How to Start an eCommerce Business

Woman starting an eCommerce business

Starting an online store can be a daunting task, but it does not have to be. There are many things you should take into consideration before diving in and setting up shop for the first time.

In this post, we will discuss what you need to do to start your own eCommerce store that is profitable from day one!

How to Research Products to Sell Online?

There are many ways to find and research products that will sell online, but the most important step is analyzing what sells in today’s e-commerce market.

This means understanding trends and figuring out what your customers want before investing too much time or money into a product idea with no demand for it.

If you are having trouble finding good ideas on your own, these tips can help get you started by answering questions like:

  • What type of items should I be looking at?
  • Is my niche broad enough?
  • Where do people look when they shop this category/product already?

Check Out Amazon Categories for Product Research

Amazon offers a ton of products for sale to the public. Finding a niche and profitable product is time-consuming but not impossible with Amazon’s categories!

A great place to start your search, as mentioned before, are the different subcategories offered—you can find thousands of ideas there that have had success on Amazon.

There are sections too like “best sellers” or “top-rated.” Remember: you will need to do some research in order to make informed decisions about what products will work best for you.

Amazon Best Sellers view

Research Hashtags on Social Media to Uncover Trending Products

Hashtags are an important tool for discovering new products you may like. Researching the hashtags of your favorite brands will give you a glimpse into what is trending. There is nothing better than getting in on it early if something is on fire online!

Several ways to find out about these popular posts include.

  • You can search them using Instagram’s search bar
  • Another way is Facebook’s hashtag option, which then brings up all associated pictures using that same tag

You can also look at Facebook posts that have likes and comments on products that are trending.

Use Tools to Find Popular eBay Products

WatchCount is a nifty website that helps you find the most popular products on eBay by viewing their watch count.

All you have to do is type in your keyword, and tons of auction items will be displayed with their respective watch counts.

These are sorted from highest-ranked to lowest based on popularity, so it is easy for users like yourself who want the highest watch data!

You can make a list of these highly ranked auctions and choose which products sound appealing enough for you to sell in your store.

Use Quora for Feedback and Ideas

Are you looking for feedback on your new product idea? Quora has a thriving community of people who love to share their thoughts and ideas.

If you have come up with an innovative, exciting new concept but want someone else’s perspective before going all-in, this is the place!

Just type in “product ideas” or whatever subject matter pertains to what you are doing into the search bar at top right corner of any page.

Quora Screenshot

Then browse through some recent questions that may be related. You can also follow different topics by clicking “+ Follow Topic.”

Another thing to do is to type in a question, like “How can I make my website more interactive?”

Quora will give you feedback from other users on what they think would be the best way forward. You can also ask questions that others might not have asked before and see if you can get some great answers from the Quora community.

Use Alibaba to Source Popular Product Ideas

Alibaba is the perfect place to find inspiration for your next product. In the “Suppliers” section, you can search for popular products and get ideas from private label manufacturers!

If this is not what you are looking for, start by searching in the “Product Description” tab to see if your desired item pops up.

Once it does show up, take note of all those great new ideas that you can use to brainstorm more about your own personal product. You can also look to see if there are any products, they offer that you can add to your store.

AliExpress

AliExpress is like the Amazon of China. Things are heavily discounted if you are willing to wait for shipping. Many people sell items from here and tell the customer it is 4 to 6 weeks to ship to them.

You can also buy in bulk and have it shipped to Amazon to do FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon).

Use Google Trends to Validate Demand

What is the best way to use Google Trends? It depends on what you are looking for. You can look at market growth, stability, or decline by using this tool.

For example: if there was a sudden massive spike in demand and the history showed lower demand then this may be a fad. This would mean the product may not be a viable long-term money maker.

The next thing I recommend checking out are regional trends when marketing your products. When you find areas where customers have shown high levels of interest then target those regions with advertising campaigns!

Lastly, compare similar items/products side-by-side; this will help you to see which ones garner more attention from potential buyers!

Google Trends

Choose your Products

Now that you have researched your product, it is now time to choose what kind of products you would want to sell.

First, let us get into the different types of online products and see which one suits your needs best!

The market has a lot more options than just clothes or shoes, there are also gadgets galore and many other things to sell.

It can be hard deciding which type of item will work out well but do not worry because we will help guide you through these choices with an easy checklist, so all goes as planned–no regrets later down the line!

You can do a physical product store or set up a digital product store.

Physical Products

Physical goods are the most popular and demanded type of products sold online. Products can be a challenge to sell because you need to hold inventory, ship it, and breakage issues.

Selling physical products is a great way to start your e-commerce business and make some extra money.

You do not need the most popular product in order to be successful, you just have to know how customers will use it!

There are tons of people who work all day long that could really benefit from ordering things like office supplies or pet food online with one click.

Digital Goods

Guy downloading a digital product

One of the best things about digital goods is that they are popular and easy to sell. Digital has an advantage over physical goods because you do not need storage, inventory, and no shipping costs.

Digital goods comes in many forms:

  • eBooks
  • Music files
  • Downloads
  • Software applications
  • Website subscriptions
  • Training courses

Digital goods are great for the consumer because they provide instant delivery and scalability.

For sellers, digital products save on shipping costs, product development time, and product updates which translates into greater profit margins.

Digital goods also make it easier for creators as they can have more control over the product’s content and design. Creators can easily deploy new versions or updates in comparison with physical products that require time-consuming manufacturing.

Choosing Your E-Commerce Business Model

E-commerce business models are based on the types of products, how they are sourced, and from where they come. The following is a list of popular e-commerce business models:

B2B (Business-to-Business)

B2B business models involve businesses selling their products or services to other companies. There are many benefits of B2B including larger order sizes and more frequent orders because it is a repeat customer base.

B2C (Business-to-Consumer)

B2C is the most common type of business model and addresses those businesses that are selling products directly to consumers.

Usually, people think about B2C when starting their e-commerce company because it allows them a direct connection with customers.  

You can go through online retailers like Amazon or Walmart to further your sales and your brand.

In this model, you establish your own website which should be designed in such a way as drive traffic using SEO techniques.

Dropshipping 

Dropshipping is a great way to start your online store and avoid the hassle of running managing stock.

If you decide to do dropshipping, it means that you will not own or carry inventory. You instead partner with a manufacturer or distributor to ship the product to the customer on your behalf.

The company you partner with will handle shipping and fulfillment on their end. This allows you to focus on customer service, website updates, and marketing to get buyers.

Dropshipping gives you the chance to offer a wide variety of products to your customers!

A few downsides to dropshipping can be high competition due to easy entry and stores that may start price wars.

Subscription Model

The subscription model is a great way to get new products delivered right to your door! All you need do after signing up for one of these services is choose from any number of available subscriptions based on what interests them.

You will be paying a monthly fee, which might include shipping charges depending on how often you would like boxes.

The potential products for a subscription service include everything from makeup kits or fashion accessories.

A list of different box type subscriptions:

  • Treats and toys for dogs: Barkbox
  • Prepared meals: Hellofresh
  • Activity sets for kids: KiwiCo
  • Hair and skin: Birchbox.com
  • Wine: Winc.com
  • Men’s grooming: Bespoke Post

These items will arrive in a customized container every week or month.

Amazon FBA

Amazon offers “Fulfillment by Amazon” or better known as FBA for third-party sellers. Sellers will send their products to an Amazon warehouse and let them handle all shipping as well as warehousing.

This partnership eliminates a ton of work for the sellers who sell items via this platform but still need fulfillment services such as returns and refunds handled.

This allows the business owner to order inventory when needed, manage marketing, and updating the website. Amazon FBA will take care of the rest for your e-commerce business.

When considering this option, you must understand the cost for Amazon to do this for you. Here is a link to the Amazon FBA. https://sell.amazon.com/

White Label and Private Label

A white label and a private label business model are risk-free ways in which you supply your product to a company that is already present online and let them sell your product under their brand name.

The difference between private labeling vs. white labeling is who specifies what will go into it:

  • Private labels are customized by buyers specifying design, ingredients and what they want to offer
  • White Label agreement the manufacturers will say what the product will look like, be packaged, and what will be offered (although other customizations may differ based on specific needs.)

Validating your Product Idea

Before executing the final decision, you need to look at the market condition, what the customers are expecting about your product, and what you can do for them. 

Do Market Research

A team doing market research for a product

Market research is an essential part of any business, not just big business. Every major company has a team dedicated to market research and trends.

It is important for companies to know what their customers want and how they make purchase decisions to stay ahead of the competition.

This information helps to provide quality products that are worth buying!

For people who have new ideas, market reports can be invaluable with information.

Researching the market means understanding what your consumer will want to purchase.

Market research can show you preferences and help identify who is in your target audience which allows for better marketing campaigns that they are interested in, or at least not annoyed by!

Customer Surveys to See What Customers Want

When you think about how to create a market research survey, it is important that the information is interesting and relevant. The surveys need to be asking the right questions for people who receive them will respond accordingly.

One of the most common mistakes made with these surveys is focusing on irrelevant topics or not providing enough context around what customers are being asked and why they are being always asked those questions!

Registering and Incorporating your Company

Registering your company is an important step in creating your eCommerce business. Not only this, incorporating the business provides protection to personal assets and helps lower taxes.

There are many ways a company can choose to register themselves including sole proprietorship, LLCs, corporations, or S-corporations – whichever best suits them for their needs!

The most common type of registration used by e-commerce merchants is Sole proprietorship.

This way is mostly recommended to new e-commerce companies because, in a sole proprietorship, the company startup cost is extremely low, you do not need to file taxes, and the business is completely controlled by the owner. 

Limited Liability Company is the way of registering a company that provides liability protection in a corporation. In LLC, owners are called members and they must pay tax on the LLC profit. LLC also provides protection to personal property and its members must file additional forms depending on the number of members. 

The corporation is very beneficial as it separates the owner from the personal liability and protects in case of lawsuits with the business. After registering the company as a corporation, you will need to pay, local, state, and federal taxes. 

A company is registered as an S corporation to avoid the double tax problem and is issued by the special Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The owner of an S corporation only has to pay taxes once and has limited liability. 

How to Source your Products?

There are a number of ways to source your products for an e-commerce store. You can find them from wholesalers, product brokers, distributors, and manufacturers or you could trade with other retailers who may have excess inventory on hand that they would be willing to sell at cost in lieu of returning it back to the supplier.

You also want to keep track of when suppliers place new orders so you do not miss out on any potential deals that come up such as seasonal discounts or special promotions. This will allow you to get more bang for your buck!

Wholesalers

Finding the right wholesaler is essential to any business. To find a good one, ask these questions:

Do they have a professional website?

Do you get free samples for testing purposes?

How are their prices compared to other companies offering similar products?

Can they do dropshipping?

To prevent price drops do they have a minimum price for the product?

The best way to find reviews about these types of services online would be through forums, blogs, and lists like we have below.

Manufacturers

To find a manufacturer, the first step is to make sure you have your product idea well documented.

You also want to be clear about your expectations and what you are trying to do.

The next step is to make then shortlist those manufacturers who can help you prototype your product.

You should do this as it is very important to see how your product will look before you order a large batch. This is an important step because it will save you money and product waste.

It is also especially important to first determine what type of manufacturer you’re seeking. Before you start manufacturing calculate the cost involved with your prototype.

Manufacturers to Check Out:

Alibaba – connects you with all kinds of different manufacturers in China.

Here are some online local directories:

The list of online overseas directories:

Do searches on Google for manufacturers. You need to put in keywords such as, “manufacturer product name.” Try different variations until you have enough leads.

Dropshipping

How dropshipping works model

Dropshipping is an e-commerce business model which enables entrepreneurs to find and sell products without carrying inventory.

The first step is to conduct research on trending products using some websites like Google Trends or similar sites. You want to find out what is the hottest products for today and use dropshipping to deliver that product.

Dropshipping is the perfect way to grow your business and generate revenue.

Questions to ask:

Here are some things to consider before you choose a manufacturer:

  • Can they customize your order?
  • Are their skills, resources, and lead times sufficient for the product or service you want them to produce or provide?
  • What is the cost of shipping products? Shipping can be incredibly expensive if not calculated in advance.
  • What is MOQ? The Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) is typically what is talked about when someone asks, “How many units do I need before manufacturing my project?”
  • Can they give you an exclusive contract?
  • What is their warranty policy like?
  • Will they reimburse for the shipping costs if anything goes wrong?
  • How do you know the products this company makes is sustainable and ethical? or are these just words on a website with no real meaning behind them?

When you first start out, it can be an excellent idea to keep your orders small. Not only does this help minimize the initial investment but also minimizes risk for manufacturers. Many may not want to work with a new business owner.

Negotiate cost per unit so that as your order size increases, the price will go down exponentially!

Choose Your eCommerce Platform and Launch Your Store

There are many platforms for e-commerce business owners to choose from. It can be difficult to narrow your search down to just one, but these five will help:

Shopify: Best-selling platform

BigCommerce: Best overall platform for e-commerce

WooCommerce: Great for a single platform for e-commerce and to run affiliate programs

Squarespace: Really good at print on demand e-commerce selling

Wix: Beginner friendly and great customer support

Some have more features than others so you will want to find the right platform that bests suits your needs!

E-commerce is a booming industry with new entrepreneurs launching stores every day on different online platforms. The top platforms are listed below:

Shopify

Shopify is a popular eCommerce platform that allows you to quickly build and customize an online store. It is easy to get started – just enter your email address, choose a plan (free or paid), and start building!

Every entrepreneur who wants their business on the web should be considering Shopify as it makes creating websites incredibly quick.

You can create your site with drag-and-drop simplicity without any coding knowledge required.

BigCommerce

Bigcommerce is an all-inclusive eCommerce platform that helps you get started with your business online in a quick, easy way.

The features and benefits of this system include:

  • The ability to sell anything, anywhere on any device at any time
  • Helpful customer service team for troubleshooting issues 24/7 (including live chat)
  • Simple integrations for inventory management systems like ShipStation or Shopify Shipping App

It has never been easier than now to start selling products thanks to BigCommerce.

WooCommerce

A way to boost your online store, or any business, in general, is by using the WooCommerce platform. This means that you have a wide range of benefits at your disposal:

  • You can design and customize
  • The interface is easy enough for non-technical people
  • Single page checkout process which simplifies the payment process on websites
  • Multi-language support so shop owners no longer need to worry about targeting different markets with language translations
  • Using coupon codes which is an option that enhances the customer experience while helping promote sales

Squarespace

Squarespace is a popular web hosting service that makes it easy to create websites. It is an affordable, user-friendly platform with many tools and features for any type of site or blog you could want!

From the start, Squarespace takes care of all your website needs by making sure everything from security to design is top-notch so there is no need for hiring expensive experts.

You can even use their templates like “magazine” as well as using widgets such as video players, maps, social media feeds, and more – all in one place!

Wix

The benefits of using this Wix website builder service include easy navigation and templates with endless features that you can customize without any coding knowledge.

Whether you are looking to create your own blog or eCommerce site, they offer a great option for what you are trying to do.

No other company offers such a versatile and feature-laden website builder. Stop wasting time and start building your eCommerce site.

Payment Processing

You have got your E-commerce store up and running, but now it’s time to choose the right credit card processor for the business.

A good eCommerce credit card processer not only offers safe transactions – but they also offer more than that!

You need to double-check each provider’s fee and their transaction charges to make sure you are getting a fair deal.

Payments are a necessary part of life. Credit cards have become the most popular to pay for products online.

There is more than one way to handle payments these days:

  • Digital wallets like Apple Pay or PayPal
  • Card readers that allow you to swipe your debit card on an iPad
  • Peer-to-peer payment services from companies like Venmo—the list goes on!

We have listed six of your best options below, but please feel free to conduct your own research!

  • Stripe

    Stripe has been operating since 2011 and offers many benefits to merchants, including free account management services and an easy set-up process. They also offer a suite of tools for you that will help your business grow.
  • PayPal

    PayPal is a financial service that allows people to send and receive money online. This company was founded in 1998 with the original intention of providing individuals an easier way than traditional paper checks or cash transactions to make payments on the internet.

    The company helps merchants reach new markets across borders without having to invest in additional payment methods.

There are over one million businesses using PayPal.

  • Square

    Square is an easy-to-use payment processing company that provides a secure way for retailers and business to accept payments. Easily download Square App on Android or Apple devices and in minutes you can start accepting credit card transactions from customers. With no fee charged per swipe, businesses can keep more revenue!
  • Amazon Pay

    Amazon Pay is a payment processing company that has been developing their services for the past few years.

    They have recently expanded into multiple countries and are continuing to grow in popularity among consumers today.

    Amazon Pay strives to provide an innovative option for merchants. They are making it easier than ever to send payments on any device with internet access!

    With features like 1-click checkout and 3D secure authentication, customers can feel confident when paying online.

Driving Traffic to Start Your eCommerce Business

SEO what to do to optimize website

SEO

You can drive traffic towards your website through organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and paid search. 

With organic SEO you do not need to pay to drive traffic to your website. You just need to research SEO basics and build the right strategy for your business to rank on Google.  

Once you start ranking for popular keywords the free traffic will flow to your website.

To really rank you need training and we recommend the Affiliate Lab training by Matt Diggity. This is the course I took to get trained on SEO.

Running Ads

Paid search is an excellent way to drive traffic towards your website. You can see instant results and get a return on investment as well as:

  • Keyword data for SEO
  • Location-specific customers who are ready to make purchases
  • Valid demographic information that helps you target the right people

Setting up ads in Facebook or Google AdWords campaigns you can target customers based upon age, gender, and geographical locations.

Marketplaces

Managed online marketplaces are a platform for people to sell their products and services. They allow sellers to list items, set prices, track sales data such as the number of views or purchases per day.

Sellers can also access useful tools like analytics reports that provide information on traffic sources. This leads shoppers back to the seller’s page when they search in Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, or Yahoo!

Marketplaces have many benefits including:

  • Ease-of-use so it is easier for both shopper and seller
  • Convenience with 24/7 customer service
  • Help you find new customers
  • Reduces the cost to acquire a new customer
  • Can make running a business easier

There are some downsides:

  • Price wars with big players
  • You cannot set up to capture emails to keep marketing to them
  • Extremely competitive

Review the Steps to Start an eCommerce Business

  • Pick the products that you want to sell online
  • Find an internet-based web hosting company or use a website builder
    • Hosting: Hostinger
    • Website builder: Wix or Squarespace
  • Create a domain name
    • NameCheap
  • Choose what type of store you will be operating, such as auction or fixed price
  • Pick the right ecommerce platform to use
    • Shopify
    • BigCommerce
    • Wix
  • Decide on how many and which products should be on your store
  • Build out your ecommerce site
  • Pick payment processing company to take credit cards and set it up
    • PayPal
    • Stripe
    • Square

Generating Sales and Measuring Results

To keep the business growing, measuring generated sales and results are the most important things. Tracking the sales and measuring results increase sales productivity.

It also helps you to evaluate your website sales performance and efficiency. Measuring results also pave the way for investors, to sell the business and helps you to explore new areas for opportunities.

The best way to measure your website sales is by installing an analytics platform such as Google Analytics which can provide reports daily.

The most tracked data with Google Analytics:

  • Users: who is coming to your store
  • Bounce rate: How quickly does a visitor leave
  • Sessions: Number of times people see your content
  • Average sessions duration: How long does a visitor stay
  • Pageviews: How many pages did they go to

There are more data points you can track but these are some of the easy metrics to look at when improving your site.

You also need to look at:

  • Social media: How often is your products getting shared or liked
  • Shopping cart abandonment: When do people leave their cart and not finish
  • Checkout abandonment: Look to find when people are abandoning at checkout
  • AOV or average order value: Know what your average order value is, maybe it’s $120 an order or $75

Closing

You must really want to start a business and work hard to make it succeed, especially in eCommerce.

Make sure you do the research and once the site is up and running split test everything. Get the buy percent as high as possible for each visitor to your store.

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