How to start an ecommerce business: a guide to success

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Are you an entrepreneur wondering how to start an ecommerce business? The ecommerce industry is a growing market and the prospects for the next years are optimistic, it tends to expand even more. You don’t want to get behind it, right?

Creating an ecommerce business from scratch is simpler than it may seem, you will find several tools to help you navigate through the online world of business, and understand how you can profit. According to Statista, 2.14 billion people around the world are expected buy goods and services online this year. 

There is a market that you can reach not only inside your city, or country but in many different regions of the globe. That’s one of the ecommerce business advantages, enabling you to go beyond the local market.

Define what you are going to sell

The image shows to computers inf front fo one another, in the one on the left side a hand is going out of the screen with a credit card, on the right site, a hand is going out of the other screen holding a paperbag

What products do you want to sell online? That’s the first question to answer to understand how to start an ecommerce business. The number of products and services you can commercialize is enormous so are the different types of online stores, and the kinds of public. 

You can sell directly to the consumer on a B2C (business to consumer) model, for example when someone buys a watch online. But there is also the possibility to sell for other companies in a B2B (business to business) model, where you are going to negotiate with other companies, for example by supplying raw materials. 

An ecommerce business can be focused on selling physical products like furniture or electronics, but there are other options, such as providing services or selling digital goods, like software, and ebooks. 

On the internet, you are going to find specific markets for each of these types, but to decide which one to opt for, you need to consider your business ideas, and what is more viable.  What type of ecommerce business do you want to focus on B2C or B2B? Digital goods, physical items, or services? This is going to depend on your area of expertise as well. 

Analyze the market you want to get into

If you have an idea of the kind of products or services you desire to sell, the initial movement is to study the market, research if there is a demand for it, and understand what is the initial investment to start in the niche you have selected. Knowing the market is going to be very useful to mitigate the risks and validate your idea. 

Use tools like Google Trends, to comprehend if there is a demand, and also if you are dealing with a trending market. Searching on social media is also very useful.

To help you expand your vision of the market you are about to invest in, analyze your competitors, pay attention to what strategies they are using, what sales channels they are, and which are their marketing actions. The existence of concurrence is a confirmation of an existent market for your product. 

By getting to know them, you can identify what aspects of your products or services are unique and how you can distinguish yourself from them. That can be a starting point to think about an effective marketing plan.

Study your potential customers’ profile

After validating your idea, aware that there is a market for your product, it’s time to go deeper into knowing your potential customers’ behaviors. An essential part of understanding how to start an ecommerce business and to reduce error risk involves studying the profile of your target audience.

How are you going to set what sales channels to use, create effective ads campaigns, use social media to engage, and turn users into customers if you don’t know your possible buyers? 

It’s not necessary to have all the answers when starting. On the contrary, you are going to understand your audience more and more, as your business grows, but you should have the main idea of who they are.

For example, try to answer the following questions:

  • What is their age range?
  • Where are they mainly located?
  • What social media do they use?
  • Where do they buy their products or services?

If you had previous experiences in the market you want to get into, probably you have a general idea of the customer profile. In case you already own a physical store, you can start by drawing your target audience behavior from the data you have of your local customers. 

Other useful tools are market studies, focused on your sector. You can also create a form to discover more about your customers’ preferences. But, remember, this is just a draft to help you start.

Decide which sales channels you are going to use

Understanding customer behavior is going to help you a lot when it comes to deciding on which online channels to sell. Because you are going to be able to identify where your target audience buys. 

But, what are these sales channels? You may ask. The main ones are the ecommerce websites, marketplaces (multi-seller platforms focused on several sectors or in just one), and social media platforms that have become a place to close sales directly. 

Amazon and eBay are two of the most famous marketplaces nowadays, while Instagram has been seen by many as the main social media network to sell. But, once more, it depends on who your customers are, and your business model. 

Choose an ecommerce website builder

The advantage of having an ecommerce website, even when you will use social media platforms and marketplaces to sell, is having a space that you can fully customize, according to your company needs. 

You will be able to create your domain, develop as many pages as you find necessary, and include marketing strategies such as adding a blog, or integrating the website with an automated email marketing tool, to keep in contact with your customers, building loyalty, but also to reach users who may turn into clients. 

To develop your ecommerce website there is no need to have coding or design skills. On the internet, you are going to find many website builders that provide solutions to create an online store with pre-built templates. 

 3 ecommerce website builders you should know

To help you choose which ecommerce website builder to use, we have separated three of them, which presents some of the best features you will encounter. Take a look at their main advantages. 

1. Wix

Create your own Ecommerce with Wix today

Wix has an industry-leading e-commerce website builder that will give you the chance to create, run, and scale your online store. You will count on features such as:

  • More than 500 templates options
  • Wix Logo Maker
  • Multiple sales channels, manageable on the Wix dashboard
  • SEO tools
  • Wix Owner app
  • Automated Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns
  • Automated sales tax

2. Bluehost

Bluehost logo

Bluehost enables you to create your online store using an intuitive platform that doesn’t demand previous experience with design or coding. You can choose a pre-built template and customize it the way you wish. Take a look at the features it offers:

  • Free domain
  • Free SSL
  • Free CDN
  • Pre-built templates
  • Insightful analytics
  • Automated security updates
  • Backup data protection
  • 24/7 support
  • SEO tools
  • Powerful plugins

3. Shopify

Shopify logo

Shopify gives you the ability to bring your ecommerce to life, attract new customers, control sales, and manage your business tasks, all in one place. Organizing each step becomes much easier with: 

  • A centralized platform to manage several sales channels
  • Built-in marketing tools
  • 24/7 support
  • Shopify Payments
  • Shopify’s built-in blog
  • SEO tools
  • Marketing reports

Build an ecommerce business plan

On the left side of the image, it's written "innovation, sales, performance, opportunities, marketing, plan, ideas, competition, and business. In the middle there is a man with arms pointing to the words on each side. On the right side of the image is written "customer, venture, teamwork, team, support, strategy, and goals".

Validate your idea, study the market and competitors, analyze your potential customers’ behavior, define which sales channels to use: all of this is part of an essential item to have success on how to start an ecommerce business: your business plan. 

Before building your online store, create a plan to sketch how you are going to develop your idea, define your sales and marketing strategies, identify your business model, and set short and long-term goals. 

The business plan will give you a broader vision of the paths to follow to succeed, it’s like a roadmap, where you can even predict possible problems and prevent them.

You may feel more compelled to start putting things into practice, but taking time to study and writing a plan will be very useful, including, if you need to present your ecommerce to investors, hire new employees, or make partnerships. 

A business plan should include

  • Business concept
  • Goals and vision
  • What you are going to sell
  • The highlights of your products or services
  • Target market
  • Potential customers profile
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial plan

Keep in mind that your business plan is going to suffer a lot of alterations along the way after you launch your ecommerce. That’s not a bad thing, as you learn with experience, you can adapt and develop even more precise strategies. 

Get ready to launch your ecommerce business

After you have followed all the steps, with your business plan on hand,  the ecommerce website, and other sales channels set, it’s time to launch your ecommerce business.

Being prepared is going to help you enter the market with some guidelines, but, don’t forget, launching is when you dive in, so don’t wait for the perfect conditions to do it.

Review your website, make sure all the tasks that enable you to start selling online are complete, and it’s time to get into the market. Don’t be afraid to make changes on the way. If there is any problem, the most important is how you are going to deal with it, don’t let it stop you. 

Mainly, in the beginning, it may seem harder, but surviving this moment is what distinguishes many successful entrepreneurs from others. 

Follow up your ecommerce business closely 

The image show a hand pointing on a screen where is a play button, going out of the screen there are many icons of a speaker, a musical note, coins, movie, and others

Launching the ecommerce business is only the start. To achieve your goals and have revenue, you must follow up on each process of your ecommerce business. For example, the marketing actions. 

If you have created social media pages to advertise your products or services, engage with your public, and sell, there must be a posting schedule. But, it’s not only about keeping the pages updated, you should check the comments and the direct messages, answer them, or select someone from your team to do it.

People are looking for unique and personalized experiences, sometimes not having an answer when they send a message to a store, is what prevents users from becoming customers. 

Also, make sure all your communication channels are aligned to your brand’s visual identity and develop a tone of voice that has to do with your company’s vision. Those may seem like small details but can conquer many clients. 

Another essential task to control is if the number of sales isn’t bigger than the number of products available.  With an automated and centralized inventory system, which many ecommerce website builders include, it’s easier to always be updated. Follow the order status, and certify that the products have properly been delivered.

Keep in mind the work isn’t finished after concluding the sales, stimulating customer loyalty is very important. You can do that by creating actions that encourage the customer to go back to your store, for example, a thank you note page with a discount for the next purchase or offering a fidelity program. 

FAQ about how to start an ecommerce business

Having doubts about how to start an ecommerce business is more than normal, it’s a new area for you, and you are discovering its particularities. Studying the ecommerce industry is a way to feel safer to develop your new enterprise. 

How much does it cost to start an ecommerce business?

It isn’t possible to say one specific value for all ecommerce businesses. It depends on the size of your company, the business model, the website builder, and other sales channels you choose. 

For example, if you opt for being a reseller using the dropship model you won’t have to spend money on building a warehouse for your company or developing a packaging system. The company, whose products you will be selling, is responsible for all the logistics. This considerably reduces the initial investment. 

If your company makes the products that will be sold at your online store, then it’s necessary to include the production costs, and the processes it entails until the item is delivered.

However, when we are talking about digital products or services, the cost is also different. With an ebook, you don’t have to spend on shipping, for instance. 

How to choose the best ecommerce website builder?

The best website builder has to offer you some basic features, such as an easy-to-use interface, customizable templates, SEO and marketing tools, and a centralized dashboard that enables you to manage all your sales. 

Observe if the platform you are hosting your website is stable, has a good load speed, allows you to scale your business, create your domain, and offers support to solve technical issues. 

Also, pay attention to what plan suits your business needs. Each online store has its specific aspects, there isn’t one plan that fits all. You have to research deeply, and you can test different ecommerce website builders since many of them provide a free trial period. 

How to start a dropshipping ecommerce business?

In the dropshipping system, the product goes directly from the supplier to the customer, your store will intermediate the sales, but you don’t have to worry about renting a place to create a warehouse, for example.  

You can focus all your business plan on improving marketing and sales strategies, and how to make the best use of each sales channel. That’s what has been attracting so many entrepreneurs to this model, along with the reduced capital investment.

To start, besides selecting the sector and kind of products you want to work with, you will have to search for the best supplier. Do deep research, find the ones that offer the dropshipping system, get in contact, and analyze the prices.   

With this settled, you can follow the same tips we have listed here on how to start an ecommerce business. 

Is an ecommerce business profitable?

Yes, it can be very profitable, and the financial market predicts the ecommerce industry will keep expanding and increasing revenue. According to eMarketer, by 2024 the ecommerce market will have achieved $6 trillion on sales. 

But, of course, to have a profitable company, you need to create a viable business and dedicate yourself from building and validating your idea to everyday sales management. 

Learn the steps on how to start an ecommerce business and begin your journey to success

Now you have understood how to start an ecommerce business, what about taking that idea you kept on the back of your mind and begin developing it? You have the guideline, and many resources to research, build reports, test your products and services at your fingertips, in the vast world of the internet. Give your first step.

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