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10 e-commerce essentials you should know and plan for

There is a lot more to think about, other than technology and payment gateways when starting an E-commerce store.

 |  Ecommerce

Following up from my recent post about E-commerce in the UAE, a major part of the talk by Moustafa Mahmood was about the 10 E-commerce Essentials that you must absolutely keep in mind before starting out. Here is a summary of the topics, with additional information on each point.

1. Plan for PROFIT with your E-commerce store

Because, if that is not what your goal is, then you might as well leave now!

At the end of the day, the goal of any business should be to turn a profit (unless ofcoz you are a Non Profit Organisation and just wanna make the world a better place). In order to go this, you need to continuously analyze your activity and learn to adapt and change to what your metrics show you. Here are some tools that help you track the activity of your users.

Kiss Metrics

Kiss Metrics is an analytics company specifically designed to provide analytics on a user rather than a website. As described on the Kiss Metrics E-Commerce features page ” We don’t REALLY know what customers are looking for or which products will make them happy. Most of the time, we throw a bunch of traffic at our site and hope purchases come out the other end. If you had a deeper understanding for what turns prospects into customers and what turns customers into repeat customers, you could persuade more people to purchase from you.”

See the features offered by Kiss Metrics E-commerce


Started in early 2010, Mixpanel is now considered as great tool to measure event based actions against users – something which is very useful to measure in e-commerce. Visit for more details.

2. Goal and Exit Strategy

Ask your self, Why are you doing this? Is it because you want to make Real Money or Recreational Money?

What I mean by Recreational Money is; You are currently employed and your are doing absolutely fine at it. You still want to start making some money soon – but at the same time, you don’t want to give up your job and you think that setting up an online store would be great because you can continue working for the 9 – 10 hours a day that you usually do and let the store make money on its own.

This is what we term as Recreational Money, because to make Real Money you need to be involved in your business all the time. You need to invest in time and money, set goals and concentrate on actually running your store than thinking it will run itself.

3. Do the Research

I once had a prospect come to me and say that they want to setup an ecommerce shop. They want me to source out the best suppliers, negotiate on product logistic terms, design a great looking website, and develop it as I see fit. Once all this is done, they wanted me to also source out the best images for their products and do the content for the website – and then, finally – train them on how to use the CMS.

Now I don’t need to spell out how totally absurd that is – right!? Its pretty darn good they dint want me to even run the store for them and hand them the profit on a silver plate.

Its essential to get involved in your startup from day one. Research for the every single possible situation – start with Market research to find out if what you are selling is actually going to be accepted. Do a Competitor Analysis, search for relevant keywords online that pertain to your business, make sure you spin your content around those keywords and finally make sure you know your product in and out.

4. Your USP

Price is not everything! Telling the word that you charge a $1 less than your competitor won’t win you the business. Find out what you can offer unique and brand yourself towards that USP (Unique Selling Point). A great example of a local startup in UAE that branded themselves as the fastest on delivery time is – they started out with the promise of delivery within 3 hours during the day in the same city. Now that is something others may not easily offer.

5. Who is doing what?

Technology can get difficult to understand at time, but make sure there are clear defined roles and tasks for the following;

  • Web Design & Development
  • Sales & Operations
  • Customer Support
  • Copy writing & Web Content and Assets
  • Data Entry
  • Marketing and SEO

6. Sales & Customer Support

Loosing your credibility to a loyal customer is bad for business – and one of the best ways to do that is when you don’t provide good customer support.

Make sure your response time to customer is as minimum as possible, you can use various tools and channels to achieve this. Twitter can sometimes be an excellent channel for customer support apart from everything else. Also, pay attention to detail and personalize your responses – which means don’t send an email back addressing your customer as “Dear Customer”

Pay attention to sales and customer support – in fact if you are the founder of the startup, this is where you should actually be involved in.

7. Product Management

At the end of the day, the thing that you are selling needs to be qualitative. Select your sources for supply carefully and deliver what you actually sold. Make sure your warrenty and return policy is very clear on your website and refrain from selling replica’s.

Finally, make sure that the data entered on your website is actually in accordance to what you are selling.

8. Drop Shipping v.s Holding Stock

Hold stock

This means that you have the inventory of the products in a warehouse currently and you plan to ship the product yourself. Usually this seems to be an expensive model to start out with, considering that you need to invest in warehousing and man power to keep it running. Other options could also be demand based supply, where you can place an order with your supplier after a sale transaction is completed on your website.

Drop Shipping

This is when you accept a sale on your website and inform your supplier to directly ship the product to your customer. You do not need to hold stock of the products and this model seems great when the cost of getting the products and storing them seem to eat up your profits. The downside of this however is that you may loose a customer if your drop shipper delivers the product with their branding or worse, does not deliver at all.

9. Shipping and Logistics

Be very clear on how you will fulfill an order. Will you hire a courier? Have you factored in the cost of a courier? will you charge a flat fee, or will you pay based on the weight? Will you absorb this overhead and offer free shipping to your consumer or will you transfer this cost to the user.

These are just a few basic questions to pick your brains on. Also keep in mind that if you are offering a payment option of Cash on Deliver, then this would actually be the point of sale for you if a user has selected that option.

Finally be very clear on your return policy – if you are offering returns, factor in the cost of collecting the returned products again if you are using a courier service.

10. Have clear Terms and Conditions

Essentially, you need to build trust – and also make sure you are covered from all legal aspects. Make sure you have clear terms and conditions on Returns, User data and shipping conditions. A loose or ‘not-so-well thought off’ return policy may complete eat up your profits. If you are offering the option of returns, make sure the conditions of returns are clearly mentioned.

Try to never offer Money back guarantees in the form of cash. Use store credits or an exchange policy.


As you may have noticed, we dint even talk about technology or payments. In essence the first thing startups want to know is how are they going to build the website and how will they accept credit cards online. What I have attempted to showcase here is that there is a lot more to consider before those 2 things.

More in the series of the E-commerce master class will follow, so stay tuned here.

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