Times are changing in this age. More people want to be their employers and have control over their lifestyle. Thanks to the internet and access to the rapidly growing e-commerce industry, this desire is now more in reach than ever. E-commerce businesses involve selling and sending goods, services, and funds over the internet that can range in size and scale through platforms.
Over the last five years, numerous industries have experienced significant growth, but online selling and buying have seen the most. According to the US Census Bureau, the country totaled $154.5 billion in the third quarter of 2019 in e-commerce sales, accounting for 11.2% of all retail sales in the country.
E-commerce surely has a bright and long-lasting future ahead of it. However, beginning an e-commerce business is difficult and requires numerous processes and decisions to be made quickly.
The tools you’ll need to launch an online business and the customers are now easier to come by than ever before. According to data, e-commerce revenue in the United States is predicted to reach $740 billion by 2023. This shows you now get many opportunities to create your own e-commerce business and carve out your niche in the industry.
However, with such potential surely comes a bunch of difficulties. When you’re first learning how to start an e-commerce business, there’s a lot to do. Taking that first step can be intimidating, but not always. We can help you walk through the basics of e-commerce business in the easiest ways possible.
In this guide, you will know:
- How to start your e-commerce business?
- How to choose your niche and plan the strategy?
- Which e-commerce platforms to use to set up your business?
- What to do after launch? (marketing tips)
How to start your e-commerce business?
There are some significant differences between establishing e-commerce vs brick-and-mortar business, but there is also some similar ground between them. Many of the business planning and legal processes you’ll need for an e-commerce business will follow the same approach as any other business. However, when it comes time to start an e-commerce business, you’ll see how different it is to establish than any other.
Follow these basic steps to start your very own e-commerce business today.
Find your niche
First, choose your niche. You must find the perfect niche in order to launch a successful online business.
- Ask yourself: What is your specialization?
- What kind of products/services would you like to sell?
- What role do your abilities can play in the market?
- What marketable skills or expertise do you possibly have?
Start by researching the e-commerce market to get a notion of what kind of business you’ll be running. Examine other businesses in your industry to discover what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. When considering a very successful e-commerce business in your field, consider the following questions:
- What methods do they use to reach out to customers?
- What do you like about a specific website?
- What is the e-commerce business model of this company?
When it comes to finding your specialty, you’ll need to ask the following logistical questions:
- Do you have a physical product or digital service?
- What kind of stuff do you like to sell?
- How are you going to get/sell it if it’s a digital product?
- Can you handle production by yourself, or will you need assistance?
- How are you going to sell on one-time orders, wholesale bulk, or a subscription basis?
Gather as many company ideas as possible, as the e-commerce market is booming, and you’ll be up against a lot of competitors. Before starting an eCommerce business from the ground up, you should think about what makes you and your company unique.
Make the most of your expertise if it is in high demand. Start a blog to write about your skill and promote yourself as a thought leader in the field if you have years of experience in freelance writing. You can use your e-commerce store to sell editing services, print-on-demand items, and paid online courses in your field.
Type of e-commerce business
You might have little knowledge of e-commerce and only of selling products directly to customers. However, there are at least six different e-commerce business models. But we will only talk about the most common ones that most people are interested in.
Business to Consumer (B2C)
When it comes to e-commerce, the Business-to-Consumer model of business is related to the retail aspects of the business. In this business model, goods and/or services are sold directly to the consumer through digital means. Before placing an order, consumers can closely look at their proposed purchases via your e-commerce website/online store, which has surprised the business world. The company/agent that receives the order will then deliver the order to the consumer within a possible short amount of time after receiving the order. You can find such business model examples everywhere, and some famous websites are Amazon, Flipkart, etc.
Business to Business (B2B)
A B2B business model is one in which trade is conducted between two or more businesses/companies rather than between individuals. The traditional wholesalers and producers who deal with retailers are typically included in the distribution channels of this type of trade. You can sell your services or products to other businesses at bulk order or wholesale rates.
Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
To summarize, anyone who sells their new or used products to other individuals through a digital platform utilizes the C2C business model. Used goods and/or services are sold to other consumers through this business model, which the consumer facilitates. The transactions are made on a third-party digital platform, such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Nextdoor, VarageSale, etc.
Choosing and shipping products
Whether you are going to sell a physical product or a service, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll go about obtaining it and shipping orders to customers. There are a few different choices you can look into:
Do it yourself (DIY)
You create the product entirely by hand and deliver it to the customer yourself. This is a highly advantageous option if your product is something that you can make yourself from scratch using inexpensive ingredients, such as homemade soap or pottery. You’d have to buy ingredients in smaller quantities to get started, and your profit margin would be smaller due to this. However, you can also control the costs and risks and then scale up when you have more resources at your disposal.
Find a manufacturer
Suppose you do not have your own product. In that case, you may want to consider establishing a long-term partnership with an established manufacturer for products that you do not have the expertise or tools to manufacture yourself. Because manufacturers typically require you to order in bulk, this option is only viable if you have a specific niche product that you intend to sell in large quantities. Take this route, but be prepared to cover the costs of those large orders if you want to be successful.
This option will entail purchasing commercial or independent versions of your desired product and reselling them through your store at a profit to your customers. You don’t have much control over pricing in this situation because the manufacturer sets the purchase price, and the market determines how much to markup the price. The margins on wholesale products are typically around more than half, which means that if you purchased a product for any price per unit, you would typically sell it for double the price.
Dropshipping is a good option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of maintaining inventory on your own. It involves partnering with another company that will ship your product for you after a customer places an order. Because there are no startup costs associated with producing the product on your end, your profit margin is only about 20%. You’d put it up on your website, and your dropshipping partner would take care of the fulfillment.
Products can be sold from blog posts, templates, online video classes, tips, and resources. Anything that can be downloaded has the potential to be sold as a product. Writing, therapy, and design are examples of services that can be provided through digital products.
Customers appreciate the convenience that digital downloads or services provide and, depending on what you’re selling, they typically have a low overhead cost. Therefore, if you are just starting, offering products digitally is a good option to consider. Don’t be afraid to try various things until you find the product that works best for your company.
Research and make a business plan
You’ve identified your niche, assessed its potential, and identified a business model. Now before anything, you’ll need to do some serious in-depth research on your competitors to know what you’re up against. Moreover, how you can set yourself apart from them and be above them.
It’s time to prepare your business plan now that you’ve completed your competition research. The e-commerce business plan is like a road map that guides you through the process of shaping your ideas and thoughts and putting them together. A business plan is essential for determining what to prioritize, avoiding common business blunders, and effectively reaching out to new customers.
A good time to take a meaningful break and write down your business plan and determine your startup budget, loan requirements, and monthly expenses is now.
Management of Financial Resources
The financial aspect of a company is the most important aspect of the company. Calculate your break-even point in terms of both unit sales and time in operation (in months). Any legitimate business involves the expenditure of resources. The role of a CEO is to take resources and convert them into a profit. If you are unable to calculate your profit margin, your business will fail.
During the business planning phase, you should also work out the specifics of your operation, such as your staffing needs, product sourcing, logistics, and marketing budget. Make sure you know all of the financial resources available to you and understand them.
Inventory Control and Management
Many entrepreneurs avoid selling their own physical products online because of the risks involved. Selling online eliminates the need to keep products in your garage for long periods. You can outsource the handling of your inventory to fulfillment centers if you prefer.
Some companies offer to store your inventory for you while they use their warehouse space to ship products to their customers on your behalf.
Inventory management software will assist you in keeping your business organized, which is especially important if you have a large number of items in your inventory. However, I would not recommend it for complete beginners. When you first start, keep things simple. Place an order for products from the manufacturer and have them delivered directly to the fulfillment center.
Make sure you have all of the logistics worked out before you start building your store. If you choose drop shipping, you will need to know where your inventory is coming from to keep track of it.
Remember that no e-commerce business can succeed unless it has a solid strategy in place, so make sure you have one in place as well.
Name your e-commerce business
After you have decided on your business plan, next comes thinking of a name for your business. Choosing a name for a new company can be a lot of fun. You should, however, not take it lightly. Picking the right name for your company can significantly impact your company’s positioning in the market, the image of your company by customers, and your overall perceived product-market fit.
We can turn to market research and keyword research for assistance. You can take the following steps, in particular:
First and foremost, a good business name should give your customers at the very least a general idea of what you sell and the market in which you operate. Let’s leave completely abstract names like Google to the giants of the industry. We small business owners should choose names more rooted in the real world than we currently do.
You should first look at some of the most popular business name generators on the internet. Yes, I recommend that you use automated artificial intelligence-powered tools to assist you in coming up with a business name.
Here is what you should do:
- Go to your preferred business name generator and enter the important keywords in your niche or that describe the product you want to sell in your business name.
- The tool will return a list of possible business names based on the seed keyword and categorize them in various ways based on that keyword.
- When you start an eCommerce business, the best generators will also include additional words to help you with branding, saving you time and money.
- Fill out the tool with the names you have in mind for the time being, and you will receive some suggestions.
- Consider a name that is both memorable and resonates with your company’s mission and vision.
When choosing a name, you should aim to achieve the following objectives:
- Include a keyword or phrase that gives a general idea of the company, even if it is only a vague hint.
- If possible, include words or phrases that are not commonly encountered in everyday language usage – this will help distinguish the name from others in the marketplace.
- Check to see if your exact business name is available as a .com domain name before registering it.
Choose target market
Study your target market after finalizing your product thoroughly. Ask yourself these questions to make your customer persona:
- What type of customer do you want to attract?
- What are their characteristics?
Personas are fictionalized representations of your ideal/supposed clients that help you foresee their behaviour. You can imagine the individual who would benefit the most from your product or service and then determine how to appeal to that person.
More questions to ask:
- What is this person’s age?
- What city do they live in?
- What are their earnings?
- What products make a difference to them?
You can then guess where they’ll be online and what messages they’ll react to based on that information. When it comes time to start your e-commerce store, this knowledge will assist you in efficiently marketing your product.
Pick an e-commerce platform to set up the store
Instead of hunting for a place and making preparations to open a physical store, begin working on your website and online store from scratch.
This website, like a physical storefront, will serve as the public face of your company – it is the first thing your customers see and the platform via which they will browse and purchase your items or services. Keeping this in mind, developing your website will be one of the most significant aspects of launching your e-commerce firm from the beginning. Several factors will need to be taken into consideration while you design your online storefront, including the following:
The first thing you’ll want to do is consider your brand and domain name. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, selecting an e-commerce platform will be your most crucial decision. Your e-commerce platform, whether it’s an all-in-one solution like Shopify or an open-source platform like Magento, will serve as the framework on which you’ll create and develop your online store from scratch.
Most e-commerce platforms allow you to construct and launch your online store. Still, they also allow you to modify your design, add your domain (or purchase one), manage inventory, take and dispatch orders, manage payments, and perform a variety of other functions.
Even though there are hundreds of these platforms accessible on the market, you might want to select one of the following popular options for launching your e-commerce business:
Shopify is the most well-known and popular e-commerce platform available. It exclusively provides an all-inclusive, user-friendly solution with a choice of add-ons for small and medium-sized businesses. Shopify subscriptions are available in four different plans, with the cheapest being Shopify Lite, which costs $9 a month and does not include a full web store (but does include a blog).
If by any chance, you already have a WordPress site up or are familiar with the technology, you may install WooCommerce to start selling on your WordPress site right away. In addition to being free to download and use, this plug-in is open-source and covers the complete range of e-commerce functionalities. Compared to Shopify, however, WooCommerce is better suited for business owners with some technical experience and want to take advantage of the platform’s open-source nature.
Most commonly associated with website creation, Squarespace also has e-commerce features and is renowned for its contemporary themes. Squarespace has two eCommerce-specific options, the Basic plan, which costs $26 per month, and the Advanced plan, which costs $40 per month.
Similar to Shopify, Squarespace is user-friendly and can accommodate business owners with varying levels of technical expertise. However, because Squarespace is first and foremost a website builder, it may not have so many features, add-ons or tools, as some other alternatives.
If you want significant control over every part of your online business, you can consider using the open-source version of Magento, which can be downloaded for free. With this e-commerce platform, you can control and configure every part of your site — but you must also possess technical expertise (or pay for it) to do so.
Even though this platform is not typically recommended for e-commerce beginners because you have the technical expertise required or the financial resources to hire a developer. Nonetheless, you’ll find that Magento offers the most features of any open-source solution on the market — and it’s completely free to use.
According to what you can see, there is a lot involved with this phase, and there are several crucial elements to consider when selecting the ideal platform for your e-commerce business. Ultimately, as the backbone of your e-commerce firm, you’ll want to think about cost, functionality, usability, and other factors; after all, you’ll need a working system that lets you get up and running quickly while also managing your operations on a day-to-day basis.
The next step is to get to work on customizing and launching your website after you’ve determined which solution is best for you. Take some generous time to consider how you want your online store to be arranged, how you want the design to look, what colors you want to use, and other factors influencing its success. Under your platform and financial constraints, you may choose to build and launch your website on your own or hire a professional designer or developer to assist you.
Strategize and promote your products
After you’ve launched your store, you should devote all of your efforts to e-commerce marketing. Everything else can be put on hold until you are confident in generating traffic and reaching potential customers.
Ecommerce marketing’s secret is to identify the best channel for your products and then refine your marketing strategy until acquiring a single new customer costs less than the amount of money earned from a sale is profitable for both parties.
You want to strive for an infinite loop in which you spend less than you earn on a day-to-day basis. Start by promoting your company through free marketing channels, and once you’ve gained some recognition, you can move on to paid marketing channels.
Also, make certain that you reinvest all of your profits back into your advertisements. This is not the time to keep all of your earnings for yourself. Keep an eye on the relationship between profits earned and money spent on e-commerce marketing by checking your advertising ROI at least twice a week, and better yet, more frequently. Ideally, you should do it daily.
Yet another recommendation is to sell products with markups that are high enough to cover your marketing expenses consistently. Because e-commerce marketing can be extremely expensive, you must price your products competitively. It is expected that a $100 investment will generate at least $120 in sales, allowing you to repurpose the money for future advertising.
A successful e-commerce business plan will necessitate some financial investment. Investing money in your advertising tactics should eventually result in sales, which is exactly what you need. Additionally, you can use other marketing strategies to draw customers to your stores, such as eCommerce SEO and email marketing.
Direct marketing allows you to generate more sales almost immediately.
In addition, find out how others are approaching Instagram marketing and the latest advertising trends on Snapchat. You can use these suggestions and ideas to implement new strategies in your own e-commerce business.
What to do after an e-commerce business launch?
The work does not end at successfully launching your e-commerce store. You need to work continuously on certain aspects to have a success story for your store. Here are four main areas which need to be done and upgrade regularly:
Outstanding Customer Service
Providing exceptional customer service is critical to the long-term success of your company. If their questions or concerns are not addressed within a reasonable time, approximately 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction. Build trust with your customers by providing self-service content and a comprehensive FAQs page, providing live chat support and offering incentives for product reviews. All of this will provide valuable social proof for your store and encourage repeat customers, who are five times less expensive to acquire than new customers.
Attention to Conversion Optimization
On average, 69% of your website visitors will abandon their shopping cart before completing their purchase. Can you imagine how much more money you would make if you could keep those sales instead of losing them? Improve the experience your customer experience with your company. Create offers that are only available for a limited time. Send out an email campaign to customers who have abandoned their shopping cart. You can even set up a retargeting campaign to attract new customers. Attempt to figure out which strategy works best for your company by experimenting with various approaches.
Optimization of the e-commerce store
You should be aware that 44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad online shopping experience. Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your e-commerce venture, the next step is to optimize your website for search engine optimization. Increase the speed of your website. Make a navigation bar that is easy to use. Concentrate on creating outstanding product pages. Display items that are related to the current selection. Improve the efficiency of your store search. Finally, take a look at how your store appears on mobile devices.
Updates to inventory
Because the best-selling products tend to disappear quickly, keeping a large inventory on hand is essential. Always be on the lookout at the market for new innovative emerging product ideas that could help to keep existing customers coming back to your store. Do not always rely on a small number of products to generate the majority of your revenue. Instead, make new arrivals available to your existing customers and test new product ideas regularly based on Google Trends.