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How to Start an eCommerce Business Step By Step

The world of eCommerce is increasingly lucrative and is one of the best ways to be your own boss, pursue your passions, and connect with others. However, it can be difficult to know where to start — or, if you have started, how to scale.

Here are the basics of what you need to know to start an eCommerce business.

What is an eCommerce business?

eCommerce is a business run entirely online. This means you buy and sell products and services completely through the Internet, as opposed to in-person brick-and-mortar stores. While eCommerce has been around for a couple of decades now, it has never been bigger and may only continue to grow.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2022, eCommerce sales increased by three percent from the second to the third quarter alone. The increase in eCommerce sales in the third quarter increased by 10.8 percent from 2021 to 2022.

If you’re an entrepreneur ready to start your eCommerce business and become a contributor to those sales, then follow along for how to get your online store up and running.

How to start an eCommerce business

1. Identify your niche

The eCommerce market is booming, which works to your advantage and disadvantage. It works to your advantage because it is in high demand for internet users.

However, that does mean that the market has become quite saturated for eCommerce business owners. Before you jump into the eCommerce business, you may need extensive research to identify a gap in the market.

You can find profitable product opportunities by:

  • Identifying and catering to a customer’s pain point
  • Catering to passionate hobbyists
  • Selling a high-quality product that you love
  • Going with what you know
  • Identifying and capitalizing on trending products
  • Reading customer reviews on competitor products and making your own products better
  • Use search engine keywords to find new product opportunities
  • Testing the product in your target market before you hard launch
  • Researching product ideas with high profit margins

After completing project research, you might need to conduct market research to ensure your product has an audience who may love what you offer.

Related: How to Find Your Startup’s Niche

2. Conduct market research and construct a business plan

SWOT analysis

As you enter a competitive market, you want an edge over your competitors. To do this, you must complete a competitive analysis. Using the SWOT format is an excellent method to start.

A SWOT analysis consists of identifying the following:

  • Strengths: What are the strengths of your business or business plan? What can your product offer that others cannot?
  • Weaknesses: How can your business or business plan improve? What improvements can be made to your product or its price point?
  • Opportunities: How can you optimize business functions? How can you improve your product?
  • Threats: What does your competitor offer that you don’t? Where is your competitor performing better?

If you have a team building your eCommerce business with you, involve them in the SWOT analysis process. Having different perspectives and more brain power can produce comprehensive and all-encompassing results you might not have reached on your own.

If you don’t have a team, complete your SWOT analysis in multiple sessions. When you return to the document with a fresh brain, you will likely catch things or come up with ideas you didn’t have the first time.

Write your business plan

Shopify is an incredibly thorough resource, and its business plan advice provides templates and examples. For a quick preview, see below what should be included in your business plan.

  • Executive summary: A one-page document that describes your entire business plan, business model, objectives, and mission statement
  • Market analysis: Analysis of the market you intend to enter, including your SWOT
  • Products and services: Product features, patents, and copyrights
  • Marketing plan: Sales plan, consumer demographics, plan and budget for how to get the word out about your new business
  • Logistics and operations plan: How you plan to make, sell, and ship your eCommerce products
  • Financial plan: Revenue, upfront costs, and expense projections with an income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement

Related: How To Write A Business Plan

3. Make a name for yourself and set up your store

Business name

When it’s time to come up with a name for your business, remember that it should reflect the customer you serve, the service your company provides, or your brand’s mission. When potential customers read your name, they should be able to associate that with your product.

It can be simple or highly creative but remember it can be at the forefront of your business and its identity. If possible, create a domain name with your brand name incorporated, making it easy to access and simple for customers to remember.

Related: How to Choose a Strong Business Name and Amplify Your Brand

Business logo

When creating your logo, consider that it should:

  • Fit your brand’s aesthetic
  • Include unique elements
  • Have multiple versions
  • Use colors that pop
  • Use fonts that are easy-to-read

Set up your online store

One of the most excellent tools you can use for your eCommerce website is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

SEO has to do with the strength of the keywords and relevant content you include on your web pages and how those keywords organically boost your placement on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) without paid advertising.

As you build out your online retail store, keep SEO practices in mind to earn yourself a higher placement when customers search for your online products.

Related: An Intro Guide to Ecommerce SEO for Beginners

Choose shipping channels

Shipping has to be part of your budget, and you should choose a reliable carrier to ensure a positive customer experience.

Best practices for small business shipping include:

  • Free shipping (if possible)
  • Use automation for optimized notifications to keep customers informed of the order process
  • Easy-to-navigate checkout display
  • Realistic estimates

4. Create sales and marketing goals

A huge part of eCommerce is marketing your business to get the word out. There are so many ways to do this, and many of them are surprisingly affordable.

When starting, you might not have a big advertising budget for paid advertising, email marketing, or influenceraffiliate marketing — and that’s okay. To get the ball rolling, make sure you use social media, create quality content, connect with your customer, and use word of mouth.

Related: Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

When you are first starting, it is essential to create marketing and sales goals to track progress. You should note what you want to achieve, the budget you have to get there, and some concrete action steps you may take along the way.

One of the best ways to track your progress is to create SMART goals, which stands for:

  • Specific: What do you want to accomplish?
  • Measurable: What KPIs might you use to measure your progress?
  • Attainable: Are your goals challenging but reachable?
  • Relevant: Do the goals speak to the mission of your business?
  • Time-bound: What is the time frame for short-term goals? What is the time frame for long-term goals?

Because your goals are meant to be time-bound, set a scheduled time to check in on your progress. You should try to do this quarterly to see growth, where you are thriving, and where you can improve.

Related: How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 2022

5. Launch your business

At this point, you’ve put in an exponential amount of work. And now that it’s time to open, you likely have more work to do. As your business opens, you must push online marketing harder than ever to grow your target audience and move them through the marketing funnel.

Use key marketing strategies to:

  • Capture the attention of your audience and build overall brand awareness
  • Use social mediaapps for storytelling to drive traffic to your eCommerce site
  • Convert customer interest to purchase by creating an easy-to-use website
  • Nurture the relationships with your consumers to promote retention

Conclusion

Starting an online business can be challenging but can also garner a considerable payoff. If you’ve got an entry point into the industry, trust your instinct, research, and make it happen.

Remember these tips as you create your eCommerce business model:

  1. Thoroughly research your business idea
  2. Validate your idea by testing it first
  3. Consider selling and shipping methods
  4. Go the extra mile when building your storefront
  5. Create a digital marketing plan to gain an audience and grow your customer base

Looking for more guidance? Check out The Ultimate Guide To Shopify by Jason R. Rich for an extensive step-by-step guide on everything you need to know, like:

  • Choosing an ecommerce platform
  • Building your Shopify store
  • Creating product descriptions
  • Building payment gateways for credit cards or PayPal
  • What to include on your FAQ page
  • How to create the ideal online shopping experience for your customers

This book walks you through how to get started and shares proven marketing strategies to boost sales, exclusive interviews from industry experts, and dozens of other resources to facilitate a successful online marketplace.

The Ultimate Guide To Shopify provides all the tools, resources, and step-by-step guidance needed to jumpstart and run your own ecommerce business that’s built to thrive.


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