Essential Skills to Learn Before Creating / Purchasing / Operating an E-commerce Business
I run an e-commerce business, so I have a lot to say about this topic. Frankly, this is a very short list of all the things you need to know, but the vast majority of them you'll learn over time - not before you start.
1. Just start.
You're never going to take enough courses, read enough articles, or listen to enough podcasts to be ready. The list of what you need to know is bottomless, so it's best to start and learn along the way.
2. Practice "just-in-time learning."
I don't know who deserves the original attribution for this idea. Tim Ferriss talks about it in the 4-Hour Work Week, and I've heard Pat Flynn discuss it at length. Regardless, what's most important is the mindset: Don't concern yourself with learning A, B, C, D, and E if you don't even need to know them right now. Learn what you need to know now and keep learning new things in this manner.
This is the most critical skill.
You need an open, abundant, POSITIVE mindset. Why are you building this business? Being in business is about creating value for your customers. Money is just the side benefit of doing a good job delivering that value. If all you're thinking about is "how do I make more money, more money, more money?" you've already lost, because it will be reflected in how you treat customers, and just as important, how you treat yourself. You're going to be anxious, stressed, and unhappy. Focus on providing positive value to your customers and let the rest fall where it lands.
4. CUSTOMER SERVICE/RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT.
Critical. Get awesome at customer service. Read books and articles from people who work in customer service. Learn to speak and write to customers in a manner that is 100% helpful, friendly, and all about them - no matter how they treat you. Always answer calls right away and respond to emails in as fast and effective a manner as possible. Always be kind and NEVER be a jerk. All of this goes for how you work with your suppliers as well.
Build your store on Shopify. It's the best e-commerce platform out there and easy to learn.
6. Product page design.
Understand what makes for a good product page. Study what your competitors are doing with their product pages. What do your customers want to see? What's going to help them make a quality purchase? Don't worry about the latest popup, flyout, widget, spin wheel, and other nonsense to get customers' attention. Learn good, basic, quality product page design and your customers will be satisfied and will want to buy.
Probably not the most important item for day 1, but over time you'll want to improve your product descriptions and page layouts so they're unique, compelling, and SEO-friendly.
8. PPC advertising.
This is where you're going to get the majority of your traffic and sales, at least at first. Focus on learning Google Shopping Campaigns before getting into Facebook, Instagram, and any other option.
9. Basic accounting.
Link up your store and business accounts with quality accounting software and learn how to use it to reconcile transactions. Critical. And hire an accountant.
If you're lucky, you'll be an overnight success. If you're like the rest of the 99% of us, you'll build over time. So, be patient. Enjoy the process. Make sure you're having fun and that it's not a drag to work on your store. If it is, shut it down and do something else. Otherwise, you're just giving yourself a job you hate, and why do that when you can go out and get one of those anytime without the effort of running a business?