How To Start An E-commerce Business Step By Step
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Starting an e-commerce store can be a great idea if you want to sell products. Today this business model is trendy and proven to work. Here are some examples of products people are selling:
You can sell pretty much anything
Lets quickly take a look at some of the pros and cons of starting an e-commerce business:
Pros of starting an E-commerce business
Low start-up costs (under a $1,000) when doing dropshipping (more on this later)
No need to ship anything when doing dropshipping
Easy to scale
Unlimited income potential
You can have a client the very same day
Can all be done online and from home
Cons of starting an E-commerce business
High costs when not using dropshipping and going directly through manufacturers
A lot of people selling the same products if you do decide to start with dropshipping
May be hard to find products
If you decided that this is the business for you, let's gets started.
Pick an industry that you'd like to start in and find your products. I'd suggest starting by using a dropshipping service. You will be able to find products quickly and add them to your store. Later, if someone buys the product, they will ship it out for you. All you have to worry about is finding customers and dealing with customer service when problems or questions arise.
Later, once your business starts to take off, you can look for manufacturers and expand your brand by offering custom products. Of course, if you have a large budget, you can start looking for manufacturers right away. Know that going through manufacturers is a lot of work. It takes weeks if not months to gather samples, and then finally for the order to come into your home or facility. Some manufacturers also have minimums, and you'll have to be prepared to do some negotiation if you decide to go this route. If you start by using a dropshipping service, all this will be done for you automatically.
Here are sites to use:
Oberlo, a dropshipping service - once you create your Shopify store you can connect Oberlo from inside (more on that later)
Alibaba, a great place to find manufacturers and suppliers
Bookmark both of these sites; you will most likely use both of them at some point in time.
Have an idea of your end goal. This is important because the preparation will be different, and you'll want to prepare everything accordingly. For example, understand if your end goal is to sell books forever or if you're going to be selling various products down the line. Knowing your vision is essential, and you'll see why below.
Find a short, memorable, and easy to pronounce name for your company. Also, make sure that the name you go with is available when buying a domain. For example, when you look at all the companies, I'm part of; Sassy Egg, King of Maids, BookingKoala, Saleshangry, 1PRCNT, they all had those domains open:
Having the same domain as your name will make your company look more professional. When buying your domain or seeing if your name is open, you can use:
Also, when picking your name make sure that it fits your vision. If you're selling toys specifically for toddlers, you may go with a name such as 'Toys for Toddlers.' However, this becomes a problem if you decide to expand your service to kids of all ages for example.
Due to the name, everyone will automatically assume you only offer toys for toddlers and changing your name later is a big deal. Many of those who remember your name may no longer recognize you. It's important to set everything to align with your vision.
You'll need to find a good logo for your business. Make it look professional and relevant to whatever it is that you are selling. Good logos are memorable and simple. If you need help making a logo, you can visit Fiverr.
You will need a website to sell your items online, and making a website on your own is extremely easy. All you need to do is sign up for a service that gives you all the tools you need to build an e-commerce site yourself in only a few hours. These services are also very affordable, saving you thousands of dollars by avoiding expensive developers and designers.
Shopify is the best service by far, in my opinion, and the most popular one in the e-commerce world. They offer everything you need to start and scale your business. Their most significant user up-to-date is Kyle Jenner, who does millions in revenue per month. You will be in great hands.
Once you start to build out your website focus on the basics (click here to learn more about the basics). Over time your site will get optimized. After months of data, you will get to see which products are the better sellers, and you will start to structure your website, showcasing those items first. From this paragraph alone, you should already understand that building a business is a long term project and not something you can make millions off of in days.
Data takes a long time to collect when starting on a low budget. Big companies are fortunate to have a large budget. They can spend $100,000 in a month and collect the data they need. You won't be as lucky when you start, and you'll have to work for every customer through manual efforts.
Once you start to gain clients regularly, you can begin to optimize your site to increase conversions and sales. Click here to see a list of tools that will help you with that when that time comes.
When you start, make sure to register your business online.
LegalZoom is a service that will help you register your business online. Provide them with some information, and they will file in the necessary paperwork on your behalf. Once the process is complete, they will send you legal paperwork stating that you are an official business.
On top of that, LegalZoom also offers other services you may use in the future. I used them a few times when I started because they provide legal advice for a very affordable price.
Make sure that you are prepared with a desktop or a laptop. If your budget is tight, invest in a keyboard for your tablet if you have one. This doesn't have to be an expensive purchase. See what offers you can find on Amazon - click here to view offers.
Working on a larger screen is much more comfortable. I can't imagine starting out on a phone or a tablet. On top of that, a lot of the services that you will be using are not mobile compatible. Be well prepared.
Focus on establishing a brand the moment you start your e-commerce business. People trust brands and building trust in the first few years should be your primary focus. Don't stress over profits; focus on your online image. Sell at break-even if that means more reviews, more testimonials, more publicity for your company.
Marketing is where things usually go wrong. If you have little to no money, don't go starting with paid ads, nor should you go out and hire a marketing company that offers services for $250 a month. It will end bad nine out of ten times.
Your focus should be to build up your brand and reputation. Send out free samples to influencers and have them review your product. Eventually, you will start to gain traction, and profits will begin to show. Keep repeating the same process until you see $5,000 in profit per month. Once you hit that goal, you should now start experimenting with your marketing ideas.
To find influencers, you will manually search for them. Don't pay any fees if they ask. This is a numbers game so send your product for a review to anyone who agrees. If your product is awesome, they will want it and this will be an awesome indicator that your product will be a hot seller. If you're an influencer yourself with an engaged audience, use that to your benefit.
I'd also recommend checking out a blog post I wrote on how to sell more stuff - click here.
If you ever are thinking about hiring a marketing company, I'd also encourage you to read this post - click here.
Always remember the fundamentals
Bookmark this entire guide and come back to it whenever you are confused about something. These are the fundamentals of building a big brand on a low budget, and you will never want to forget them. Fundamentals will get you to the big leagues.
Look at it this way; in basketball, there is a proper way of shooting a basketball. If you are a shooting guard using the wrong shooting form for 20 years, you're going to miss out on a lot of awards, records, and opportunities. The same applies to business. If you don't learn the fundamentals, you will leave a lot of money on the table. Not only that, but it will take you longer to generate any sales, resulting in frustration.
Focusing on the fundamentals of the business will help you get small wins faster, which are vital to keeping you motivated, preventing you from eventually quitting. I know this is a lot to take in all at once, but if you keep working at this daily, it will start to become part of you.
Remember, every success story has a beginning.