With the number of digital buyers increasing every year, there’s never been a better time to launch an e-commerce business than in 2022.
With this data, some people would prefer to ask this first: "why create an e-commerce business in this time of pandemic?" But for others, they would certainly ask “how to start an e-commerce shop?,” instead. Such shows the great difference between other people and entrepreneurs. Rather than trying to learn whether they can or can’t do something, entrepreneurs are more excited to learn how to do it.
If you’re someone who has this kind of mindset, or someone who wants to have the heart of an entrepreneur, this article is for you. We’ll help you prepare and get started in launching your e-commerce business and sell products online.
How to get started with e-commerce
1. Decide whether to sell through online marketplaces or e-commerce platforms
You have two choices of where you want to sell your products - online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms.
Online marketplaces are platforms like Etsy, Amazon, or eBay. In these marketplaces, you can immediately list all your products and sell them to millions of users who are visiting the marketplace everyday.
Selling on e-commerce platforms, on the other hand, will allow you to build your own website. It will be your own, with no other sellers in your domain. However, there will be no visitors unless you initiate the effort to market them in different digital marketing channels.
Online stores using e-commerce platforms are like the local shops in your neighbourhood renting a commercial space - they have their own products, workflows, payment systems, and employees. Some examples of these e-commerce platforms are Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce.
Knowing where to sell is an important factor as it will determine the success of your business. If you decide to go with an unheard-of platform, then the chances of people discovering your business are very slim. But having an e-commerce shop of your own does not mean it’s all disadvantageous.
Here are the benefits of e-commerce platforms:
- Total command over the site's operation, design and accessibility
- You have permission to gather consumer information for future marketing purposes
- There really is no rivalry on-site
- You can create your own brand awareness
- You don't have to rely on another firm for pricing and charge structures
- You'll have fewer sales limitations and rules to deal with
Whereas the benefits of an online marketplace are as follows:
- It's simple to get started right away; you can create a storefront in minutes and then take advantage of all the benefits of payment processing
- There’s no need for technical expertise or marketing resources
- There’s no need to maintain the site or the server
- You gain access to a big number of customers
- There’s already a level of brand recognition
In choosing the right platform to sell, you must determine which qualities are most essential to you. When making your final decision, consider the following list of questions:
- Do we place a higher emphasis on customisation and brand branding than on simplicity of use and turn-key solutions?
- Is it one of our long-term aims to develop a standalone website with our own domain name?
- What kind of advertising do we wish to conduct?
- Will we build our marketing strategy on the familiarity of an existing platform or our clients' data and contact information?
- Do we market a product that is edgy, controversial or heavily regulated (or might become heavily regulated in the future)?
- Are our corporate values compatible with those of a third-party vendor?
- Are the clients we're looking for already using third-party vendor sites?
- Would we be better served by an e-commerce solution or a marketplace offering in five years?
2. Be familiar with the rules, laws and regulations that apply to online businesses
Understanding the implications of internet business law is critical to the success of your company and the safety of your customers.
Take the time to understand taxes, payment security, copyright, data gathering and use, and industry licensing laws before you start your e-commerce firm.
Here are a couple of things you probably didn’t know about: Payment platforms and shipping internationally (dream big!).
There are different kinds of payment platforms made available to consumers in different countries. For example, Venmo and Paypal are particularly popular in Western groups while applications like GCash and bank transfer are popular among people in the Philippines. Chinese consumers and other Asian countries love to use AliPay.
Different countries have different restrictions when it comes to the packages that come from other countries. Some shops would sometimes opt to have a list of no-no countries due to issues with shipment and tampering.
Don’t forget to understand how taxes work as they might change from time to time. On top of import and export taxes, you might also have to pay an ecotax. You will still need some business licenses and permits if you run an e-commerce business. Check with your city, county and state to discover what kind of sales tax licenses or home business licenses you'll need. Make sure you have them before you start selling.
3. Know what you want to sell
Because of strong competition, it's critical to provide shoppers with something that they can't get anyplace else. Perhaps your customer has a problem that your product can solve or a need that your product can fulfill. To begin, you must use your critical and reflective knowledge to produce distinct sales pitches for your goods.
Here are questions to ask when you’re about to start an e-commerce business:
- What is a market that I can fulfill?
- Are there gaps in a market that no one has looked into yet?
- How about a service that needs more people to cater to it specifically?
These are just basic questions but these can start huge conversations that could possibly change someone’s life. You don’t have to create an entirely new market, you can also just improve upon the work of your competitors. The truth is a product is only as good unless someone can provide a cheaper and better alternative.
The greatest strategy to make a sale is to cater to their needs on your sales pitch once you've identified your target consumers' pain points and how your product can meet them.
4. Know whether you can grow your business with market research
For developing and running a successful business, market research is critical. It helps you remain on top of what your customers want and offers your business direction.
Market research can be used to determine:
- The likelihood of a business or product proposal succeeding
- Whether or not you'll be able to expand into a new market or place
- The influences from industry or the economy
You can launch a new company based on your research findings. Another result of market research is being able to create or make new marketing strategies- after all, not every strategy makes sense to ALL businesses.
Part of market research is measuring the success of your business. If a certain strategy fails then it’s only room to reflect on why it failed and how it could be improved upon.
5. Are you financially capable?
The good news is that starting an e-commerce business does not have to be expensive.
"It takes money to earn money," as the old adage goes, but the costs of beginning an e-commerce business are typically far lower than the costs of opening a brick-and-mortar store because your storefront simply needs to be online.
Having said that, here are things you might not have considered before that can add costs to your business but you cannot operate without:
- Getting a seller’s permit: You may need to obtain seller's permits from your state of residency to make your e-commerce operation legal.
- Registering a domain name: You'll need to either purchase the rights to utilise a domain name or use a platform to set up a ready-made e-commerce store.
- Developing an e-commerce website or listing your products in marketplaces: If you choose to develop an e-commerce website with for example, Shopify or WooCommerce, you will need to pay for the subscription fees. On the other hand, listing your products on marketplaces can also cost you a small amount for each listing you add.
- Marketing your products: You should set aside money for marketing, especially for social media and email campaigns. It's impractical to expect clients to discover you within their own means unless you attempt to expand your brand's online presence across media.
With careful research and a splash of inventiveness, you may significantly lower your online startup expenses. It’s no longer required to invest big bucks to create an online business, therefore new enterprises must not be discouraged from joining the market. It's also unrealistic to expect to start an e-commerce store for nothing. Every successful e-commerce store requires a few non-negotiable front-end fees to operate.
6. Are you mentally and physically prepared?
With the rapid growth of e-commerce, capturing customers' attention has never been more difficult, considering the plethora of diversions available at the touch of a finger. In this atmosphere, marketers are vying for consumers' minds as well as their wallets. So, in such a competitive environment, how can you grow your brand online?
What will fuel that growth? Attracting new customers to the category or increasing the frequency and basket value of existing customers?
These are very heavy questions to ask but represent the realities of owning a business of any kind - not just an online one. There's no way to know how we'll react when confronted with a massive business crisis without actually going through them.
So if you’re a new business owner, it’s important to hope for the best but expect for the worst. After all, your business can go in any direction or it can stagnate. Even when it’s stagnating, that’s also a point of concern that needs to be addressed.
7. Learn how to keep up with trends
E-commerce trends change swiftly. Today's hottest items can become obsolete in a matter of months, weeks or even days.
Maintaining a steady rate of e-commerce development necessitates staying on top of industry trends. Simply put, if you don't keep an eye on the future, you'll miss out on possibilities and see a decline in your e-commerce growth.
In the online marketplace, there’s a lot of duplication and overlap. Unless you're selling one-of-a-kind prototypes or handcrafted things, there's a strong probability your niche market has competitors.
Keeping up with e-commerce trends provides you with the information you need to accurately track your overall operation's performance. Your e-commerce growth is influenced by factors such as what your customers buy, how they shop and which marketing strategies produce the best results.
8. Learn how to optimise your products and shop for search engines
While bought search can propel you towards the head of SERPs, the cost of remaining there may well be exorbitant within the long run. You need to be on the first page and e-commerce SEO may assist you in achieving that goal.
Your items must rank better in the SERPs than those of your rivals and they must be displayed appropriately so that potential consumers can find the things they need and click on your site. So, knowing a great manual photo editor or AI photo editor will really help bring in people to your site!
Implementing an SEO plan for an e-commerce website can be difficult and time-consuming, but it is well worth the effort if you follow the advice in these e-commerce tips. Extensive and effectively executed optimisation can result in significantly greater click-through rates and revenues than sponsored search.
9. Learn how to measure and analyse your efforts
You must first learn as much as possible about the individual you are selling to in order to meet their demands and construct your sales pitch to target them as successfully as possible.
Linking each conversion and closed contract to the source of the lead or campaign is the most straightforward approach to measure your marketing efforts and ad expenditure. It's crucial to know and understand this data when planning and managing your sales and marketing responsibilities.
Before they convert or go down the funnel, your marketing and sales teams need to know how often your customers and leads interact with your website.
If you know that a new customer would visit an average of 11 pages on your website before converting, for example, you can start focusing on prospects who have already visited 6-8 pages. This set of leads is ready to be nurtured with highly relevant, instructional material that offers meaningful solutions to their problems.
10. Know who you need to employ, what tools to have and the people to collaborate with
Now that you’re finally here, the last of our tips is this: always have someone who is probably better than you at certain parts of your business. You can be the brains and brawns behind the product that is revolutionising your market but you might not be good at marketing this life-changing product.
For example, you’ll need a writer who knows the ins and outs of SEO and how to get yourself on the front page - or at least the second page - of Google, or perhaps a background remover for e-commerce.
While they're employed under you, it’s a good idea to learn from these people. You’re not stealing their ideas but you should understand the nature of their work. As a business owner, don’t satisfy yourself with just sitting back and collecting the profits. You should get your hands dirty and busy with who to contact, what tools are used for and what to do once an employee calls in sick.
We may pay a premium for their services but they’re only human and may need days where they cannot commit to you.
It’s only right that you make sure your business moves forward regardless.
Ready to start an e-commerce business?
Starting an e-commerce business doesn't have to be difficult. As a summary:
- Do some research into an e-commerce specialty and popular items
- Determine your company concept and fulfillment approach
- It's time to start establishing your web business! Select an appropriate e-commerce platform, customise its appearance and begin adding goods to your catalogue. Concentrate your efforts on increasing traffic to your online business
- Once your company is up and going, make a point of gathering as much data as possible. Then examine the information to learn more about what works and what doesn't. Use that insight to make the necessary changes to your business plan
When it comes to e-commerce platforms, it's important to choose the one that supports your current and future business needs. The more traditional platforms may not offer you the agility you need to withstand the dynamic nature of the modern business landscape.
So, how should you futureproof your commerce setup? We're holding a webinar series on this very topic. Click the button below to tune into the sessions - now available on demand.
About the author:
Yen Pedrajas is an experienced SEO specialist who loves to write and share insights and ideas about social media marketing, digital marketing and e-commerce.