If you wanted to start a business or sell any product before the internet came along, you had to start as a brick and mortar store. Increased startup and operational cost and local presence would hinder the ability of your business to become global. Thanks to the internet, now you can start an eCommerce business and reach interested buyers from all over the world in very fewer resources.
If you are reading this, the chances are you are looking to start an eCommerce business and even have an idea in mind but you are not familiar with the whole process, Right?
Or, perhaps you just believe in the potential of eCommerce and want to know “How to start an eCommerce business”.
What usually happens is that people start thinking about starting an eCommerce business but never take any action.
It might be because of fear of failure or not knowing where to start. If you are a newbie, this process might feel overwhelming to you. But don’t worry, I am going to show you a step by step process to start a super successful eCommerce business.
Step 1 – Choose Your Niche
Step 2 – Select Your Business Model
Step 3 – Spy on Your Competitors
Step 4 – Register Your Domain and Hosting
Step 5 – Build Your eCommerce Website
Step 6 – Register Your eCommerce Business
Step 7 – Start Marketing and Tracking Your eCommerce Business
Step 1 – Choose Your Niche
Whenever someone thinks about starting an eCommerce business, all they want to focus is on the products they want to sell. Thy would search extensively for the hundreds of products but this mentality won’t take you anywhere.
Selling hundreds and thousands of different products on your sites like Amazon or Zappos isn’t realistic unless you have millions of dollars in marketing budget only.
If you have that kind of money, you don’t have to choose a niche. If you don’t, you might have to niche down a little bit.
When choosing a niche for your online store, make sure to research about different niches in detail.
You don’t have to find a niche that has no competition. An absence of competition is not a good thing; it might mean that there is no demand for the product. Maybe I am wrong about this but you have to ask yourself a question before choosing such a niche, “Can I afford to take this risk?”
Also, don’t go for a niche where you have to compete with a lot of competition or you are competing with big brands. You can never outspend them.
Look for a niche that has a medium level of competition and good profit margins.
Here are some of the latest niches that you can consider for your eCommerce business:
- Travel Accessories
- Men’s Grooming Products
- Subscription boxes
- Vitamins and supplements
- Handmade Products
- Pet Supplies
- Baby Equipment
- Organic Products
- Natural Beauty Products
- Mobile Accessories
These niches are just to give you an idea, feel free to look for other niches that seem good to you. Choose the one that resonates with you the most.
Step 2 – Select Your Products and Business Model
I know it might be confusing for you to see products and business model selection together. Initially, I planned to write on the product selection only but after giving it a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that this section would be incomplete without the business model.
Let me explain. Suppose you chose your niche and now you are thinking about which products to sell. Before products selection, you will have to decide if you want to make the product yourself, find a manufacturer or sell someone else’s product. Wouldn’t you agree?
That’s what a business model is. Without selecting a business model, you can’t select any products. Now I am going to tell you about the business models and you can select one of them for your eCommerce business.
Drop shipping is the easiest business model with the least amount of investment required to start your eCommerce business. All you have to do is to get orders on your website or eCommerce store and pass on the order information to the drop shipper. The supplier will deliver the product on your behalf and you can earn a good percentage of the profit.
In the drop shipping model, you have to make an online store to display your products and market your products with digital marketing. You can invest more time and money to market your business rather than worrying about other problems.
In this business model for an eCommerce store, you outsource your product manufacturing to an off-site company. When a customer orders a product online from your eCommerce website, that manufacturer will make and ship the product either to you or directly to the customer.
Yes, there is a difference between Private Labeling and drop shipping. In drop shipping, you are offering a pre-manufactured product but in private labeling, your product will be manufactured according to your specifications.
In white Labeling, you choose successful products being sold by other companies. You contact the manufacturer with white labeling options, order a bunch of products and sell them to your customers.
The product will be labeled and packaged according to your demand.
The only problem with this model is that you have to order a certain amount of products and stock it. If people don’t buy your product, there is nothing you can do about it.
If you want to choose this business model, make sure that the product is already in demand. You can’t use this business model in every niche but if you are in the wellness or beauty niche, this model can work for you.
Step 3 – Spy on Your Competitors
Now that you have decided the business model for your business, it’s time to make your marketing strategy. You can do it the old-fashioned way or my way.
What usually people do to make a marketing strategy is to “Guess everything”. They assume what will work for them based on what they have heard from a friend.
Some months later, they are dead broke and ready to give up on their dreams. The best part is that they will tell people that eCommerce is too hard to make money or only big companies can make money with it.
Or you can use my strategy that will work every time for you. We don’t run an eCommerce business of our own, so how do I know all this?
Because we offer Website Development, App Development, and Digital marketing services to many eCommerce businesses.
Let’s show you how to spy on your competitors’ marketing strategy.
Suppose we have an online eCommerce store and we sell shoes all across the United States. So, what do we do?
The Chances are that you already know most of your competitors.
Go to Similar Web and put your competitor’s website link into the top Search Bar. In this case, we are going to use the example of Zappos.
After searching Zappos, what you are going to see in the start is the Traffic Overview. Which obviously is a lot in this case.
This section is just to get an idea if this competitor’s strategy is worth copying. The next portion is the most important as it will be giving you an idea about which marketing channels you should focus on.
In this case, most of the traffic is coming from Organic Search or directly. Zappos is a well-known brand so you shouldn’t be concerned about direct traffic.
If you really were starting an eCommerce business to sell shoes, this screenshot clearly indicates that you should focus on Search Engine Optimization of your site.
Yes, they are also getting traffic from Social media, display advertising, and email marketing. However, as a small business, you should focus on those channels that can give you the highest ROI possible. Sure, you should work on other channels as well but they shouldn’t be your main focus.
In the next section, you can look at those sites, which are referring to your competitor’s site.
It’s not just a section to get jealous of your competition about the number of sites referring to them.
If you think about it, they are potential opportunities to copy your competitor’s backlinking strategy and beating them.
Isn’t this exciting?
The next thing you will see is the organic and paid search traffic. It will help you figure out which keywords you want your website to rank for.
If you are using the free version, you will only see the limited results. So, for in-depth keywords research, you will have to use Google Keyword Planner.
However, if you have a premium version of Similar Web, you will have access to every keyword and every site linking back to your competitor’s site.
It’s a bit pricey and will cost you $99 per month. However, you can purchase it for a month and save all the research, you need to make your marketing strategy.
In this portion, you can get an idea of which social media channels you can leverage to get traffic to your site. In your case, rather than going for all the social media channels, you can select what’s working for your competitors.
Obviously, you have to look at their social media pages in detail to get an idea about what they are doing to get traffic to your site.
Don’t only look at only one competitor. Research at least 3 or 4 competitors and then come up with your own marketing strategy.
Or you can talk to us (Lead Gen form) and we can help you come up with a marketing strategy to start your eCommerce business.
Step 4 – Register Your Domain and Hosting Service
After having a marketing strategy to make a successful eCommerce business, it’s time to validate your business idea. To validate your business idea, you would need a website with all your products.
So, before making a website, you need a Domain Name (name of your site) and a hosting service (where all the information of your site will be stored).
To register your Domain and Hosting Services, you can select from GoDaddy, HostGator, SiteGround, or Hostinger depending on your budget and requirements. If you don’t how to select a hosting plan, let us know and we will help you find the right services for your eCommerce site.
FREE Hosting: Although I don’t usually recommend using free hosting services for eCommerce stores. However, If you are looking for a free Hosting service, you can sign up at 000Web Host to get a free hosting plan.
Step 5 – Build your eCommerce website
When it comes to building your eCommerce store, you will have to take a decision first. Either you want your online store on WordPress (WooComerce) or a platform like Shopify.
It totally depends on what you want to do and how you want to build it. If you are looking to make everything according to your specifications with more control, always go for a WordPress site.
You might have to hire a WordPress Developer if you don’t have the skills yourself. And if you are wondering about the cost of making a WordPress site, it also depends on various factors. Just to give you an idea, it might take $300 to $1500 to make a WordPress site.
However, if you don’t have that kind of money, always go for a Shopify Site. You won’t have to buy a separate hosting plan for a Shopify store. You can make your own eCommerce website with Shopify even if you don’t know how to code. It’s just a drag and drop kind of thing.
All you have to do is to Sign up for their free 14 days trial, select a theme and start adding your products. Yes, It’s that simple.
If you feel that, it’s the right platform for you, only then start with a paid plan, starting from $9 a month.
Step 6 – Register Your Business
Most of the entrepreneurs hate it when it comes to legal matters. It’s so confusing and overwhelming that most of the entrepreneurs wait till the last minute.
Regardless to say, registering your business according to the laws of your country is one of the most important things. Or everything will be taken away from you in a heartbeat if you don’t follow the laws.
First, you need to choose a business structure for your eCommerce store from the following.
- Sole Proprietorship (Single Owner)
- Partnership Firm (If you have partners)
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Taxes on Sole Proprietorship and Partnership Firms are relatively low. It’s natural that you want to choose one of them. But, in both these company types, your personal assets are at stake.
If someone sues your company, you might end up losing your personal assets as well.
You can register your company by filling all the paperwork yourself or you can hire a business registration service. You can also hire a lawyer to do this for you but it’s generally too expensive for a small business.
After registering your company, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to open a bank account on the name of your business. Just like your social security number. It doesn’t matter if you have any employees or not. You have to get an EIN.
Now, you have to look for any other licenses or permits needed by your city or state. Every country has its own laws and you have to understand that. Do a proper research and complete all the legal requirements before you start operating.
Step 7 – Start Marketing and Tracking
It’s the time to look at the marketing plan you made after looking at your competitors. Work aggressively on getting customers early with marketing.
Getting customers early will not only help you generate revenue to keep going but to get valuable information about your customers and products as well.
If you are doing a business, you need to determine and track all your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). If you not doing that, you are not serious enough yet. Make it a habit to track the important information. It will help you avoid failure and make vital decisions when your eCommerce business isn’t doing well.
Here are some of the KPI’s that I think you should track and will be beneficial for your business.
- Cost Per Lead The cost of getting a single person to subscribe to your site for any free offer.
- Cost Per Conversion The cost of getting a single customer with your current marketing efforts.
- Gross Profit Total Revenue – Cost of Goods
- Average Order Size How much a customer spends on a single Order.
- Conversion Rate How many of your visitors are converting into customers on your site.
- Customer Retention Rate How many of your customers are shopping frequently from you as compared to the new customers.
- Lifetime Value of a Customer How much profit you can make from a single customer with an entire future relationship with a customer.
There are a lot of other KPI’s you can track but I have listed some of them that we regularly use. Tracking them will help you make decisions on facts and trends rather than assumptions.
Ready to Start your eCommerce business?
Now that I have told you almost everything about How to Start an eCommerce Business, it’s the time for you to take action.
There are two types of people in the world. The Doers and the Dreamers. Always be a doer.
No matter how much information or funding you have, you are never going to establish a successful business if you don’t act now.
Don’t wait for the right time. The only right time is now. Best of luck for your business and let me know in the comments below if you have something to ask.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s):
Q1: How much Money is required to start an eCommerce business?
Ans: That depends on a lot of Factors including your niche, products, business model, expertise, and marketing strategy.
You can start your ecommerce store in as low as $21. All you have to do is to buy a domain in $10-$12 and Shopify’s Lite plan i.e. $9 a month and you can start your business in $19-$21.
However, I didn’t include any paid marketing budget. If you don’t want to increase the investment, you should have a basic knowledge of SEO for your promotion. Or you can take some time and learn SEO if you don’t know how to do it already.
Q2: How much does it cost to set up an eCommerce website?
Ans: That depends on a lot of factors as well. If you are a developer yourself, it will take you $50 to $100 to set up an eCommerce store.
When you hire a website development company, it can take you around $400 to $2000 depending upon your needs.
If you choose to make a store on Shopify, you can make a store for as low as $9. However, making a website on WordPress/Magento is a single time cost but you have to pay monthly to Shopify for your site.
Q3: How do I build an eCommerce website?
Ans: If you are not a website developer and want to keep your costs low, always go for a platform like Shopify to build your eCommerce store.
However, if you can afford a custom WordPress site, you will have more control over every aspect.
Q4: Is eCommerce Profitable?
Ans: Yeah, eCommerce is obviously profitable. Otherwise, how could Amazon be one of the biggest companies in the world?
Q5: What do we do, exactly?
Ans: Tech Devout is a Website Development and Online Marketing Company. We help entrepreneurs (like you) to develop cost-effective eCommerce websites. We also help small businesses to make and execute their digital marketing strategy to get a positive return on their Investment.