In this day and age, times and are changing and more people are looking to be their own bosses. The internet makes this goal more accessible than ever, and ecommerce is one exciting avenue for success. Yet, it can be tremendously difficult to know exactly
to start and ecommerce business that will actually do well enough to generate revenue. There is so much information out there to sift through that creating a plan of action is necessary to prioritize your resources as you develop your own ecommerce business plan.
This guide offers a streamlined and honest approach to subjects like ecommerce marketing and where to source products, along with other tips that are essential to launching a successful store. We’ve covered these things in detail on our blog, but this post synthesizes the basics necessary for taking the first steps. Read on, and you’ll find that the necessary steps for creating your own ecommerce business are clearer than you may have thought possible.
The Key to Succeeding with Your First Ecommerce Business
When asked how to start an ecommerce business that will succeed the following factors probably come to mind:
You’re right. This thought process makes perfect sense. You have to provide excellent customer support to be successful. You also need an attractive and trustworthy website if you want people to buy from you. Keep in mind, however, that it’s a combination of these things working together that makes an ecommerce business great. These factors are what makes an ecommerce store go from 1 to 10, but not from 0 to 1.
This greatness doesn’t matter if you don’t reach 1 first.
We see this a lot at Oberlo with first-time entrepreneurs still learning how to make their ecommerce businesses succeed. They can lose sight of the most important things and spend days making the perfect store only to close it after a month. What truly fuels your store is sales, and this should be at the heart of your ecommerce business plan. Efforts to bring traffic to your store through ecommerce marketing will bring sales, and sales will bring you more traffic. Likewise, you need to be making sales first before you can provide great customer support to those shopping on your site and before you can decide on your brand’s unique voice. Without sales, you’re finished.
How to Start Ecommerce an Ecommerce Business
While it’s great to embark on your new ecommerce business with lots of big ideas, we suggest putting aside your ambitions and focusing on the most practical steps of your ecommerce business plan first. For starters, what you really need is a simple online medium to sell your products. A basic store template on a reputable platform like Shopify serves this purpose perfectly well.
We did a tutorial on
how to launch a store in 30 minutes (with products)
. You might want to take more time than 30 minutes, but be careful about the amount of time you put in during the beginning. Remember
the wise words of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman
who famously said, “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” This certainly applies to ecommerce businesses as well. The key is to launch quickly and start thinking of ways to generate sales through ecommerce marketing. This will eventually breed opportunity to improve other things along the way. For now, first things first.
If you’re totally new to the world of ecommerce you might be wondering just what on earth you should even try to sell in your store. In fact, getting stuck on this is a big reason why people never take the plunge in starting their own ecommerce businesses. Indeed, choosing what to sell in your ecommerce store isn’t as simple as buying a bulk supply of products you like, posting them on your website, and watch your inventory clear out.
In actuality, you have to be strategic in identifying a set of products or product niche that are currently trendy and not so easy to find in stores or on popular ecommerce websites like Amazon. That’s why going the generic route and opting to sell books or jewelry will likely lead to a dead end. There are already of major players out there meeting those demands. Instead, you’ll want to go with more specific items that appeal to a particular audience.
We suggest starting by making a list of potential products you might like to sell in your store. Think about things that you or your friends, coworkers, and family would be interested in. Yet, don’t limit yourself to these. Also explore social sharing sites like Pinterest, Etsy, or even Instagram for more input on what to sell. There really is inspiration everywhere once you start looking, and you can always verify whether your product ideas are any good by searching them on Google trends. For more specific information about how to decide what to sell, check out this step-by-step guide
At this point you might also be wondering how exactly to source your products, and that’s where
might come in as a viable option for your ecommerce business plan. Dropshipping is an increasingly popular among entrepreneurs because it has substantially lower upfront investment costs and is generally a lower risk alternative to more traditional ecommerce business models that require you to stock inventory yourself.
It works like this: You find products you’d like to sell on an ecommerce marketplace like Oberlo Supply, and then you import those items into your store. When a customer purchases one of those items, you then place the order with a third party supplier, and they ship the item directly to the customer. This way you never have to handle merchandise and can swap out products to stay on top of current trends with greater ease. Not to mention, apps like Oberlo automate a lot of the process for you so that you have more time to focus on things that will help you to scale your business like coming up with a great ecommerce marketing strategy.
Ecommerce Marketing: Earn More Than You Spend. Daily.
First-time entrepreneurs rarely invest a lot of capital in their ecommerce businesses up front, hoping to return their investments within six months to a year. After launching a simple store, concentrate on ecommerce marketing 110%. Anything else can wait until you’re sure you can generate traffic and reach potential customers.
The secret to ecommerce marketing is to
find the right channel
for your products, and then to perfect your marketing strategy until bringing in one new customer costs less than what you earn from a sale. You want to aim for that infinite loop where you spend less than you earn each day. Also, make sure you reinvest all of your profits into your ads. This isn’t the time to pocket all your earnings.
Instead, keep a close eye on the relationship between profits earned and money spent on ecommerce marketing by checking your advertising
twice a week at minimum. Ideally, do it daily. Sell products that have high enough markups to cover your marketing expenses on a consistent basis. Since ecommerce marketing can cost a lot of money, make sure you price your products well.
Don’t rationalize that putting $100 to work will bring you word-of-mouth referrals or returning customers. A $100 investment should bring you at least $101 dollars in sales so that you can reuse it on advertising again.
Only once you get to this point can you begin to optimize your store design, invest in creating great brand image, and look for ways to generate more money. You can’t optimize a store if you don’t have any customers to test different features on first. Thus, ecommerce marketing is really essential to standing out from your competitors and generating sales.
A great ecommerce business plan does require some investment, however. Putting money into your advertising tactics should ultimately convert to sales, and you need sales. Unless you have a bigger budget, you should exclude long-term ideas like
or email marketing for now.
Prioritize your time and money by exploring all options. With direct advertising like Facebook or Adwords, you can get more sales immediately. It’s best not only to learn how to run your first ecommerce marketing campaign on Facebook, but also how to optimize it. Alternatively, read how others are approaching
or the latest trends in
advertising on Snapchat
. With this knowledge and inspiration, you can apply new strategies to your own ecommerce business.
When it comes to assessing the performance of your ecommerce marketing efforts, test your advertising campaigns instead of your product pages. This will keep you from getting bogged down trying to analyze and change all of the small details of your store. Just focus on the advertising and marketing, not the ‘buy’ button on the product page.
While much of the advice about how to start an ecommerce business seems easier said than done, it certainly helps to have a clear idea of the first steps including launching a simple store and dedicating your energies to ecommerce marketing. From here, we can begin to explore the particulars.
How to Succeed in Ecommerce: What’s Next?
Once you’ve validated your store idea and secured a steady stream of sales, make sure that you keep up with optimizing your ecommerce marketing as you go. Here are a few additional ecommerce business tips that you may want to consider as you devise your ecommerce business plan.
Customer Service/Self-Help Content
45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction
if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. Exceptional customer service is critical to your business’s long term success. Create self-service content and a detailed FAQs page, offer live chat support, incentivize product reviews, and build trust with your customers. All of this will give your store valuable
and create repeat customers, which are
five times cheaper to acquire than new ones
69% of your website visitors will leave your site without going through with a purchase
. How much would your revenues increase if you were capturing those sales instead of losing them? Optimize your customer journey. Create limited-time offers. Launch a
cart abandonment emails campaign
. You can even set up a
Take note that
44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online
. Once you have the foundation laid for your ecommerce business, the next important step is to optimize your website. Improve your website speed. Create an intuitive navigation bar. Focus on
creating a great product page
. Display related items. Optimize your store search. Lastly, check how your store looks on mobile devices.
Best selling products tend to quickly fade away, that is why inventory is very important. Constantly look for new product ideas that could keep the traffic coming to your store. Do not rely on just a few products to drive all your sales. Rather, offer new arrivals to your existing customers and frequently test
new product ideas
based on Google trends.
I know there are people who have had success focusing most of their attention on a unique niche product or exceptional customer service. That said,
up to 50% of Shopify stores
never receive a single sale. Even though that may seem like a very low number of ecommerce businesses get off the ground, if you compare it against success rates of businesses in general (10%), it is a promising point of departure.
To summarize a few key takeaways from this guide as you develop your own ecommerce business plan, start lean and set all other things aside to focus on sales. Don’t worry about having the perfect product or the best looking web design for your store in the beginning. Jump in and learn by doing. Use the sales aspect of your ecommerce business as your lighthouse because it is the driving force behind any successful store. Once you begin turning a profit, invest the funds into an ecommerce marketing plan to continue growing your business. Only then should you start to hone in on other important details like optimizing your store.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand how to start an ecommerce business. You’ve got everything you need at your fingertips to make this the year your store takes off, and we at Oberlo are happy to help you every step of the way in meeting this goal.
Want to learn more?
What’s your ecommerce business plan? Share your experiences or ask for advice in the comments below!
Andrew Roach is a Content Marketer at Oberlo. He is passionate about ecommerce and creating insightful content to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. You can connect with Andrew