Entrepreneur

We Lived Out Our Jack Ma Dreams As eCommerce Entrepreneurs, And All It Took Was 30 Minutes

Becoming an ecommerce entrepreneur is now as easy as baking a cake – unless you’re like me who can’t bake to save a life, then it’s as easy as cooking instant noodles.

Successful local ecommerce startups like Pawrus and OhSoFickle began with a website or app, a unique solution to a problem, and working capitals of relatively low amounts.

They’re all regular people who took the leap of faith.

The idea of being an ‘ecommerce startup’ means having a low-cost barrier entry to starting your own business – and the viability of holding a full-time job while doing ecommerce on the side is truly possible.

Our Humble Business Idea

Like them, we wanted to give it a go, and so, the Vulcan Post team jumped at the idea of moonlighting – I mean, experimenting with another source of income through ecommerce.

We thought about what would be easy to sell that isn’t commonly found in Singapore, and we decided to start with cosmetics.

We chose to stock US-based makeup brand, ColourPop, known for its vivid, colourful range of lipsticks and eyeshadows. Another reason is also because one does not simply walk in to Sephora Singapore and purchase them.

Now that we settled on selling ‘what’, we had to decide on selling ‘where’.

We thought of P2P marketplace Carousell, but that would mean we’d have to negotiate and coordinate meetup locations at convenient times for both us and our potential buyers.

Shopify was another choice to get started, but we found that it is “more expensive upfront” as compared to an online marketplace, Etsy.

The latter, however isn’t as cost-effective in the long run and isn’t the Singaporean go-to site for buying cosmetics.

After doing some more research, we found this to be the best platform for us to begin our journey into entrepreneurship with a free trial for 15 days!

In all, I took about 20 minutes to 30 minutes to set up our online store on Shoptiq, which aims “to help build successful online businesses together“.

And if you have already thought of a store and company name, then that’s 10 minutes saved.

So here’s a quick look at how to become an online business owner; though becoming a multimillion ecommerce entrepreneur is another story for another day.

Setting Up An Account

Screenshot of Shoptiq’s sign-up page

When I hit the Sign Up button on the top right corner, I got to this page.

We actually spent most of our time on thinking of a name.

As we were setting out to be cosmetic dealers, we felt that the name should be catchy and relevant to the products. The first phrase that came to our minds was “va va voom” which elicited some laughter from our coworkers because it sounded old-fashioned and ridiculous.

We changed the first two syllables to reflect our publication name – and so, ‘vulvulVOOM’ was born!

VulVulVOOM is born!

After that, I was asked to fill in my basic personal information.

Filling in personal details

The address and contact number was automatically set up in our online store’s Contact Us page so it’s a neat feature that saves time.

This whole process took about five minutes – not including the 20 hours we took to come up with our name, of course.

Setting Up The Online Store

Here’s the fun part.

I was welcomed to Shoptiq to create the virtual storefront.

Time to get started!

Following the step-by-step tutorial, I was guided to the templates page where I had more than 60 website layouts to choose from – for free.

More than 60 themes to choose from

I picked the Clothing filter to narrow down the choices to get a format that would suit a makeup ecommerce store since there was no specific category for cosmetics.

There are templates for niche services such as Real Estate and Health Services, and if none of the pre-made templates are to your liking, you can choose Blank Template and DIY it out.

Shoptiq made the tutorial really simple to follow – after choosing the store’s layout, I was directed to the homepage where I could upload the products and update the inventory.

Adding products to our inventory

If the products have more than one colour or design, go to the Product Options tab and fill in the details.

As ColourPop has different types of lipsticks in different colours, I could easily add the colours in using the colour palette or with images. For retailers who sell clothes or any wearables that come in sizes, the Options section lets you add sizes or measurements.

Adding options to each product

The More Settings tab lets store owners add in shipping details and the product’s SKU (stock keeping unit).

Adding in the shipping details

It also lets you add in the dimensions of the parcel should you be delivering it yourself.

The other options under the Inventory section is pretty nifty for business owners who have immediate stock in a warehouse or storage for easy inventory-keeping.

Our first product / Image Credit: ColourPop

I recommend using square format photos (1024 x 1024) for product photos. But fret not, if most of the product photos you have are in landscape or portrait format, Shoptiq’s photo uploader allows you to crop the images to your desire.

Fiddling around with the form, I found that it was fairly simple to classify your products into categories.

The tags under the Category section easily classifies the product for users to find it quickly from the homepage.

Picking The Payment Options

The best thing about ecommerce is everything is made seamless, from shopping to payment to delivery.

Usually, we’d pay with cards and get some neat rebates or discounts, and the whole process takes less than a minute. Paying by credit or debit cards are by far the most popular modes of payment in the world of ecommerce.

Both online and offline payment options

There are only two options here: PayPal or Cash on delivery.

But seriously, PayPal seems to be the default e-payment option because even if there aren’t other banking options, PayPal acts as the middleman that receives the payment and does all the backend work to transfer the money into your bank account.

So it’s great when you’re open to selling your products overseas and not limit business to just Singapore. Shoptiq’s PayPal fee is only 3.4% + $0.50 per local transaction – lower than what other ecommerce platforms are offering, which is at 3.9% + $0.50.

Also, serious talk: going cashless is now the way to go.

There are many shipment options available

Easyship simplifies logistics management with its handy integration platform, allowing ecommerce owners to solve all of its local and international delivery problems. With its diverse network, it can save up to 70 per cent in costs and a lot of time with express delivery.

I enabled the Easyship option and it immediately created an account for me. All I needed to do was set a password to use its services.

The self-managed option allows me to set the amount of shipping fee to charge customers. A free-delivery option for orders above a preferred amount is available as well. It’s a convenient and straightforward feature.

Now, the virtual store is all set up and ready to launch.

vulvulVOOM is born!

You can check out our store here!

The Overall Experience

The end of the tutorial leaves you on a self-discovery journey to figure out the rest of the platform, which wasn’t a tough feat.

The platform is easy to navigate, and in five clicks or less, you can get to the element you want to change or a copy you want to edit.

The Dashboard

Every business owner would want to understand their customers’ preferences and dislikes, which is where the Dashboard comes in handy even for the greenest horns in the ecommerce world.

It even measures the Top 5 Products so business owners can track the ones that are bringing in the dough and adjust the strategies to improve those that are not.

Shoptiq is similar to Wix, the free website-building website, but specifically for building ecommerce stores and small businesses. Although there isn’t a lot of flexibility in the website layout and design, it makes up for with clean lines and straightforward UX experience.

Wait, So What’s The Catch?

Amazingly, there is none.

But of course, nothing is free in this world, right? Well, for 15 days, Shoptiq lets you try out their service at no cost.

At the moment, they have one plan that is PIC claimable at $38/month – and I quote them, “All for the price of a cup of coffee a day.”

I think for small business owners who find it time-consuming or lack the programming skills to build an ecommerce store from scratch, or feel that online marketplaces like Carousell are not the best places to start their online venture, Shoptiq is the ideal platform.

They have ongoing promotions which you can check out here.

Vulcan Post readers can enjoy an exclusive 1-month free subscription when you purchase a four-month subscription today! Use ‘VULCANPOST’ when you checkout. This promotion is valid till 31 August 2017.

So start making your ecommerce entrepreneur dreams a reality!

This article is written in collaboration with Shoptiq.