How to Start an Ecommerce Business: Best Online Store Ideas for Beginners (Build, Set Up & Open Websites)

on Blog November 12th, 2020

There’s no denying that the internet has completely changed the way retail businesses operate. From finding new providers to developing comprehensive marketing campaigns and selling products online, digital channels allow entrepreneurs to complete a variety of essential activities in a simple and effective way.

With the above in mind, to learn how to start an ecommerce business, you have to find out as much as you can about your target market, the industry you want to specialize in, and the medium through which you want to sell your goods.

Learning how to start an online business that sells products may take time and effort, but it’s also one of the best ways to future-proof your company. However, before you start an ecommerce business, you have to develop a business plan, develop a robust site, and implement marketing strategies that allow you to collect new customers in the most cost-effective way.

As an ecommerce marketing agency, we’ve helped dozens of clients take the next step and develop a robust ecommerce store, so we know a thing or two about selling products online. In addition to ecommerce marketing, our team of specialists also helps our clients choose the right ecommerce platform and develop product pages that produce more sales.

In this article, we’ll go over the step by step process of how to start an ecommerce business, We’ll also discuss the different options to help you promote your ecommerce business and give you a few tips to develop the best marketing strategies.

What Is an Ecommerce Website?

If you were thinking about starting an online business before, there’s no doubt you’re thinking about what products to sell online more than ever before.

Over the last decades, the popularity of brick and mortar businesses has slowly dwindled, mostly due to the rise of digital technology. The global health crisis has accelerated this phenomenon even more, so traditional business owners are now looking for ways to sell their goods online.

Enter the ecommerce space.

For decades, consumers have been ordering products online, which are delivered straight to the comforts of your home. The electronic commerce industry, commonly referred to as e-commerce or simply ecommerce, has become the main lifeline for modern retailers because it allows them to stay connected and showcase new goods to their target market at a fraction of the usual cost.

In simple terms, an ecommerce website is a platform that sells physical goods or products that are shipped and delivered to buyers after the payment has been processed. Because so many people rely on the internet to purchase products at competitive prices, many companies have exponentially increased their revenue and cut expenses by abandoning traditional retailing and starting an ecommerce business instead.

The main reason for this is the fact that ecommerce platforms allow companies to connect with large groups of engaged consumers that are actively looking for the products these businesses offer. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that ecommerce businesses bring to consumers:

Convenience

If you want to learn how to start an online store, the first thing you need to know is that your ecommerce business should be convenient. Consumers turn to their favorite ecommerce businesses because they can place an order from the comforts of their home while knowing that they will receive their products a few days after right at their doorstep.

With the above in mind, you shouldn’t take this for granted. Instead, you should aim to make the ordering process as easy as possible to increase the chances of converting visitors into customers. This means that your ecommerce website design, content, and other elements of your ecommerce platform should be geared towards improving user experience.

Additionally, you may want to consider additional features that help keep users feeling safe, like a robust security infrastructure and safe payment methods. That said, always remember to come up with product ideas that resonate with your audience because these are the variables that consumers will look at.

Affordability

By now, most people know that running an online store tends to be more affordable than having a brick and mortar business. This makes sense because ecommerce businesses don’t need to cover rent or pay for sales personnel or facility maintenance. Therefore, customers expect to find at least the same, if not more affordable princess online. After all, your customers can’t see or try on your products before buying them, so you should make sure to offer the most competitive prices.

It’s true that an online small business will cost less than running a physical store, but you also need to find reliable providers and develop creative ways to market your products. The internet is a great resource because you can order supplies and inventory from a collection of different places, so you can choose the providers that offer the best deals.

Ecommerce marketing is always a bit more challenging because you need to find the most profitable channels and develop a winning combination. Affiliate marketing is always an option, but search engine optimization (SEO) is the pinnacle of affordable and effective online promotion strategies. Just remember that you need to invest funds into reviewing site functionality as well as a customer support department to deliver the best results.

Reliability

There are many different ecommerce business models you can follow depending on your initial investment and how quickly you want to start. Whichever you choose, you need to make sure that your ecommerce brand is reliable in all senses of the word.

One of the biggest reasons why consumers turn to ecommerce sites is that they aren’t able to find the products they want at their local stores. To create the best experience, your ecommerce business website should never be down and it should always be updated. There’s nothing more frustrating than placing an order just to receive an email later on saying that the product is out of stock, so make sure that your online shop is synced with your inventory in real-time.

Furthermore, to learn how to set up an online store you also need to understand the importance of the servers you choose. In simple terms, the server your site is hosted on will determine how fast your product pages load, your site’s security infrastructure, and the overall performance of your site, so always choose a provider based on quality rather than price range.

How to Start an Ecommerce Business

How to Start an Ecommerce Business: Best Online Ideas to Set Up Website

For many entrepreneurs, starting an online store is an obvious choice, but not all business owners know what the next step is. From choosing the right niche to studying the audience and implementing the right ecommerce software, there are many decisions you need to take before you even get started.

Before you start, remember that all entrepreneurs are different, so you should always stay original and think outside of the box. Consumers love creativity and personality, so develop a flexible business model that can be changed according to your audience’s preferences and the results you’re getting.

There’s a lot of preemptive work that goes into starting an online store. Even if you already have a brand name or an established business, the process to start selling online is different from physical interactions. From order processing to fulfillment, packaging, and the actual shipping carrier, you’ll want to consider all of these and find a reliable solution for each before you get started.

Depending on which resources you have available, you may also be wondering how to start an ecommerce business on Amazon. This business model may be feasible for larger companies that can manage their own affiliate marketing programs, but these businesses need to pay a relatively high commission to have their products on this site. And, the ecommerce sales generated through this channel will always have an additional cost, which you can avoid by developing your own store that’s powered by platforms like Shopify.

Let’s go over the different steps you need to take to start an ecommerce business for your company or as a solo entrepreneur.

Build a Business Plan

The first step to start an online business is to create a detailed blueprint for your company. Some business owners prefer a looser approach, so they only create a more casual outline for each goal that is often hard to track or quantify. In our opinion, the best way to control costs and build a predictable business model is to have a comprehensive business plan that includes short and long-term objectives as well as the steps you’ll take to achieve these.

During your business plan development process, you should take the time to study your audience and make sure that you are selling products you have knowledge about. If you know how your potential customers think, you’ll be able to develop better product pages, choose the right ecommerce software, and select an attractive domain name, if you don’t have one already.

Selling products is always a priority, but you should choose specific goals, create a timeline for each one, and consider how these will help you boost revenues. That said, also remember that your business plan should also be flexible enough to be adjusted without having to go back to the first step depending.

Select an Ecommerce Niche

Starting an ecommerce business is more straightforward if you already know your niche, but this doesn’t necessarily make the process easier.

If you haven’t chosen a niche yet, avoid making snap decisions. Instead, take the time to figure out which industry is better suited to your particular case. To make the right choice, you should consider the resources you have available, including business connections, product manufacturing contacts, and the knowledge you’ve acquired over the years.

In the vast majority of cases, you’ll notice a pattern and find at least the general industry you want to work in. From there, you can explore the different sub-niche options and branch out to the one you’re most passionate about.

Keep in mind that the niche you choose will also affect other areas when starting an ecommerce site. This includes your business name, domain name, product ideas, social media profile, and even the ecommerce platform you choose to run your store on. Some platforms are known for selling specific types of goods, like Etsy. Or, you can develop your own store on your site by using platforms like Shopify if you want to create a more wholesome shopping experience with more products to sell.

Find the Products that Will Be Sold on the Platform

Once you’ve narrowed down the niche, you still have to decide which specific products you will make available in your store. Look at your target audience and determine what products are more likely to attract its attention in order to decide which products to stock first. Then, you can make repeat orders and test our new goods depending on the results you get.

Additionally, you also need to find a reliable provider that can ensure consistent deliveries while maintaining the same price and quality throughout the duration of your business relationship.

Chances are, you’ll have to work with multiple product providers when you run your ecommerce business. So, researching and finding providers is a crucial skill you’ll need to develop if you want to learn how to open an online store. Some of the elements you want to evaluate when trying to find the right provider include, but are not limited to:

  • Product quality and safety
  • Price point
  • Shipping time and costs
  • Manufacturer warranties and other additional services
  • Reputation in the niche industry

Register and Carry Out All the Paperwork for Your Ecommerce Site

One of the biggest questions that our customers ask when starting an online store is whether they need to register it or not.

The answer usually varies depending on if the company is already set up or if it’s a completely new venture. But, in general terms, your ecommerce site should be registered with the appropriate entities in order to stay legitimate, regardless if it’s done independently or through a parent business.

It’s worth noting that the type and amount of paperwork you have to do will depend on your specific location and the business you’re opening. Like your ecommerce marketing, you can partner with a specialized consultant that can help you establish your company. This, in turn, allows you to focus all of your energy on learning how to start up an ecommerce business from scratch.

To help increase your chances of success, you should research your location’s requirements before choosing the best online business to start and consider any complex legal steps in your decision.

How to Start an Ecommerce Business

Give Your Business a Name

If you haven’t decided on your business name, you’ll want to start narrowing the options and thinking about your branding elements at this stage. The business name and domain name are closely linked, but think about your company identity before choosing each one.

What products are you selling? Who do they appeal to? Which over elements resonate with this audience? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to brainstorm a few creative yet relevant concepts that can ultimately help you choose a business, brand, and domain name.

It’s always a good idea to follow the same theme for each one. For example, your branding should actually contain your brand name and your domain should be as close as possible. Fortunately, online stores allow for creative ecommerce business ideas. You can give your company any identity you want even if it’s not directly related to your goods, as long as you develop a solid ecommerce marketing strategy.

Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform

If you want to learn how to build an ecommerce website that consistently yields a high volume of sales, you need to consider the different platforms you can use to develop your store. There are many ways to transform your site into a store, but these can be divided into tailored platforms and ready-to-use solutions that include Etsy, Shopify, and similar third-party options.

Remember, there is no silver-bullet solution, so you’ll have to evaluate your budget, products, and ecommerce marketing plan to figure out which option works best for you. With that in mind, completely tailored solutions often require an in-house support team and regular maintenance, both of which may affect the profitability of your products.

Etsy, Shopify, social media platforms, and other potential sales channels relieve pressure from your company. But, you still need to make sure that the platform you choose accepts credit card payments and that it has other features you need in your store. You should also look at the ability to include pop-ups and other advanced capacities that you can test and implement if they pass the trial.

Pick the Right Web Design

Besides your niche, your web design is arguably the most important part of your ecommerce store. Your website is your digital store, so you need to find an attractive design that encourages users to leave an email address, ask questions about your product, or complete a purchase every time they visit your site.

You should start by reviewing your old list of ecommerce business ideas to find inspiration for the features on your site. In addition to a store, do you want customers to be able to review your products? Will each user be able to submit a product idea or request? How will this feed into your ecommerce marketing machine?

Remember, the priority is to attract customers and create a great user experience, so you need to ensure that your store design, social media, and other areas of your online business work towards this general goal. Some of the best practices you should follow include:

  • Implement a slick and organized design
  • Use white spaces wisely while accentuating your branding through strategic colors
  • Ensure that the design contains functional elements, rather than just decoration
  • Make sure that the overall design works well with your niche

More helpful resources:

Shine a Positive Light on Your Products

Business people that start online stores are usually passionate about the product or niche they specialize in. For this reason, shining a positive light on your products and services should come as second nature.

The biggest challenge when promoting your digital store is finding the channels that allow you to engage with your audience the most. For instance, social media is usually regarded as a great marketing channel, especially for Etsy stores. However, marketing your business through all social networks may not be a great alternative if you sell industrial goods or have customers from another complex niche.

Once you have identified the best channels, you should use your site as a publishing platform and distribute your content through the places that have a higher chance of reaching your target audience.

Monitor and Optimize the Performance of the Ecommerce Shop

Once all of your store elements are in place and your business is all set up, you are ready to start your platforms and officially attract customers. The launch of your business store is a great chance to hold a virtual event and offer time-sensitive promos that add urgency to your deals.

With the above in mind, your work is not done once your product selection is online. After you start an ecommerce business, you also need to set time aside to monitor the performance of your platform and make adjustments in order to lower costs while improving the results you get.

Platforms like Etsy offer robust tracking to help you understand the way your customers behave and how it affects the performance of each page. You can even view the customers who placed items in their shopping cart but didn’t proceed to introduce their credit card information in order to launch email remarketing campaigns tailored to these prospects.

General Caveats that Need to Be Addressed

Like every business, starting an ecommerce site may require the fulfillment of certain steps that only apply to specific locations. For example, you need to find out if you have to cover any importing or exporting fees when selling or purchasing goods, plus you should also consider how these will affect your own finances when it’s time to report your earnings.

Examine your local laws by consulting with a legal specialist if necessary, but you should be able to contact your area’s chamber of commerce or similar entity to find out if there are any additional permits you need to start selling goods online.

For individuals and business owners learning how to start an ecommerce business from scratch, knowing how their order fulfillment and shipping process will work can save them a huge amount of hassle in the long run. Just remember to inform customers proactively about your product shipping guidelines instead of waiting until they have questions.

Two of the main variables you should keep in mind include:

International Shipping

Shipping a product to an international destination is more complex than shipping locally, for obvious reasons. For instance, determining the cost of each parcel is almost impossible unless your business has a real-time system that checks international shipping rates whenever a customer chooses this option.

In the vast majority of cases, retail items and low ticket products are rarely sold to overseas customers, but you may need to find a global carrier that offers competitive rates and broker a deal if you want to sell your products internationally.

On the other hand, if you want to start an ecommerce website that sells industrial goods and similar products, international shipping has become a norm in this industry. This means that you’ll be able to find plenty of alternatives to ship this type of product globally, so remember to analyze your niche to identify the best solution.

Apps, Extensions, and Other Additions

No lesson on how to start an ecommerce store is complete without discussing the apps, extensions, and other additions you can use to improve the performance of your store.

As with other types of business, there are now dozens of apps that can help you generate more engaging content or improve user experience on your site. For example, if you sell goods to a large base of foreign customers, you can use a specific app or extension that helps you translate your content so that it’s easier to digest for your customers.

At the same time, you can also implement additional apps on your Etsy or custom store to help track, monitor, and optimize your content. But, there are many different apps that claim to improve the performance of your site, so evaluate each option and test it out before you implement it into your store.

online order

Promoting Your New Ecommerce Website

So, you’ve selected your niche, set up your logistics, and are ready to start the product bonanza. But, how can you ensure that your customers will find your online store? Should you develop a campaign for each product? And, how can your products appear on Google search results without people clicking on your link?

There are many different types of online marketing tactics that can help you promote your products and drive traffic to your site at a competitive price. These include, but are not limited to:

More helpful reading: The Best Ecommerce SEO Services

SEO

It’s almost impossible to learn how to start an ecommerce website without learning basic SEO. In simple terms, SEO marketing encompasses all actions you take to improve organic search rankings on Google and other engines. This form of marketing is known as the most affordable type of digital promotion because you don’t have to pay for each lead generated. However, you need to develop a plan and distribute your resources properly in order to keep your costs as low as possible.

PPC

There are many forms of pay-per-click (PPC) platforms you can work with, but Google Ads is the most popular network on the planet. Google Ads allows you to reach consumers in almost all industries, but you only have to pay when a user interacts with your ad. This form of advertising is perfect for businesses that want to learn how to start an ecommerce site and have a slightly bigger budget, but need to see results right away.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a flexible philosophy that consists of targeting prospects who have already shown interest in your products, rather than trying to attract random users on the web. Rather than following a strict protocol, content marketing allows you to combine a variety of additional techniques in order to produce the best results. Just remember to keep user experience in mind as this is also an essential part of starting an ecommerce store.

Social Media

In the past, social media channels like Facebook and similar platforms were regarded as great product publishing platforms. Today, these networks have become more consistent sources of leads and sales for certain industries, so it’s worth including these in your online ecommerce business strategy.

Business Listings and Local Directories

When learning how to build an ecommerce business, not many entrepreneurs consider using listings and local directories to their advantage. While it may not seem obvious, local directories and listings send positive SEO signals that help give your store a better ranking. Plus, you’ll also increase the chances of getting the occasional traffic boost from these channels.

Email Marketing

Your starting ecommerce website may need some adjustments, but you should include forms to help you capture contact information such as email addresses. Then, you should create an email marketing sequence that moves customers down the sales funnel by nurturing them over a long period of time.

YouTube and Other Alternative Channels

It may sound like a cliche, but humans are visual creatures. While some people prefer written content, developing videos and other forms of rich media to shine a light on your products is always a great idea. Just make sure to distribute the content you generate on social media to amplify its reach.

In addition to YouTube, there are many other alternative channels that may benefit your ecommerce business. For instance, you can work with influencers, develop a podcast, and find other creative ways to keep your audience engaged.

How to Start an Ecommerce Business

6 Tips to Increase Your Chances of Success

There’s a huge number of elements you need to consider when you start an ecommerce site, so it’s easy to make small mistakes that produce costly setbacks. Taking an organized approach is always essential, so keep track of the tasks you need to complete and record the goals you achieve so you can review their impact later on.

Below, we’ll go over a few additional tips to help ensure that you’re on the right track and increase your chances of getting more customers from your online store.

Monitor Costs from the Beginning

How much does it cost to start an ecommerce business? There is no simple answer to this question because every company is different. Rather than trying to determine an ideal spend, simply look at your budget, determine how that translates into resources, and work with what you have until your revenue allows you to expand your ecommerce business.

Consider Working with an Ecommerce Web Designer

Learning ecommerce for beginners is relatively simple, but knowing what design elements resonate with your audience takes a significant amount of experience.

If you don’t have experience in the ecommerce industry, your best bet may be to work with a web designer that has developed online stores before. While it’s true that this may be a bit more expensive than choosing a pre-set theme, the enhanced user experience will likely result in higher profitability.

Avoid Certain Goods and Industries

Setting up an ecommerce business requires business knowledge, but you also have to know how to read your audience. There are many products that, even though you could legally sell online, you may want to avoid in order to give your brand credibility. For example, selling safety gear at elevated prices during the global health crisis has become a common occurrence. So, companies are better off avoiding this type of product to avoid garnering a bad reputation.

Develop an Efficient Order Fulfillment Process

We’ve stressed the importance of developing an efficient order fulfillment process. So, to learn how to run an ecommerce business, you need to think about logistics and figure out who will pack, label, and actually ship the product whenever an order comes in. Depending on your setup, you may work with a warehouse that provides these services or you may have to appoint an internal team member or group to handle this part.

Choose a Reliable Payment System

If you’re developing a store on your site, you’ll have to implement a robust payment system that creates a safe environment for customers. In addition to card information, you’ll also be collecting name, address, phone number, and other sensitive data, so make sure that everything is protected by a powerful payment and anti-fraud system.

Keep Your Online Store Legitimate

When starting an ecommerce business, it’s easy to find ways to reduce expenses, but not all of these are ethical or professional. You should avoid implementing unethical practices, sourcing your goods from unreliable providers, and any other type of activity that may jeopardize the reputation of your store.

Contact Fannit and Find Out More About Starting an Online Store

Taking the time to learn how to start your own ecommerce business is not always easy. But, if you take the time to study your audience, understand your industry, and develop effective processes, you’ll be able to build a successful online store that attracts a large number of customers every month.

At Fannit, we specialize in helping online businesses create engaging ecommerce platforms for a variety of different industries. To learn more about our services, contact our team today and we’ll be glad to help.