Over the years, e-commerce continues to rise. In 2021, e-commerce is expected to generate $4.5 trillion in sales per year. And by the year 2040, it’s estimated that 95% of all purchases will be through e-commerce.
Large and local small businesses alike have turned to online selling and launched e-commerce stores. However, starting an online business can be a challenging task for first-time entrepreneurs.
To help you get started, here’s a 5-step overview to start an e-commerce business. A look at essential tasks including: planning, launching, and growing a new e-commerce business.
1. Choose your product
Evaluate your idea
How do you know if your product will sell or not? Find out which strategies and tactics companies in the industry have pursued to sell similar products online and validate your idea in the market.
Find a product to sell
The first step is to find out what product you want to sell online. No matter, if it’s wholesale or direct-to-consumer. This can be the most challenging step.
Acquire the product
Once you have a viable product idea, figure out where and how you’re going to acquire it. Identify the supply chain partnerships and how you will provide it to the end consumer (e.g., manufacturer, wholesaler, drop-shipping, etc.) There are various methods and techniques for acquiring products, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
2. Research and prepare
Conduct competitive research
Thoroughly research your competition so you can have an idea of what you’re up against and how you can make your e-commerce business stand apart from others.
Write a business plan
A business plan can take many forms, yet all business plans have one thing in common: they act as a roadmap to help bring your ideas, thoughts, and strategies together. This written document should include business goals, methods for attaining those goals, and the time-frame for the achievement of each goal.
3. Set up your e-commerce store
Name your business and buy a domain
Aside from all the points, another challenging decision is determining your business name selecting an available domain name. Stick with a .com TLD (top level domain), include relevant keywords in your domain name search, when available. Keep your domain name short and ensure it easy to pronounce and spell. Also make sure your business name matches your domain name. It should be unique and brandable. Also avoid hyphens in your domain name.
Create a logo for your business
Once you have selected a name for your business and registered a domain, it’s time to design a logo. If you’re not familiar with graphic design, you can hire a graphic designer or use graphic design platforms like Photoshop or Canva to design a DIY logo.
Understand search engine optimization (SEO)
Before you launch, get familiar with search engine optimization so you can properly structure and design your e-commerce website pages for users and search engines.
Build your online store
When you’re ready to build your online store, there are several paths you can take. You can customize your store with a website builder, hire a developer, or create a WordPress-based store. Once you select on the platform, design elements, and user experience, the goal is to develop high-conversion product pages using high-res, appealing product images, produce engaging product descriptions, and more.
4. Prepare to launch
To ensure a successful launch, create a launch checklist and ensure you’ve considered all of the daily operations required to run your online store. For instance:
- Have you purchased a toll-free business number to accept calls?
- Will you include a chatbot to engage customers in real-time?
- Do you have a clear fulfillment and shipping strategy?
- How will you market your online store?
- Do you have a payments processing platform to securely accept payment?
- Do you have an analytics platform (e.g., Google Analytics) connected to your store?
It’s a good idea to define your KPIs (key performance indicators) upfront so, once you launch your e-commerce store, you know which metrics to track.
Acquire your first customer
Now that you’ve launched your store, it’s time to start marketing your products. While physical store owners consider selling their products in person, digital marketing focuses on just one thing: driving targeted traffic to your website to convert qualified site visitors into sales.
Marketing your store
Marketing your new online store is critical to long-term success. Utilize proven marketing tactics and strategies to drive traffic, acquire leads, conversions and sales. This can be a time-consuming process. If you’re unsure where to start, learn everything you can about digital marketing, read online marketing blogs, and consult with an online marketing expert, if it’s within your budget.
Consider working with an e-commerce agency
This may sound costly, but working with an e-commerce agency can prove to be a solid investment. Finding the best agency for your business can be a time-consuming task. So, do your research, ask for referrals, and setup a few meetings with agencies to understand how they can help you grow your e-commerce business.
Building a successful online business can be a challenge. However, if you are prepared with the right tools and blueprint, the opportunities are boundless.
Louise Harris is a marketing specialist working with various brands online such as Mentors For SEO. She is devoted to helping small businesses and helping them grow online. Follow her on Twitter @lastredit.
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