Guide to starting a phone case business12 min read
Phone cases (or accessories) is a vast industry. The popularity of phone cases alone makes the market highly profitable. But where there is a large amount of profit to be made, there is also competition. So how do you start a phone case business? But before you get excited and jump in, use this guide to help you understand the route best for you.
When a consumer purchases a new phone, service providers often try to sell accessories to go along with it. Such as a fancy virtual reality headset or tablet. One thing for sure, a lot of consumers buy a phone case for their devices and not all buy from the same place.
A survey from 2016, shows that in the United States alone, there is a potential of 186 million customers buying protective smartphone cases. The numbers are increasing year by year.
So what do you need to know when it comes to starting a phone case business? Before you start your journey, you need to research your target audience. Research is essential in understanding who would buy your phone case.
One thing any business requires when starting up is patience. Depending on the type of phone case you are after, timeframes can really differ. However, most generic or custom printed phone case business can be executed and launched within a weekend.
The following is a guide to help you get started on your very own phone case business journey.
tl;dr Quick Overview
Do your consumer research and find an audience. Figure out what devices you will focus on in the beginning. Decide whether you would need a business plan? In most cases, you would not. Where would you sell the phone cases? What business goals are keeping you on track?
Comply with legal requirements to reduce risk and liability. Find out whether laws and regulations can affect your choice of phone cases for your business. Also, do not forget about tax.
The capital needed to start your phone case business can vary depending on your idea. Learn how to estimate your costs and operating expenses (if any). Of course, your financial needs may also affect product pricing as well as any equipment or facilities required.
Marketing and Advertising
Knowing your target audience is essential. Also, finding out how to reach your audience is just as important. You don’t want to advertise to people who aren’t your customers. It’s crucial to craft a strategy and find the best marketing channels for your business. Customer service can give you a competitive edge in your market.
Finding a Vendor
Are you manufacturing phone cases? Are you buying them bulk? Or are you merely creating designs to be printed on cases? Whatever it is, you will need to find out how to choose the right supplier for your business.
3, 2, 1, Blastoff! Launching your Phone Case Business
Begin the journey of starting your phone case business. Use your marketing strategy to reach your audience and make those sales. Engage with your customers, ask for feedback and then use it to make your products and brand better. Along your journey, adjust your strategies and adapt to the market.
Table of Contents
- Covering the basics
- Marketing and Advertising
- Finding a Vendor
- Launching your Phone Case Business
Starting a business, in anything, can be very exciting and scary at the same time. It’s new and for some a lonely place. We get excited with ideas, but when we go to develop it, we can get bummed down.
Use this guide to develop a plan and visualize your path to success. Whether you’re a solopreneur or looking for investors, you must document every process and resource that your business will need.
Covering the basics
1.1. Phone Case Business Market Research
In 2016 a survey showed that 79% of smartphone users in America owned a type of protective cell phone cover. That’s a total of 186 customers in the United States alone.
There are several stages in the market research. First, search up places and stores where they sell the phone cases you have in mind. If you are entirely reinventing the phone case, with a brand new idea, search for similar phone case ideas to yours.
Gather data from current cell phone case sales as best as you can. Read reviews, pick up problems, suggestions, and things consumers like about your competitors’ cases. Find out where your consumers are online and offline.
Although you have nothing to show for, start to formulate future customers. You could do this through social media, forums, blogs, and surveys. By asking for potential customer reviews, opinions, and feedback, you can get an idea of what your audience wants.
When surveying customers, you want to find out how much they would pay for the ideal phone case and what they expect from a phone case. You have a chance also to verify whether any of your ideas intrigue them. Use the data collected to improve designs and market your product.
Also, try to retain their email address (with permission), so when on launch day, you have the potential of customers.
Use your competitors as a tool. Identify competitors with phone cases similar to yours, check their reviews, type of customers and most importantly, how they operate. Some competitors may be huge and work on a large scale, don’t let this put you off.
Also, when researching competitors, don’t only look at the big brands. Don’t forget the little guys and new upcoming brands as well as established brands.
Being small in the game can be an advantage. It will allow you to connect and interact with each customer personally and therefore, potentially making them into your number one fan.
When analyzing your competition, go through their social media account, see how they interact, when they post, the demographics of their audience, the replies etc. Also, you could consider obtaining accurate data from trusted published industry and trade sources.
Try contacting business owners directly or even interviewing them if you are finding it difficult to find answers. Many are more than happy to share their story and experience.
Remember also to compare product availability and prices. Another big tip I practice is purchasing from the competitor. That way, I get a feel for the service the competitor provides to the customer, which includes delivery time, packaging and communication. Also, note any after-sales actions like whether the competitor checks in with you to see if you are happy with the purchase.
1.2. Focus device
With so many different variations of cell phones released each year, it’s an ever-growing dynamic industry. To think that it’s possible to create a phone case for every smartphone model simply is a little out of the question for the start of your phone case business.
For best practice and to truly develop your phone cases properly, concentrate on one device at the very beginning. When I started my first phone case business, I focused on developing iPhone cases. I eventually went on to phone cases for Samsung as the company grew. But this was with time, customer feedback and patience.
1.3. Do you need a business plan?
When creating a business, many people would think to create a business plan. As a “solopreneur”, I completely trashed the idea of creating a business plan. Instead, I got on with market research, budgeting, marketing, and launch.
I’ve heard and seen so many cases where people have spent weeks upon weeks on a business plan, only to tuck it under the desk and for it never to be seen or read again.
However, if you feel, you need a business plan to share with others (investors, partners, etc.) you should go ahead with it. A business plan should give your startup credibility, backed up with research. Use it to win over the money of investors and banks by proving that you have a solid proposal.
If you are simply looking for some loans from friends or family, a business plan doesn’t matter. Your friends or family are likely to have trust in you and your passion.
1.4. Name of your business
When it comes to choosing a name for your business, I see it in two ways. Generic or ambiguous.
Generic, is the specific approach. Something such as “Phone Cases by Sam”. If somebody read the name of the store, they would not doubt that it is a place to buy phone cases.
The cons of a generic name are that it can be very descriptive, which can limit you to being known for one thing—therefore making it harder to expand into other products in the future.
An ambiguous or quirky name allows you to give your products a unique identity. A title like “Samlulu” will enable you to introduce different types of products into your business and not limit yourself to phone cases because of the name.
When choosing a quirky name, you may have trouble getting people to recognize it at first of what exactly you sell. But the more you grow, the more recognition you would get for a particular product. For many of my eCommerce businesses, I had given it an ambiguous name, and it has never held me back.
The name of your phone case business is essential to your success. A few things to keep in mind when choosing a business name:
- Convey the values and mission of your brand.
- You don’t need to be descriptive in your name.
- A good name is often short, easy to pronounce and spell. Having a complicated name can confuse people and make it harder to remember you.
Is your name available on the internet? Check whether your chosen name is available as a domain and on social media platforms. To avoid any legality complications, you would want to check existing business names and trademarks too.
Come up with a list of names that cover what we just went over. Ask friends, family and social media which name they like, what they think of it when they hear the name and which name is easy to remember. Take your time when it comes to deciding as you will be carrying this with you for the lifetime of your phone case business.
1.5. Selling Platform
The location and platform of your business will influence your potential reach and audience. Decide where you will sell, online, through a store or kiosk. You can, of course, sell through more than one platform.
Look for areas with high-traffic and away from your competitors’ stores. When setting up in a physical location, you will need to think of signs, banners, shelves, lighting, point of pay, inventory space, employees etc. For shoppers to find you, you should put yourself up on listings, such as Google, Yelp and Yahoo.
If you prefer to be online, you can choose from starting your website or joining an existing marketplace such as Amazon or Etsy etc.
If you choose an online marketplace, you have the potential of millions of consumers ready to purchase. But, you are also in direct competition with your competitors, who most likely are in the same marketplace.
Keep in mind any commission or fees the marketplace may take from your business. Also, another thing to consider is what the market is best known to sell. For instance, Etsy is well known for handmade and vintage products whereas you can guarantee to find a bargain on eBay.
People browsing marketplaces are ready to spend. Most customers tend to have their payment details saved with the market making payment faster than ever.
Another option is having your very own eCommerce website. Nowadays, it is easy to set up an eCommerce store without any design or coding experience. Customers want to know that their details are safe when purchasing through your website. Hence, every e-commerce website needs to have security to ensure every transaction is secure and encrypted.
If you’re not a web developer or can’t spare the budget to create a website just yet, I highly recommend Shopify. Shopify is a platform used by millions and has hundreds of freshly designed themes. They offer a 14-day free trial, and the basic plan starts from $29 a month.
Using Shopify, you can remove the headache of coding and have a secure store which is ready to take payments. They make it super easy for you to make your store unique and customizable to the way you like it.
Your site should include product photos, descriptions, pricing, shipping information, return policy and ways to contact you. Additionally, you can choose to add an FAQ too. Shopify makes setting these pages up easy because they have professionally built templates, ready to use with a few tweaks to fit your business.
Shopify also features various applications which can integrate with your stores. Applications which enhance features on your e-commerce store and boost sales such as email capture, coupons, up-sells etc.
1.6. Creating a business goal
I want you to think deep. What are the goals of your business? Think beyond monetary purposes. What are you trying to achieve through your phone case business? Perhaps you want to be the number one brand known to create cellphone cases with glitter unicorns for teens? Whatever the goal is, find it and write it down.
To keep you going in the right direction always refer back to your goal on your phone case business venture.
Compliance with Laws
You may need business licenses depending on the way you wish to operate. Specific licensing requirements depend on the location, scale and structure of your organization. It’s best to check with your local and state government officials to ensure you comply with the laws.
Ensure that you have every legal requirement needed to protect your business to reduce the risk of running into problems in the future. A lawsuit can potentially jeopardize your business and hard work.
2.1. Copyright and Trademarks
When it comes to your phone case business, you want to avoid anything that infringes other companies copyright or trademark. Do not merely create a Harry Potter phone case, unless you have a license to do so; otherwise, Warner Bros will be after you. Trust me, and I know this from experience.
2.2. Brick and Mortar / Kiosk
If you have a physical store, ensure that you comply with all the necessary paperwork and licenses for employees and permits. Ensure you do the correct research and obtain every document needed to operate in the location.
2.3. Online e-Commerce
If you are an online e-commerce store, you want to ensure that you abide with your hosting rules, your state laws and international laws if you are selling overseas. For instance, continents such as Europe require websites to tell users that cookies are in use to track customers. Again, this is specific to each region and state.
Don’t mess around with taxes. If you are selling domestically, you will need to pay the fee of that state or region. It is essential to know the tax laws of where you are selling to and selling from. Avoiding tax payments can lead to tax debt, fraud and cause a lot of problems for you in the future.
Gary Vaynerchuk said something along the lines of money being the oxygen of your business. I agree with that, but with that said you do not need a multi-million dollar investment to start a phone case business.
Depending on the route you choose, you can start with as little as $100. I started my first phone case business using Shopify for under $50. The money went to purchase a domain name, I made a few sales in the first two weeks, enough to cover my $29 a month Shopify fee, and I was off.
Let us talk about why capital is essential. Having money is one thing but having a budget and plan is another. It wouldn’t be wise to have a budget of $1,000 and splash it all on just developing a website when you haven’t even covered the cost of creating your phone cases or marketing.
Insufficient funding or bad spending can cause a business to fail.
Think about what you need to purchase. Allocate a budget for everything. How much money can you raise through investors, work, crowdfunding, savings, friends and family? Do you need to raise any additional extra capital?
What equipment, if any, would you need for your business to be up. Do you need employees, how much will you spend on marketing and manufacturing?
I was able to cut a lot of the costs from my first phone case business by doing many of the jobs myself. I do not recommend this method if you take a long time on specific tasks such as building a digital advert for marketing.
It’s sometimes best and more efficient to higher somebody to do that for you so you can concentrate your strengths elsewhere in your business.
Marketing, Advertising and Customer Service
Marketing your business is just as important as the quality and design of your phone cases. You need a marketing strategy for your phone case business. Even if you have the best phone case in the world, without the right marketing, your business can fail.
Without marketing or advertising, some people may never discover your brand. No doubt that your phone case usability, quality and design is essential. However, consumers need to hear about your company to buy your product.
A successful marketing strategy never ends, it’s an ongoing process, that starts even before the launch of the business. Think about your marketing strategy in advance. Think within your financial capabilities on how you would market your products.
The best and most fundamental part of your marketing strategy is customer service. You want to provide excellent customer service, connect with your consumers and keep them coming back as raving fans of your brand.
Excellent customer service is an absolute must. Satisfied customers are likely to become loyal to your brand, spread word about your business to others, and generate more leads and sales.
4.1. Online Digital Marketing
Almost every generation is online nowadays in some way. Whether it be consumers shopping online, using social media or just watching videos. There are millions of users online.
Marketing online will help you reach your target market. Regardless of whether you operate your cell phone case business offline or online, digital marketing, done correctly can work wonders.
4.1.1. Optimizing your Website
Whether you operate your business online or offline, I believe every business should have a website that offers more information on products and services. A good site for your phone case business should have the contact information, location details (if any), product images, specifications, prices, payment options and customer reviews, if available.
You may have heard of the term search engine optimization (SEO). You should consider hiring an SEO expert to help make your website more visible on Google search results. Shopify offers SEO applications ready to integrate with any Shopify website and enhance your Google search results.
Make your website clean and easy to navigate. The worst thing to happen is your consumer to get confused, causing them to leave your website.
Shopify has plenty of free templates to choose from which are clean, professional and customer-friendly.
4.2. Choosing an eCommerce Platform
An e-commerce platform is a place online to sell your products. It can be a marketplace such as Amazon or your very own website. In other words, an online shop.
There is a wide variety of eCommerce platforms available. When it comes to choosing your platform, you have to look within your budget and experience.
If you have a low budget or have never coded a website in your life, it’s perhaps best to go with a platform like Shopify. When you sign up with Shopify, they make it easy to create a website, put up products and start selling. They have a 24/7 customer support team to assist you as well.
Shopify currently hosts hundreds of thousands of stores. Making it easy for you to collect payment from customers, manage and market your business all from one application. If you choose a marketplace such as Amazon, you have to expect competition and battling with other sellers to get on top of the listing. Furthermore, markets can remove your seller privileges or take a fee etc.
4.3. Social Media to Spread your Brand
Every business should be on at least one social media platform. The platform you choose depends on you and the way you want to advertise. If you have very visual artistic cases, Instagram and Pinterest can be a great place to showcase that.
Millions of users browse social media every day. Don’t be robotic when it comes to social media interaction with potential customers. Show that there is a human behind your business, interacting with the audience. You want to build a connection with your audience.
Social media requires time and engagement, but it’s worth it. Make sure to answer questions from your audience. Use social media to create a highly targeted advertisement to your target audience.
Interact with social media influencers with a loyal following. Many are willing to exchange money for a personalized post, of your business, on their social media account.
4.4. Create a Blog
A blog requires time and work. But a well-optimized blog can attract the right people. Use a blog to provide updates, industry information, product reviews and anything about your business.
4.5. List your Business
If you have an offline business, create listings on online directories such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo, Yellow pages etc. Doing so will allow customers searching for your type of business to find you, location, phone number and website easily.
4.6. Email Marketing
If you have surveyed customers before launching your business, hopefully, you had collected some customer emails. Well, keep receiving customer emails, from existing customers, potential customers etc.
Promote your phone case business using email marketing. Always make sure you have the customers consent before sending marketing emails.
Also, have an option for customers to opt-in to your mailing list on your website. Apart from using your list to market to your customers; ask for feedback and suggestions to help make your phone cases better for your target market.
4.7 Customer Service
Customer service is significant. A satisfied customer will rave about your brand and business to friends, family and acquaintances.
Word-of-mouth marketing is a critical player in your business, and it is free. You can achieve this through excellent customer service.
Somebody is more likely to trust their friends’ suggestion than a banner advert on the middle of a website. However, you should not forget, a bad experience can also spread like wildfire. Dissatisfied customers will also share their experience with your brand.
Customers can leave comments and reviews with the potential to go viral. Don’t allow bad customer service into your business. Satisfy every one of your customers to the best of your ability.
Creating relationships between customers is more important than making sales. Create a strategy that emphasizes the importance of your brand values, both offline and online.
Be genuine, keep promises, don’t just hit expectations but exceed them for excellent customer service.
Finding a Vendor
When it comes to finding a vendor, it depends on the type of cell phone case you plan to manufacture and sell. Not all phone cases need a manufacturer.
Many businesses rely on partners and vendors. Depending on your phone case type, you will need to find the right suppliers. They will need to be able to deliver the quality and quantity of the materials necessary to make your products.
Let’s say you have a unique phone case something the market has never witnessed before but will be lifechanging. You should consider finding a manufacturer who can deliver the quality and quantity to make your product into reality.
If you are not reinventing the phone case and simply want to sell existing phone cases, you could consider finding a phone case supplier. Ensure the supplier is reliable, provides quality and has enough supply to suit your needs.
Another way around is print-on-demand services. Instead of buying hundreds of stock and having to store them, consider print-on-demand services. Print-on-demand is also known as print, order and fulfilment services.
Print-on-demand allows you to concentrate more on the design, marketing and other aspects of your business. It’s easy to use a print-on-demand service. Simply upload your designs with the service provider, and when an order comes in, they print it for you.
They do the quality checks, package it and send it straight to your customers’ door. I use Printful for my print-on-demand businesses.
Launching your phone case business
Whoopie! You’ve come to the stage to launch your business, some people get cold feet at this stage, but you need to take the next step.
Your business launch should serve to attract attention from your target market, setting the stage for long-term operations. Avoid the temptation to spend a lot of money on the first day of your launch.
Keep within your budget, don’t spend it all at once and remember to have fun on your launch. The launch will set the stage for your businesses success down the line.
Choose the right and best channels to announce the launch of your business. Target channels that have the most potential to reach your customers. Reach out to bloggers, influencers and get your business out there.
Schedule a date and time for your phone case business launch that is ideal for your target audience and potential customers. Have your goals aligned with your launch activities and business.
6.1. Post Launch
After the launch, do not disregard all that effort you put into it. Use it as leverage to build momentum moving forward. Get feedback from attendees and customers to improve your business and products.
Ensure your website is running well and can handle high-traffic.
Have you got designs that you could sell on a phone case? Have you not got the capital or experience to manufacture and sell phone cases online or from a store yourself? Then why not read how I started my phone case business online from home under $50.