8 min read
Oct 12, 2020

3 eCommerce Business Ideas for Your Store

Considering launching an online store? Here are some key business ideas you should take into consideration to build a successful eCommerce business.

Agnes Teh StubbsSr Content Analyst

If you ever were on the fence about starting an eCommerce business or online store, 2020 most likely removed all doubts. Having an online store is now more important than ever for meeting customer demand and generating revenue. 

According to a 2020 GetApp survey: 

  • Two-thirds (64%) of respondents are spending more online and less in-store

  • Over half (53%) of respondents expect to continue spending more online in the next six months and beyond

IBM’s U.S. Retail Index is consistent with our research, suggesting that COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards digital shopping by roughly five years. Your next potential customer will likely find you online.  

We’ll take a deeper dive into our survey data and share potential eCommerce business ideas for your online business. 

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eCommerce business idea #1: Dropship food and drinks to capitalize on demand with ease 

Bar chart showing top 5 ecommerce product categories

Overnight, the food and beverage industry has experienced a seismic shift as a result of COVID-19, forcing marketers to adjust their strategies.

 As consumers continue to observe social distancing measures and limit their in-store shopping frequency, a new normal has emerged as a new group of consumers embraces eCommerce for their lifestyle consumption needs.

Since COVID-19, over half (55%) of surveyed respondents have been shopping online for food and drinks; followed by groceries (50%); and health, beauty, and personal care products (49%). 

Separate research also found that similar to recessionary stockpiling, consumers are buying self-stable pantry staples and products that have a longer shelf life while staying home, such as canned, dried and frozen foods. 

Why you should consider dropshipping food and drinks

Want to start an eCommerce business selling products but don’t want the responsibilities of product development, manufacturing, sourcing and managing inventory? Dropshipping is a business idea that can suit your needs.

How does dropshipping work? infographic

Carrying your own inventory to sell online involves managing inventory in a warehouse. It also includes hiring employees to manage inventory, shipping and customer service. The costs involved in assigning these responsibilities can quickly add up for a small business. Dropshipping eliminates all that. Instead of worrying about carrying and managing inventory, you just need a product idea and a dropshipping wholesaler stocks up all your products and handles all shipping and customer service-related responsibilities.

As consumers continue to prefer the convenience and safety bubble of shopping online, you can meet that demand by selling food. The profitability of this business model depends on finding a vendor with an excellent reputation and how you manage vendor relationships. 

Plus, the global dropshipping market is expecting a compound annual growth rate of 28.8% between 2019 to 2025, according to Grand View Research. If you can execute on this innovative ecommerce idea, you’ll be in a great position for the future.

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eCommerce business idea #2: Implement a subscription model to generate recurring revenue

43% of consumers have signed up for a subscription service.

Our research found that nearly half of our respondents (43%) have signed up for a subscription service since the pandemic. 

Subscription acquisition has stayed strong, consistent with other studies. Nearly a quarter (22.5%) of subscription companies have seen their subscription acquisition rates increase, while an additional 53.3% have not seen a significant impact on their subscription rates at all, according to a Zuora report.  

Another survey found that many U.S. consumers are leaning into subscription-based products, with one in five (out of 1,000 shoppers surveyed) having purchased a subscription box during the pandemic. But will this shifting behavior continue past the pandemic? Signs suggest the answer is yes.

Why you should consider a subscription model service

Almost 75% of direct-to-consumer brands are expected to offer subscription services by 2023, the Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA) found.

Subscription services provide a predictable, flexible, and convenient way to engage in a long-term relationship with consumers while guaranteeing a consistent and recurring income. 

 As consumer spending habits evolve, providing an option to deliver a weekly or monthly subscription product or service can help you fulfill your customers’ needs—especially those consuming products at a higher rate or those looking for a wider variety of products from trusted eCommerce brands. This is a good opportunity to evaluate how you can adapt the offerings on your eCommerce platform to meet these changing needs.

49% of consumers have shopped for personal care items since the start of the pandemic

Subscription models are particularly a great fit for products that are used on an ongoing basis, such as personal care and beauty products like razors and skincare creams. That demand is reflected in our survey in which nearly half of respondents (49%) have shopped for wellness and personal care products since the pandemic.

Below is an example of how one company launched a subscription service during COVID-19 pandemic. 

How one subscription box business was launched to support the local community 

After being laid off from their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gary Bailey and Mariah Brooks channeled their setback into supporting their local community by launching  Inland Northwest Trading, a monthly subscription box service.

By purchasing subscription boxes featuring individually handpicked products, customers are able to support local and regional makers in the Northwest.

“When COVID-19 hit, we realized how much of an impact it was going to have on local makers,” Brooks told a Washington paper. “If (producers) didn’t have a website, there was no way to interact with customers.” Prior to launching the company, the duo researched makers in the region and ordered items to get a sense of quality and customer experience. 

Items from a typical subscription box can include products like temporary tattoos, key chains,  and bath bombs, and the box itself can range between $29.95-$49.99 a month, depending on the number and type of items. The couple hand delivers subscription boxes to local customers, but are also shipping boxes to out-of-state customers.

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eCommerce business idea #3: Offer curbside pickup options to meet changing customer expectations

bar chart showing top reasons consumers choose curbside pickup

Prior to the pandemic, consumers were already seeking more convenient ways of receiving products during the purchasing process. 

The pandemic has accelerated momentum for convenient shopping experiences—and providing curbside pickup for your eCommerce business has become one of the key channels of meeting that customer demand. 

Over half (54%) of customers say they have been relying moderately on curbside pickup and delivery, with over half (53%) again using curbside pickup once to twice a week since the advent of the pandemic. 

Why you should consider including curbside pickup 

Offering curbside pickup for orders is not just a creative way of keeping customers and employees safe; it also provides other crucial benefits for customers who want more shopping options. 

Asked about the reasons for their usage of curbside pickup, avoiding contact with crowds was cited as the top reason (62%) with today’s heightened public health concerns, followed by the ability to pick up items at their time and convenience (60%). Over half (56%) say it helps reduce stress, friction, and time spent in-store (56%).  

With curbside pickup, businesses can facilitate the entire process from shipping and ordering to payment and pickup with voice calls, text messages, and other online channels and reduce the likelihood of in-person contact. 

donut chart showing most consumers will continue using curbside after the pandemic ends

Curbside pickup is here to stay. 72% of consumers we surveyed say they were “likely” and “highly likely” continue to use curbside pickup after the pandemic is over. 

Key steps to launching curbside: staging, logistics, training
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Final thoughts on your online business ideas

The world of eCommerce is always evolving, but never more dramatically than it is now. Identifying and pivoting to potential growth categories and service areas such as subscription or curbside pickup services is a critical part of maintaining a successful eCommerce business store long term. 

What you sell and how you reach customers will be pivotal to the success of your eCommerce business. Above all else, be sure to focus on the quality of your products offerings and customer service to differentiate your eCommerce business from the rest.

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