Step by Step Guide to Starting Your Own E-Commerce Business

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Starting an e-commerce business isn’t easy. It requires hard work, dedication, and a comprehensive blueprint to navigate the complex world of E-Commerce, marketing, business development, and supply chain. We created a step by step guide to help you start your own e-commerce business.

Step One: Learn the Basics of E-Commerce

You can’t run a successful e-commerce business without learning the basics, or else, you risk making a mistake in the early stages before your business ever gets off the ground.

In the barest terms, E-Commerce is the purchase and sale of goods and/or services on the internet. The vast majority of e-commerce transactions fall into one of four categories; B2C, B2B, C2C, and C2B.

  1. Business to Consumer (B2C) – The sale of goods and/or services from a business to an individual. (Ex: You purchase a book from an online store, like Amazon; Target; Walmart; Best Buy, or Costco).
  2. Business to Business (B2B) – The sale of goods and/or services from a business to another business. (Ex: Business A sells its software-as-a-service (SAAS) to Business B. like Salesforce; Skype; Kickstarter; Slack and MailChimp).
  3. Consumer to Consumer (C2C) – The sale of goods and/or services by an individual to another individual. (Ex: An individual sells a product or service to another individual using an online marketplace, like Ebay; Facebook Marketplace; Craigslist; AirBnb or Etsy).
  4. Consumer to Business (C2B) – The sale of goods and/or services from an individual to a business. (Ex: A freelancer sells a product or service to a business using an online service, like UpWork; HubSpot; Craigslist; LinkedIn and Fotolia).

E-Commerce also comes in a variety of forms and transactional relationships between businesses and consumers, such as retail; wholesale, dropshipping, crowdfunding, and subscriptions, as well as physical and digital goods and/or services.

In short, e-commerce is a broad term that includes every time a transaction is conducted online. If you want to launch a successful e-commerce business, you need to do your research and determine precisely which model is the best fit for you.

Step Two: Find Your Niche

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to find your niche, i.e., the segment of a market in which you want to do business. What do you want to sell? Consumers want and need to buy all sorts of things online and everything that is sold online falls into of the following categories:

●  Shippable Items

●  Digital Goods

●  Services

●  Subscriptions and Memberships

You’ll find your e-commerce niche within one of these categories. From there you can narrow down your focus to find the specific area of the market you wish to tap (beauty products, pet food, housewares, etc.). Whatever it is you decide to sell, you need to do your research to ensure that you’ll actually make a profit.

Pro Tip: Don’t think of your niche in terms of products and services. Think about your niche as people interested in buying from you. Try to narrow down your ideal customer base and choose a niche that best meets their needs.

Step Three: Choose Your Product

Once you’ve chosen your niche, it’s time to work on your product. This is often the most challenging part of establishing an e-commerce business because the product you want to sell may not be the product with the highest revenue potential.

To launch a successful e-commerce business, you need to determine the viability and profitability of your product or risk sinking energy, time, and money into a product that won’t provide a return on your investment.

Step Four: Research Your Competitors

Now that you’ve determined the viability of your chosen product, it’s time to research your competitors. Contrary to popular belief, zero competitors in a market is not a good thing, as the mere presence of a competitor in your market provides the viability of your product choice.

In other words, if no one else is selling what you sell, then you’re probably trying to sell something that nobody wants to buy. The more you learn about your competitors the more you can learn from them.

Emulate the strategies of the top brands in your market to take advantage of the work they’ve already put in to own their market share. Then integrate their best practices into your e-commerce strategy. For example, if your competitor offers next day shipping, then you should offer next day shipping.

Step Five: Establish Your Brand

Here is where you name your business and choose an appropriate name. This is a very important step as it also determines your domain name. Remember to keep it short and sweet; use easy to spell words; stay away from hyphens and utilize keywords. It’s also a good idea to avoid obscure terms and ensure the name is available on social media sites.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to legally register your business and apply for an employer identification number (EIN).

Step Six: Build Your Online Store

Now that you know the basics of e-commerce, have chosen your niche, selected your product, and researched your competitors, it’s time to build your e-commerce store. This is where things can get tricky, if you let them.

There are hundreds of e-commerce marketplace platforms and the best one for your chosen product and customer base may not be the most obvious choice. You need to consider factors like download speed, payment gateways, and SEO-friendly features. 

Top 5 Platforms for Startups

PlatformPhone Support24/7 SupportChat Support
ShopifyYesYesYes
BigCommerceYesYesYes
WooCommerceNoNoYes
3dcartYesYesYes
VolusionYesYesYes

Step Seven: Choose Your Sales Channels

Now that your store and business exist in the real world, it’s time to choose your sales channels so you can sell your product to people who want to buy it. The right sales channels for your online store are going to be the ones where your target audience already shops – places like Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Walmart, and others. Your company’s website is also an important sales channel for you to explore.

Step Eight: Market Your Products Online

Marketing is often an afterthought but it needs to be a priority otherwise no one will ever know that your store exists. There are a variety of marketing strategies to choose from. Some are likely to work for your particular product, platform, and target audience. Some are not.

The important thing to remember is that digital marketing, like content marketing and Search Engine Optimization is a long-term investment that is not likely to pay off overnight. It takes time to grow online, so, the earlier you implement a digital marketing strategy, the better.

The D2C playbook used by the fastest growing e-commerce brands:

  1. Focus on the creative. Why should someone pick your product versus the next best alternative.
  2. Activate social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, & Twitter.
  3. Identify influencers and have them endorse your product.
  4. Build a viral loop by making it easy to refer additional customers.
  5. Start testing out of home (OOH) media such as billboards and postcards.
  6. Experiment with a pop-up store.

Step Nine: Source Your Products

Now it’s time to source your inventory. Generally speaking, there are four methods of acquiring your inventory:

●  Make – Making your inventory is the most common approach for hobbyists and many boutique items, like jewelry and natural beauty products.

●  Manufacture – One way to acquire inventory is to source a manufacturer to mass produce it for you. Alternatively, you can invest in your own manufacturing facility and produce the items in house.

●  Wholesale – Another way to source your inventory is via wholesale, wherein you purchase your products in mass directly from a manufacturer for a discounted rate and resell it at a higher price.

●  Dropship – Dropshipping works by taking orders from your e-commerce store and forwarding them directly to your supplier who picks, packs, and ships the order directly to your customer on behalf of your business.

Step Ten: Choose an E-Commerce Fulfillment Provider

Congratulations on your brand-new e-commerce store. Now you can sell just about anything to just about anybody, so long as they’re online. There’s just one problem. How are you going to store, fulfill, and ship all of those orders to your customers?

You still need an e-commerce fulfillment provider to take care of the operations part of your e-commerce operation. That’s where Flowspace comes in. With a nationwide network of 1000+ warehouses and fulfillment centers, Flowspace is the best choice you can make for your new e-commerce store.

Different from traditional 3PLs, we enable online retailers with the flexibility they need to gain a strategic advantage over their competition and ensure their customers get what they want when they want it. Request more information about e-commerce fulfillment today.

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