Chapter 3: How to Start a Successful Ecommerce Business

Factors of A Successful Ecommerce Business

When asked how to start an ecommerce business that will succeed, the following factors probably come to mind:

You have to provide excellent customer support to be successful.

You also need an attractive and trustworthy website if you want people to buy from you.

However, keep in mind that it’s a combination of these things working together that makes an ecommerce business great.

These factors are what make an eCommerce store go from 1 to 10, not from 0 to 1.

Efforts to bring traffic to your store through eCommerce marketing will bring sales, and sales will bring you more traffic.

Likewise, you need to be making sales first before you can provide great customer support to those shopping on your site and before you can decide on your brand’s unique voice.

If you can’t make sales, you’re finished before you’ve even really got started.

Starting an Ecommerce Business

While it’s great to embark on your new eCommerce business with lots of big ideas, we suggest putting aside your ambitions and focusing on the most practical steps of your eCommerce business plan first.

For starters, you really need a simple online medium to sell your products.

A basic store template on a reputable platform like Shopify serves this purpose perfectly well.

The key is to launch quickly and start thinking of ways to generate sales through eCommerce marketing.

This will eventually breed the opportunity to improve other things along the way.

And once you’ve started your eCommerce business, use this handy checklist to ensure you covered all the right steps:

Finding Ecommerce Products

If you’re totally new to the world of ecommerce you might be wondering just what exactly you should be selling

In actuality, you have to be strategic in identifying a set of products or a niche that trendy, or not so easy to find in stores or on popular eCommerce websites like Amazon. 

That’s why going the generic route and opting to sell books or jewelry will likely lead to a dead end.

Instead, you’ll want to go with more specific items that appeal to a particular audience. 

We suggest starting by making a list of potential products you might like to sell in your store. 

Think about things that you, your friends, coworkers, or family would be interested in.

Also explore social selling sites like Pinterest, Etsy, or even Instagram for more input on what to sell.

There really is inspiration everywhere once you start looking, and you can always verify whether your product ideas are any good by searching for them on Google trends.

At this point, you might also be wondering how exactly to source your products, and that’s where dropshipping might come in as a viable option for your eCommerce business plan.

Dropshipping is an increasingly popular business model among entrepreneurs because it has substantially lower upfront investment costs and is generally a lower risk alternative to more traditional eCommerce business models that require you to find suppliers and stock inventory yourself.

Researching Other Small Online Businesses

Research Other Online Businesses

Research is integral to the success of your eCommerce store.

Once you have chosen your products to look at competitors and what they are doing. What are the barriers and the cost of entry?

Do competitors invest heavily in ads or are they slow to become more digital?

Knowing how much work and money that you need to invest in a startup can change your motivation to sell certain products.

Research can lead you to identify better products to sell and give you a great understanding of how to start a successful small online business.

Building Online Stores

Starting an eCommerce business from scratch is not an easy thing so researching what others have done in order to achieve success is a great start.

Here are a few things to pay attention to when researching competitors to make sure you take everything you can into account when it comes to eCommerce business success.

  • How many products do they offer their customers
  • What is their business model
  • What social media channels do they utilize
  • Who is their target market
  • How do they push sales (e.g. paid social, PPC, SEO, email, etc)
  • How engaged and loyal are their audience

Building Your Online Store

Once you have chosen your products and done your competitor research the next thing to do is build your store.

Choosing eCommerce CMS tools like Shopify can make setting up your store easy.

They have lots to templates to start with and an easy to integrate eCommerce platform that doesn’t need development support.

Choose a theme that suits your target audience and prices that reflect the success you envision.

Naming your eCommerce business something memorable will guarantee that people will remember your name.

This goes for your logo also which can be as colorful or creative as you want it to be.

When your website is ready to start taking orders to remember to try a test order yourself to make sure the process is smooth for the customer.

Alleviate any additional steps needed to buy something online and only ask for information that is necessary for the check out process.

After you’ve launched your store, concentrate on eCommerce marketing 110%.

Anything else can wait until you’re sure you can generate traffic and reach potential customers.

The secret to eCommerce marketing is to find the right channel for your products, and then to perfect your marketing strategy until bringing in one new customer costs less than what you earn from a sale.

Also, make sure you reinvest all of your profits into your ads.

This isn’t the time to pocket all your earnings.

Keep a close eye on the relationship between profits earned and money spent on eCommerce marketing by checking your advertising ROI twice a week at a minimum.

Ideally, do it daily.

Sell products that have high enough markups to cover your marketing expenses on a consistent basis.

Since eCommerce marketing can cost a lot of money, make sure you price your products well.

Only once you get to this point you can begin to optimize your store design, invest in creating a great brand, and look for ways to generate more money.

You can’t optimize a store if you don’t have any customers to test different features on first.

Thus, eCommerce marketing is really essential to standing out from your competitors and generating sales.

A great eCommerce business plan does require some investment.

Putting money into your advertising tactics should ultimately convert to sales, which you need.

Unless you have a bigger budget, you should exclude long-term ideas like SEO or email marketing for now.

With direct advertising through Facebook or Adwords, you can get more sales immediately.

It’s best not only to learn how to run your first eCommerce marketing campaign on Facebook but also how to optimize them.

Alternatively, read how others are approaching Instagram marketing or the latest trends in advertising on Snapchat.

With this knowledge and inspiration, you can apply new strategies to your own eCommerce business.

When it comes to assessing the performance of your eCommerce marketing efforts, test your advertising campaigns instead of your product pages.

This will keep you from getting bogged down trying to analyze and change all of the small details of your store.

Just focus on advertising and marketing, not the ‘buy’ button on the product page.

While much of the advice about how to start an eCommerce business seems easier said than done, it certainly helps to have a clear idea of the first steps including launching a simple store and dedicating your energies to eCommerce marketing.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve validated your store idea and secured a steady stream of sales, make sure that you keep up with optimizing your eCommerce marketing as you go.

Here are a few additional eCommerce business tips that you may want to consider as you devise your eCommerce business plan.

  • Customer Service/Self-Help Content

Around 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly.

Exceptional customer service is critical to your business’s long term success.

Create self-service content and a detailed FAQs page, offer live chat support, incentivize product reviews, and build trust with your customers.

  • Conversion Optimization

On average, 69% of your website visitors will leave your site without going through with a purchase.

How much would your revenues increase if you were capturing those sales instead of losing them?

Optimize your customer journey.

Create limited-time offers.

Launch a cart abandonment email campaign.

You can even set up a retargeting campaign.

Test out a bunch of different tactics and try to understand which one works best for your business.

  • Store Optimization

Take note that 44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online.

Once you’ve laid down the foundations for your eCommerce business, the next important step is to optimize your website.

Improve your website speed.

Create an intuitive navigation bar.

Focus on creating great product pages.

Display related items.

Optimize your store search.

Lastly, check how your store looks on mobile devices.

  • Inventory

Best selling products tend to quickly fade away, that is why inventory is very important.

Constantly look for new product ideas that could keep the traffic coming to your store.

Do not rely on just a few products to drive all your sales.

Rather, offer new arrivals to your existing customers and frequently test new product ideas based on Google trends.

Conclusion

To summarize a few key takeaways from this guide as you develop your own eCommerce business plan, start lean and set all other things aside to focus on sales.

Don’t worry about having the perfect product or the best looking web design for your store in the beginning.

Jump in and learn by doing.

Hopefully, this has helped you to understand how to start an eCommerce business.

You’ve got everything you need at your fingertips to make this the year your store takes off.

** Dropshipping and the COVID19 Coronavirus

Our friends just interviewed two dropshipping experts that were on the ground in China during the outbreak of coronavirus, when manufacturing and shipping are likely to be back to normal, and steps to take in the meantime.

Details here: Dropshipping Business During The COVID-19 Pandemic