Whether you have a full-time job or you’re exploring a career change, it’s easy to start an ecommerce business in your spare time.
The barriers to starting an ecommerce venture are much lower than for a traditional business, and the market is exploding. In 2019, there will be nearly two billion digital global buyers.
That being said, you don’t want to throw money at just any ecommerce business idea and hope it sticks. Luckily, there’s a simple three-step process for measuring interest for your concept before you commit real business funding to it—centered around the concept of landing pages:
A landing page isn’t a full-fledged website, it’s a standalone page that a user lands on after clicking a link, typically through an ad.
When creating a landing page to test an idea, you don’t need to invest a lot of time or resources. Use a platform like Instapage or Unbounce to build clean, clear landing pages with the following information “above the fold” (meaning users won’t need to scroll to see it):
A single ecommerce landing page by itself won’t tell you the whole story. You’ll need to create a few different versions in order to isolate the variables that don’t work about your pitch (maybe your benefits aren’t engaging enough to your target audience, or the placement of your content on the page makes it difficult to read).
Create a few different landing page versions, changing a variable each time (your copy, your layout, your pricing, your CTA), and measure how visitors engage with each one. Does one version lag behind the others? Eliminate that one and replace it with a version similar to your best-performing versions, with another variable changed. Continue to test, tweak, and test again until you see little variability among your pages.
At this point, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether visitors are interested in your business idea and if they would convert into customers.
The question is, how do you drive enough unbiased traffic to measure interest? That’s where advertising comes in.
Getting your friends and family to sign up for your newsletter only proves that you have a supportive network, which is great! But to truly test your idea, you’ll need the support of strangers. That’s where Google and Facebook come in.
These two companies are the behemoths of internet advertising, and they appeal to different people in different ways (Google’s users actively search for information; Facebook’s passively scroll through content). That’s why you should run advertisements on both: what might work for one audience may not work for another.
Google gets over 1.2 trillion searches per year. Facebook has over 2.3 billion monthly active users. These are huge pools of potential traffic for you.
When starting out, commit as little as $100 in advertising to each platform, and set broad audience parameters to cast a wide net. On Facebook, you might set a few variables such as the age range, if you have a target audience in mind. Facebook will optimize your ad and increasingly target people it expects will want to click your links.
On both platforms, test different versions of your ads, just as you did with your landing pages. Write different versions of your headline and copy, and try different images, to see what performs best.
Once you have a sizeable stream of visitors to your best-performing landing pages, you can begin to analyze two important metrics: click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CVR).
Click-through rate is the percentage of people who click your ad after seeing it. The average CTR for search ads is 1.91%, and 0.35% for display ads. If your ads perform better than those numbers, that’s a good indicator that you’re writing quality copy and piquing people’s interest with your business idea.
A good CVR, however, is crucial: This is the percentage of people that, once they visit your page, complete your call-to-action. Again, just a few percentage points demonstrates high interest, as just under 2% is the average CVR on mobile devices, and just under 4% is average on desktops.
Are you converting a high percentage of visitors? Are you building a solid list of email addresses you can follow up with once you actually build out your product? Good news: You’ve probably identified a strong ecommerce business idea. Now all you have to do is get started.
Eric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as business loans. He covers entrepreneurship, marketing, small business trends, and finance.