Starting an eCommerce Business: 10 Step eCommerce Guide For Starting an Online Store
Starting an eCommerce Business: 10 Step eCommerce Guide For Starting an Online Store
- March 3, 2020
- Posted by: Angela Baker
Starting an eCommerce business has become a trend nowadays.
With the growing number of successful ventures in the eCommerce industry, more and more people are stepping in to this sector every day.
If you check the stats of last year, of all retail sales, 14.1% were from eCommerce sites.
And by 2021, 2.14 billion people may purchase online. That’s a lot of money.
Looks great, right? After all, “everyone” is doing it, and people are making a good living.
However, only 56% of eCommerce businesses actually made it and are still in the market making money.
So, starting an eCommerce business may not be that easy after all.
How eCommerce Business Works
As stated, eCommerce business occurs online.
An individual or group decides they want to sell a specific product(s) or service(s) online.
They name their company, design a website, and then begin to market themselves all over the Internet.
This explanation can be a bit simplistic, though.
Many begin an eCommerce store and add their site to larger organizations – Shopify, WooCommerce, for example – sort of like becoming part of an online shopping mall.
Others also sign up with Amazon so that they can tap into that huge market as well.
Still, others that grow markedly end up opening some brick and mortar stores as well.
Or, place their items in brick and mortar stores (e.g. ModCloth, Toms Shoes).
And some begin as brick and mortar stores and move into starting an eCommerce business too.
If you are considering starting an eCommerce business, you don’t want to fall into that 56% failure category, and you don’t have to.
The key is to have a strategic, sequential, and step-by-step plan for launching and growing your business.
This content will start.
Guide for Starting an eCommerce Business – 10 Steps
1. Niche Selection Before Starting an eCommerce Business
Before starting an eCommerce business, the first step is to identify the right niche.
A niche is simply a small sector of our vast economy that you want to focus on.
Home décor, tech gadgets, gardening supplies, software tools, freelance writing, website design, etc. are all examples of niches.
To select a niche, you must first decide where your expertise and passion lie.
And you need to conduct a bit of research too.
Just being passionate about a niche is not enough.
What can you offer that the competition does not?
How saturated is the market place for your product or service?
What problem can you solve for a potential customer?
Answer these questions and you will know whether your eCommerce business has a good chance for success.
Power up your niche search with the help of some useful tools:
With this keyword research tool, you can generate key suggestions for your niche.
The status of keywords in the search engines signals you how interested people are in that subject.
For example, if you want to build your e-commerce business around selling supplies for pets, start investigating keywords in that industry.
Look into the stats for dog supplies keywords, cat supplies keywords or general pet supplies.
Use the keyword suggestion feature to look into popular searches in that niche.
The suggestions can give you some idea of what you should focus on within the niche.
Knowing who your potential competitors are shows you whether you are headed in the right direction.
Digital marketing tools such as SemRush will help you with this process.
Enter your keyword in the search and generate some data about that niche.
You will get an insight into relevant data, stats, and status of organic and paid traffic.
Do that for more than one keyword. It is better to have several options.
Make sure that you go to the section “Organic search results.”
The information you can collect there is who will be your biggest competitors in that niche.
If the competition is too high, move on to something else.
Find out what people are all about these days and you might come up with a profitable idea.
Google Trends shows you popular topics around your keyword.
You can either approach the search by analyzing trends related to your keywords, or you can browse for generally popular topics.
Relying your niche choice on trends will make your marketing job easier.
Logically, people are more drawn to trending topics which will gain your product posts more traffic.
You can look into analytics for the previous years to find out whether that keyword has a growing or decreasing popularity.
2. Audience Selection While Starting an eCommerce Business
There is no point in starting an eCommerce business unless you have a strong potential customer base.
But you cannot market to the whole world – you have to choose the audience that will see value in your product/service.
If you are selling mobility devices (canes, walkers, etc.), then your audience is senior citizens.
If you are selling video games, then your audience is obviously much younger.
Again, you need to do your research.
How large is your audience demographic and how often does that demographic make online purchases?
Dollar Shave Club knew, for example, that its audience was millennial men, in the beginning.
And they understood a pain point that this audience had – running out of disposable razors and forgetting or hating the inconvenience of stopping at the store to get them.
Of course, it has since expanded its offerings, but starting with this demographic and a problem it had launched the company’s early success.
You can use these platforms for audience selection purposes:
It comes as no surprise that Google Analytics has made the list.
This feature is highly popular among all business owners.
Google Analytics helps you collect data about your customers.
If you haven’t yet coined your business, you can analyze your blog or any other platform that connects you with the audience.
The information that Google Analytics provides is users’ demographics.
That is, it will show you the users` age, location, gender, behavior, device used, interests, language, and similar.
In this way, you’ll be able to base your decisions on real results and indications.
Find and grow the target audience for your e-commerce business with this social media assistant.
Cloohawk identifies and generates a list of users who are a match to your interests.
Meaning, that it will connect you with your target audience.
When you have the info on whose activities are related to your niche, you’ll know who your target audience is.
This platform also provides you with suggestions on how to improve your actions as well as automation features.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, you can use Cloohawk to grow your followers and build your online presence.
As they claim on their website, Audiense helps you “understand the audiences that matter to your business.”
With this tool, you will be able to identify the audience that is relevant for your niche.
By providing you with information on the large audience that is interested in that type of product, Audiense helps you identify their demographics and interests.
The availability of social data allows you to track the audience’s behavior and habits.
According to that, you can segment the audience that is most suitable for your business.
The tool is also useful for creating personalized messages that will attract your audience’s attention.
3. Product Selections For starting an eCommerce Business
Once you have identified your niche and your audience, you are ready to make product selections.
If you are really ambitious and have the funds to do so, you can manufacture a new product that your audience needs and wants.
Or you can select products from other manufacturers that fill your audience’s needs and wants, buy them at wholesale prices, keep an inventory, market those products uniquely, and fill orders.
If you decide to sell products that are made by others, make certain that you are satisfied with the quality.
Nothing is worse than dealing with returns, unhappy customers, and a poor reputation because you haven’t provided quality.
What can help you with the product selection are the following tools:
Amazon has an incredible product diversity and you can check the status of any product with this tool.
Figure out the demand for the types of products you are interested in with Estimator by Jungle Scout.
It shows you the estimated sales per month in the chosen marketplace and product category.
This tool is very simple to use but its findings can be very beneficial in your decision-making process.
To give you some idea of what you should focus on, the products under $100 should have at least 4-500 sales per month to be profitable.
The items that are over $100 should have 2-300 in sales per month.
What is currently selling will show you what type of products are trending on the market.
This is something that you should definitely consider before you choose your e-commerce products.
As the most popular online selling platform, Amazon’s best sellers can show you the current status of customer’s buying habits.
The page is updated hourly and it rates the products based on the number of sales.
You can browse the best sellers based on the category to see what type of products are trending in your niche.
Before you finalize your decision on what you plan to sell, you should estimate whether your products will be profitable.
Use the Profit Margin Calculator by Volusion for that purpose.
The profit for each item is more important than the overall products’ value.
Your profit margins need to be balanced out with the number of sales you plan to make.
The Profit Margin Calculator also helps you to calculate the markup you’ll need on each product so that you can stay profitable.
You can just forget about the costs of shipping, marketing, and storing.
4. Supplier Sourcing for eCommerce Business
If you have outsourced the manufacture of your unique product, then you have to be certain that the product is in supply to fill orders.
Before you select such a supplier, make sure that it has the ability to meet your potential demand.
Today’s consumer hates “back orders” and it hurts your reputation.
If you are offering products that are owned/manufactured by other businesses and then supplied to you, you have the same task – making sure that there will always be an adequate supply to meet the demands of your customers.
What is their inventory? How fast can they deliver to you?
You have to know the answers while starting an eCommerce business.
Remember, customer satisfaction is the cardinal principle here.
Here are a few platforms that can help you with the supplier sourcing:
Look into your supplier options in Jungle Scout’s Supplier Database.
As they explain,
“Supplier Database is a first-of-its-kind feature among Amazon selling tools, helping you find legitimate global suppliers used by the world’s best brands.”
The benefit of this platform is that it matches you with verified suppliers.
You’ll be provided with data about their sales, customers, and products.
If you come across a product that you love on Amazon and you want to know who the supplier is, Jungle Scout has the answer.
The Match Score feature allows you to identify the supplier of a specific product on Amazon.
This software has many useful features and one of them will help you analyze and pick the right supplier.
You probably wish to automate and speed up the process of picking out the supplier.
At the same time, you want to do thorough research on their work conditions, requirements, term, and habits.
Well, with Jaggaer you can do both. This software provides you with a platform where the suppliers will fill out predefined questionnaires.
Their answers will be analyzed and categorized by this software.
The system’s scoring component provides you with clear and understandable results.
There is not a tool in the world that can help you with the supplier sourcing if you don’t know what you are looking for.
Having an understanding of what qualities make a good supplier is the basis of the search. Oliver Knack worked as a General Manager at InTouch Manufacturing Services and now he is the CEO of AQF – Asia Quality Focus.
In the blog published by InTouch, he shares his advice on how to choose the right supplier.
He specified 10 qualities you need to search for in supplier so make sure that you take this into consideration.
5. Business Name Selection
This is a critical feature of starting an eCommerce business. If you don’t have a creative, unique name for your business, you will not stand out among the competition.
Make it short, simple, and easy to remember. And get a bit creative too. Anything unique will be remembered well.
If you are not the “creative type,” there are business name generator tools you can use that will stimulate your thinking.
Just type in keywords related to your niche, and you will get bunches of possible names.
Do you want a name like “Sally’s Candy” or would you prefer a name like “Chocolates from Heaven?” Point made.
These are the top business name generator tools that will assist you in finding the perfect brand name:
The platform’s dynamic features make it one of the most popular name generators out there.
While some name generators simply add the input keyword to the previously specified keyword, NameMesh does more.
Its algorithms take into consideration different elements such as short, similar, SEO, mix, fun and so on to find a domain name that is available.
They claim to have over 6 million words in their directory.
Try out multiple keywords to get more suggestions.
If you are looking for a simple and fun, one-word name for your business Dot-o-Mater can be the perfect tool for you.
The way it works is that you enter the word in the Beginnings column and in the Endings column and let the tool combine them.
You can also choose a name from the Beginnings list (bright, fun and games, online, etc.) and the category from the Endings list (animals, boats, mechanical, etc.).
Dot-o-Mater also tells you if the two-word domain name is already in use.
This is great because you won’t get your hopes up for a name that is taken by someone else.
Lean Domain Search is a simple but effective name generator.
The interface is minimalistic. When you enter the website you’ll come across a single search bar where you need to type in a keyword.
The keyword should be related to your niche (pets, yoga, startup, and similar). Based on that keyword, Lean Domain Search surfaces all available domain names related to that term (marked in green).
You can also sort the names based on length, popularity, or alphabetically.
The tool allows you to filter the results and prioritize the names that start or end with the keyword.
6. Choosing the Right Site Builder To Start an eCommerce Business
Unless you have the technical and creative expertise to build your own website, you need the help of an expert.
You want amazing user experience, customization of design, and a website builder who spends time with you and who understands your brand, your audience, and your business goals.
Understand that you will be spending some money on this.
And don’t scrimp. You need to locate eCommerce website builders, interview them, and take a look at their portfolios.
There are lots of platforms (Shopify, WooCommerce, etc.) that will allow you to create your own website.
You can choose your own web hosting solution and create an eCommerce site.
But if you want to be unique, you will probably need to go beyond these tools that everyone else is using while starting an eCommerce business.
Choose a website builder with the help of these platforms:
In case you decide to build the website on your own, Wix is one of the most popular website builders out there.
You won’t need any technical skills to build an eCommerce site on Wix.
It has all the sales features that you need as well as amazing design functionalities.
What makes Wix a quick and effective solution is that it has over 500 designer-made templates.
Therefore, you won’t have to spend time crafting the design.
Every part of the website is customizable within a simple drag and drop interface.
Since most people shop over the phone, the fact that Wix has a mobile-friendly design is another advantage.
Weebly is one of the very first drag and drop web site builders in the market.
It has tons of features and simple tools that can help you build an online store in just a few clicks
Weebly is a direct competitor of Wix with some distinctive features.
You will find 50 plus beautiful templates with built-in features and over 340 applications to help you develop your site.
Weebly as a site builder offers a wider range of options for starting an eCommerce business.
You can apply almost all types of SEO strategies on a Weebly Site and get maximum results.
So if you are just starting your eCommerce venture, Weebly can be a fast and easy solution for you.
Another prominent freelancer website is Fiverr. You can find talented individuals for all sorts of work including website building.
Just type in the job position that you are looking for and the Fiverr will list available freelancers.
Either post your job offer or contact directly the freelancer you are interested in.
The pricing is very transparent and you can see their starting price on their profile.
However, you can still negotiate the price since it depends on the type of work you need.
Additionally, their profiles will give you an insight into their previous work. Estimate their commitment to the project based on the reviews of previous employers.
UpWork is one of the leading online job marketplaces. When you are looking for an expert for such a short-term project, it is best to turn to freelancer websites.
Freelancers can finish your project within the deadline and are more budget-friendly than hiring a web design company.
Post your job offer on UpWork and wait for freelancers to send you proposals.
If you want, you can approach freelancers by sending them your job posting.
After the interview and accessing their profile (check out their portfolio and reviews), choose the best candidate.
UpWork protects both you and the freelancer from any type of fraud.
7. Creating Your eCommerce Business Store
This will be a combination of all of the steps above.
You have your niche, your business name, your products, and suppliers; you have your website designed.
Now it is time to choose how you will create your store. It is a critical stage of starting an eCommerce business.
This means putting into place all of the content on your site pages, crafting a blog perhaps, and perhaps even more important, getting amazing visuals and descriptions of the products or services you are offering.
It may mean creating explainer and “how-to” videos that will engage your audience right away.
All of this content is how you differentiate yourself from the competition and how you will ultimately pull in a fair market share of that audience.
Another aspect of creating your store is choosing a platform for its launch.
Will you choose one of the “mall” options, such as Shopify, Wix, or WooCommerce (through WordPress), or will you choose to go it alone with a free-standing store?
For beginners, a platform will probably be best, because you will be walked through your setup process and then have so many tools at your disposal – payment gateways, free marketing, analytics, etc.
And you can benefit from a community of store owners and their experiences with SEO, social media integration, and more.
Most platforms will offer a free trial, so choose the one you believe will be the best and evaluate the results.
Another consideration is a choice between outright one-time sales or subscription-based purchasing.
Your product line will pretty much determine this. A company like Dollar Shave Club is based upon a subscription sale because its products are delivered once a month.
Other companies have single-sale models because a subscription makes no sense. Creating a store is a complex process but these services can make the process less tedious:
Most eCommerce owners opt for Shopify as their platform.
Especially, the startups. Why waste your time and nerves with a free-standing store when you can start off simply with the help of Shopify.
They describe their platform as “one platform with all the eCommerce and point of sale features you need to start, run, and grow your business.”
Even if your goal is to have a free-standing store, you can start your business on Shopify as a trial.
Shopify can teach you some of the basics of running an online store and simplify the whole process. Once you become more skilled with running an online business you can move on from “mall” platforms.
BigCommerce is a direct competitor to Shopify. It has equally awesome features like Shopify and allows users to build online stores easily.
You can customize, edit, make all sorts of necessary changes and control your entire eCommerce operation from a single platform.
BigCommerce offers gift cards, professional reporting, unlimited staff accounts, single page checkouts and plenty of options.
One of their stand out features is they do not apply any transaction fees. They even offer processing fees which can go as low as 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction.
Woocommerce has a market share of 30% despite such a tough competition.
So it is safe to say that Woocommerce has earned the trust of millions of online store owners in the world.
It is one of the best open-source solutions for starting an eCommerce business.
If you are a WordPress user, you can use Woocommerce as a plugin as well.
It also gives you the option to edit the source code and customize your online store.
Woocommerce is a cost-saving platform with tons of premium features.
The overall features, usability and customization options make it a powerful solution for eCommerce.
From website copy to product description, the writer you employ to create your website content can make or break your business.
You can have the most beautiful website design and great functionalities but without well-written website content, you won’t have the power to keep the users on the website.
CopyPress can connect you with talented writers who can deliver high-quality, targeted content for your website.
It practically acts as a middleman between you and the writer.
What’s also important is that the CopyPress experts are proficient in SEO which is another relevant aspect of your website copy that needs to be handled.
Aesthetics play a huge role in the potential customer’s decision. If you have amazing shots of your products, the chances of turning a visitor into a buyer will be much higher.
That’s why services like Product Photography exist. They specialize in taking product photos for eCommerce websites.
You can simply ship the products that need to be photographed and they’ll do their part of the work.
Once they take all the shots and edit the pictures, they’ll send it all back to you.
The photos will perfectly integrate with popular eCommerce platforms like Amazon.com, Shopify, and BigCommerce.
8. Set up a Payment Gateway For your
If you are starting an eCommerce business, you have to be careful about selecting the right payment gateway.
A payment gateway is no more than a service provider that allows your customers to use a variety of payment venues when they purchase your products or services.
These should include all major bank credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal and, if selling to an overseas audience, some of the payment processors that are common and popular.
Fortunately, you have several options, all of which provide easy and secure methods for your customers.
If you set up your store using an eCommerce platform, it will have payment gateway services you can simply use.
Here are a few payment gateway services that are worthy of your attention:
This payment gateway provider offers you multiple payment solutions like a merchant account, bank account, and prepaid cards.
PowerCash21 can cater to any payment requirement of the customers all around the world.
With one simple integration, your website can offer a wide variety of popular payment methods.
You’ll also be able to virtually process credit card payments. Customers who prefer to pay over the phone or by mail order will also have their needs met.
Prepaid cards are a cost-saving solution and PowerCash21 gives you access to them. Use them for your VIP customers or to pay employee expenses.
2CheckOut helps you to simplify the eCommerce process. With this platform, you will be able to accept payments throughout the world.
No matter where your clients are located, you can offer them a variety of payment methods and accept payments seamlessly.
They provide coverage in over 200 countries and they offer over 45 payment methods.
Another useful feature is 2Sell. 2Sell allows you to accept mobile and online payments from customers worldwide.
As most online shopping ventures take place on the mobile you won’t have to worry about losing your customer in the payment process.
BigWallet is an all-in-one payment solution that gets your customers the problem-free shopping experience that they want.
The company supports over 20 different acquirers and card processors.
Payment is the last step that a website visitor has to take before they become a customer, and this gateway provider will ensure that everything goes smoothly.
It is important to mention that BigWalletPayments is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
The integration is quite simple. Just choose whether you’ll use their Hosted Payments Pages, the Cashier solution, or the Server-To-Server option.
9. Customer Acquisition Tools For eCommerce Business
Starting an eCommerce business is all well and good, but bringing in those customers is quite another matter.
This will require a strong marketing plan along with strategies and tools to find those customers, engage with them, and then motivate them to come to visit your store, ultimately make a purchase and come back for more.
If you have a buyer persona, then you will do the research to discover where they hang out online, even the days and hours that are best to reach them.
This will involve a social media presence, paid ads, and SEO strategies.
Once you get visitors to your site, you will need to convince them to stay, check you out, and see the value in what you are offering.
Visuals and videos are critical.
And once you have actual customers, you will want to encourage them to return for additional purchases.
This involves more personal marketing efforts, such as growing an email list.
As to tools for customer acquisition, there are many. And they range from getting initial visits through email and other campaigns to retain current customers.
Your job is to check them out and choose those that are best for your niche and goals.
Here are a few top choices:
This is the perfect tool for growing your customer base.
With the help of OmniKick, you’ll have the ability to engage with your customers, turn visitors into buyers, and make them your loyal customers.
Create a highly responsive email list that will motivate the users to spread brand awareness on social media.
Another feature you can use is to send targeted and personalized web push notifications.
The best part is that you won’t need coding to add interactive popup, floating bar, or inline forms on your website.
With all these amazing amenities you can easily attract and retain users’ attention.
Facing abandoned cart issues, low-quality leads, and losing customers is something that every eCommerce owner has to face from time to time.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should just helplessly wait for a change.
OptiMonk can help you deal with such issues.
With OptiMonk you can personalize your approach to the customers by sending them the right messages and notifications.
This tool will check the visitor preferences and habits and assist you in creating beautiful personalized messages (there are over 300 templates to choose from). Additionally, add user-friendly popups, side messages, notification bars, and full screens.
Email marketing is one of the essential steps of retaining your customers and growing your audience.
With GetResponse you can promote your services, increase brand awareness, and improve your sales rate.
That’s what an effective, tool-assisted email marketing can do for your business.
This platform helps you create beautiful and engaging emails.
GetResponse provides you with professional email templates and easy-to-use design tools.
Timing is very important in email marketing so use this platform’s automation feature to set your email outreach at the perfect time.
Their Perfect Timing and Time Travel delivery tools will be very useful for this part.
10. Integrate Customer Support Tools For eCommerce Business
Customer support before, during, and after the sale can highly influence the company’s reputation.
How will you answer initial questions about your product or service?
How will you move the purchasing process as easy as possible?
And how will you deal with returns, exchanges, and complaints?
How will you get feedback from customers after the sale, so that you can keep improving customer service?
Fortunately, there is a vast array of tools that make customer service easy to integrate.
Check out these few options and make a choice that serves you best:
If you aim to provide exceptional customer service FreshDesk can be the path to that goal.
One of their features is converting all incoming emails in support tickets.
With FreshDesk you can also upgrade your email to the omnichannel ticketing system.
That means that you’ll be able to offer contextual support across email, chat, phone, and social media.
FreshDesk will provide you with real-time reports on employees’ performance, customer experience, and possible issues.
To save you from wasting time on a repetitive task, this platform offers you an automation feature. In this way, you’ll have more time to focus on customer satisfaction.
HelpDesk is a well-known customer service platform trusted by many eCommerce owners.
The easy-to-use system helps you to efficiently organize and manage all customer messages.
Its built-in tools aim to speed up the response time by quickly identifying the answer to the customer’s problem.
Improve your relationship with the customers by sending them personalized and contextualized messages.
Besides, you can let your customers rate your response and therefore, you can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of your customer service approach.
HelpDesks has a free 14-day trial so you can test out whether this software works for your business or you need to keep searching.
In this fast-paced world, people are all about getting their response as soon as possible.
If they have to wait for customer service assistance, their dissatisfaction will grow and negatively impact your business.
The fastest form of customer service is live chat. SmartSupp is a platform that can integrate live chat option to your eCommerce website.
Communication through live chat seems more natural and personal to customers.
They won’t have to worry about waiting for hours or even days for the response.
Once they see that you offer a live chat option, they’ll know that the answer will be provided right away.
Smartsupp chat can be integrated into any eCommerce platform.
Starting an eCommerce Business: Final Thoughts
This guide will provide a step-by-step process for starting an eCommerce business and can be used as a checklist of sorts so that you have everything “covered” when you actually launch.
Understand, however, that this is just your beginning.
You have much to do in the areas of marketing, growth efforts, expanding your line and customer base, etc.
All of this takes the two “P’s” – persistence and patience.