Your Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Business

A Livestream Recap from Cooking Ah Pa Featuring Trustana Experts Olivia & Isa

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Today, costs are rising, and the impacts of COVID-19 on the global economy persist. Job loss and the effects of the economic slowdown have tightened many people’s wallets and changed the way many of us think about work. Lots of people are looking for additional sources of income.

There’s no better time to take action than now. As people turn to entrepreneurship and self-employment, online stores are a realistic option. At Trustana, we have experienced in-house experts excited to support you in launching and growing your new online business. 

Olivia and Isa spoke with Ah Pa of Cooking Ah Pa¹ and unpacked some basic questions and advice for people like you. Let us share with you our advice for leveraging the trend towards online shopping and starting an online business from home as a side hustle.

Types of Online & E-commerce Business

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E-commerce began in 2010, but the systems in place, including vendor options, were complex and unavailable to the average person. Over the last decade, these barriers to entry have been reduced, making it much more possible for everyone to participate in online sales. Yes, we’re talking about you!

When it comes to thinking about online business, there are three types of e-commerce businesses to consider:

  • Sourcing, stocking, and reselling products
  • Selling exclusive handmade or original products 
  • Selling products by way of dropshipping, where you sell to the customer but you never have to manage an inventory

Top Tips for Finding Winning Products

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No matter what type of business you choose, you need to start with a solid product. But what makes a product a good choice? Exactly how do you identify which product or products you should sell? We’d suggest you follow these guidelines to ensure you’re working with a product you can sell successfully. 

Choose a product or area of the market that sparks your passion. Once you have an area of interest, identify areas of opportunities in that market. Talk to your friends. Do a Google search. Learn about what people are already selling, what consumers are looking for, and how you might differentiate yourself in that market. 

Think about product attributes and product quality. Are you working with a unique or niche offering? As you explore competitors, think about how long they've been selling their product. Look at their social following. Consider what their followers value about the product and the way they offer it. Read customer reviews to find what may be missing from your competitors' offerings. 

Start small to test the market. Perhaps you can test interest by offering a pre-sale, where customers order in advance before you even stock the product, so you get to see how it sells before you make a big commitment to it.

Choose a Fitting Platform for Your Online Store

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Once you have an idea about what you’ll sell and how you’ll stock it, it’s time to think about where you will sell your products. Thankfully, in the past decade, numerous online marketplaces have developed strong platforms for vendors like you. Shopee and Lazada are just a couple of examples, but do those meet your needs? Or are you looking to start your own online store?

In Southeast Asia, online businesses use Lazada and Shopee, Shopify, and even Instagram and Facebook for online sales. It’s clear you have lots of options, and each channel has its distinctive traits. Consider your options including participating in an online marketplace, building your own e-commerce store, and selling through social media or even a livestream platform. 

There are pros and cons to each of these, and you’ll likely find that one is more suitable to your needs as a beginner and easier to manage as you get started. When you’re making your decision, consider especially your options for inventory management, order fulfillment, and specific aspects of sales and promotions.

Attract Customers with Success from the Start

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In some ways, online marketing isn’t so different from general marketing. You definitely want to know your key audiences. What are they looking for? How are you providing it for them with your offering?

Get clear with your USP or Unique Selling Proposition. What’s unique about what you’re offering? What sets you and your product apart from your competitors?

Establish your pricing strategy. Determine what segments you want to market to and how to attract them with sales and incentives. You might consider offering a first-time customer discount to welcome people to your customer base. Upselling and cross-selling can help you amplify the impact of your customer’s visit to your online store.

Differentiate yourself as a new player

Packaging and  marketing your products is another crucial step. Provide your customers a good variety of products and give them options to mix and match different categories. Localise trends and consumer habits, and adapt your products and content (visuals, descriptions, social media posts etc) around those trends to capture attention.

Listen to your customer’s feedback. Are they asking for more sizes and flavors? Do they expect faster delivery or customer service response time? Adjusting your store offerings to what customers are looking for can help you build trust and loyalty in the long term - this will be valuable to ensure your business is sustainable.

Get Started Today!

If you’re taking the first step in starting your e-commerce store but unsure of where to source for products - we can help. Trustana Wholesale curates, imports and distributes best-selling F&B products from emerging brands to retailers of all sizes across Asia.  Click here to learn how you can take advantage of our experience and grow your new business today.


  1. www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmxOektH8ks

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