Times are changing and many people want to be their own boss and be in charge of their actions. They want to run a business that’ll give them the flexibility to do things at their own time and convenience. The internet serves this purpose and makes their goal more achievable than ever, with ecommerce being a promising way for success. However, it can be extremely difficult to know how to launch an ecommerce store that’ll actually do well to generate enough revenue. Since the competition is fierce and there’s so much information and so many terms to memorize, it’s important to create an action plan before starting your ecommerce business.
Depending on your business type and goals, it might take some time and knowledge to get the wheels rolling. While the e-commerce platform offers great opportunity, flexibility, and affordability for budding entrepreneurs, it also comes with a lot of hurdles. So, how exactly do you launch an online business? Below, we’ve tried to cover all the things you’ll need for launching your ecommerce business and making it thrive.
8 Golden Steps to Launching a Successful Online Store
While ecommerce retail is a booming industry, not every business can gain an easy foothold. A lot of budding online entrepreneurs embark on their journey with big ideas and dreams, but we suggest keeping their ambitions aside (for a while) and focus on the most preliminary steps.
As a starter, you need a strong online medium to sell your products. Creating a basic store template on a renowned platform like Shopify can serve this purpose well. It may take you around 30 minutes to get started with Shopify but don’t get impatient about it. Remember, every good thing is worth your time and effort. Another quick tip is to launch early and immediately think of ways to improve sales through online marketing. This may take some time but will eventually breed great opportunities along the way.
Building a successful ecommerce business takes more than choosing a suitable brand logo, name, and selling products online. Even the best business ideas can fail if you aren’t driving sufficient traffic to your page/website. Here’s a step by step guide to setting up your ecommerce store, getting your stock and finances in order, marketing your products, and building credibility amongst your viewers.
STEP 1: Zoom in to ecommerce products
There’s a ton of products or services that you can provide online, but you can’t operate off of a hunch. Most businesses require an investment and you need to make sure that you’re doing it right. If you want to deal in physical products, you have to research and be very strategic in identifying a product or set of products that’s trendy, yet not easy to find on giant ecommerce platforms like Amazon.
Going the generic route and choosing to sell fashion jewelry or watches will likely lead to you nowhere. Of course, you may attempt to sell them if you want but the prospects aren’t very high. There are already a lot of seasoned sellers out there dealing in those products.
Instead, you may want to go for more singular items like LED lamps and baby care products that appeal to a specific group of audience. We suggest making a list of potential products that you want to deal in. It could be crockery, showpieces, wall décor items, or just about anything that appeals to you. Take suggestions from your friends, colleagues, and family. Also browse social networking sites like Etsy, Pinterest and Instagram for more ideas about what to sell.
STEP 2: Validate your products
Once you’ve decided what type of products you want to deal in and you know who your target audience is, it’s time to figure out whether your idea will actually work. Simply put, you should see whether your business will be able to stay afloat. For this, you can use different criteria to judge your product’s feasibility. The evaluation criteria can be broadly divided into two main categories: market-based and product-based.
These market factors can typically affect your product and business model. They are:
- Estimated market size and demand for your product/service
- How your competitors work
- Is your product/service a trend, fashion, booming market, or flat market
- Will your customers will be able to avail this product/service locally
- Who your target audience is
When you’re done with the marketing and audience part, quickly move on to product-based criteria. Analyze:
- Your probable selling price
- The prospective markup for your product or service
- If you’ll make a mandatory subscription
- How many types or designs of product you’ll stock
- The weight, size, and durability of your product, when you’re dealing in something physical
- Whether there’s a possibility of seasonal demand fluctuations
- Whether your product or service serves a passion or pain point
- Whether your product is consumable, disposable, fragile, sturdy, or perishable
- If there are any particular regulations or restrictions concerning your product
STEP 3: Select your business name and choose a legal structure
Once you’ve finalized the plan for your online business, the next crucial step is to choose a name and logo. Like any other big ecommerce brand out there, you’ll want to select a name and logo design that’s unique but clearly understandable. Aside from appointing a good design agency, you must also consult your local secretary of state’s website and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure you’re not selecting a business name that’s already in use by another brand. Of course you wouldn’t want to invest much time and energy on a website quite yet; it’d still make sense to check if your desired business domain name is available.
The next important step is to determine your business’s legal structure. The type of business entity you choose will have certain legal and financial effects on your e-commerce operation. Your options are general partnership, sole proprietorship, LLC, and corporation. Since there are certain benefits and drawbacks to each of these entity types, you may want to consult an attorney or legal professional for sound advice on this matter. In case you choose a general or sole proprietorship, you won’t have to register in your state of operation. Your business will be listed legally under your name, which means you’ll need to submit a DBA or “doing business as” application with your local government.
STEP 5: Get an EIN
Applying for an EIN, or employer identification number, for your online business is a good idea. Even though it’s not mandatory for all business entity types to get an EIN, this nine-digit number can prove helpful in separating your business and personal finances. Additionally, you can apply for an EIN directly from the IRS, free of cost — either online, or by mail, fax, and phone. Since you’re launching your first e-commerce store, it’s advisable to apply for this free business tax ID online, and you’ll hopefully receive your employer identification number instantly.
STEP 6: Seek proper business permits and licenses
Once you’ve applied for your EIN, it’s time to obtain business licenses or permits that you may need to operate legally within or outside your city and state. As already stated above, if you’ve enlisted your e-commerce business as a general or sole proprietorship, you don’t need to register your brand with the state — except and only if you’re filing a DBA to legally function under a particular business name. However, for other business entity types, you’ll need to enlist your business with your state and apply for a general operating license. Depending on your business location, you may also have to acquire a local operating license.
Since most online businesses are home-based, they do not need as many licenses and permits as offline stores do. However, it’s important to determine the specific legal and regulatory implications in your area. You can easily find this information on your state or local government website. Many locations require ecommerce business owners to receive a home occupation permit to operate legally. These permits simply confirm that your home-based business isn’t adding to the traffic, noise, or other problematic conditions in your area.
You may require some other types of business licenses and permits, which include:
- Sales tax permits.
- Professional and trade licenses for certain businesses.
- Health, safety, and ecological permits.
- Building and construction permits.
- Signage permits.
STEP 7: Pick an e-commerce platform and launch your website
Although most of the above steps have mirrored the process of launching a brick-and-mortar store, we’ll now move on to the online platform. Here, instead of searching for a suitable location and preparing to build your physical store, you’ll start working on your website and online identity.
Just like a physical store, this website will be the face of your ecommerce business — it’s something that your customers will first look for and use to browse and buy your products or services. Considering this, creating your website is one of the most important parts of launching your ecommerce business. Here are a few basic things that you need to keep in mind as you develop your website.
Firstly, you need to choose a domain name and ensure that it closely matches your business name. The next most important thing will be to choose a suitable e-commerce platform. Whether you need an open-source platform like Magento or an all-in-one software like Shopify, your e-commerce store will be the single most important platform you need to build and expand your online business.
Most e-commerce platforms don’t just allow you to build and start your online store, but also personalize your design, manage inventory, add your domain name (or buy one), receive orders and payment, ship products, and more. While there are hundreds of ecommerce platforms available today, you might consider any of these prospective options to launch your e-commerce store:
Probably the most popular and user-friendly e-commerce software out there, Shopify helps you create online shopping websites with added features like social networking, order processing, shopping cart, and payment gateways. Think of Shopify’s platform as a store manager working to simplify the process of selling products on the internet.
A perfect open-source platform for new ecommerce merchants, WooCommerce combines ease of use with immense flexibility and features. It is a free WordPress plugin that facilitates e-commerce activities on your WordPress website, so you can run your online store seamlessly.
Most often referred to as the quick website creator, Squarespace is a website building platform designed to help users build their own websites and promote their service or products, no matter their technical skills. It is ideal for photographers, artists, or just about anybody who loves creative designs and wants their website to look as attractive as their products.
Finally, if you want to be able to customize every aspect of your online store, you might choose to use the open-source version of Magento. With this e-commerce platform, you can manipulate every element and customize your site — but you also must have the technical skill (or pay for it) to do so.
Although this platform isn’t the right choice for e-commerce beginners, if you have the required technical skill or budget to hire a developer, Magento is definitely the best open-source solution — besides, it’s free to download.
There are various factors that go into choosing the best platform for your ecommerce store, such as cost, utility , user-friendliness, and other features, and more. After all, it’ll be your ecommerce business associate that’ll help you run and manage your business operations on a daily basis.
Once you’ve decided which platform is ideal for you, work on customizing and launching your site. Depending on your choice of ecommerce platform and budget, you may either want to create and launch a website on your own, or invest in a professional designer and developer for greater accuracy.
STEP 8: Source your products the right way
You have a unique business idea, you’ve researched and assessed its viability, but how exactly are you going to source your products? This is where dropshipping comes in as a viable option for your ecommerce sourcing.
Dropshipping is an inventive approach to product delivery and inventory management, where you don’t need to store or handle products on your own. Instead, a third party stocks and ships whatever you’re selling, thus sharing your load and allowing you to deal with other important business matters like marketing and customer service. This is an increasingly demanding business model amongst budding entrepreneurs because it has considerably lower upfront investment and is usually a lower risk alternative to conventional ecommerce business models that ask you to find suppliers and store inventory yourself.
Here’s How Dropshipping Works
The working procedure of dropshipping is pretty clean and involves 3 simple steps:
The business owner broadcasts products he wants to sell on his online store. The consumers see the product and place an order on the same website.
Once the retailer receives an order, he/she forwards the details about the order and the customer to the dropship supplier.
The third party merchant then packs and ships the required number of products to the customer with the business owner’s name.
One of the biggest benefits of using this shipping business model is that it eliminates the warehousing cost of the business owner. Instead of purchasing all the inventory and storing them in a warehouse, you simply redirect your orders to the definite supplier. Also, you can eliminate the cost of running a physical store, such as rents and wages of sales staff.
There are apps like Oberlo that automate a lot of the dropshipping process for you. This way, you have more time on hand to focus on things that’ll help you improve your business, such as great ecommerce marketing strategies. Feel free to watch this dropshipping tutorial if you want to familiarize yourself with every step involved in setting up an ecommerce business.
Remember, hard work and perseverance are the stepping stones to your business’ success. Every new business, online or in-store, goes through a typical adolescence but the transition into adulthood can be smooth if you have the right approach from the start. Simply follow these above mentioned steps and hopefully you’ll glide your way to success.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.