3 lessons I learned balancing a successful e-commerce business with a full-time day job

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The shift in cultural mindsets is encouraging more people to embrace their entrepreneurial nature, to take active steps to turn dreams into reality without necessarily giving up on their corporate careers

Many have dreamed of being an entrepreneur, romanticising the idea of a career beyond the “traditional” 9-to-5 job. Euromonitor International’s 2017 Global Consumer Trends Survey shows that nearly 50 percent of respondents across all generations aspire to be self-employed.

While there are multiple factors at play, the biggest driver has been the proliferation of the internet as a flexible platform for anybody to sell, communicate, review and network without borders or boundaries. On top of that, the shift in cultural mindsets is encouraging more people to embrace their entrepreneurial nature, to take active steps to turn dreams into reality without necessarily giving up on their corporate careers.

E-commerce presents a huge potential in Southeast Asia whereby internet-based businesses already make up for 2 percent of SEA’s GDP in 2017 – in fact, this is expected to jump to 6 percent by 2025! Even if selling may be a hobby, that should not stop you from tapping on global opportunities and selling your products overseas.

With my first-hand experience as a part-time entrepreneur, I know how tough it can be to run a side hustle. Here are my top three tips for running a successful eCommerce business while balancing a full-time day job.

1. Start with research and planning

Thorough market research is essential to ensure that you offer an all-encompassing buyer experience. These insights will inform and make up the foundation of your business and marketing strategies. Start by thinking from a global customer’s perspective – why would they want to buy from a foreign seller instead of a local seller, and what could affect their purchase decision?

Also read: Who are the big winners during seasonal e-commerce campaigns? Not retailers, for sure

For example, you could look into popular product categories based on your target consumer group. Over the last year, we have witnessed on our platform high growth potential in the home improvement, auto-parts, health and beauty, toy, as well as computer, categories from Singapore to the United States.

Home improvement, in particular, saw the most significant growth. High home prices in the US prompted many homeowners to invest in home improvement and remodelling projects. This was further accelerated by millennials who prefer embarking on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects to save on costs. These tech-savvy connected shoppers often purchase their home improvement products online, presenting an opportunity for international sellers.

2. Establish a routine for your online business

The key to establishing a routine is not about when you complete the task, but rather to ensure that there is consistency. This is especially important if you are establishing your eCommerce business on the side – optimising time spent, and efficiency will be key to achieving a balance between your ‘day’ and ‘night’ job. As your e-commerce business takes off, this routine becomes critical in ensuring that you either improve or maintain the same standard of customer service.

Leveraging technology and tools readily available on e-commerce platforms can help you start a routine that creates structure and stability. For example, triggering a personalized auto-response, written as though it came from you rather than a cold monotonous response, can create a positive customer experience. Setting the right impression and expectation from the first point of contact with potential buyers is important – especially if you may not have the time or energy to address their needs immediately.

3. Leverage on platform capabilities to scale

To run a successful e-commerce business, it is important to understand your buyers and when they are most active online. Sitting on opposite ends of the world, local sellers in Southeast Asia can take advantage of the geographical time difference to tap into European or U.S. markets by working during their “day” job and selling as their “night” job.

Plan your listings and schedule them to go live at a time where most buyers are online. Where possible, you can use readily available tools to automate the process by letting the apps and marketplace do the heavy lifting on your behalf.

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