time to see results with an affiliate program…

  • I once launched a scrappy affiliate program with E-Junkie that yielded thousands in sales within a week. I spent an hour on it, including the tech set up, inviting a few affiliates and paying out commissions at the end.
  • The biggest affiliate program I’ve ever worked on had 10,000+ affiliates and multiple employees each working 40 hours per week to manage it. However, it started with 1 guy doing it part-time with a handful of affiliates. More resources were added only after it became profitable.

The bottom line is you get to choose your own adventure when creating an affiliate program. Just be sure to complete an affiliate program competitive analysis before launching to develop a winning program structure affiliates will love.

A Few Platforms You Can Start Your Affiliate Program With

You have a lot of choices when it comes to affiliate tracking platforms. Today I’ll share 3 options I’ve found the easiest to get started with.

Launch an affiliate program with Refersion

Refersion Affiliate Marketing

Refersion is designed to help you quickly create and launch your own promotion network. They handle all the heavy lifting, allowing you to focus on growing your business through partnerships with bloggers, influencers, ambassadors, and promoters.

Great For: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and WooCommerce users

Merchants Using Refersion: Natural Stacks and Best Self

Pricing Details: $29 per month (up to 30 affiliate orders) or $89 per month (up to 130 affiliate orders). For unlimited orders, you’ll need to contact Refersion for pricing.

Pros

  • Refersion offers a free, 14-day trial so you can test it out before you commit to a monthly package.
  • Thanks to their apps, Refersion can be integrated with a few clicks if your store is on Shopify or BigCommerce.
  • The majority of customer reviews speak highly of the Refersion support team for offering exceptional customer support.

Cons

  • I’m not a fan of their pricing tiers being based on the number of affiliate orders you get because when you go over your limit, you and your affiliates will not be able to see any new orders until you upgrade your account. Affiliates will not appreciate this, especially if they’re closely monitoring real-time information to optimize their active campaigns.
  • Refersion doesn’t automatically pay your affiliates their commissions, so you’ll have to set aside time on your calendar every month to do this manually.
  • Some users find their UI outdated and confusing to navigate.

Getting Started: Refersion offers a free 14-day trial on both their Starter and Professional packages. Once signed up, you can use their Start Guide to get your affiliate program set up in a jiffy. Alternatively, you can use their Shopify App or BigCommerce App to get started.

Launch an affiliate program with AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP Affiliate Marketing

AffiliateWP allows you to easily create a full-featured affiliate program on WordPress. It’s known for being an easy-to-use, reliable WordPress plugin that gives you the affiliate marketing tools you need to grow your business and make more money.

Who Can Use It: WordPress.org users

Pricing Details: $99 to $249 per year, depending on how many WordPress sites you want to run the plugin on and if you want their pro add-ons. You can also pay a one-time price of $499 for unlimited everything, lifetime access and all current and future add-ons.

Pros

  • You can develop an affiliate program with all the bells and whistles (if you want!) thanks to their free and pro add-ons. These include things like coupon codes, tiered affiliate commissions, and affiliate landing pages.
  • Their customer support team is considered world-class and as someone who’s emailed them a ton, I can vouch for this. I recently got in touch with their support team about a bug and they issued a plugin update to fix it within a couple of days!
  • Unlike large affiliate networks and smaller tracking platforms, AffiliateWP does not charge you for each individual affiliate transaction. You pay the one-time or yearly-fee and that’s it.
  • AffiliateWP integrates with all of your favorite WordPress plugins, including Restrict Content Pro, WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Gravity Forms, and Zippy Courses.

Cons

  • Every time an affiliate order comes in, you need to manually approve them before affiliates can see them on their dashboard. This is good for fraud, but time-intensive if you’re running a high volume program or launch.
  • I’ve run into issues with tracking bugs where legitimate affiliate sales didn’t have reference IDs so they appeared invalid. On a similar note, as with all WordPress plugins, make sure you promptly update it as new releases come out. When you do this, you’ll also want to test tracking and key features to make sure everything is working correctly.
  • If you opt for the personal or plus pricing package, you don’t get the pro add-ons.
  • Non-US users aren’t able to pay their affiliates using Paypal’s mass payment feature, which speeds up the affiliate payout process.

Getting Started: Go to AffiliateWP to sign up, then upload the plugin to your WordPress site. From there, use their in-depth Getting Started documentation to get your program set up. Should you run into any hiccups, their FAQ and Support sections are available to assist you.

Launch an affiliate program with ShareASale

ShareASale Affiliate Marketing

ShareASale is an affiliate marketing network that’s been around since 2000, serving both merchants and affiliates. ShareASale’s technology receives accolades for speed, efficiency, and accuracy—and their reputation as a fair and honest business is well known within the affiliate industry.

Great For: Users on virtually any ecommerce platform, including software applications.

Merchants Using ShareASale: ModCloth, Reebok, and FreshBooks.

Pricing Details: $550 one-time setup fee plus $100 minimum deposit for affiliate commissions.

I bet you’re wondering why a merchant would pay hundreds to launch their affiliate program when solutions like AffiliateWP and Refersion are much more affordable. There are some very compelling reasons, which I’ll outline below.

Pros

  • Unlike AffiliateWP and Refersion, ShareASale serves both merchants and affiliates. That means there’s a built-in audience of affiliates across every niche in their network looking for new programs on a regular basis. All of the programs I’ve launched or managed on the network get organic applications almost daily from affiliates who find the program on their own.
  • ShareASale has an incredible support team that offers both email and phone assistance.
  • You can get more eyeballs on your program by advertising to affiliates in several prominent places inside ShareASale.
  • ShareASale collects all tax forms from your affiliates and pays them out automatically every month.
  • While affiliate fraud is a problem across every network and platform, in my experience ShareASale is the safest option out there. Whenever an issue comes up, they proactively contact the merchant to let them know what happened and how it’s being resolved.

Cons

  • If you are on a budget, the startup fee can be a buzz kill. ShareASale also takes 20% fees on every affiliate transaction. For example, if your affiliate earns $4 per sale, ShareASale takes another 40 cents. However, compared to other pro networks like CJ and Linkshare, it’s the most affordable of the pro networks both in startup and transaction-based fees.

Getting Started: Start by signing up as a merchant here. You aren’t obligated to pay the setup fee until you complete tracking implementation and testing so go ahead and get started. Upon logging in, you’ll see ShareASale’s helpful merchant setup wizard, which walks you through an 8-step launch process.

3 Success Tips for Your Affiliate Program

Now that you know what an affiliate program is and how to create one, I’d like to share 3 tips to ensure your program gets off to a great start.

Don’t expect results overnight

When I chat with startups interested in launching a program, I tell them it’ll take months to see consistent results and more than a year to see significant sales. That’s because once your affiliate program is live, you’ll need to recruit and activate new affiliates before the sales pour in and there’s no way to rush that process.

While I can understand your desire to see the time and money you initially invest pay off quickly, affiliate marketing just doesn’t work like that. Unlike with paid advertising where you can turn on a switch and watch results trickle in, affiliate marketing is about building and nurturing relationships. Speaking of which…

Treat your affiliates like partners

In addition to being an affiliate manager, I’m also a content affiliate that’s been fortunate enough to work with wonderful affiliate managers who truly care about their affiliates.

I’ve also dealt with my fair share of affiliate managers who didn’t understand how to treat affiliates. For example, once I received a newsletter from a merchant that threatened to remove affiliates from their program if they didn’t send a sale by the end of the month. Another time, a merchant refused to let affiliates promote a cool resource they offered, even though other types of partners were allowed to share it.

Here’s the thing: affiliates are independent people or organizations who work at their own pace and don’t owe you anything. You’re there to answer questions, offer tips and troubleshoot problems. Basically, it’s your job to help them succeed, not enforce rules or deny resources that will discourage and demotivate them. Build strong relationships with your affiliates and affiliate sales will follow.

Educate yourself about the industry

I’ve been involved with the affiliate marketing industry for nearly a decade and still learn something new every single day. To grow your affiliate program, try and set aside time each week to learn more about the industry, from both the affiliate manager’s and affiliate’s perspective. Here are a few resources to help you:

Conclusion

Starting an affiliate program is an affordable and low-risk way to grow your product sales. Just remember you’ll need to invest time in the early days to develop a winning program structure, set up your affiliate platform and source affiliates for your program. Once the program is generating 5-10%+ of your overall product sales, you can hire help or retain an affiliate agency to manage the day-to-day of the program for you.



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10 Ways to Increase Average Order Value in 2020

10 Ways to Increase Average Order Value in 2020


The key benefit of increasing average order value is that you make more money from each transaction. Thus, making your store more profitable. Often, when a customer shops online, they’ll only buy exactly what they’re looking for. However, with some of the average order value strategies that we’ll share in this article, you’ll learn how to present more great products to customers to generate more sales from each order. In this article, you’ll learn what average order value is and how to increase it. So, let’s dive into it. 

What is Average Order Value?

Average order value (AOV) is the average dollar amount a customer spends when placing an order on your store.

You can calculate your store’s average order value by dividing your store’s total revenue by the number of orders taken. This formula is the easiest way to calculate it. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take into account marketing costs

Benefits of Increasing Average Order Value

  • Increase revenue and profit: When the average order value rises, you’ll see an increase in revenue and profit. The more you earn per order, the more your business makes altogether. If you can see a positive change in average order value, you’ll be able to reinvest more money into your business’ growth and pocket more too. 
  • Cost-effective marketing return: If you spend $20 on marketing and the average order value is only $50, you haven’t earned much after you deduct product costs and taxes. However, as you see a positive change in average order value, your marketing spend becomes more profitable. Thus, why it’s crucial to have an average order value strategy in place. 
  • Sell more inventory: This doesn’t apply to dropshippers. However, if you own stock for a brick and mortar store or even an online store, you can sell more of your inventory by executing a proper average order value plan. By making changes to see a boost in AOV, you’ll be able to sell more of the products you carry. 

10 Ways to Increase Average Order Value

1. Offer a Free Shipping Threshold

The easiest way to increase the average order value is to offer a free shipping threshold. For example, free shipping on all orders over $75.

Once you’ve calculated your average order value, add 30% to it. For example, if your average order value is $100, with the 30% increase, it becomes $130. This new number is what you’ll set your free shipping threshold at – for example, free shipping on all orders over $130. Aaron Zakowski found that a 30% increase to your average order value worked best as a free shipping threshold.

You can also add a notification when customers check out and their purchase doesn’t add up to the free shipping threshold. By having this notification, you’ll be able to help increase average order value. You can easily do this using apps from the Shopify App Store

Free-Shipping-Threshold

2. Give Product Discounts

While it seems counterintuitive, providing discounts can help change your average order value. However, when offering discounts, be sure to add a minimum spend. For example, get $10 off when you spend $75 or more.

Some brands also have volume discounts. This is when specific order value brackets result in a particular discount. For example, get $10 off when you spend $75, get $15 off when you spend $100, and get $25 off when you spend $150 or more.

offer-discounts

3. Provide Bundle Deals 

Providing customers with bundle deals can affect average order value. For example, your offer might be a buy two and get a free gift or buy three and get a fourth free promotion

As products on AliExpress are affordable, you’ll need to ensure you choose free gifts that won’t impact your product margins too much. For example, if you sell women’s products, your free gift might be a $2 bracelet. If you offer a buy three get a fourth free deal, you need to make sure you price your products in a way that you can afford to cover the costs of the fourth while still making more profit from the bundle deal.

Offer-Bundle-Deals4. Give a Gift Card

Gift cards are a great way to increase average order value, even when giving a small one away for free. For example, if your retail price is $35 or higher, you can offer a free $5 gift card for a customer to use with their next purchase. Since they have a gift card, they’ll be more likely to spend again.

However, you need to make sure that your product prices are high enough that your gift card doesn’t result in a free purchase for your customer, as that would cause a profit loss. Also, remember to make sure that customers know they can’t use the gift card on the current purchase or shipping (if you offer free + shipping on certain products).

Lastly, offering gift cards encourages future purchases, which helps reduce future ad spend. It’s a great bonus to give customers when sales are seasonally lower. Don’t offer this deal year-round as it can lose its effectiveness over time.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t give a free $5 gift card, gift cards still help increase average order value as most don’t spend the full card or end up paying much more than their card provides them.

You can offer a gift card to customers directly from the Shopify admin.

Offer-a-Gift-Card

5. Execute First Time Offers 

If you’re a relatively new brand, under six months old, most of your customers will be first-time visitors. Offering deals to new visitors can help increase average order value. You can provide this particular audience with a one-time discount when they buy multiples of a popular product or exclusive bundle deals just for people who haven’t shopped with you before.

If your customer orders several items and loves what they receive, it’ll be even easier to entice them to shop again. They’ll already have experienced shopping on your site first hand. Thus, you have a better chance of turning them into repeat customers.

average order value

6. Show Cross-sell And Up-sell Items

A cross-sell is an item that a customer may like that’s different from the product they’re viewing. For example, if your customer is looking at a dress, you might have a recommended product of a pair of earrings that pair with it.

An excellent idea for cross-selling is to add the products the model is wearing to the recommended products. For example, if the product photo is selling a tank top, you might add the skirt as a cross-sell. Since the customer sees the two together, they’ll be more likely to purchase them in combination.

An up-sell is when you encourage customers to buy more expensive items or additions to increase average order value or profit. For example, if you sell pillows, you might up-sell with comforter sets, a duvet, or other items. 

An effective way to upsell products is to sell more of the same product. For example, if you sell essential oils, you would upsell by recommending the same scent and a couple of other popular scents to the customer. The reality is, people are likely to buy more of what they love, especially if it’s likely to run out at some point. This works well for beauty products as well.

7. Have a Loyalty Program

Having a loyalty program in place can help increase average order value. Each time a customer orders, they can earn points or discounts just for being loyal customers.

The benefit of having a loyalty program is that it helps build brand evangelists, customers who keep coming back to your website to shop. According to The ROI from Marketing to Existing Customers report, 40% of a store’s revenue comes from repeat customers. Only 8% of all store visitors are repeat customers. Repeat customers are more likely to buy more from your store than people who are unfamiliar with your brand.

By encouraging repeat sales, you help create a more massive fanbase who will likely order larger quantities of products. They’re also cheaper to advertise to via retargeting, social media, or email marketing. Thus, these evangelists help increase average order value.

average order value with loyalty program

8. Offer Time-Sensitive Deals

You can offer a timesensitive deal to help increase average order value. For example, you might have a 48hour deal where someone gets a free gift or a special discount when they’ve ordered a specific quantity of products.

While it might not increase the average order value for a long duration, urgency helps increase conversions. Timesensitive deals are great for boosting average order value during slower periods. And they’re relatively easy to execute. You can promote them on social media or include a banner notification on your website.

Offer-time-sensitive-deals

9. Show Savings With Bulk Orders

People love saving money. However, when your customers order large quantities, they sometimes feel guilty about it. You can maintain a high average order value from a customer through the display of overall savings. This can prevent abandoned carts or cart modifications, which can lower the amount they planned to buy. 

However, if you show customers how much money they’re saving per item with each addition, they’ll feel like they’re scoring a deal. Showing people the monetary savings they get from buying multiple items can help increase average order value, even if it acts as a preventative measure. 

increase average order value

10. Creating A Game Or A Contest 

The food industry often creates games or contests to increase average order value. For example, McDonald’s has the Monopoly Game, where customers are incentivized to order more frequently and upgrade their meals to get more game pieces. With the game pieces, they have a chance of winning big prizes. 

In ecommerce, you can also run contests where customers have a chance to win prizes when they buy often. You can let customers know that if they’ve made a purchase, they enter the contest where they can win one of several prize packs. Then, you can search the Shopify App store for the contest app that works best for your campaign.

average order value with gift card

Conclusion

Calculating your average order value can help you understand how well your store is performing. After you’ve calculated your average order value, you can try executing some of the strategies in this article to increase it. Whether you create bundled deals or create a free shipping threshold, you’ll be on track to seeing higher order volume on your online store. So are you ready to see those sales rise? Then, it’s time to get started on implementing some new changes.

Want to Learn More?

What have you implemented to help increase average order value? What’s your average order value goal for your store? Let us know in the comments!



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What Type of Entrepreneur Are You? [QUIZ]

What Type of Entrepreneur Are You? [QUIZ]


Hey, what’s your sign? If you found us here, chances are you’re into personality typing or consulting the stars to help you understand what makes you tick. If you’re spending too much time in the horoscope Slack channel at work (*raises hand*) or asking everyone you meet, “What’s your Enneagram?” (*raises hand again*), you’ve come to the right place. 

After studying some of the one million business owners who use Shopify, our research revealed some patterns. Founder types tend to fall into one of five groups: the growth-minded Mountaineer, the plucky Trailblazer, the always-be-prepared Cartographer, the risk-taking Firestarter, and the steady Outsider. Which one are you? 

Maybe you’re a seasoned business owner or still sitting on that breakthrough idea. Either way, your entrepreneur type—or Founder Sign—could tell you a lot about your signature strengths and areas of opportunity. In this series, we’ll consult data (not moon phases) to make predictions and recommendations to guide you on your path to success. 

Take our quiz, then sign up for our monthly series, The Founder’s Zodiac, to receive stories, insights, and extra guidance created just for your type.



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10 Social Media Trends Every Marketer Should Know in 2020 [Infographic]

10 Social Media Trends Every Marketer Should Know in 2020 [Infographic]


After researching dropshipping, you’re finally ready to jump in and start your dropshipping business. Before you begin, it’s important to look into the different marketing strategies you’ll need for your store. 

Social media marketing is one of the most important marketing strategies for ecommerce businesses. This requires more than opening a few social media accounts where you expect your target audience to find you – you also need to understand the latest social media trends.

From the growing impact of social commerce to the very latest social media marketing strategies, we’ll go deep into the ten social media trends every marketer should know in 2020. This knowledge will surely give your ecommerce business the boost it needs.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

1. Social Media Trends: Niche Platforms Growing in Popularity

Niche Platforms Growing in Popularity

Sure, Facebook still reigns as the social media king. When done well, Facebook ads can be a lucrative marketing channel. But the latest social media trends show there are emerging – albeit smaller – platforms that are worth paying extra attention to. 

TikTok is one such platform. The global time spent on TikTok grew 210 percent year over year in 2019, as a result of its efforts to expand its user base and increase users’ time spent (App Annie, 2020). In fact, nearly half (44 percent) of TikTok’s total downloads happened in 2019. 

Another niche platform that’s growing in popularity is Reddit. Though it has been around for 15 years, with the likes of Facebook and Instagram around, it’s seldom seen as an important marketing channel. But here’s where the latest social media trends prove otherwise. 

Reddit saw a massive boost in 2019. The number of monthly active users on Reddit increased 30 percent year over year to 430 million and its monthly view counts also witnessed a 53 percent jump. These are both clear indications that brands need to take a serious look at making Reddit a part of their 2020 plans. 

2. Social Media Stories Are Not Going Anywhere

Social Media Stories Are Not Going Anywhere

If you’re considering marketing on stories, be it Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram stories, you’ll want to pay attention to this next social media marketing trend. 

The stories feature for all three platforms mentioned above, all of which actually fall under the big Facebook umbrella, allows users to post a limited-time update that disappears after 24 hours. 

Even though these features were all launched less than five years ago, it’s proven to be one of the more popular growing social media trends among users and their growth numbers certainly indicate that they’re here to stay.

The daily active users hit half a billion across all three platforms in 2019 (TechCrunch, 2019). More specifically, Instagram Stories’ daily active users grew fivefold from 100 million in 2016 to 500 million in 2019. As for Facebook stories, its daily active users more than tripled from 150 million in 2018 to 500 million in 2019, and Whatsapp stories’ daily active users grew from 450 million in 2018 to 500 million in 2019.

3. Video Usage in Social Commerce

Video Usage in Social Commerce

One of the latest social media trends making waves across the marketing world is the usage of video. 

According to recent figures, internet video traffic is expected to jump fourfold from 2017 to 2022, with a compound annual growth rate increase of 33 percent (Cisco, 2019). 

Of this growth, one of the largest increases is likely to come from live internet videos. These videos are expected to skyrocket 15 times to make up 17 percent of the overall internet video traffic in 2022. 

So if making live videos on Facebook or Twitter has yet to feature in your social commerce plan, you may want to think about jumping on the bandwagon for an extra boost to brand awareness.

Plus, when combined with social media, video marketing can also help with the bottom of the funnel conversions such as sales. As many as three-quarters of people say they are more likely to carry out a purchase after having watched a video on social media (Smart Insights, 2019). 

4. Social Commerce Is the Future

Social Commerce Is the Future

If the previous social media trend hasn’t already convinced you of the power of social commerce, how’s this to tip you over the fence: 55.2 percent of all Gen Z internet users in the US say their recent fashion purchases were inspired by the social media content. 

Considering that this group of users does half of their fashion shopping online, that accounts for quite a substantial amount of revenue.

The millennial generation is also nearly as inspired, with only slightly fewer (50.6 percent) reporting purchasing a fashion item online after browsing through social media. All in all, it’s safe to say that more than half of all internet users between the ages of 14 and 34 have recently bought an item related to fashion online as a result of social media.

With these social media trends in mind, you will not want to lose out on the benefits of social commerce for your business. After all, your competitors may already be doing so – nearly three out of every ten businesses say they have either already implemented a social commerce plan or are thinking about doing so over the next 12 months (Hootsuite, 2019). 

5. The Power of User-Generated Content

The Power of User-Generated Content

Step aside, branded content. Though most marketers think that branded content is seen as authentic, this isn’t entirely true. 

It’s common – and almost human nature – for consumers to resort to their close circle of family and friends when seeking brand recommendations. So when it comes to impact on purchasing decisions, user-generated content (UGC) deserves more credit when it does. In fact, eight out of every ten consumers say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions (Stackla, 2019).

And consumers are actually 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic when compared with brand content – quite the reverse of how marketers view branded content. 

If you think these figures make a strong case for an influencer marketing strategy, you may want to think again. Consumers say UGC is ten times more powerful than influencer content. 

6. Authenticity Matters in Social Media Marketing

Authenticity Matters in Social Media Marketing

To further reiterate the previous point on user-generated content, here’s a statistic that highlights the importance of authenticity on social media.

An increasing number of consumers view authenticity as an important factor in determining which brands they like and support. Statistics show that 90 percent of consumers today prioritize authenticity in brands, up from 86 percent in 2017 (Stackla, 2019).

Authenticity is also particularly important for the younger generation – Gen Z and Millennials, in particular – who enjoy visual, raw, and real content more than the older crowd. 

However, there appears to be a gap between the type of content consumers enjoy and what brands publish. Though more than 90 percent of marketers believe that they are creating authentic content that consumers can relate to, 51 percent of all consumers think that fewer than half of all brands are creating truly authentic content. 

7. Social Media as a Discovery Engine

Social Media as a Discovery Engine

Here is another one of the latest social media trends: social media plays a huge role across the entire purchase journey of a consumer.

Consumers are increasingly reliant on social media for their purchases. According to a recent study, one-quarter of all consumers come across new brands and products through social ads and recommendations. 

The passive consumption aside, consumers are also adopting a proactive approach to discover new products. Statistics show 43 percent of consumers research products online through social media networks (GlobalWebIndex, 2019). 

And there is an age trend to this as well: younger generations tend to look up products on social media more often than the older generation.

8. Growth in Messaging Apps

Growth in Messaging Apps

One of the latest trends in social media marketing relates to messaging apps. The latest study figures show that the number of users of mobile messaging apps is expected to reach 3.12 billion worldwide in 2023 – a 24 percent increase from 2.52 billion in 2019 (eMarketer, 2019).

Currently, 90 percent of all smartphone users around the globe use at least one messaging app, which is a huge market for businesses to tap into. Coupled with the fact that most consumers prefer to communicate with companies is via messaging, this is certainly a social media trend you should include in your business’ marketing plan.

And if you’re thinking of doing so, consider the potential of each platform. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger may be the two most popular mobile messenger apps with 1.6 million and 1.3 billion monthly active users respectively. But if you’re targeting markets such as China, WeChat, which has 1.1 billion monthly active users, would be the way to go.

9. Influencer Marketing on the Rise

Influencer Marketing on the Rise

As a business owner, it’s hard to ignore the next social media marketing trend: influencer marketing. 

The influencer marketing industry has seen tremendous growth in recent years and is currently forecast to hit $15 billion by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2019 (Business Insider, 2019).

Of all the influencer marketing platforms, Instagram has proven to be the most popular, with four out of every five brands engaging with Instagram influencers. But regardless of the platform, marketers are placing more emphasis on influencer marketing – 63 percent of marketers plan to increase their budget for influencer marketing in the coming year. 

Though it may be tempting to reach out to mega-influencers with over a million followers, keep in mind that their large following may often mean a higher cost and interestingly, a lower impact. Influencers with fewer followers such as micro-influencers and nano influencers have been proven to drive higher engagement rates.

10. Customer Service via Social Media

 Customer Service via Social Media

Last but not least, one of the latest social media trends relates to consumers’ increasing use of social media for customer service issues. A recent study shows that nearly three in ten consumers use social media to communicate with a company (Drift, 2019). 

Most who do so cite convenience, 24-hour service, and ease as the top three expected benefits. However, these advantages appear to be limited to the simpler issues consumers face, since only 10 percent of consumers say social media offers quick answers to complex questions.

Nevertheless, social media has become an important channel of contact for consumers and even has an impact on branding. Nearly 70 percent of US residents say that being able to directly message a company makes them feel more confident about the brand.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to tweak your social media strategy or just looking to get caught up with the newest social media trends, these ten social media trends we’ve listed above will certainly help you understand how your customers engage with social media.

And one quick note before we go: given that social media trends are constantly evolving, you’ll want to make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest social media marketing trends so that you stay one step ahead of the competition!

social media trends 2020

Summary: Social Media Trends

Here’s a summary of social media trends for 2020:

  1. Global time spent on TikTok grew 210 percent year-over-year in 2019 and Reddit’s monthly active users grew 30 percent year-over-year. 
  2. Daily active stories users on Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp all hit 500 million each in 2019.
  3. Internet video traffic is expected to jump fourfold from 2017 to 2022. 
  4. Nearly three out of every ten businesses plan either already have a social commerce plan or are planning to implement one in the next 12 months. 
  5. 79 percent of consumers say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions.
  6. Nine out of ten consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands to support. 
  7. 43 percent of consumers research products online through social media networks. 
  8. The number of mobile messaging app users is expected to reach 3.12 billion worldwide in 2023.
  9. The influencer marketing industry is forecast to be worth $15 billion by 2022. 
  10. Nearly three out of every ten consumers use social media to communicate with a company.

Want to Learn More?

Is there anything else you’d like to know about social media trends and wish was included in this article? Let us know in the comments below!



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How a Chief Growth Officer For a Social Enterprise Spends Her Time

How a Chief Growth Officer For a Social Enterprise Spends Her Time


Sweet Beginnings is a social enterprise based in Chicago that gives those who have been formerly incarcerated a second chance by offering training and employment through beekeeping and producing honey-infused products. In this episode of Shopify Masters Daphne Williams, the Chief Growth Officer from Sweet Beginnings shares their approach to driving impact within the local community, creating environmental change with urban bees, and setting growth goals for the future. 

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Show Notes

The symbolism that started a social venture 

Felix Thea: What is the origin story of Sweet Beginnings?

Daphne Williams: Sweet Beginnings was started by the CEO of the North Lawndale Employment Network and her name is Brenda Palms Barber. And she is an amazing visionary. The story of Sweet Beginnings is really connected to that organization and the sense that North Lawndale Employment Network is a nonprofit and it is anchored in the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago specifically in Chicago’s Westside. It is a nonprofit organization that exists to serve the residents of the community. And when we talk about what we have to kind of keep it in the context that the North Lawndale neighborhood is a neighborhood that had a changing demographic over a period of time.

Its residents have lived in the neighborhood for a long time, but they really don’t have a lot of employment. The unemployment rate in North Lawndale is about 53%. The network is a resource for the residents and the community, and Sweet Beginnings began because a lot of the people that are served in nonprofit are people that have had a history of incarceration. We began as a social enterprise to help people who were previously incarcerated and were having a difficult time finding a job.

Felix: How did the idea of selling products incorporated with honey begin? 

Daphne: As Brenda shares, there are a lot of ideas that were really floated in terms of what are good social business ideas like landscaping, delivery services, and small motor repair. But when they took a step back and realized that those businesses were plentiful in the market. So someone had approached her and said, “What about bees?” And this was a friend of hers who had been on the board and there were a lot of apprehensions because bee stings. They realized that there was such an interesting parallel between bees and people who were turning to society from being incarcerated. People have a fear of bees. They’re afraid of getting stung. People also have this perception about people who have been incarcerated that they’re not good people or have done horrible things. And so having a business that merged kind of married bees and formerly incarcerated people was a way to kind of take a sting out of the stigma of both. So they went with bee, beekeeping and we currently manage five apiaries. And so the people that come through our program and come through our social enterprise are involved in understanding bees and how to beekeeping. The great thing about beekeeping is that it’s really passed along through storytelling. So you don’t have to read a lot of manuals really about beekeeping. That was something that was really important around having a business idea they didn’t want a business idea that was going to require a large amount of education or that you had to be widely credentialed. They wanted a business idea that kind of had a little bit of an art to it.

Beekeeping taking place by participants of Sweet Beginnings' programs.
Turning the symbolism of bees and those who are previously incarcerated into second chances and products. Sweet Beginnings

Felix: What day zero was like? Was there a lot of groundwork that needed to be laid first or built up by Brenda and any other founding members?

Daphne: When I spoke about the North Lawndale Employment Network, one of the key programs that the North Lawndale Employment Network is called U-Turn Permitted. And that program mostly takes end people who have been previously incarcerated. It provides them with anger management and cognitive behavioral therapy, and it also prepares them for the job market. So when you think about getting people prepared for the job market, it’s around helping them understand how to dress professionally, helping them understand how to interview, giving them tools so they can understand how to write a resume. And have all those skills so they’re ready to go out and actually look for a job and interview when so one. They are the people that actually come to Sweet Beginnings. At the end of their journey at the North Lawndale Employment Network when they’re engaged in a job search Sweet Beginnings is actually one of their options as an employer where they can come and interview. So we are a direct employer to the North Lawndale Employment Network and those particular clients that come out of that program.

Felix: Where did this knowledge or expertise come from once the organization had decided on a business and a product to create?

Daphne: I don’t think anyone here at North Lawndale Employment Network had all of the deep understanding of bees and bee behaviors. We do have a master beekeeper that works with our social enterprise. And we’ve had master beekeepers prior to the one that we have now. So we have that expertise that we’ve had to build into our own organization to help us with that.

How the sweet product developed occurred 

Felix: When it comes to the ecommerce element, what products were being sold because of beekeeping?

Daphne: We are purveyors of urban honey. We manage five apiaries and out of those apiaries, our team goes, they extract the honey, we jar it, and we distribute it through stores in the Chicago land area. The e-commerce platform for us is relatively new. We’ve been on a platform for about a couple of years. And prior to that we were really just engaged and going out into the community and participating in farmer’s markets, and getting the honey out there. What we realized is that the honey really in itself didn’t really generate the profit margins that we would have loved to have had. Even though it’s really a key part of our product portfolio, we did have to expand into other products. So we offer six core honey-infused skincare products that are sold on our e-commerce site.

Felix: How did the decision come about to expand into something like skincare or any other product lines that the team has ventured into since the beginning?

Daphne: It was really looking at the profit margins of the honey and understanding that we’ve really needed to have greater profit margins. And so our founders, one that really enjoys beauty products and appreciates high-quality skincare products. She saw the opportunity to merge the honey that we were actually harvesting and getting it infused into skincare products. So our products are naturally made. We source very high-quality products. We put that together with the honey and now we have our Beelove Honey infused skincare line.

Some honey jared from BeeLove by Sweet Beginnings.
The product that started it all, raw natural honey, from BeeLove by Sweet Beginnings Sweet Beginnings

One main ingredient in many different distribution paths 

Felix: Can you talk a little bit more about the initial sales channels used to distribute products out to the community?

Daphne: We started at farmer’s markets that was the natural place to begin and community events to make sure that we had a presence there. We’d get our transitional team out into those particular markets and it was a great way for them to interact with the public and to develop selling skills. So it was a great way to have this product and connect our clients with the public. Then we got into the retail space and after hearing from many of our customers saying that we needed to be in grocery stores. And so our distribution is primarily today at one of the largest Chicago grocery store chains. And then we also are in one of the co-op markets in the Chicagoland area. We also sell our honey and our skin care products online through our e-commerce store. And then we also do a lot of things like pop-up shops. And then we have these really wonderful corporate partners that also allow us to come in during the holiday season and either sell on-site to their employees or they’ll work with us in terms of employee gifting.

Felix: What was the process like to get into grocery stores? 

Daphne: We get a lot of interest from people because of the work that we do. So people are really fascinated around how we married bees and beekeeping with people who were previously incarcerated. I think it’s really about the alignment and the recognition of the good work that we’re doing in the community that has afforded us the opportunity to be in the retail spaces that we are in. Our co-op markets are of course offering more of the natural color product and so we have a good fit with them. And then our large grocery store chain has just been a very good partner from the beginning. And they’re local when they really see the value in the work that we’re doing.

Felix: Can you talk to us about how the food co-ops work?

Daphne: I think it’s about having a relationship and making sure that the store managers or the owners of those co-ops know who you are and boards of those co-ops, know who you are and brokering that particular relationship.

Felix: Tell us more about the impact of ecommerce and how it helped to build your relationship with other distributors. 

Daphne: I would say that our online sales actually serve in very different capacities. Our online stores really allow us to reach people who have heard our story. Sweet Beginnings has been really the beneficiary of a lot of media attention. So not only do we get local media attention, but we also get a lot of national media attention. And it’s been wonderful because again, that interest and the work that we’re doing with bees and beekeeping and pre-formerly incarcerated people have really just caught on. When we started Sweet Beginnings, we thought it was just going to be a very local social enterprise and that the recognition would only be really here in the Chicagoland area or throughout the state. And what we found is that as we started getting more and more media attention, there actually became a demand for our products. And the ecommerce platform has actually worked to fulfill that. Our ecommerce platform has been absolutely instrumental in us being able to reach our customers across the country. So when we look at some of our data, we see that we have a good following of people in Los Angeles and in the Bay area, in New York and in DC. So those people do go to our ecommerce platform and buy. It’s been instrumental for us to reach people with our message and our work and continue to communicate with them around the impact of the work that we’re doing here in this particular community.

Felix: What’s the next step once you realize that there’s a concentration of fans and customers in a city?

Daphne: So our work is local community work. And when we think about our goals and our key performance indicators, we do have some of the traditional KPIs which are like looking at sales and growth but our real KPIs is around the impact of the people that we serve. At Sweet Beginnings, we want our transitional team to come and learn the end to end production of our honey and our honey-infused skincare products. So they participate in everything from extracting the honey to going out into the apiaries and actually being here on-site and creating that skincare product. So they’re really engaged in the work of Beelove. They also go out and they do the distribution and then we get them out into community events and sales. So we really want to keep our work local because it’s about looking at how much we can grow so we can hire more people here to do this work. And so at this point in time, we don’t have any plans to expand into any brick and mortar spaces outside of the Chicago area.

Training for life beyond the job 

Felix: What is the process to facilitate onboarding new employees so that they’re ready to hit the ground running as soon as they can?

Daphne: We work closely with our nonprofit North Lawndale Employment Network to let them know that we have positions that are available at Sweet Beginnings. They will send clients over to us that they feel are really good clients for us to interview when we have openings. Once they start at Sweet Beginnings, we actually give them an orientation about what the organization does that we were created for people like them. We give them an opportunity every day to be able to meet, we do a reflective practice every morning, that anchors people. Certainly, people come to work sometimes with things that are on their mind that might be happening in their personal lives. And so we feel the really strong need to acknowledge that. So every morning we have a meeting that kind of anchors people around the reflective practice, and then we go into the business items of the day. And that’s covering what sales we have gotten in either from our online store or from a corporate partner. We talk about where we need to distribute, where there any particular stores and our major grocery store partner that needed to have shelves restocked. We talk about inventory and actually looking at what needs to be made in terms of production for the day. So after we do kind of our reflective practice we really dig into sort of those business aspects of what needs to happen from operations and production standpoint.

Sweet Beginnings' employees working on the last few steps of production.
Employees of Sweet Beginnings get to be a part of the whole process from beekeeping to packing of each product. Sweet Beginnings

The team in the first month are learning the ropes of how we function, then as we move into the second month, we start to lay out more expectations around being a contributor. Looking to see where there are opportunities for someone to lead on the production line, looking for opportunities to someone to take the lead and sales. So that second month we’re really focused on even getting people our team out there into the community and selling and building up their comfort level for that. The third month that they’re here is all about giving them that confidence that they can actually go out and start looking for a job on their own. So in the last month, the very last two weeks, we continue to engage with North Lawndale Employment Network and send our clients back there to participate in something called Job Club. And the Job Club is where they are working on their resume. They’re working on their interviewing skills. So they’re continuing all throughout the time they’re here at Sweet Beginnings, but they’re really ramping it up that last two weeks here at Sweet Beginnings because they’re going to have to move on and find work on their own.

Felix: What’s involved for individuals who want to start a social enterprise similar to Sweet Beginnings? 

Daphne: We get inquiries all the time around, how to start a social enterprise? And we have an interest in doing this for a similar population of people. So that’s something that we’ve been able to provide some advice and counsel to other people in other parts of the country around that. We encourage people to find ways that they can engage any population, whether it be youth or formerly incarcerated to have a social enterprise around that and give them the opportunity to work and establish a work history.

Felix: When people ask why someone should hire from youth and formerly incarcerated populations, what is the point of view you share? 

Daphne: I would say that it’s a confidence builder for our team. So many of our men and women that come into Sweet Beginnings, they’ve really lost a sense of their self-worth. And we’re giving them an opportunity to start over. If you can think about it, we’re helping them course-correct their lives and getting them prepared for the next chapter in their journey. And the people that we encounter, they have just a wealth of knowledge. They’re absolutely competent and capable and individuals that are driven and we can see when we work with them that they will be tremendous assets to an organization one day. And so we really focus on helping people bring their sense of self back and their self-worth and their spirit and the dignity that they may not have had before they came to Sweet Beginnings. And so to me, that’s all the more reason why people should have a model like this. And in the end, hire people that may have really struggled in life, but they have a lot to give and they have really unique and rich perspectives on life.

The feedback that shapes the social enterprise 

Felix: Through surveys what were some of the most impactful questions that helped you to get feedback that helps you change the direction that you took the business?

Daphne: One of the things that struck us, was that 72% of those customers that responded said that they bought Beelove because of the mission. And so that just really spoke to the power of the work that we do here at Sweet Beginnings. Another thing that stood out to us was the difference in social media usage. People in the older end that responded really were great Facebook users while people in the younger and were more Instagram users. That was something that was really important to us. We really have not developed a level of sophistication here in the digital marketing or social media landscape. And that’s something that we want to put a lot more energy into. We realized that digital marketing and having a well-developed ecosystem is really going to help us grow in the future. So that customer survey also helped to inform us of that. Another great thing that we learned from the survey that will definitely drive some of the things that we’re going to consider moving forward is understanding causes that our customers are passionate about. And the environment was number one. And that’s no surprise because we work with bees and bees are such creatures to our ecosystem. So but it got us thinking about how do we pack our products and how do we ship our products and are there things that we can do in the future that are more environmentally friendly? So there were things from that survey that were absolutely some things that we already knew and some things that absolutely are informing the work that we’re going to do moving forward.

Felix: Do you ever run into situations where you were to make a decision that conflicts between the social side, but hurt the economics or hurt the product or vice versa? 

Daphne: We get a lot of questions around scaling up with a large discount national retailer in the country? And that might be exciting. But then there’s a part of you that’s like, “well, we’re trying to help as many people as we can in our community and stay focused on giving them the experience of creating this artisanal product that people love.” And that is really the priority is being able to have a social enterprise that is business-focused, yet really focused and on the human spirit. And what that means is that sometimes you have to make trade-offs around that. Our environment here is one that is really caring and nurturing. And we want it to be a safe environment because we’re getting people at a really vulnerable time of their lives. And we also want to teach them business skills. And so, yeah the trade-off is as such you don’t know we’re not scaling up right now into being this kind of mass manufacturer that we are focused in on helping people and their journey, giving them the opportunity to kind of dig in deep and learn a little bit more about business to help them find self-worth, help them find the leadership skills within them, give them the opportunity to contribute and to be a really, really strong team player in this particular business. I would also say that we are a team of three full-time people and so we wear a lot of different hats and we are very cross-functional, meaning that we have to do a lot of different functionals. So not cross-functional in the sense that we have all these different departments and we come together and we work, we are all the different departments. And so that on a day to day basis is like trying to always prioritize like what do we juggle today? And sometimes I go home and people say, “Oh, what you do today?” And it’s like, well, I handled everything from payroll to parole. That I helped with timesheets and I talked to someone’s parole officer and I also had to spend time in developing the marketing strategy or I needed to do a customer interview or I needed to order a round of a product. So every day is very, very different here at Sweet Beginnings that really calls for us to reprioritize a lot on a daily basis.

Selection of BeeLove's body and skincare products.
Expanding to skincare items allowed Sweet Beginnings to improve profits and widen their product offerings. Sweet Beginnings

Felix: So for someone out there that is focused on growth and let’s say you could choose how to spend your time, where would you like to focus more of your time if I guess the goal is growth?

Daphne: I think while we have like this day to day re-prioritization because we’re a small team and we juggle a lot the emphasis that I have is like what are the three big things that we can tackle? So in some organizations, it might be tackling six to 10 things. But in this organization, it’s like, what are the three things that we can do to really drive business? And I think for me it’s like in order to do that we need to understand who our customer is today, what Beelove means to them as a brand? Why do they support us?

Understanding our current customer profile and then identifying who we can go after. And then from that thinking about how we market strategically to that particular audience. And then the other thing is how can we get to be more sophisticated in terms of our digital marketing and social media. That’s really, really important. So it’s not like we can tackle like 10 things we’re going to accomplish this year in terms of a growth strategy. It’s about what are the reasonable things that we can accomplish this year and that can make the difference for our next fiscal year.

Felix: What is more valuable? Mass surveys or individual customer interviews?

Daphne: The surveys give you a general read of what’s happening. The one-to-one interviews can be particularly insightful. One interview I did, a customer brought our product and showed me where they purchased the products from, and what else is in their cabinet. That provides a certain level of insight as to what they actually purchase. It’s a good read to see what people say they do and what they really do.

Felix: How different is that between what they say they do versus what they actually do?

Daphne: Sometimes in surveys, if there’s sometimes people, if they’re rushing to get through that they may not be as revealing. And also you don’t want to keep people in a survey environment they are too long because that can be laborious for them to complete. So the one-to-one interviews are actually quite nice and it just gives a better read on kind of behavior and how people in this case like to shop or how they like to use products.

Plans for the future of New Beginnings 

Felix: So it sounds like in a lot of these surveys there’s an emphasis on or focus on the frequency of purchases or when or why they purchase. Was there a reason why you’re looking for this information?

Daphne: One of the things that we know about Beelove is that people love to give Beelove as a gift. So we see our peak sales season as the holiday time period starting around the end of October and then November and December and a little bit of early January where there’s just a flurry of activity around giving the gift of Beelove. But the reason why we’re trying to understand our customers a bit more and interviewing customers is that we’re hoping to kind of break that seasonality. We know that the holiday season is always going to be a big-time just in general in retail. But we have these wonderful skincare products that people can use on a daily basis. And so we want to be able to start marketing ourselves as that. Is that when you need that lotion, that daily body lotion to use you should think about Beelove then as well.

Felix: How do you begin to break seasonality?

Daphne: Yeah, I think it’s all going to be in the messaging and how we talk to our customers. And then even the messaging around like that mission that you don’t have to just wait until the holiday time, time frame to be mission-focused that you can certainly support our mission every day through the use of our products on a regular basis.

Felix: What do you think needs to happen this year for you to consider this year a success?

Daphne: I would say for this year it is elevating our marketing, expanding our social media presence, connecting with partners, our corporate partners, and so looking to kind of expand our corporate network to organizations that find the value in the work that we do. So that would be big for us in terms of having a successful year.



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How to Start a Business: Our 12 Step Guide

How to Start a Business: Our 12 Step Guide


Entrepreneurship is an idea that appeals to many, but figuring out how to start a business can sometimes be so overwhelming it scares people away. It’s time to stop telling people that you’re going to start a business and actually put in the work to make it happen. In this article, we’ll break down the steps of starting a business to set yourself up for success. 

How to Start a Business

Starting a business involves planning, making financial decisions, doing market research, and acquiring knowledge in areas you never thought you would learn about before. We created this 12 step guide to starting a business to help you put your best foot forward today. It is important to note that there is no one size fits all model to starting a new business but these steps will help you organize your thoughts, and iron out important details so when you launch your business you have answered all the important startup questions.

Step 1. Ask Yourself if You’re Ready

There will never be a right time to start a business. If the stars couldn’t align for Romeo and Juliet, they probably won’t align for you either. But you can either look at that as the thing that holds you back from starting or use that to push you to start today.

When it comes down to deciding if you’re ready to start a business, it’s more about mindset than timing. Are you in the frame of mind right now to win? If you didn’t shout heck yeah at your computer screen, you might need to re-examine if entrepreneurship is the right path for you.

The reality is saying you’re going to start a business is easy. But doing it, turning nothing into something that makes money, that can be a whole lot tougher. 

And you need to be mentally prepared to take something on. Why? Well, there are going to be challenges like creating ads that generate sales. And if your mindset isn’t in the right place, any failure could devastate you. But if you’re in the right mindset, you’ll KAPOW! failures until you finally start hitting your big wins. 

stars align

Step 2. Determine What Type of Business to Start 

The next step of starting a business is to figure out what type of business to start. 

Is there a niche that you’re particular passionate about? Are you looking for a business that you actively work on or just own? Are you looking for a business to start by yourself or with a partner? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before starting a business. 

You can start everything from a Shopify store like MVMT Watches did to a freelance business. You can choose to build a business by yourself by owning a consulting business or you can build a company with a team such as a manufacturing company or a restaurant.

how to start a business

To figure out what type of business you want to start, create a list of things you’re passionate about. For example, yoga, personal finance, dogs, movies, food, and clothing. 

Next, use a tool like Keywords Everywhere to look up the search volume of your list in Google. This will help you understand how popular your list of ideas is. You can also use Google Trends to analyze whether the trend is trending upward or downward or if it’s stable to determine the niche’s long-term viability. 

Then, look at the top three most popular keywords on your list and answer this question, “In five years from now, which niche would not only get me out of bed in the morning but would also excite me enough to continue creating content/products/tools for it?”

So, what’s your big business idea? Feel free to share in the comments.

Step 3. Do Market Research

So now that you have your business idea it’s time to figure out if and how you can make money in that niche.

For example, say you wanted to start a dog business. You can start a dog kennel, a grooming business, a dog sitting website, a dog blog, or start an online dog products store.

In this phase, you’ll want to break down which business type is easiest to start, best aligns with your talents, fits within your budget, and analyze how the industry is performing.

If you’d like to start a business with more than one idea, you can definitely do that. For example, a person selling kitchen equipment online can also other home-related items . And a kitchen blog can also be monetized with an online store.

After figuring out what type of business you want to start, it’s time to start planning your business.

The search volume in the graphic below comes from the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension in case you want to use that in your research. 

how to start a dog business

Step 4. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

One of the biggest reasons for failure in business comes from naive expectations. I constantly hear stories of people pouring thousands of dollars into ads thinking they’ll triple or quadruple their money only to end up with that big, fat zero.

So, let’s try to paint what a realistic scenario looks like. Your first year in business is all about failure. Why? Because it’s your first business. 

Most people approach their first business with a sense of false optimism. If that guy can do it, so can I, you casually think to yourself. But what you casually ignore is the fact that that guy is on his fourth business or he’s been running it for seven years. 

I love, love, love how excited people are as they begin learning how to start a business. But if you go into it thinking you’re going to dominate the world on day one, you’ll be failing in a matter of months due to drastic disappointment.

The difference between a successful business and a failed one is perseverance. Do you have what it takes to keep promoting your business even when you have no customers or website visitors after a month? Are you savvy enough to know when a strategy just isn’t going to work? And are you patient enough to play the slow and steady game (meaning that you might not see sales right away but will see bigger returns down the road)?

Now that you know that those first few months will take every ounce of hustle you’ve got, how will you approach your goals in the foundation stage of your business?

Maybe instead of focusing on your first sale, you might focus on creating content to drive relevant traffic. Or maybe before you start a business, you choose to build a following on Instagram so that you have an audience when the time to launch comes. 

You can use SMART goals to guide your goal setting but ultimately the goals you set for yourself based on your experience and business type will be very personal to you. 

SMART Goals

Image Credit: Crawford Thomas

Step 5. Create a One-Page Business Plan

Unless you’re going to the bank to get a loan, you don’t need to overspend time on your business plan. On a piece of paper, handwrite a plan for your business. While this may be a bit voodoo (sorry!) I find that whenever I handwrite goals, I’m always more likely to achieve them. I always carry my goals around with me which helps remind me of them so I can’t escape them.

Now back to real-world advice. On your one-page business plan include the following:

  • Problem your business solves
  • A one-sentence elevator pitch (what does your business do)
  • A list of your target audiences (e.g. people who own dogs, people who follow dog accounts on social media)
  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to your business)
  • Marketing plan (list of ideas on how you’ll promote your business)
  • Financial plan (list of business costs, how you’ll make money to pay for the business in the beginning and how your business will make money)
  • Financial projections for each quarter (e.g. January to March, April to June, etc.)

Step 6. Get Feedback 

So now that you’ve got the idea, you’ve set some goals, and you’ve created a plan, it’s time to get feedback on your idea. This stage has been known to kill many ideas (and sometimes even good ones). The point of the feedback stage is to get a second opinion on how you can improve your idea. Instead of asking for feedback on the business idea, ask for feedback on a certain component of it. And whatever you do, don’t ask someone you love. Trust me.

Most cities have business centers where you can speak with an in-house entrepreneur who will give you feedback on how to start a business. Some cities even have programs for younger adults that allow you to be mentored by an entrepreneur in your field. So be sure to get feedback from the right people to help you inch closer to business success. 

Step 7. Find a Way to Pay for Your Business

The most common way people pay for their business is through their 9 to 5 job. Avoid quitting your day gig until you’ve generated enough to pay your costs, taxes, and yourself with six months runway. In the beginning, you likely won’t be able to pay yourself, as you’ll need to reinvest your earnings back into your business so you can scale the business faster. 

However, some businesses have very minimal costs such as freelance businesses which might require some software or a computer which you might already own or have access to. 

Step 8.  Pair Up With a Partner 

Solopreneurship is on the rise and so this won’t apply to all. But success in business sometimes comes in pairs. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any successful business. There’s going to be a lot of time and resources that’ll go into your business. And having someone you trust to build alongside you can allow you to break up the workload so you progress faster. It’s also great for holding you accountable.

The important thing to stress about a partnership is that you really need to know how well you work with someone. Is this person trustworthy? Have you worked together before? How have the two of you managed conflicts in the past? Do your skillsets balance each other out? Will a business relationship ruin your current relationship/friendship? Make sure to ask all the tough questions because choosing the wrong partner, if you even decide to have one at all, can have negative consequences.

how to start a business with a partner

Step 9. Name Your Business

Coming up with the perfect business name can be hard, especially if you want a .com domain to go along with it. You can use a free business name generator to help you come up with a name.

Most brands try to include their keyword in the brand name, such as Fashion Nova. However, some brands create a unique name, such as Oberlo. 

The business name you choose should be catchy, memorable, easy to spell when heard, have available usernames and a domain, and be concise. 

Sometimes the best naming ideas come after bouncing names with a friend as a second opinion helps give you a different perspective. So feel free to get a second opinion if you feel stuck when choosing the right brand name. 

how to choose a business name

Step 10. Register Your Business

In some cities or states, you don’t need to register your business until you’ve earned a set amount of income or profit from it so you’ll need to do your due diligence to see what laws apply for you.

However, some entrepreneurs register their businesses on day one to prevent liability. For example, if you’re incorporated on day one and you get sued in the early stages of your business, your business takes the hit instead of you. So, the sooner you incorporate your business, the safer you (personally) are from a legal perspective.

Of course, incorporation isn’t the only business model. You can also choose to become a sole proprietor or create a partnership business. You’ll need to do some research prior to starting a business to determine which business model is best for your situation. 

Step 11. Create Your First Product or Service

There are a number of products or services you can create to sell to your audience when starting a business. 

In e-commerce, you can use Oberlo to choose from millions of products that you can sell from any popular niche such as fashion, jewelry, home decor, automotive, beauty, electronics, and more. 

how to choose products for your business

If you’re an industry expert, you can create digital products such as ebooks, courses, music, or other digital content to sell to others. You can monetize your expertise with products and upsell with services.

As for software businesses, you can create a SAAS product that helps other businesses. Or if you’re a consultant, you can offer speaking gigs, coaching, or your skillset. 

The products you create for your business will depend heavily on your skillset and business type. However, there are countless products that can be ordered or created that you can sell to an audience. 

Step 12. Promote Your Business

The most important part of starting a business is the promotion stage. Getting your business in front of people will help you generate sales so that your idea turns into a business. Here are a few ways you can promote your business idea:

  • Facebook: You can run Facebook Ads by going after “broad” interests and including relevant brands as an interest to capture their audience. You can also post in Facebook groups as your fan page which is great for businesses with niche audiences. 
  • Instagram: Grow your Instagram followers so you can make sales with each Instagram post. You can also add direct links in Instagram Stories to capture more sales.
  • Pinterest: Group boards are a great way to get visibility on your posts when you’re starting out. You can also create your own boards to promote your content on. Be sure to promote other brand’s content to avoid triggering your account as spam.
  • LinkedIn: Build your personal brand by creating posts and sharing thoughts on articles on LinkedIn. Invite relevant users to follow you to increase your reach. 
  • SEO: By optimizing your website for search and creating blog content you can generate more leads, email subscribers, and website traffic
  • Quora: Answer niche questions on Quora to promote your website. You can use SEO tools to find high-ranked Quora keywords to help increase your visibility on the platform. 

Additional Resources to Start a Business

Starting a business is no small feat. You need a lot of courage, creativity, motivation, and so much more, to take the leap. So here are some additional Oberlo resources that will help you start a business in 2020:

Reasons to Start a Business: Looking for reasons to start a business? We asked entrepreneurs why they started a business and they gave us answers so real you wouldn’t believe it!

How to Find Time to Start a Successful Side Business: Not ready to dive head-first into a full time business? We share our time-saving secrets that you can try through starting a side business before you move onto your full time idea.

30+ Small Business Ideas That’ll Make You Money in 2020: Want to start an ecommerce store but not sure what to sell? These small business ideas are perfect for new entrepreneurs who are looking to get their startup off the ground.

What’s Your Motivation? 11 Merchants Share Their Reasons for Starting a Business: Worried about starting a business? There are many different reasons for starting a business and your motivation might be totally different to others. Whatever your reason, it’s important to stay inspired throughout the entrepreneurial journey. We talked to 11 successful merchants and discovered their reason for starting a business to help you.

Realistic Dropshipping Budgets for 2020: Our top performing YouTube video walks you through how, working with Oberlo and Shopify, you can set up a dropshipping business that will be low risk, and low cost.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to start a business, there’s an exciting adventure of creating one that awaits you. Pushing yourself to finally take life by the horns and take that first step can be a bit scary. But once you get started you realize that the process of starting a business can be pretty fun. There will be challenges and roadblocks along the way but as long as you push ahead and learn from mistakes there’s nothing that’ll block your success. All you need to do now is take that first step and you’re well on your way to starting a business.

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