How To Start An Ecommerce Business From Home – A Full Guide.
E-commerce is the practice of selling goods or services on the internet. eCommerce requires a secure online infrastructure, including a shopping cart interface and payment system to facilitate online sales and protect customers’ private purchasing information.
Building an ecommerce business takes more than choosing a brand name, writing product listings, and starting to sell products online. Even the best business ideas can flop if you aren’t driving enough traffic to your site.
Starting your own e-commerce business is an exciting venture, especially if you’ve dreamed about the freedom of being your own boss. If you are crafty or have a knack for selling, then the entrepreneurial route could be a great choice for you.
Lifting a business off the ground is hard work. It requires business acumen, creativity, and discipline to take the necessary steps to put your idea out there. But it can be a very worthwhile and rewarding journey. Global e-commerce sales reached nearly $5 trillion in 2021, and according to the US Census Bureau, e-commerce accounted for 13.2 percent of total sales.
The awesome benefits of starting and running an ecommerce business are the same for all the online lifestyle business models;
– You get to create something from your passions if that’s what turns you on.
– You get to work from anywhere in the world
– You get to sell to a global marketplace (although be careful with this one because of shipping costs)
– There is huge potential to profit from e-commerce.
This article offers a step-by-step guide to starting an ecommerce business.
E-commerce is on the rise, so you’ll need to consider how to stand out because everyone can use digital marketing for their business.
Despite the competition, there is a bright future ahead for e-commerce entrepreneurs.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Know e-commerce models and decide what to sell
The e-commerce space today is vast, with plenty of competition, so it is important to consider what your e-commerce business model will be. There are four basic model types:
– Business-to-customer (B2C): A common business model, in which a business sells to consumers, anything from spices to shoes. B2C brands can sell different brands under one umbrella, such as Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba.
– Business-to-business (B2B): In B2B models, businesses sell products or services to other businesses. Orders tend to be recurring purchases. Examples include Amazon Business, Alibaba, and Rakuten.
– Customer-to-customer (C2C): C2C models tend to be online marketplaces that connect consumers to exchange and sell goods and services. Online C2C businesses include Craigslist, Etsy, and eBay.
– Customer-to-business (C2B): With C2B, individuals sell their goods and services to companies. A good example is Upwork, which enables businesses to hire freelancers.
You can choose from one of the following delivery methods:
– Direct-to-consumer (D2C): Sell your own products directly to customers, without the help of wholesalers or retailers.
– Dropshipping: Set up a storefront (website) so customers can pay by credit card or PayPal, sourcing from a supplier that manages inventory and packaging. Dropship businesses are quick and inexpensive to start.
– Wholesaling: Purchase products in bulk at a discounted rate from a retailer to sell on your website.
– White label: Put your own name and brand on a generic product that you purchase from a distributor.
– Private label: Hire a manufacturer to create a product to be sold exclusively (by you).
– Subscription: Deliver products such as pet food or fresh vegetable boxes on a monthly or weekly basis to loyal customers who prioritise convenience.
Decide on what products to sell. Research products to sell online. To be successful, you need to sell one of two types of merchandise:
– A high-demand product in a growing niche.
– A high-quality commoditized product.
Niche products serve a very specific consumer base. Instead of a hundred different product lines, you choose one high-quality item — perhaps with multiple variants — and develop a targeted marketing strategy. Because they’re exclusive and desirable, niche products tend to be price inelastic and usually have quite high-profit margins.
To find your niche, you’ll want to consider what type of product you want to sell, to whom, and how you will distribute it. Whether you sell your own hand-crafted products or source generic ones, you make all the decisions when you start a business—and you get to decide what works best.
Niche products can be one-of-a-kind (a crocheted shawl or a piece of hand-thrown pottery) or small-batch (handmade leather bags, seasonal preserves).
They can also be single-product ventures like Aqua, for example, which only makes self-cleaning water bottles (and a limited number of accessories). Aqua’s customers are incredibly passionate, and they’re willing to pay more than average for a good-quality product.
Do some research to figure out the current competitors and market landscape for your product or service.
5 essential questions you must answer to assess a business idea.
1) How many potential customers are there?
2) Can these customers pay for your products or services?
3) Do these customers have the specific need you solve?
4) Who is competing for your customers’ business?
5) In what ways can your company be better than your competitors?
2. Write a business plan
Draft out a business plan. This has to do with a written document detailing your objectives and roadmap for finance, operations, and marketing. You can use it to get organised and be used to attract potential investors.
Determine your target market and how you might sell to them. Plan the logistics, including when, where, and how you will proceed in the coming months.
3. Choose a business name, logo and start building your brand.
Choose your brand identity. A strong brand identity is the most effective way your eCommerce business can gain a competitive edge in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
Every company has a brand identity. This is true for your company whether you’ve made a single conscious branding decision or not.
And that’s why it’s vitally important to make conscious, consistent branding choices. The decisions left unmade, and a brand left untended may hurt your business.
Your brand embodies how people think of and perceive your business. This includes the perceived mission and values that guide your company, the products and services you sell, and how you sell them.
As a result, your brand exists independently of the decisions you make. But, the branding decisions you make can lay the foundation for a strong, positive brand.
So, ask yourself these important questions:
– What are my brand’s values?
– What identity/personality do I want my business brand to project?
– Can customers get something from my products or services that they can’t get anywhere else?
– What is the most important part of my customers’ experience?
– Can customers get something from working with me that they can’t get anywhere else? If so, what?
Your answers to these questions (and others like them) will build the core of your brand. So, give them some thought. This core brand identity will become a sort of lighthouse for your business – always guiding it back to your home identity and values.
Your business name, company logo, and business website design are central elements of your brand identity.
Your business name plays a role in nearly every aspect of your business.
It’s how customers will identify and remember you. So, it’s essential to choose a name that represents your brand accurately. Otherwise, your business will go unnoticed by your target audience and attract the wrong (non-buying) leads to your eCommerce store.
Your business needs a name and brand identity. For those starting white label e-commerce businesses, the brand is especially crucial to the success of your business.
Choosing a business name can be fun, but it requires a bit of strategic thinking. In addition to a unique yet uncomplicated name that clearly explains what your product is, you’ll also want to check if the web domain, social media handles, and legal name are available. Do your research to make sure it translates well across cultures, especially if you aim to go global.
Your business name will define your online domain. So, your business name will become the online address where customers will find you. You must choose a business name that embodies your brand and has an available domain.
Your company’s logo is the visual figurehead of your brand. It’s important to get it right.
Whether every detail of a logo is intentional or not, every detail will influence people who see that logo.
It’s in your best interest to make sure that every logo design choice is intentional and communicates the message you want to convey.
Your company logo will become the face of your brand. For that reason, it’s important that your logo properly communicates who your brand is. Otherwise, you’ll find that your target customers dismiss your business as a poor fit for their needs or their values.
So, hire a designer to create a custom business logo that visually embodies your unique brand.
In building your brand, you’ll need to design a logo that will be placed on all packaging, website design, and marketing materials. Eventually, you may want to hire a designer who can translate your brand’s ethos into beautiful web visuals.
4. Register your business
Have a business structure before you begin selling, you’ll need to register your business by choosing a legal structure and obtaining other permits and licences specific to your chosen business model.
Choose a Business structure
There are four main types of legal structures for businesses.
For new business owners, choosing the best business structure for your business can feel overwhelming.
Don’t rush yourself into making a decision. Instead, spend some time reading about your options.
Consider which structure is most helpful for your business and how each structure can help you accomplish your professional and personal goals today – and in the future, as your business grows.
What are the 4 types of business structures?
– A sole proprietorship is the most basic business entity. A sole proprietorship means that one person is solely responsible for business profits and debts.
– A partnership is a shared responsibility between two or more people who hold personal liability for a business.
– Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a structure that permits owners, partners, or shareholders to limit personal liability but still includes tax and flexibility benefits associated with a partnership.
– A corporation is an entity legally considered separate from its owners. That means that corporations are permitted to own property, be held liable, pay taxes, and enter contracts.
Licences and permits
Once you decide on your legal business structure, you’ll need licences and permits to operate your business legally. Be sure to register with the Government of your country or Trademark Office to make sure your business name is available. You will need to choose your legal structure, a business entity type that will determine the legal and financial guidelines of your online business—typically, you can select from a general partnership, LLC, corporation, or sole proprietorship. Consider consulting a legal professional to ensure the right choice for your business.
Your business registration requirements will differ depending on your country, state, industry, and business type.
5. Source and develop your products or services
Once you understand your business model, your market, and your specific niche, you have the necessary context to develop a product or service that can thrive.
If you plan to sell existing products, you can start by researching possible options and then curating a list of products that fit your brand.
Be picky when choosing the items you’ll sell.
And only sell products that both appeal to your target audience and resonate with the mission and brand values you’ve outlined. Consistently offering products that align with your brand and the ideal customer will show that you “get” them. It will also inspire brand loyalty and motivate them to come back.
If you’re planning to private label and manufacture, then you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what you want your product to be. But you’ll need to flesh out the details and the product design before taking it to a manufacturer.
The best products solve a specific problem for customers. So, make your primary focus on solving that problem as you work with your product designer.
And, remember – the best solutions are often the simplest ones.
A service is intangible and hard to demonstrate online. That makes services trickier to sell.
Start by brainstorming the general services you’d like to offer. Then, nail down every detail before you share your offer online.
That starts with defining your services and deliverables in detail so that you can paint as complete a picture for your customers as possible.
If you want your business to succeed, you need to show potential customers the specifics of what you will offer – and deliver – as vividly as possible.
So, what exactly will a customer actually get in exchange for their investment?
6. Create your e-commerce business website
Create your online store. Your website is the hub of your eCommerce business.
It’s where the rubber meets the virtual road, so to speak. Customers will research your brand, investigate your products, and – if you’ve done your job well – load up their virtual shopping cart and then check out all in one place.
Your business website needs to guide users through their shopping experience from beginning to end.
To start, you’ll need a domain name that matches your business name. Then, you’ll select an e-commerce platform that suits your bandwidth for creating and maintaining the online store. The two most common types are all-inclusive software (like Shopify) and open-source platforms (like Magento), on which you will conduct business operations such as managing inventory, shipping orders, and more.
eCommerce websites are unique. They need to manage inventory, process payments and provide a convenient shopping interface.
The website is the “storefront” for your business for customers to arrive, browse, and place items in their shopping cart. Your business website and its functionality are critical to your success.
7. Choose an eCommerce platform
Many eCommerce websites are built using existing eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Woocommerce, or BigCommerce.
Those platforms specialise in eCommerce, providing stable and comprehensive solutions for managing inventory, shopping carts, and secure payments.
Here are just a few e-commerce platforms to choose from:
Shopify: This popular e-commerce platform is all-inclusive and user-friendly, with plenty of customization options. With this hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, you can choose from several subscription options depending on your business needs.
WooCommerce: WooCommerce is an open-source plug-in that you can add on to start selling on your WordPress site. It is free to download and offers a wide range of e-commerce tools, best for entrepreneurs with prior technical experience.
Magento: If you’re tech-savvy, you might want to use Magento, an open-source platform that allows you (or a hired developer) to customise every element of your online store.
After you’ve selected an e-commerce platform, you can move forward with building, customising, and launching your online store. You’ll decide on the template design, create a wireframe, add your product inventory, and write out descriptions to introduce your business.
Develop your website design
Your website’s design should visually embody all of the brand traits and values that you identified earlier.
As the core of your visual brand, your company’s logo should serve as your source of inspiration.
Your website should share the same colour palette (or an expanded version of it) as your logo.
It should mirror the same emotional tone as your logo.
And, website copy should appear in the same or complementary fonts.
Many eCommerce platforms provide free (and some fancier paid) templates that you can use for your website. But we do recommend choosing a platform that will allow you to use your own custom design.
Sharing a web template with thousands of other online stores is a surefire way to blend into the background.
If you want your online store to stand out, it needs to have a consistent and unique visual brand identity. Starting with a free template that anyone else can use presents an uphill battle in achieving that goal.
8. Launch, market your products/services and brand
Congratulations to you! Once you have successfully launched the business, you can begin monitoring your metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) as your business grows. Continue to experiment with different types of digital marketing to drive traffic to your brand.
Market your business
Starting an online store doesn’t equate to immediate sales and success. It takes time to build a web presence and a customer base.
But, there are certain steps you can take to help your shop grow faster.
Here are a few tips to help you grow your business.
1. Reach out to friends and family
As you’re first starting, look at your friends and family to make your first sales.
Online shoppers everywhere rely on positive reviews to feel safe about making a purchase. But, your brand-new online store has no reviews yet.
So, reach out to friends and family – they’ll want to support your endeavour. Encourage them to make a purchase or two and leave a positive, honest review. (It also never hurts to ask them to spread the word about your new online store to their friends.)
The social proof of those reviews and sales will “seed” your shop for future sales.
2. Embrace email marketing
Follow up with customers via email after they make a purchase. There are several different paths this communication may take. Whichever path you choose, make a point to thank them for their purchase. Here are a few options:
– Cross-sell promotion – Promoting a product or service related to their original purchase.
– Up-sell promotion – Promoting a higher-value version of the same product (this works best for subscriptions, services, and consumable goods).
– Refer-a-friend – Asking the current customer to share your business with a friend in exchange for a discount for one or both parties.
– Customer Survey – Requesting customer feedback so that you can improve your product, service, or customer experience.
– Discount – Offering a discount on a future purchase (this can be combined with any of the techniques above)
Whatever type of campaign you choose to run, make sure to write in an appropriate voice for your brand, keep it short and sweet, and check for typos and broken links before sending
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In a nutshell, this means setting up your online store and product listings in a way that makes them easy to find on the web.
Mastering SEO is tricky. There’s a lot of info to cover, and it’s constantly changing.
And, while SEO is too big a topic to do justice here, we can tell you that you want to start educating yourself on SEO now.
SEO may play a large role in the success of your business.
Staying on top of SEO best practices will help keep your eCommerce store easily visible in search results on the web.
3. Social media
As a frugal and savvy business owner, you’ll also want to take full advantage of the inexpensive and easy exposure that social media marketing offers you.
Social media gives you the ability to easily keep customers up-to-date on new products, store policies or sales. It also enables you to build a social rapport with current customers, while building low-pressure relationships with future buyers.
Maintaining (at a minimum) active Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter and Facebook accounts will help you build an audience of loyal customers. You need to build an online presence to succeed.
Not to mention, people have come to expect legitimate businesses to have a social media presence. They view it as a sign of credibility – as well as appreciating the additional channel to reach out for customer support or simply to interact with your business.
Posting consistently on your social media accounts to reassure visitors that your business is active is key to successful social media marketing. Use Twitter and Facebook to share new products, promotional events, sales, and follower-exclusive discounts. By providing valuable content through your posts, you’ll give followers a reason to check in and share your posts regularly.
Amid the inventory management, logistics, and marketing, you’ll want to ensure that your shipping and fulfilment go smoothly for every customer. It is wise to prepare contingency plans in case anything goes wrong.
Now you will ask how much does it cost to start an ecommerce business?
Starting up your own e-commerce business is an investment that can reap generous profits, especially if a large consumer base connects with your brand. It also requires time: it can take up to two years to get an online business off the ground and start earning a profit.
The journey to creating a successful e-commerce business requires money, motivation, strategy, passion, and a stroke of luck. Starting a business can feel similar to the birth of a child—hard work, but extraordinarily rewarding.
Here are some tips when you’re just starting out:
– Start small: You don’t have to invest in hundreds of products at first. If you’re a craftsperson, create an Instagram account and simple branding to gauge interest. If you’re sourcing products, give yourself a timeline to procure items, create a simple website, and soft-launch with targeted Google or Facebook ads. Then, build your business from there.
– Keep up with trends: Sustainability is important to consider, as it is one of the biggest trends in e-commerce in 2022, along with delivery services, understanding D2C sales. D2C e-commerce is when the manufacturer/producer sells its products/produce directly to consumers from their web store.
– Experiment with marketing Strategies: People won’t know about your business unless you promote it. There are many ways to conduct A/B testing on platforms like Google Ads with fewer dollars before launching a major campaign.
– Take advantage of partnerships and multi-channel strategies: Even though D2C sales are trending, your brand awareness and sales can benefit from featuring your products on channels such as large online retailers like Amazon and Etsy. Social media partnerships, including influencer and affiliate marketing, and public relations (features in select publications) can also help you get noticed and gain traction.