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In 2019, 1.92 billion people shopped online, and today, with the variety of markets and free tools available, it’s easier than ever to start your own e-commerce business and engage in online shopping.
But a successful ecommerce business requires much more than choosing a store name and starting selling a product. If you want to learn how to get started with an ecommerce business, these include some important steps that start with what you sell.
1. Select a product
You may already know exactly what you want to sell. You may be knitting unique hats and scarves and want to share your pieces with a larger audience through the Etsy Store, for example.
Or you may not know what you want to sell. In that case, here are some ideas to help you get started.
Follow your passion
Start looking for product ideas based on what interests you. If you are an enthusiastic economist who loves vintage clothing, you might want to use an eye for discovery to resell found items, such as Amy Yee from Maeven Vintage. Or maybe you’re a fan of animals that can make pet toys, like Lynn Bahr from Dezi & Roo.
Starting an e-commerce business based on your favorite hobby or personal experience is a great idea because you already have an interest in, and knowledge of, a topic that can help you build a successful venture – and enjoy it.
Check out the trends
Need some inspiration? Check out what people are looking for on Google or see what is being treated on eBay and Walmart. You can also check out what’s popular on Kickstarter, which items are moving to the Amazon bestseller list, or which products are most commonly added to Amazon users’ wish lists and registers. Seeing what interests people or adding them to their wheelchairs may spark the idea.
Solve the pain point
One of the best ways to develop products that people want is to start a business that makes it easier for them to accomplish a certain task. For example, when it launched the Casper start-up box in 2014, the company had only one product on offer. But by selling his mattress using a direct buyer model, Casper streamlined the mattress buying process by limiting choice and reducing sellers, and startups made $ 100 million in sales in less than two years.
2. Select a business model
A key part of running an ecommerce site is determining which ecommerce business model is right for you based on your resources and your business idea.
Dropshipping is a fulfillment mode where you do not maintain your own inventory. Instead, when an order arrives, the seller sends your buyer’s order and shipping information to a third party, such as a manufacturer, wholesaler, or other retailer, who then supplies the product to the buyer. You simply pick and sell products in the store, but you don’t really handle the stock.
This ecommerce business model requires greater upfront financial investment because you will need to buy and manage your inventory yourself. You are also responsible for the storage and maintenance of inventory, packaging and shipping of products and for monitoring customer orders; however, this process can be simplified if you are working with a qualifying company.
Have an idea for a product but don’t have the resources to build it yourself? Find a manufacturer who can create the product for you. Once the products are finished, the manufacturer can deliver the products to you; to a third party, such as Walmart or Amazon; or directly to the consumer.
With this type of ecommerce model, you choose an already designed product that another company will sell, then you brand and sell it as your own.
Companies like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club and Pampered Post operate on a subscription model that sends customers a box of selected products at regular intervals.
For example, Pampered Post sends subscribers a variety of self-tanning products, such as the ones shown above, that are sourced from Canadian companies.
3. Check the competition
A little competition is a good thing; it will motivate you to differentiate your ecommerce business. But if there is little or no competition, it may mean that there is simply no market for your idea.
For this reason, it is crucial to do a little research before starting a store.
See who else sells similar products or runs a business that is comparable to yours. Then conduct a competitive analysis to determine how you can differentiate your product and business so that it stands out in the market.
4. Find suppliers
Now that you know what you are selling, how you are selling and what the competition is doing, you need to get the product or products you intend to sell.
If you are going to make the goods yourself, this part may be easy, but if you start a Dropshiping business for example, there will be a few steps involved.
For example, if you use Shopify for Dropshipping, you might want to download the Oberlo app, one of the most popular for dropshipping, and use it to select products to add to the store. Oberlo can select different items, as shown below, and you can even customize products by renaming, selecting photos, and compiling your own item descriptions.
However, if you need to find a supplier or manufacturer to create custom products for your business, it can be a little more complicated. Sourcify is a great resource if you are going to produce the goods yourself. You can also search this article in Shopify to find suppliers for your store.
5. Select Marketplaces
There are numerous sales channels where you can make your products available, from the host store to options like Amazon, Etsy and eBay.
6. Select a business name
Your brand identity starts with your brand name, so it’s important to choose your business name carefully. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Keep it simple. Your business name should be memorable, easy to pronounce and short enough to fit product packaging and header images for your site and social accounts.
- Be unique. Your business name should stand out, but it should still be an accurate reflection of the products you sell. It should also be different from the name of direct competitors, so go back to your research to come up with a name that is unique.
- Research domains and social websites. Before you decide on a name, make sure you can get social lunches and a domain name that match your brand.
7. Write a business plan
You have a lot to consider when starting a business, so create a roadmap to guide you along the way. A strong business plan will help you determine your strategy, identify roadblocks, and prioritize tasks so you can start and grow a successful ecommerce business.
Check out Shopify’s article to help get you started.
8. Do the paperwork
Brainstorming business names, selecting products, and engaging with marketing ideas for your new venture can be exciting, but don’t forget the stupidity of starting an ecommerce business. To make your business official, you must first make sure that you have all the registrations, permits, and other documentation required for new business.
Regulations vary depending on your country and country, but you will generally need to register your business and apply for a business license. If you are running an e-commerce company in the United States, you will also need to obtain an employer identification number.
9. Create a logo
Now that your business is named and registered and you have secured a domain name, you need to create a logo. This is an important aspect of your brand that will help your ecommerce stand out and look more professional.
If you do not have the resources to hire someone to design a custom logo, consider using a template or a free logo design site like DesignEvo.
10. Build your store
Whether you’re running an e-commerce site with your own hosts or setting up an Etsy store, it’s time to build a store.
This can involve different steps depending on how and where you plan to sell, so check out these guides to set up your presence in some of the most popular ecommerce markets and learn how to make the most of platforms:
If you are going to sell products in multiple ecommerce markets, simplify the process of product transfer, inventory management and inventory maintenance with Sellbrite.
11. Market your ecommerce business
You have started your own online store and you have products for sale. But planning and making a great store does not necessarily mean that people will find it or buy it there. That’s where marketing comes from.
Social media is changing the way we shop, and e-commerce brands that do not take advantage of it will not miss it.
Product discovery on social media is growing, and more than 80% of shoppers said they discovered a product they were interested in on social networks, up from 58% in 2017, Curalate research showed. Product discovery on Instagram has seen the most growth, with 48% of consumers finding products there, up from 18% in 2017.
And consumers not only turn to social media for ideas and inspiration – they also buy from social networks, especially on Instagram, which in 2016 posted photos that can be purchased.
So take advantage of social media’s ability to help you sell products by setting up business accounts, building follow-ups, and regularly interacting with your audience. And you don’t have to be active on every social platform. Instead, focus on what your customers use, which you can track with tools like Google Analytics.
Influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to expose people to your ecommerce site. Consumers seek product recommendations from influencers almost as often as friends, which is why influencer marketing has already become Instagram worth $ 1.7 billion.
One of the benefits of working with influencers to promote your products is that you don’t have to break the bank. In fact, micro-influencers – those with 1,000 to 100,000 followers – are often the most successful in influencing purchasing decisions. In fact, 82% of people who get a micro-influence recommendation are very likely to follow it and actually buy it.
In addition to working with individual influencers, you can partner with bloggers, brands, and other players in your industry.
Team up with an additional social account to host a giveaway, contact bloggers to see if they review your products, or generate buzz about your store by teaming with other brands to promote together.
Develop an SEO strategy
There is a lot of competition in the ecommerce space, especially with online retailing giants like Amazon, which sell billions of products, so optimize your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) store to help consumers find it.
Start by identifying your keywords with tools like Google or Ahrefs, then include them in your titles and product list. This will save more traffic to your ecommerce store – and increase your sales.
In addition to optimizing your ecommerce store for Google, you can also develop your SEO strategy specifically for the market in which you sell. For example, if you sell on Etsy, you need to take a few steps to make your products stand out and show more in search results within Etsy’s search function.
Encourage product reviews
The report found that 92% of potential customers consult with reviews before making a purchase decision, and 87% of consumers trust product reviews as much as they trust reviews from people they know.
Not only does this make it easier for consumers to read and write reviews, but it also encourages customers to leave reviews. There are a number of ways to do this, including making it easy to browse through product pages, offering a discount or gift in exchange for viewing or simply following up with customers and seeking reviews.
For more ideas on how to market your ecommerce site, see this article.
Put customers first
With all the steps involved in starting an ecommerce store, the most important aspect of your business can easily be overlooked: customers. However, 80% of people stop doing business with a business because of a bad customer experience, so it is crucial that you keep the customer in the lead at every step of the e-commerce process.
Therefore, while developing your business, keep in mind the following questions: How does your product fulfill the customer’s desire or need? How easy is it to browse the ecommerce site, add products to your cart and complete your purchase? What kind of customer service do you offer and how can it be improved?
Getting a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one, so keep your focus on the customer to ensure your ecommerce business is thriving.