Guide on How to Start an eCommerce Business Within A Week — Tried & True

How To Start An eCommerce Business In A Week: 10+ Crucial Steps

At the beginning, you might find that starting an online business would be quite similar to opening up a physical store. There are operational processes that every business owner has to go through.

1. Figure out your niche

Brainstorming what to sell might seem easy at first, but it can have a larger effect on your store performance than you think. It’s not as simple as selling the things you like — there have to be actual demands from the market for that product. Who would you be selling to if there’s no one that’s interested in your merchandise?

2. Research your product

After determining the niche you wish to go for, it’s time to think of the specific products you want to sell.

  • Physical merchandise: These are products that require manufacturing and storage. Physical products also need to be delivered to the customers through shipping services. These products are perhaps the most familiar to the general public. However, you have to manage your operational cost efficiently in order to maximize your profit margin. For example, eCommerce shipping fees can be extremely pricey unless you figure out a way to reduce them. You might also have to invest more at the beginning.
  • Digital products: These are products that buyers can get access to just by using their Internet. You can sell and let your customers download eBooks, online courses, photos and videos,… Digital products require less upfront investment and have higher profit margins. However, they require the right eCommerce platform to sell on, and it’s harder to work on your pricing strategy.
  • Service: Selling service is probably the quickest way to start your eCommerce business. There’s little to no cost to get started, since you can basically make use of your current skills to make money. This includes services such as writing, interpreting, designing… However, selling services also means you’re selling your time. With the limited amount of time available per day, it’s harder to scale up your business if you’re working alone.

3. Research your eCommerce business model

The next aspect you might want to consider early when thinking of how to start your eCommerce business, is your business structure.

Choosing the right business model is an important step in starting your eCommerce store
  • Manufacturing: This is a model that will have the highest upfront costs, since you will have to work on your own production line. But in return, you get to develop a unique product line just for your brand based on your specific requirements.
  • Wholesale / Retail: If you don’t need products that are too unique and have a large storage space to keep stock, then wholesaling might be suitable for you. You will be buying products in bulks and distributing them in smaller quantities.
  • Dropshipping / Print on demand: These are the 2 models that are probably the most popular among eCommerce beginners. There’s no need to invest heavily, and you won’t need space to store your products since they will arrive directly to the customer’s door. Learning how to start an eCommerce dropship business is also fairly straightforward with the amount of instructions now available.

4. Determine your target market and audience

Researching about what your audience needs, where their touch points are, as well as how you compare to competitors is undoubtedly a crucial step.

  • Search engine: Knowing which keywords are most searched for on Google Trends will help you find what people are currently interested in, or the problems many people now have in common.
  • eCommerce platform searches: This will help you get a better understanding of product demand and the scope of competition when you do research on your niche.
  • Social listening: This is a great way to learn about what people are thinking about a current topic. Are their reactions to the trends positive or negative? The data will give you valuable insights to your customers and their touch points.
  • Customer reviews: Check your competitors’ reviews in order to find what their customers said they are lacking, and see if you can provide a better solution to that problem. This can provide you with more ideas in developing your products to meet customers’ needs.

5. Learn about eCommerce laws and obtain required licenses

Compared to operating a physical store, there are fewer permits and licenses that you’re required to obtain. But no matter how small your online store might be, you should still understand the legal aspects of starting an eCommerce business.

  • Home occupation permits (if you want to ship your products from home)
  • Inspection certificate (health, safety, and environmental…) if any
  • Professional licenses for specific industries
  • Sales tax permits
  • Contract and employee

6. Register your business and brand name

Once you’ve made sure that you’ve acquired the necessary permits for your store, it’s time to register your business officially. This includes thinking of the legal structure you want to follow, as well as the name of your business.

  • Sole proprietorship: you’re starting your online business by yourself
  • Partnership: you partner with another person to own and run the business together
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): you need to hire employees for your business

7. Define your brand image

The next step in our guide on how to start an eCommerce business online is for you to think of your brand image. How can you differentiate yourself from competitors of the same industry?

A consistent brand image will leave a lasting impression for customers

8. Source your products

By this point, you’ve probably had a very detailed idea of things to sell to make money on your store and how you’ll be selling it. What’s left is to figure out how you’ll be getting your products, and this mostly applies to physical items.

  • Making your own product: With this method of product sourcing, you have the most control over your products, but it also imposes greater risk of non-selling items. Purchase your ingredients in smaller batches at the beginning, and start scaling up when you earn more resources.
  • Working with a manufacturer: The hardest part of sourcing through a manufacturer is to find one that caters to specific requirements. Most manufacturers only take bulk product orders, so you might have to cover larger costs. At the same time, pay attention to their quality checking process. This helps make sure that your products are consistent in terms of quality when delivered to your customers.
  • Purchasing wholesale: It’s important to have a good pricing strategy when you sell with this business model. If you know that you’re one of the few brands on the market that can provide this solution, then you have the advantage of selling products at a higher markup. But as other competitors enter the market, make sure to optimize your prices and marketing strategy.
  • Dropshipping / print on demand: There are plenty of suppliers on the market that can fulfill orders for dropshipping or POD businesses. However, the base cost and production quality for the same kind of products can differ largely. Many small business owners now opt for dropshipping service by overseas suppliers to reduce the base costs and increase profit margin.

9. Create your online store

If you’ve reached this step, then you’re very close to the finishing stages of how to start an eCommerce business. Creating your store officially will mark the start of your online presence and making your first sales.

  • Open-source eCommerce platform: These are eCommerce website builders that allow you to view and modify their source codes. This means you get endless customization possibilities, and can freely add functionality to your store. However, to fully be able to optimize these platforms, you’re required to have a good coding background.
  • Hosted source eCommerce platform: On the other hand, hosted platforms allow you to create an online store without much technical knowledge. You don’t have to worry about fixing backend problems, so these are considered the best eCommerce platform for small business. But compared to open-source platforms, they lack flexibility in terms of customization.
  • Marketplace: Unlike open-source and hosted platforms, all you need to do to sell on a marketplace platform is to register your store on their multi-vendor website. This makes setting up your store even faster. But the downside is that you don’t have your own website domain. You also have very limited customization options as well.
  • WooCommerce: Powered by WordPress, WooCommerce is perhaps the most well known open-source eCommerce platform. It will provide you with hundreds of extensions to manage your order, marketing, analytics and more. You can also customize the storefront to your liking — or if you’re not familiar with heavy coding, there are thousands of beautiful themes available. It’s also among free eCommerce platforms to download and install.
  • Shopify: Shopify is a hosted source solution that is also trusted by many merchants around the world. This platform provides a great range of eCommerce functionalities and user-friendly analytics dashboard. It’s also very easy to get your store up and running using Shopify, as they only require you to fill in simple information regarding your business.
  • Amazon: Amazon is currently the biggest and fastest growing marketplace in the world. Starting an Amazon eCommerce business means being able to access its rich traffic and get your products across potential customers faster. Amazon also provides you with simple and straightforward eCommerce tools which are suitable for beginners. Learn how to start an eCommerce business on Amazon using this Amazon eCommerce business guide.

10. List your products on more channels

In case you want to grow your business even faster, you can list your product on more than 1 selling channel.

11. Attract customers to your store and grow your business

Now that you’ve finished setting up your store and uploading your products, it’s time to get customers to know about your store.

  • Social media marketing: Build your audience with the right social media approach, and promote your products using popular channels like Facebook and Instagram. By growing your social media followers and creating quality content, you can get more people to notice your products and convert them to paying customers. At the same time, using social proofs in marketing will make your business appear more trustworthy to customers.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): By having a good eCommerce SEO strategy, you can drive more traffic to your product pages from search engines. For example, when customers search for a specific solution to their problems on Google, you’d want your website and products to pop up on the first few search result pages. Improve your eCommerce store rankings by enriching SEO content using quality blog posts and backlinks.
  • Email marketing: Get your website visitors to sign up for email subscriptions using attractive CTAs. Once you’ve acquired a list of potential customer’s email addresses, create inviting email marketing campaigns to promote your products. The holiday seasons are the best occasions to send your customers attractive promotional holiday emails to drive sales.
  • Paid ads: Improve brand awareness by spending on paid ads. These can be about your brand, your products or even your upcoming promotion. If you need new ideas on how to boost your sales using promotions, here are some creative sales promotions examples.

What To Do After Launching Your eCommerce Business?

Once you’ve successfully launched your business and eCommerce store, it’s time to revise everything that’s happening on your website. Optimizing your website while it’s operating will help you notice problems that only arise after your launch, and help you avoid losing sales.

Why You Should Start An eCommerce Business

Considering how fast Internet culture is developing, it’s an undoubted fact that online businesses will keep thriving in the future. And starting an eCommerce business is one of the most profitable ways of earning money online.

How Much Does It Cost To Start An eCommerce Business?

Depending on the type of product you choose for your business, as well as the platform to set up your store, the cost of starting an eCommerce business can vastly differ.

  • eCommerce platform fees
  • License and permit costs
  • Marketing costs
  • Additional tools and software costs
  • Employee costs

Final Thoughts

In general, kicking off a business on your own is certainly not a piece of cake. Occasionally, it may take lots of time, effort and resources to set up your store and show up where customers are searching.

FAQs: How To Start An eCommerce Business

How much does it cost to start an eCommerce business?

The cost of starting an eCommerce store will change based on various factors. This includes your business model, the eCommerce platform you choose, and — of course — the product that you’re selling. Each model, platform and product will require a different amount of investment. But in general, it may cost you from a few hundreds to $200,000 depending on how much you wish to put into this business.

Is eCommerce worth it?

The answer is yes. Setting up and operating an eCommerce store is now easier than ever with the assistance of various tools on the market. There are many ways to start an eCommerce business with minimum investment, and depending on how well you research your niche, it can be very profitable to sell things online. What’s more, you have great potential to expand your business to an international level in the future.

Can eCommerce be profitable?

Yes, as long as you do your research properly and constantly optimize your business strategy. At the same time, it’s important to note that an eCommerce business may take up to 12–18 months to rocket. So take your time to revise your operation regularly and celebrate one small win at a time.

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