Issue #19 • July 2018

How to Start an Ecommerce Business

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Have you ever dreamed of a physical product but then became discouraged by how much overhead cost was involved? Ecommerce is alleviating many of the costs that were once associated with running a business.

Ecommerce has taken away the need to invest in a physical location since your website now becomes the storefront. Website hosting is much more affordable than a brick-and-mortar store.

How to build an ecommerce busienss

With ecommerce sales at an all-time high with no signs of stopping, it’s easier than ever to turn a product idea into a booming ecommerce business. You don’t even need a lot of capital to get started.

Many ecommerce businesses have come from humble beginnings. Some of them were started in the founder’s basement or garage with only a few products in inventory. In this early stage, ecommerce entrepreneurs are able to test their products, get valuable customer feedback, and learn the ins and outs of running an ecommerce business.

Whether you are a creator or influencer who is interested in turning your platform into a physical product shop, or you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who is excited about the possibilities of running an online shop, you can tap into a new source of revenue by offering physical products online.

You don’t need to be the next Amazon to make a nice profit with your ecommerce shop, either. You just need a high-quality product, an interested audience, and an all-around great customer experience.

The benefits of ecommerce business

Along with the ability to save on overhead costs, you also can get up and running with your ecommerce business in as little as a few days. It’s much easier to set up a website than it is to open up a physical store location.

The benefits of an ecommerce business

Another benefit is that you have full control over the final product. If you want the packaging to be designed in a certain way or to include a handwritten note for a personalized feel, you can do that when you run an ecommerce business. Just about anything you can dream up, you have the power to do.

You also have the pleasure of knowing that you are offering a physical product that will enhance the everyday lives of your customers. Someone can plan their day in Google Calendar but it never feels as special as receiving a new paper planner in the mail and digging into your goal setting worksheets. Products offer real, tangible value that keep customers coming back.

If you’d rather take on a strategy role and build something bigger than yourself, ecommerce could be a great fit for you. It will require more people to get products into the hands of your customers, but it also allows you to outsource tasks you don’t want to handle anyway.

The difficulties behind starting an ecommerce business

Since you are selling a physical product, you must be aware that there are additional steps in delivering the product to your customer. Unlike selling a digital course or eBook that can be automatically delivered through email, you have to fulfill the order through a shipment process.

Ecommerce website platforms like Shopify aim to make this process easier by streamlining the order fulfillment process and helping you outsource drop shipment, but there is still a learning curve.

Another difficulty is that as your ecommerce shop grows, it will be harder to tackle the day-to-day tasks on your own. If you want to stay a solo entrepreneur, it will be difficult to do so in the world of most ecommerce business models. Outsourcing will increase your expenses but will also help you lessen the weight of your own workload.

Ecommerce business team

It takes many different roles to keep ecommerce orders moving smoothly through the fulfillment process, so this business model is best for people who don’t mind managing a team. The most successful ecommerce shop owners focus on creating the vision of their company and communicating it to their team and customers.

Creating your own ecommerce shop vs. affiliate marketing

If fleshing out new product ideas and creating prototypes doesn’t sound interesting to you, you can still experiment with selling physical products through your blog as an affiliate.

Becoming an affiliate might be a good fit for you if:

  • You like the idea of selling a product that already exists but want someone else to take care of the shipment
  • You’d rather create innovative content around a product than create it yourself
  • You don’t want to build a large team to help you fulfill orders
  • Marketing excites you much more than the operations side of business
  • You want to keep your location flexible and don’t want to carry around product inventory

If you resonate with many of these points, it might be best for you to strategically partner with companies that offer affiliate programs. This is a very popular avenue for bloggers who want to test the waters with ecommerce products or who want to put more of an emphasis on their unique content vs. one-of-a-kind product they’ve created.

If you are still on the fence, we have an article that compares selling your own products to affiliate marketing to help you make the best choice for your business.

How to start an ecommerce business

Naturally, you want to start by determining if you have a passion for ecommerce before you dive in. Does the idea of creating unique products, designing brand experiences, and improving prototypes over time sound interesting to you? Do you want to work with a team full of talented people who amplify your strengths and offset your weaknesses?

How to start an ecommerce business

If so, your path to ecommerce business is already looking good. The best ecommerce shop owners are usually described as storytellers who are passionate about customer service, tracking metrics, experimenting with products, seeking feedback, and creating value for customers.

Are you ready to discover an ecommerce business model for yourself? Let’s start with the first steps you’ll need to take.

Choose an ecommerce shop name

It’s best to choose an ecommerce shop name that doesn’t already exist. You wouldn’t want to have your product be confused with another company. This protects your reputation and also ensures that you stand out among competitors.

If you don’t know if a company already is using your name, search for it in Google and all social media platforms. If it is available, the next step is to buy your domain name. Sites like GoDaddy to Google Domains can help you purchase domains, but keep in mind that some website platforms like Squarespace include a free domain name with their packages.

Register your business

Register your ecommerce busienss

Okay, we get it. This is not the most fun part of creating your ecommerce business but it’s incredibly important. You want to make sure to register your business with the state and work with a lawyer to understand any important laws before you launch your shop. The more you know ahead of time, the better!

You can also sign up for your EIN and get any necessary permits. If you’re not sure where to begin, look into your state’s Department of Revenue website or federal level business resources.

Select an ecommerce website platform

Now that all the “boring” stuff is out of the way, you can shift into a more creative role by choosing a website platform for your ecommerce business. This is one of the most important steps in the process because you will be inside your website platform every day as an ecommerce entrepreneur.

Your website will act as your primary storefront so it’s important for it to not only look nice but also to function well. We recommend investing time into understanding the basics of SEO so you’re able to build your website’s SEO value from day one.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of optimizing your website for people who are searching for what you have to offer.

Search engines like Google prioritize high-quality content in their result pages so your goal is to increase the value of your website pages so you can climb to the top of the results page. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, this is a great place to start.

From creation to consumer: the stages of ecommerce business

After checking off all the preliminary tasks of how to start an ecommerce store, you’re ready to focus on bringing your product from the research to the delivery phase. Understanding each phase will help you understand how a successful ecommerce businesses is built.

  • Research: Your first step is to choose a niche for your ecommerce store. Instead of trying to sell everything under the sun like Amazon, think about the specific products you want to market. Is it cooking tools, personalized notebooks, audio equipment, vintage clothing, or something else? This will also help you understand who you want to market to.
  • Evaluation: Now that you know your niche and who your audience is, it’s time to evaluate if your product is something they actually need. You can do this by sending surveys, hosting focus groups, and interviewing people who match your target audience description.
  • Creation: Once you’ve validated your product idea, you can enter into the fun part: creation! This is where you will want to decide if you want to create the product yourself or sell curated products that already exist.
    Ecommerce products
  • Promotion: It doesn’t help to launch your ecommerce shop if no one knows it’s happening. Instead, use any extra time you have in the creation stage to also plan your ecommerce promotions. Start testing with different marketing channels and see what works best as you go into launch mode.
  • Launch: The phase you’ve been waiting for! Your ecommerce shop will finally feel like a real thing. When you launch your online storefront, it’s important to have a plan for how you are going to fulfill orders. As they roll in, you’ll be ready to delight your first customers and hopefully turn them into lifetime brand advocates.
    Launch your ecommerce business
  • Delivery: Even if you get all of these steps right, you won’t have happy customers if you fail in the delivery stage. This is one of the more tedious phases of ecommerce business but is massively important in ensuring your customer has a great experience. If you don’t want to be in charge of product delivery and shipment, think about using a drop shipper or outsourcing to team members.

Ready to start your ecommerce business?

The articles in this issue of Tradecraft are all about helping you get your own ecommerce shop up and running. So will you create your own product or find products to affiliate marketing? Will you utilize influencers or really hit hard on your email marketing campaigns? Will you sell on Amazon? Will you try crowdfunding your next product?

There are so many decisions to make for your ecommerce business! Let your first step be reading this Tradecraft issue to get understand the basics and start brainstorming.