An Ecommerce store is a business that allows you to trade products online. This seemingly simple procedure is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Available stats put the world’s retail Ecommerce sales at $4.93 trillion in 2021. Ecommerce stores are popular for many reasons. Most people start online stores because they:
- Want a side hustle
- Want to sell their services
- Want to sell their creations
- Want a full-time job that gives them freedom
As alluring as starting an Ecommerce can be, you need proper knowledge and mindset to get it right.
We created this blueprint for starting an Ecommerce store to get you on the right path. This guide will be brief; therefore, we won’t get into technical details, but we will provide enough for you to know what you should expect and the steps you need to take.
Steps to Start an Ecommerce Store
An Ecommerce business is similar to a brick-and-mortar store, so the same principles apply.
● Choose Products and Target Audience
The first step is choosing your target buyers and what you want to sell. There are many easy things to sell online such as t-shirts, throw pillows, and jewelry. You can make some of these items yourself or get them from a supplier.
It pays to focus on items you know are in hot demand within your target audience. You also want to make sure your products are affordable. They don’t have to be cheap, although cheap products like shampoos and multi-color USB chargers can help you make sales faster.
You have to select your product based on the target audience. Ensure your target buyers love to buy without hesitation and can afford it easily. You hear many stories about people selling low-demand products that make a lot of money.
If you want to make money fast and easily from an online store, you need a product that your target audience will love and buy quickly.
● Decide on your Business Structure
An online store is a business. You have to pay taxes for your profits. Your business structure will determine how the law views your company. Four options are available.
- Sole proprietorship: Most online stores operate as a sole proprietorship. There is no line between you and your business. Many people choose the route because it requires minimal action. However, you must ensure your business complies with regulations.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): This option distinguishes you and your business. This structure reduces your liability as a business owner and offers many tax benefits. It is often the next step for companies pulling in significant revenue.
- Partnership: If other owners are involved in your online store, you must sign a partnership agreement. This agreement defines the nature of the business and the responsibilities, roles, investments, and rights of each partner.
- Corporation: A corporation is usually a fully established business. It typically has employees and shareholders. You can convert an LLC to a corporation if you believe it offers more benefits.
Whatever you might think is the right structure for your online business, we recommend you get legal advice to guide you throughout the process.
● Pick an Ecommerce Platform
Once you have settled on your products, target audience, and business structure, it is time to set up your online store. Unless you have a large budget or expert coding experience, we strongly recommend using an Ecommerce platform.
There are many Ecommerce platforms to choose from, each with pros and cons. Ideally, when selecting an Ecommerce platform, you want to look out for the following.
- Features: We recommend you go for a platform that allows you to set up your store without coding or design experience. Our top recommendations are Shopify and Wix. Depending on your product, you can also choose to sell on Merchant sites like Amazon and eBay. However, platforms like Shopify are great as they take care of the entire process from start to finish. They also help you set up payment systems, automate sales tax, track abandoned carts, and a lot more.
- Specialty businesses: Some platforms are better than others in certain areas. For instance, if you choose to sell royalty-free books, then Amazon Kindle publishing is your best bet. If you are looking to sell online courses, then consider platforms like Skillshare and Udemy.
- Scalability: Changing platforms can cost you time, money, and customers. So, choose a platform that can support you for the long-term. A custom domain name helps if you change platforms. Still, it is better to use a platform to support growth and expansion.
- Marketing: The right platform in this regard depends on many factors. One of them is a strong SEO foundation. You get this from platforms that support SEO tools. Some examples include Wix and Shopify. You also want to consider the marketing tools your platform has to offer. For instance, Shopify allows you to connect your online store with your Facebook page. Alternatively, merchants’ sites like Amazon can recommend your products to its millions of daily shoppers if you get the SEO aspect of your page right.
● Partner with a Dropshipper (optional)
One effortless way to sell online is to partner with a drop shipper. All you need to do is find a supplier willing to handle the manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping. You then list the supplier’s products on your online store at a higher price than the supplier’s.
When someone makes a paid order for the product, you route the order and payment to the supplier after removing your cut. The supplier ships the product to the customer directly and everybody is happy.
The best part is that many Ecommerce stores support dropshipping services. Go through the features and choose the one that works for you.
● Choose a Payment Provider
You need a payment provider to help you receive payments from your customers. Ideally, your provider should offer multiple payment methods and allow you to calculate your taxes easily.
Most Ecommerce platforms offer their payment processor and may also allow you to use third-party payment processors like PayPal.
Whatever your choice, ensure that it covers most or all of the payment methods preferred by your target audience.
● Name your Store and Get a Domain Name.
Your store needs a name. Ideally, the name should also serve as a domain name. When choosing your store name, try to make it similar to your product, niche, or selling point. It would help if you also make your name memorable so visitors can remember it after their first few visits.
However, you should ensure that another business is not using the same name and that your name and is available as a domain name. You can make sure of this by searching your name on google and social media. You can also look up your local business registration service.
When you’ve settled on a name, the next step is to get a domain name. Ideally, your business name should be your domain name. If that isn’t possible, choose a domain name that matches your store name as closely as possible.
However, try to stick to only .com domains and avoid using funny-sounding words, numbers, and hyphens in your domain name. You can get cheap domains from registrars like Namecheap and GoDaddy.
● Design your Site for Sales
Don’t let this aspect scare you. Using a platform like Shopify, most of your design will be as simple as choosing templates, changing font and color, and writing page descriptions.
You are designing your site for sales, meaning you want a website that impresses customers and helps them to find and purchase your products easily.
The most accessible approach is to go through Ecommerce templates and choose the one that contains all the features you need for your store. Canva offers thousands of templates you can choose for shop designs and your marketing designs.
Ideally, you want to put only the most essential elements so your website will load fast and not cause your customers to bounce off your store. You can check other online stores by major retailers to get a feel of how you can design your store.
You should also follow the three-click rule. This rule states that customers should get from your home page to their desired product pages in three clicks or less. You can embed non-sales links but helpful links such as return policy, contact info, and shipping information should be in your page footer.
You should also provide:
- Clear and catching product descriptions.
- Videos and calls-to-action (CTAs).
To guide your customers at every stage throughout the buying process.
● Launch your Store and Start Marketing your Products
It’s time to launch your Ecommerce store. This stage is the time when hard work begins. It would help if you focused on selling your products through digital marketing.
Many free and paid tactics mainly on social media can help you acquire your first customer within days or hours. If you have set up your marketing strategy, it is time to implement it.
Starting an Ecommerce store is not something you can do at the snap of a finger. It can be challenging, but many people enjoy the challenge.
Depending on your products, it can take hours to weeks to decide the product to sell, hire a supplier, build an Ecommerce website, and market your products to your customers.
Using a shopping band such as Amazon or Shopify can take a log of the heavy lifting out of your hand. With time, you will be selling like a pro.