Without needing a physical location, e-commerce businesses offer greater affordability and flexibility for many entrepreneurs. As such, they make a significant first step towards self-employment. The question is: how do you start your e-commerce business?
While the answer depends on your goals, we’ll cover the basics in this article.
What Is an E-commerce Business?
E-commerce businesses buy and sell goods or services online. They differ in size and scope, with retail behemoths like Amazon on one end of the spectrum and smaller craft shops on the other.
Shopping online has turned from a luxury to something people do daily. As such, it’s no surprise that the e-commerce business’ value grows yearly. In their article, the E-commerce Guide reports that online retail sales amounted to €4.87 trillion worldwide in 2021 and are expected to grow even further.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur looking for a great business opportunity or a craftsperson looking to sell their products, e-commerce is worth the challenge. Luckily, creating your own e-commerce business has never been easier.
How to Start Your E-commerce Business?
There are many differences in starting an e-commerce business compared with starting a physical business, but there are also several similarities. For example, many of the planning and legal steps apply to both.
While the details may differ depending on your locale and specific vision, this guide will help you make informed decisions about your potential e-commerce business.
The first step toward your future e-commerce business is to do the necessary research. Investigate the market you’re interested in and try to find a niche market.
Determine what product or service you want to offer. If you’re selling products, are they physical or digital? Where will you get your stock? Do you plan on reselling products or creating something entirely new?
Your answers will shape your future business structure. Think about the type of business you want to operate. Do you plan on having a warehouse? Otherwise, would you prefer to turn a profit by offering drop-shipping?
While the booming e-commerce market offers an excellent opportunity for budding entrepreneurs, it also means high competition. Once you have decided on a product, perform research on possible competitors.
Don’t try to force yourself into an overcrowded niche, and avoid anything dominated by major brands. The more specific you are, the less competition you’re likely to face. However, a complete absence of competition can signify little to no market.
2. Validate Target Market and Product Ideas
After deciding on the product or service you want to offer and the general structure of your future e-commerce business, it’s time to validate your ideas. Now you can see whether your idea will work without investing money and resources.
We’ve previously covered this topic in-depth in our article “How to Use Idea Validation to Test Your Ideas.” It’s a process that helps you see which of your ideas are worth pursuing.
There are a few different ways to go about Idea Validation. Sometimes, additional research into your targeted market might be all you need. In the case of an e-commerce business, you might want to create a landing page for your future store or start an ad campaign to gauge initial interest.
3. Register Your e-commerce Business & Brand Name
You have a product, and you’ve identified a market. Now it’s time to register your e-commerce business and brand name.
The legal steps you need to take to run your e-commerce business vary based on location. Look up the legislation for your country and fill in the paperwork to properly register your business and collect the necessary licences.
Legalities aside, think about the type of brand you want to build, too. Consider your future customers. Who are they? Why would they be interested in your product? If you narrow your audience, it’ll be much easier to adjust your branding and marketing to target them specifically.
Pick the name of your business accordingly, create a logo and decide on the visual presentation of your brand. There are many things to consider, ranging from the colours and imagery you feature on your website to the typeface or fonts you plan to use. Hiring a designer to handle these things for you might be beneficial. Yet one of the most important aspects will be consistency.
Keeping your brand consistent throughout your online appearances, whether on your website or social media, will make it easier for customers to recognise you later. To learn more about this, check out our article “Start-up Branding Strategy for Entrepreneurs”.
4. Create Your Online Store
Like selecting a location for a real-life store, you’ll have to pick where you want to host your new e-commerce business. This website will be the face of your business and the main point of interaction between you and your customers.
Think about a domain name for your site. Try to match it as closely to your business name as possible so that customers can easily find and recognise you.
Next, decide on the e-commerce platform your store will use. These platforms allow you to create and launch your online store, manage inventory, take and ship orders, receive payment, and more. In short, they will enable your store to function.
Hundreds of these platforms are available, each offering a different experience. Choosing the right one isn’t easy. However, if you don’t want to spend too much time looking for a suitable platform, it might be best to consider one of the popular solutions below.
Shopify is perhaps the most well-known and popular e-commerce software out there. It offers an all-inclusive, user-friendly solution to all your e-commerce needs. The loading times are fast, and their basic plan starts at around $29 (€29.17) monthly.
Using WordPress, you can download WooCommerce to start selling your products directly through your WordPress site. This plug-in is entirely open-source and free to download. It includes many helpful e-commerce features, but it’s better suited for business owners with some technical knowledge and can take advantage of its open-source nature.
Squarespace is a service that allows you to build websites easily. However, it also offers e-commerce capabilities. It’s very user-friendly and will allow you to set up your store regardless of your technical knowledge. It might lack features, tools, or add-ons compared to other platforms. Their business plan starts at around $26 (€26.15) a month and offers a free trial, just like Shopify.
If you need complete control over your online store and want to customise every aspect, choose the open-source version of Magento. The possibilities here are endless, but technical skill is necessary to use this platform fully. Alternatively, commission someone to help you.
5. Market Your e-commerce Business
Our guide up to this point showed how easy it is to set up your e-commerce shop. However, the hardest part is yet to come. Everyone can set up an online shopfront without much hassle, but success is never guaranteed. Marketing is vital in ensuring a profitable business.
During step 2, you validated your business idea. You might already find an initial customer base if you reached out to potential customers during this step. That doesn’t mean you stop there.
Marketing is about letting as many people as possible know what you’re doing. Converting people into customers can happen naturally through word-of-mouth when customers recommend your business to others. Yet, there’s much more you can actively do to drive sales.
We already covered the basics of online marketing in our article “An Introduction to Online Marketing for Entrepreneurs”. Read it to get more detailed information on the topic. Other articles covering more specific areas of marketing are also available on our website. For example, “The Basics of Social Media Marketing” and “An Introduction to Content Marketing”.
Whatever marketing strategy you choose, keep track of which are working and aren’t. More costly marketing tactics make reviewing them more essential. As time progresses, you’ll be able to fine-tune your marketing to your intended audience and find what’s best for your business.
The e-commerce sector offers excellent opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. Setting up your shop is shockingly easy, but the market is highly competitive. Find a niche for yourself and validate your ideas. With diligence, proper marketing and a little luck, you might find a flourishing e-commerce business in no time.