Start an E-Commerce Business – А Step-by-step guide (2020)

10.03.2020 98

Nowadays, e-commerce websites grow like mushrooms after rain. But many of them don’t last because they were never properly planned. The purpose of this guide is to provide you with some directions towards a successful e-commerce business. How to set the grounds, what will it cost and how hard could it be? Proper planning is vital for building a successful business.

There are two general types of new e-commerce businesses. The first one is just a natural projection of an existing physical store. This guide is more focused on internet-first companies that are just starting. However, if you consider yourself from the first category, there is still plenty of useful information so keep reading.

Market needs

The best way to start is to spot a market need that has not been covered yet. Maybe, in your country, there are no e-scooters yet and this can be a great niche? Maybe nobody is selling a specific cosmetic product that you know how to get? It is far easier to start when you have a potential demand that hasn’t been satisfied. Beating the big tech giants in gadget sells will be a lot harder.

Market analysis

We have not yet reached the “e” part, because there are many steps similar to the traditional business. Now that you have done some preliminary research about a specific market and products that the people need, let’s go a bit deeper. How big is this market? Is it crowded with competitors or is it just a potential unexplored market? What are the barriers to entry? The barriers to entry can be set by local laws, specific equipment needed or some other reason. They are not always bad. They can help you maintain a lower level of competition. Clearly define your market, its size, and limits. Think about the competitors too.

Client analysis

Who will buy your product? Don’t say, everybody! You need to focus on a specific group. The one that is more likely to buy from you. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of money with lesser results. All your efforts will be focused on these people who can give the maximum value for you. Think about their behavior, how often do they need your product, are there complementary products? You will want these people to return on a regular basis, so how can you achieve it? It is a good practice to create a customer relationship management system so you can trace purchase history.

Create a business plan

Now that you have thought about all these important points, it is a good time to start your business plan. The business plan will help you define your goals, strategy, resources, costs and predicted earnings. Keep it organized and up to date. It will be your compass. It will guide your way and can be used to attract investors and apply for bank loans.

Brand name and domain

If you already have a physical store, try to stay as close as possible to your business name. If you are a new business, think about your products, market, and goals. Try to create an easy to remember name that is clearly related to your business. Check whether the name is already taken. It will be a hustle until you choose the right one but take your time. It is a really important decision.

Now buying a domain. This step is easy. Try to get a domain with a name as close as possible to your business. .COM is the preferred option, but if you are focusing on a particular market, try some of the local domains – .COM.UK for The United Kingdom, .EU for Europe, .IT for Italy and so on.

Don’t stress so much with this step. There are plenty of new domain names, so you will be able to find the right one.
A domain can cost around 5-100 USD per year.

Hosting

Here we can help you. Depending on the size of your e-commerce we have 3 options.

Web hosting – An easy and cheap way to start. Web hosting solutions usually have site builders that can help you set it up in no time. You will have less control than the rest of the options, but it might be perfect for a small online shop.

Cloud Servers – This is a very good way to get started. The prices start from 6.91 USD and you can easily upgrade to a faster configuration as your e-commerce platform grows. It is for those of you who want more control than a web hosting solution and the possibility to upgrade when needed.

Dedicated servers – This one gives you full control and power. You will be controlling a complete server. You could have more space, more RAM and more computing power. This can come in handy for large online stores with many products. The starting price is just 91.29 USD per month.

Choosing a platform and building the site

There are numerous options out there. Choosing the right one can be a struggle. We already have an article about this topic “The most popular e-commerce platforms. Which one to choose?”. The ones we recommend are WooCommerce, Magento and OpenCart. These 3 are big and there is a strong community behind them. You can get a lot of add-ons, SEO tips and great platforms in general. All of them have a free option, so it is good for starters too.

Now that you know what are you going to use, create the site. For most of them, it is a straight forward process. It takes very little time. You can spend some extra money on a better theme or add-ons, but try not to overdo it. Online buyers are accustomed to standard processes. If you remove the “cart” or put it in a strange place, this can lead to fewer sales.

Payment methods and logistics

You already have the domain, hosting, and platform. Now choose how to receive payments. Do research on what the common ways of online payments in your market are. Make it easy for your clients. Consider the cost. Do these payment gateways have a commission? Don’t forget to add an SSL certificate on your site for data encryption and extra protection of sensitive data. Nobody would trust a site without it.

Make a deal with a local logistics company. Most of the markets will have big players like DHL, FedEx, and UPS, but there are smaller players that will give you a better price. Just do your research.

Fill the shop

Fill the shop with products. The goal is to offer the right products. You can have a successful store with just a few items. When adding new items, properly fill in the descriptions and warranty policies, tags and extra fields. Add well-taken pictures of the items. Think about the storage space too. Having many products will require certain logistics. Include these costs.

You can also deploy a dropshipping strategy. It is when you resell items often without actually seeing the product. You can offer products on your site that are in another country and sell them directly to your clients. You will be responsible for the delivery and all the extra costs that the local law adds. However, you can charge a higher price than the producers and have high-profit margins.

Next steps. What else do you need to succeed?

Now you just wait, right? No! There are plenty of ways to attract clients. But you can generally divide them into “organic” and “paid”.

The SEO (search engine optimization) is the “organic” way of attracting customers. It will help your site appear in the search results of different searching engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

It includes both on-page and off-page optimization.

On-page optimization includes everything on your site – well-written descriptions and texts, pictures with the right size and format, site map, platform optimization, mobile version, etc. You can hire an SEO agency or an SEO freelancer expert to help you with that.

Off-page optimization includes all the actions taken outside of your site.

Link building. Creating links to your site on other sites. This can include paid articles, registering in catalog sites and more.
Here we can add all the action that happens on your social networks and blog site. All of the activities should add extra value to your clients. Post strategically. The goal is not to post daily; the goal is to create engaging posts that serve your audience.

If you have a bigger budget, you can consider collaborating with influencers. Find the right influencer with a similar audience as your clients and work with them.

A blog is a great way to provide extra value to your clients. It can provide them with useful information in a non-intrusive way. You can have articles about how to use some of your products, what else your users can do with them and useful information about the industry.

E-marketing

The most common abbreviation that you will see is SEM (Search engine marketing). It involves all the ads that you can use to attract clients. You can post different types of ads on searching engines, apps, maps, websites. The key here is to set clear goals and create good ads with the best-related keywords. It is a whole art to create effective marketing campaigns. You can hire a freelancer SEM specialist, an agency or contract marketing people in your company. It is a very important part of an e-commerce platform. There is stiff competition online.

You will need to keep performing market analysis. It is very helpful to understand your market, see the trends and be able to predict new ones. That way you can better satisfy the needs of your consumers.

Measure your success. Do you remember the business plan? Have you achieved the goals and the predicted revenues? If not, why? If yes, is it enough or can you do better? Modern companies are driven by data. Use it to improve.

We hope that we managed to give you a clear idea of what you need to launch your e-commerce business. It can be just a few steps away. We hope we could be helpful throughout your journey.