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How to Start an Ecommerce Business


Learning the basics of ecommerce can help make starting an ecommerce business easier, and ultimately, more successful. You may have questions such as:

  • What do you need to know before starting an ecommerce business?
  • Where should you look to research ideas and gather inspiration?
  • How do you create a business plan and market your new ecommerce store?
  • How do you earn both new and loyal, lifetime customers?

This article answers these questions and provides you with some basic ideas for how to start your ecommerce business.

Steps for Starting an Ecommerce Business

Learning the basics of ecommerce is a great place to start on your journey to bringing your ecommerce shop to life. The process of starting an ecommerce business includes many steps.

In this article, we cover how to:

  • 1. Identify target customers.
  • 2. Choose a domain name
  • 3. Choose a product and/or service, including digital products.
  • 4. Develop your business plan.
  • 5. Develop your ecommerce website.
  • 6. Advertise and market your ecommerce store.

1. Find a Target Customer

Oftentimes, people choose to sell a particular product without finding out if there is a need for that product or a customer interested in purchasing it. Although many services are geared toward a specific industry or customer type, the same is true of selling a particular service—your business needs customers who want to buy from you.

Setting up a successful ecommerce business takes some research and planning. To get started, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Do your products or services address a need, want, annoyance, or pain point?
  • Are your products or services representative of a particular trend or niche activity?
  • Do your products or services solve a problem or fill a gap that no one else can fulfill?

If you’re unsure how to answer these questions, consider reading customer reviews on existing products and services. This information frequently includes what customers wish the products were like and help you understand specific pain points. You can use this information to tailor your products to meet this need gap.

When offering services and/or professional expertise, take a look at websites in industries similar to your own. You may find reviews on these sites — or reviews about the services — and like the pain points with products, you can shape your ecommerce store to not only provide your expertise and services, but to fulfill unmet needs.

Capitalizing on trends is a great approach. However, if you choose to capitalize on trends, you may find that demand eventually fizzles out. This option works well for those who like occasional change and are willing to pivot their business as trends change.

Alternatively, there’s merit in appealing to a niche market, such as hobbyists, online communities, or tradesmen. These specialized audiences are extremely passionate about their interests and may have higher levels of engagement than other customers.

Getting these audiences involved can bring you loyal, long-time customers. However, these potential buyers are often quite knowledgeable about products and services related to their passion or profession—and having expertise in that area can really help.

Understanding your customers can help you make successful choices, especially as you begin to learn how you set up your ecommerce business. Check out this additional information on ecommerce business types and these ideas for online businesses when considering your options.

2. Choose a Domain Name

A short, memorable, appropriate online store and domain name can become its own advertising tool. But remember that if you want your brand and your ecommerce store to be around for years to come, carefully consider a domain name you’ll still love down the road.

3. Choose a Product and/or Service, Including Digital Products

You have an idea of your target market. You bought a reasonable domain name. What products and services will you sell? Will you sell digital products? How will you make your ecommerce store work?

There are four main ways that you can handle physical products in your store.

  • Manufacture the product yourself.
  • Outsource production.
  • Purchase your product wholesale.
  • Explore dropshipping.

Make Your Product

Making a product can be easy and inexpensive, especially if you source the ingredients or parts yourself. If you make your product, you have control over pricing and inventory, and can lower your inventory risk. However, making your product may mean that your margins are smaller.

Outsource Production

Manufacturing your product means creating a successful relationship with a manufacturing partner to develop and produce your product. This option may help when your product involves specialized processes and ingredients that are hard to obtain.

Outsourcing production also helps when you want larger numbers of product when your volume increases, and you can’t keep up with demand. Depending on your relationship with your partner, your control over your product and product quality may vary.

Purchase Your Product Wholesale

Obtaining products wholesale means purchasing finished products, putting your label on them, and selling them at retail prices. When buying wholesale, you have little control over pricing, and you have little control about how the product was manufactured — you’re buying an already-made product.

Dropship Your Product

Dropshipping is great when you don’t want to carry inventory and don’t want to have start up inventory costs.

To dropship products, you need relationships with dropshipping partners. You list a product on your site, and when you make a sale, your partner charges you and ships the product to your customer on your behalf.

Digital Products & Services

Digital products such as podcasts or videos are a way to profit from your unique expertise. Other digital products include ebooks, audiobooks, or courses. Digital products can be configured as a single point of purchase or even be offered through a subscription

Services are a great way to offer your expertise directly. Consider what type of services you are offering. Some questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Does location matter?
  • Do you need to see your customers in-person?
  • How can you reach your customers to offer them your services?
  • Are your services something that can be offered through video conferences or through email or a task application?
  • How do you want them to pay you?
  • And how will you decide the fee for service?

Deciding if you’re offering your services per hour, per meeting, or even per word makes a difference in how you set up your website.

4. Develop a Business Plan

Once you’ve decided on a product and/or service and have a target audience, you need to create a business plan. Your business plan helps ensure the success of your ecommerce business. Here’s what you need to know to help you create an effective business plan.

Identify Your Competitors

Just as you looked at your competitor’s websites to read reviews to find pain points or gaps, check out what your competitors are doing well. Finding effective approaches and understanding your competition can help you set up your ecommerce business.

Evaluate Your Market

The most popular tool to see how many people might be interested in your product or services is the Google Keyword Planner. This tool will tell you how many people per month are searching for keywords related to your product, idea, or service.

Understand Your Market

Are you in a trend market? A flat market? Or a growing market? How do you find out this information?

Understanding your market can help you to understand what kind of margins you might have, what kind of profit you might expect, your potential for conversions, and how many long-time customers you might eventually expect to get. Google Trends is a helpful tool that can help you evaluate your market before you invest a significant amount of time and energy.

Business Plan Creation Checklist

To create a successful ecommerce business plan, there are a handful of questions you’ll want to ask in order to help create the right circumstances for future growth. Check out this handy checklist of questions to ask about your brand, your market, your customers, and your ability to fulfill orders:

  • Know your market and your markup.
  • Know your potential selling price.
  • Price your product or services.
  • Determine your inventory.

You’ll also need to make decisions specifically related to the shipping of your products.

  • Are your products durable, or could they break when shipped?
  • Are your products seasonal — and if so, how will this affect sales?
  • Are your products consumable or disposable? Will this affect how customers purchase them?
  • Are your products perishable? Will they reach customers in time?
  • Are there restrictions or regulations on your products or services?

If you’re selling a digital product or a repeating service, you’ll also want to include information about subscription options in your business plan — and how you can acquire and keep customers through subscriptions.

5. Develop Your Ecommerce Website

When you want to start an ecommerce business, setting up your website with WooCommerce or using managed WooCommerce hosting option will make the process straightforward. WooCommerce is a great platform to help you build the website you want while also providing a customizable approach.

With Nexcess’ fully managed hosting, you can have better scalability and support. You can get customizable tech stacks, and proactive patching and updates to keep your site secure.

6. Advertise and Market Your Ecommerce Store

To successfully sell your product or services, you need to market your ecommerce business.

Use a Popup to Ask for Customers’ Email

Getting someone’s email as soon as they land on your site — and perhaps offering them a coupon — can begin the process of converting a visitor to a subscriber of your content and marketing campaigns, and hopefully, to a buyer.

Segment Your Marketing Campaigns

In getting to know your customers, you might find that your customers are not a uniform group. Segmentation can help increase click rates and conversions and can become an essential part of a push notification strategy for any type of website.

You can customize your push notifications for each of your different groups of customers, or segments.

Reinvest Your Profits into Your Ads

The start of your ecommerce business is the time to invest in advertising and marketing. This investment will help ensure the long-term success of your ecommerce business, as you build those loyal customer relationships.

Check Your SEO

Understanding SEO will ensure that your customers find your website — you need to direct traffic toward your site.

Deliver Great Customer Service

Customer service is more important than ever, and answering customers’ questions — and addressing the concerns that they bring up in reviews — can help you make and retain customers.

Optimize Your Store

Customers tend to abandon their carts if they can’t find the size or color or service that they’re looking for, or if checking out is too complicated. Find out where your snags are by collecting site analytics.

Start Your Ecommerce Business in 2021

Having an online store is a great way to bring in revenue. More and more people purchase products and services online, and you can deliver customers what they want.

StoreBuilder can help you create your ecommerce business. By leveraging industry-specific insights and best practices to make your homepage — and your website — unique, StoreBuilder helps you connect easily with your customers. Starting an ecommerce business is easier than ever, and there’s no time like the present.

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