7 Steps to Start an E-commerce Business From Scratch

7 Steps to Start an E-commerce Business From Scratch

From Jhon White

Online shopping continues to be one of the most popular online activities globally as digital buyers steadily increase every year.

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Online shopping continues to be one of the most popular online activities globally as digital buyers steadily increase every year.

After e-retail sales surpassed 4.2 trillion US dollars worldwide in 2020, it became clear why entrepreneurs began to consider opening up their own online stores.

But opening an online store isn’t something even an experienced business owner can do on a whim. Like any business endeavor, e-commerce stores require careful steps and a long-term vision to thrive. 

In this article, we’ll show you the exact steps you need to take to create an e-commerce business from the ground up.

Step 1. Conduct e-commerce niche research 

Every great business venture starts with market research, so that’s where we’ll start first. 

Before conducting e-commerce niche research, start by identifying niches you’re passionate about and can add value in. 

Love specialty men’s care products? Consider selling niche products like beard oil, trimmers, and mustache combs. 

Enjoy everything baking-related? Consider selling shaped molds, specialty tins, and silicone baking cups.

While conducting market research is important when choosing the right niche, making sure you love the niche you’re in is essential to creating a sustainable long-term plan. Choosing a niche you’re not passionate about may bring you money in the short run, but if you’re not excited about it, you’ll likely quit before it brings you long-term success. 

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind when conducting research:

Competition in your niche is a good thing — it means there’s a market for your product —  but be sure not to choose an over-saturated niche with a competitor analysis

Unless you’re extremely well-known, it’s best to choose a niche that’s not in competition with large retailers 

Consider selling products that compliment popular products or choose a micro-niche

Pinpoint growing trends, target buyers, buyer pain points, and in-demand products 

Identify low and high competition, profitability, and possible turnover

Hire a professional market researcher if you don’t have time to comb through keywords, market trends, journals, and public databases

Step 2. Create a business plan 

Use the results you come across in your research to create an ecommerce business plan. 

Think of your business plan as the manual that describes your business’s long-term vision. 

In your plan you’ll need to include:

1. What niche you’ve chosen, why you’ve chosen it, why you’re passionate about it, and what value you can bring to it

2. Your target market, your target market’s pain points, and which in-demand products you’re going to sell

3. Which growing trends you’re going to capitalize on and why

4. Who your competition is, how competitive they are, and a list of collaboration ideas to possibly partner with them in the future 

5. Your product list, pricing scale, pricing sheet, and which platforms you’re going to sell your products on

6. Your marketing plan and why you’ve chosen to go that direction

7. Your financial management plan including estimated profits over the next one, three, and five years

8. Your inventory management plan and what your supply chain will look like

9. What team member roles you need to fill and how they’re going to help you thrive

10. Your short-term and long-term goals and why they’re important to you

Step 3. Set up the right business legal structure 

Setting up the right legal structure for your business is key to avoiding costly litigation and legal fines. 

To know which e-commerce business model and legal structure to use, do your own research or hire a registered agent to take care of the business registration process to form an LLC

A registered agent will break down what each legal structure means and how it can impact your business and personal assets. 

Step 4. Hire employees

Hiring employees for your e-commerce business is key to creating a productive team that brings your vision to life. If you’re working with a globally distributed team, it’s also important to provide the necessary tools and systems in place to maintain identity compliance and data security. 

While the types of employees you need may look different from other e-commerce teams, the following five roles are some of the most common in the e-commerce world.

1. Digital marketing manager 

A digital marketing manager uses their extensive experience in marketing analytics to grow core digital sales channels. They also assist with logo and brand element creation, or they can point you to a website service like Tailor Brands that can take care of generating ready-made logos for you.

Outsourcing content creation might be a good option as you start out. It enables you to get professional level content through a content marketing agency to help you boost organic traffic and customer engagement.

2. Web developer

From optimizing for mobile to navigating site crashes, a developer is the key to producing online stores that run with ease.

 3. Supply chain manager 

From ensuring products remain in stock to sending products to warehouses on time, supply chain managers play a critical role in maintaining a smooth product supply chain.

4. Customer service representatives 

Customer service representatives handle anything from irate customers to checkout issues to product questions. A positive and well-trained support team is vital to boosting an e-commerce store’s brand image.

5. E-commerce director

E-commerce directors work to increase an online store’s performance over time. Their tasks include overseeing several departments, media buying, customer support, coaching copywriters on brand voice, and assisting with web design. 

Step 5. Make sure product shipping is a breeze 

There’s nothing e-commerce customers hate more than waiting for a package they’re eager to receive. But promising customers fast shipping isn’t always possible.

From planning delivery routes to taking cargo loads and stop times into account, managing shipping logistics can feel like a nightmare. 

By using route optimization software, e-commerce stores can optimize their delivery service, speed up shipping, and prevent shipping errors. 

Delivery management software uses an algorithm to automatically spread drops and deliveries across your delivery vehicles as efficiently as possible, making the route planning process faster. 

Not only does the software include your fleet’s capacity limits, but it also:

Automates route planning to ensure your drivers are taking the most efficient routes 

Estimates driver arrival times at each stop

Instantly shares optimized routes directly to your drivers’ smartphones  

Tracks your drivers in real-time

Notifies your customers of their order’s shipping progress in real-time

Automatically sends customers a real-time tracking link by email or text message 

Step 6. Create your online store and e-commerce website 

By this point, you’ve hired your team, streamlined your shipping, and set up your legal structure. With your new logo and brand assets in hand, you have the visual elements you need to create your online store and website. 

To start, be sure to register your domain name and any relevant redirect URLs. 

Then, decide which e-commerce shopping cart platforms you plan on using — i.e., Shopify, Woocommerce, BigCommerce, etc.

To choose the right platform for your business, be sure to vet each carefully. 

When evaluating platforms, look for things like:

Compatibility with different payment gateways

Loading speed

Included features 

Compatibility with your business structure

SEO-friendly features 

What kind of additional web development is needed 

After choosing which platforms to use, ask your web developer to add your logo and brand elements, upload your products, and finish setting everything up.

 Step 7. Boost visibility by partnering with vendors and influencers 

To attract more customers to your online stores, consider partnering with vendors, influencers, and affiliate marketers. Not only will they spread the word about your stores, but they’ll also work to build trust with your audience, boost your reputation, and publicly share insider tips about your products.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind when partnering with others:

Partner with coupon websites to create special promo codes for your products. 

Pay influencers to plan monthly social media promotions, social media stories, and audience engagement strategies 

Create an affiliate program and partner with affiliate marketers who specialize in promoting products in your niche

Lock arms with fellow e-commerce store owners that you’re not in direct competition with. Cross-promote each other on social media channels

Final say 

Online shopping continues to be one of the most popular online activities in the world.

But opening an online store isn’t something even an experienced business owner can do on a whim. By carefully following these seven steps and creating a long-term vision for your brand, you’ll have the tools you need to create a thriving e-commerce business. 

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