In many ways, starting an ecommerce business isn’t so different from starting a brick and mortar, as in, you’re going to need to do all the little things anyone else would do just, y’know, online. The beginning of your ecommerce journey is going to start behind closed doors where you will germinate the seeds of your business. You’re going to have to answer those simple yet important questions: what are you going to sell and how are you going to do it?
Once you’ve done some serious soul-searching, it’ll be time for the nuts and bolt or perhaps I should say, chips and blips—that is, the design and look of your website, SEO and everything that goes along with staying at the top of the ecommerce food chain.
Of course, after everything is up and running, keeping your business sustainable becomes the chief concern. Along the way, something will probably break, your site will probably crash, you’ll get a couple of poor reviews from customers and, overall, you’ll probably be ready to tear your hair out and go back to whatever it was you were doing before.
Don’t be deterred, these are all natural occurrences in the life of an ecommerce business. It gets better!
But like I said, it all has to start somewhere, so let’s get into step one on your journey to ecommerce domination!
Step 1: Brainstorming
First things first: what do you want to sell? Seems like an easy one right? I assume it’s going to be something you’re passionate about. Many of the businesses I work with start with someone who’s incredibly fanatical about their product or idea. They want it desperately to succeed and will stop at nothing to attain that success. Oftentimes, these people end up the most successful.
On the other hand, I’ve also worked with people who don’t care a lick about the products they sell. Instead, they just want to make money. They funnel all of that energy, not into their product, but the vehement accumulation of capital. And that’s fine too.
You may find that you don’t necessarily fall into either of these two camps so I’ll say this, to be blunt, the most successful people I’ve worked with usually do.
Step 2: Research
Once you’ve got your good idea, it’s time to figure out if it’s a sustainable business idea. Do tons of market research. How are competitors faring and how many of them are there? Is demand for your product trending up, down or is it relatively stable? Especially if you’re the type of person who is inconsolably emphatic about your product, be ruthless in your market evaluation. You might uncover that the thing you love isn’t primed to be a big moneymaker.
Step 3: Funding
After you’ve done your research, it’s time to generate startup costs. Sit down and tally up all the little pieces: how much to manufacture or import your product? How much in domain costs? How much for advertisement, SEO and branding? Get a number and then pad it a bit because, as a general rule, there’ll always be more cost than you’ve considered.
Now that you’ve got your number (looks daunting doesn’t it?), it’s time to get funding. Many ecommerce businesses still look for investors the old fashioned way, that is, joining a small business development center or just cold pitching to investment firms. Still, this is the Internet we’re talking about and nowadays much more businesses look for small increments of seed fund from people through Kickstarter or GoFundMe. These services can be great for businesses because you can get funding with nothing owed to investors but a sticker or t-shirt and you can raise some serious cash too.
Step 4: Building the Business
Hopefully, even before you’ve been fully funded, you’ve begun some of the initial “build out” of your online shop. One of the biggest concerns is going to be how you host it. The two biggest services for creating, managing and maintaining an online shop are Shopify and Magento and there plenty of articles out there that will help you select one or the other for your needs.
Branding should color every aspect of your business’ creation. From the beginning you should think of not just what your business is but who your business is. There is a lot of noise in the ecommerce marketplace so having a unique voice can help cut through that noise and bring your business to the forefront.
Remember when I mentioned how people passionate about their product will do better? That’s because oftentimes they have a better story: how they found their products or how it found them, why they’re selling it, and how it can improve the customer’s life. Of course, you can always pay someone to design all of that. At Group8A, it’s sort of our job (wink, wink).
Step 5: Customer Service
Once everything is up and running, hopefully you’ll start getting your orders soon and, with them, returns and reviews. When people are satisfied with your product, great, you’ve done your job, but when they aren’t, even better, because it’s time to spring into action.
In a recent study, 66% of consumers said they are willing to spend more money with a company that provides great customer service. When a customer has a complaint or a concern, make them feel heard and act accordingly to make it right. Chances are you aren’t the only person on the ‘net selling your product, so if there’s a misstep in the customer service department, folks will simply go somewhere else.
Step 6: Kick Back and Watch the Profits
Hopefully you make it to this step. Starting an ecommerce business isn’t easy but the payoffs can be huge. Ecommerce sales grew 15% in 2016 alone so there’s no better time to get started! Good luck and happy selling!
Your (Actual) Universal Checklist For Building an Ecommerce Business From Scratch
- Select a Product
- Market Research
- Finding Funding
- Build Your Domain
- Define Your Brand
- Give Great Customer Service