The popularity of the internet has changed the landscape of commerce worldwide. Shopping is no longer exclusive to brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, approximately 80% of the U.S. population shop online.
Also, 50% of people prefer to shop online because of convenience. If you want to reach a new audience with your products, starting an ecommerce business may be your best option. The good news is that learning how to start an ecommerce business isn't a difficult process.
In this guide, we'll explain how to start an ecommerce website in six easy steps.
Steps for Starting an Ecommerce Business
Learning how to start an ecommerce business is a straightforward process, but it's not easy. There are several things to keep in mind to run a successful online store.
Below, we'll go into detail about every facet of starting an ecommerce business, from making your products to improving your SEO.
1. Find a Target Customer
The first step to starting an ecommerce store is determining your target audience. You can't sell products to everyone, so it's important to focus your efforts on a specific group of people.
To determine your target customer, consider the following questions:
- Who is most likely to buy my product?
- What are their demographics? (age, gender, location, etc.)
- What needs does my product address?
- What are their interests?
Answering these questions will help you create buyer personas for your target customers. Nonetheless, it's important to note that not all leads you receive will fit this mold. To separate legitimate customers from passersby, it's important to develop a lead scoring system.
A lead scoring system is a method of rating leads based on their likelihood of becoming customers. This system allows you to focus your efforts on the most qualified prospects, which in turn will generate more sales.
There are two types of criteria you can use to score leads:
- Demographic information: age, gender, location, etc.
- Firmographic information: job title, company size, industry vertical, etc.
Consider what type of information is most important to your business when determining how to score your leads.
The Buyer’s Journey
Finally, you'll need to determine the journey potential customers take from landing on your website to buying a product.
The customer journey is the process potential customers go through when interacting with your brand. There are three stages of the customer journey:
- Awareness: Potential customers become aware of your product or service.
- Interest: Potential customers show interest in your product or service.
- Decision: Potential customers decide whether or not to buy your product or service.
Once you've determined who your target audience is, you can start thinking about what types of products they would want to purchase from your store.
2. Choose a Domain Name
Now that you know who your target audience is, it's time to start thinking about your domain name and web hosting.
Your domain name is the URL people will use to access your website. For example, Google's domain name is google.com. Choosing a good domain name is important because it's how people will remember and find your website.
When choosing a domain name, keep the following in mind:
- Make it easy to spell and pronounce
- Keep it short
- Make it relevant to your business
- Avoid using numbers or hyphens
- Check to see if the social media handles are available for the same name
Purchasing a domain name comes with a website hosting package. Hosting is where your website's files are stored. A hosting company will provide you with the necessary technology to get your site up and running.
There are two types of web hosting: shared and dedicated. Shared hosting means that your website will be sharing a server with other websites. This is the most common and affordable type of web hosting.
Dedicated hosting means that your website will have its own server. This option is more expensive but provides better performance for high-traffic sites. Overall, you can expect to spend around $100 per year on web hosting.
3. Choose a Product and/or Service, Including Digital Products
Choosing your domain name and web hosting provider are the first steps to getting your online store up and running. This means it's time to focus on the business side of creating the products or services you plan to sell.
Make Your Product
If you're selling physical products, you'll need to source them from a supplier. This can be done by either manufacturing the products yourself or purchasing them from a wholesaler.
Manufacturing your own products has the benefit of giving you complete control over the product quality and design. However, it's important to note that this option requires more start-up capital and is more time-consuming.
Purchasing products from a wholesaler is a good option if you don't have the time or money to manufacture your own products.
Outsourcing production is a good option if you don't want to manufacture products yourself but still have control over the product quality. You can do this by working with a dropshipper or private label manufacturer.
Purchase Your Product Wholesale
Purchasing your product wholesale is a good option if you're selling physical products and you want to have more control over the product quality.
When you purchase products wholesale, you're buying them at a discounted price from the manufacturer. This allows you to sell the products for a higher price and make a profit.
Dropship Your Product
A dropshipper is a company that manufactures and ships products on your behalf. This option is ideal for businesses that are just starting out because it requires less start-up capital. Dropshipping also has the added benefit of being a hands-off approach to product fulfillment.
Digital Products & Services
If you're selling digital products, such as eBooks or courses, you'll need to create or purchase the product files. For example, if you're selling an eBook, you'll need to either write it yourself or hire a ghostwriter.
You can also sell services online. For example, you could sell web design services or social media marketing services. If you're selling services, you'll need to create a sales page and pricing structure for your business.
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4. Develop a Business Plan
Creating a business plan is essential for starting any business. A business plan lays out the formation and purpose of an organization, and it helps entrepreneurs stay organized when reaching their goals. With that said, here are some important things to consider when creating your draft.
Identify Your Competitors
In order to be successful, you need to know who your competitors are and what they're doing. This will help you create a unique selling proposition (USP) for your business.
Your USP is what sets your business apart from your competitors. For example, if you're selling eco-friendly products, your USP could be that your products are made from sustainable materials.
Once you've identified your USP, you can use it to create marketing campaigns that will attract customers to your business.
Evaluate Your Market
It's important to evaluate your market before starting an ecommerce business. This will help you determine whether or not there's a demand for your product or service.
You can use online tools, such as Google Trends, to research trends in your industry. You can also use social media to see what people are saying about your competitors. If there's a lot of positive buzz, that's a good sign that there's a demand for your products or services.
Once you've evaluated your market, you can start creating marketing campaigns and developing your sales strategy.
Understand Your Market
It’s crucial that you understand your market. This includes understanding your target customer's needs and wants.
You can use online tools, such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner, to research keywords that are relevant to your products or services. This will help you understand what people are searching for when they're looking for products or services like yours.
You can also use social media to see what people are saying about your competitors. If there's a lot of positive buzz, that's a good sign that there's a demand for your products or services.
Business Plan Creation Checklist
- Company Name & Description
- Mission Statement
- Company Goals & Objectives
- Industry Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
- SWOT Analysis
- Sales & Marketing Plan
- Product/Service Lineup
- Pricing Strategy
- Financial Projections
5. Develop Your Ecommerce Website
Just because your domain name is set up doesn't mean your online store is ready for business. There still needs to be a visible marketplace that exists on your domain name. To start building your online store, you'll need to choose a website development platform.
There are a number of different website development platforms to choose from, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento. Each platform has its own set of features and tools, so it's important to do your research so you can make an informed choice that's right for your business.
Once you've chosen a platform, you'll need to select a theme for your website. A theme is a pre-designed template that you can use to create your online store.
You'll also need to add products to your website. If you're selling physical products, you'll need to add product photos and descriptions. If you're selling digital products, you'll need to add links to the product files.
Finally, you'll need to download plugins to add additional features and functionality to your website. For example, you might want to add a contact form or an ecommerce plugin so you can accept payments.
When choosing your website platform, you should familiarize yourself with the fees to save money in the long run. Licensing and hosting fees can quickly add up, so you need to be aware of them before making your final decision.
6. Advertise and Market Your Ecommerce Store
The final step in starting an ecommerce business is fulfilling the marketing strategy laid out in your business plan. Though ecommerce stores require much different advertising strategies than service providers and consultants.
Below are some proven ways to advertise your online store and capture the attention of qualified buyers.
Use a Popup to Ask for Customers’ Email
One of the best ways to grow your email list is to use a popup on your website. A popup is a small window that appears when a visitor enters your site. It asks the visitor for their email address in exchange for something, such as a discount code or an eBook.
You can use an email marketing service, such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, to create and manage your email list. These services provide templates and tools that make it easy to create beautiful emails that will engage your customers.
Segment Your Marketing Campaigns
When you're marketing your ecommerce store, it's important to segment your campaigns so you're only sending relevant information to interested customers. Segmenting your campaigns allows you to target specific groups of people with tailored messages.
For example, if you sell women's clothing, you might segment your email list by gender and only send emails about women's clothing to the female subscribers. This ensures that your subscribers are only getting information that they're interested in, which makes them more likely to make a purchase.
You can segment your email list by a number of different criteria, such as age, location, or interests. The more specific you are, the better.
Reinvest Your Profits into Your Ads
When you're first starting out, it's important to reinvest your profits into your advertising campaigns. This will help you reach a larger audience and grow your business more quickly.
There are a number of different ways to advertise your ecommerce store, such as Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and Instagram Ads.
The most important thing is to start small and gradually increase your budget as your business grows. This will help you avoid overspending and ensure that you're only spending money on ads that are proven to be effective.
Check Your SEO
Make sure your website is optimized for search engines so people can easily find it when they're searching for products or services that you offer. This process is called search engine optimization, or SEO.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your SEO, such as using keyword-rich titles and descriptions, adding alt text to images, and creating fresh content on a regular basis.
You can also use Google AdWords to create ads that will appear in the search results when people are looking for products or services that you offer.
Deliver Great Customer Service
Providing excellent customer service is one of the most important things you can do to grow your ecommerce business. Make sure you're responsive to customer inquiries and complaints and that you're offering a great experience from start to finish.
You can use a number of different tools to deliver great customer service, such as live chat, help desk software, and online customer reviews.
Optimize Your Store
Make sure your ecommerce store is easy to use and that it's optimized for conversions. This means adding features that will encourage people to buy from you, such as customer testimonials, product reviews, and trust badges.
You should also make sure your checkout process is quick and easy to use. The fewer steps there are, the more likely people are to complete their purchase.
Start Your Ecommerce Business
Starting an ecommerce business is a great way to reach a larger audience and make more sales.
However, it's important to do your research and plan your business carefully before you get started. By following these steps, you'll be well on your way to starting a successful ecommerce business.
But, before you can get started, you'll need to choose the right website platform. Managed WooCommerce by Nexcess has everything you need to launch a successful ecommerce business.
With Managed WooCommerce, you can create a professional website, add products and pricing, accept payments, and ship orders. Plus, our team of ecommerce experts is here to help you every step of the way.
Check out our Managed WooCommerce plans and start selling today.
This blog was originally published in July 2021. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.