I created The Pay At Home Parent in February of 2018 to help you be a successful home-based business owner, blogger or side hustler. As a wife, mom and frugal homemaker, I still make a full-time income on a part-time work schedule and I know that you can too!
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Starting an e-commerce business from scratch is easy. Ensuring that your business succeeds—not so much.
Studies estimate more than 25% of the world’s population will shop online in 2019. That’s 1.92 billion people. With a massive online market to cater your e-commerce business to, why wouldn’t you succeed?
For starters, many e-commerce businesses fail because their creators don’t take the right steps in their business. Additionally, it takes an investment of time and money to make it work. So if you have neither time nor money to start an e-commerce business, then maybe it’s not right for you. If you’re willing to invest, then keep reading to learn how to start an e-commerce business the right way!
How to Start a Successful E-commerce Business in 10 Steps
If you’re ready to start a business online selling products, then let’s get started.
1. Make a Business Plan
You can’t launch a successful business without a plan. So your very first step is to make a complete business plan. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. With the right template, you can create a complete rough draft of your business plan today. If you need a template to get started, sign up for my free email course that walks you through how to start a business from A to Z. You’ll receive a business plan template that you can use to create your plan.
2. Select a Niche
Choose a niche for your e-commerce website that you’re passionate about in some way. In order to be successful online, you’ll need to get up close and personal with the products you sell and their applications. From writing tutorials to in-depth product reviews, you’re going to tire of your niche quickly if it doesn’t interest you. So choose wisely and get to know your niche and the target audience that enjoys the things you’ll sell. That way you can build lasting relationships with returning customers.
3. Research Your Competitions
Selling online requires more than simply listing a product on a website and watching the sales pour in. To start an e-commerce business from scratch, you’ll need to know who you’re up against. Who are the top players in your niche, selling the same (or similar products)? Those are the businesses that you’ll want to know inside and out. Once you understand how your competition gets traffic to their website and makes sales, you can mirror their strategies. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it’s already been done for many years!
4. Choose an E-commerce Platform and Create a Website
There are many e-commerce platforms that will work for your business, but choosing the right one from the start could save you hassle and money in the long run. The good thing is that you can always switch platforms (or hosts) when you outgrow them—the bad thing is that it can be costly to do so. Instead of blindly guessing which e-commerce platforms are best, consider choosing one of these based on your budget and plans.
Zoey is an e-commerce platform built for online store owners who want a DIY solution. Instead of hiring a web developer to create your store for a high price, you can create your own beautiful store using one of their premade, sleek e-commerce templates. Zoey is not the cheapest option, so you’ll want to be ready to invest a minimum of $299 per month into your store if you choose them. You can start with a free trial to see if it’s right for you.
Shopify is a popular e-commerce platform for startups. They too have a repertoire of beautiful themes that you can customize to fit your brand. They currently offer a free training on how to start a successful drop shipping business.
WordPress is an extremely popular platform for bloggers and service business owners, but they also offer tools to list and sell products on your site. It’s not nearly as e-commerce focused as Zoey or Shopify, but you can’t beat the price. The platform itself is free, and you can often find a free theme that meets your standards as well. You will need to self-host your website for a low monthly cost of $3.95 using a company like Siteground.
5. Source Your Products
You’ll need to choose whether you plan to drop ship or stock your products.
Drop shipping allows you to skip the hassle of purchasing, labeling, storing, and packing your products for shipment. When you select this option, you virtually partner with a manufacturer and have them ship the product directly to your customers.
Locally stocking your products is the other option, and it has its benefits if you can swallow the hands-on labor and upfront purchase orders. When you stock your own products, you have the opportunity to rebrand items and make them your own. You may be selling yet another pair of sunglasses, but when you put your awesome label on it, you’ve just set your self apart from your competition. You can also stock and sell products by other popular brands while you build your own brand awareness.
6. Build Your Brand
Whether you drop ship or private label your items with your own branding, it’s still good to build brand awareness around your business. That way when you do decide to test the waters of branding your own product, you have your foot in the door. Private labeling products with your own brand typically brings in the highest profit margin. And when you’re dealing with an e-commerce business, you’ll want to snag the highest profit margins you can in order to cover your overhead costs and earn a decent paycheck.
You can build brand awareness by creating a logo that stands out, having a uniform, beautiful web design, and becoming well-known among your target market. When you list products to sell, don’t stop at a brief product description, but set your brand apart and create helpful tutorials, product reviews, and videos so that your name stands out in your niche.
7. Build a Social Media Following
If your target market hangs out on Facebook, then you should too. If they’re loving Pinterest, then you better get comfy there. It’s important to build a following wherever you expect to find your potential customers. That way when it’s time to introduce a new product, you have many excited followers waiting to hear from you. Keep them up-to-date on practical news, reviews, and information related to your niche, and they’ll be loving you on social media.
8. List and Sell Your Products
Now it’s time to visit your newly created e-commerce website and list your products. As soon as you publish your first product on your website, you’re ready to make sales! Make sure to use your social media channels to boost visits to your brand new store and encourage people to share with friends. A brand new e-commerce business takes time to start earning a decent income, so stick with it, and keep listing those products!
9. Advertise Your Business
As you probably know, hoards of customers won’t flood to your store and buy your product out of nowhere. Before you’ve built a customer base, you’re going to need to promote your business in the right places. Depending on your niche, you can advertise on Facebook, Pinterest, Google, or other places to get your products in front of potential customers.
10. Learn to Better Your Business
Even when your store is created and products are listed, it’s never really complete. You have to be willing to review the stats and trends and replicate the strategies that work. You can always make your business better by using the past to dictate the future of your e-commerce business. So don’t give up and leave your store to run itself. Keep up with the competition and current trends in your market and use them to make your business better every day.
Three Ways to Make Your E-commerce Store More Efficient
A common challenge among solo entrepreneurs who work from home is that they lack the necessary manpower to tackle every issue that arises. This, of course, leads to problems with various components of the business. Although this is a difficult challenge to tackle, it is certainly not impossible. Here are a few ways to run a more efficient e-commerce business from home.
1. Cut Lead Time
When it comes to supplying their product, the dilemma that new businesses often face is the amount of lead time between shipments. In order to remedy this situation, you don’t actually need a time machine, but you do have to go back to the moment when you were initially shopping for manufacturers. This will allow you to place yourself once more in the mindset you had when you were looking for the best and fastest deal.
In the beginning, you might have had to settle for a contract that was less than stellar, and now it leaves you with either too much or too little inventory on hand. Having excess inventory can present issues for your business. That’s why you should go back to the negotiation table and seek ways to receive faster product production while lowering the amount of product you’re required to order.
2. Get Better Shipping Deals
Regardless of the volume of orders you receive, it won’t matter if you lose most of your profit to shipping costs. So, what can you do? Raising the prices you charge is problematic for various reasons. The best way to approach this issue is to first look at how you package your items. Boxes can be heavy and bulky, which can increase the postage amount for each of your deliveries. Instead, look at alternative packaging such as padded envelopes. If you absolutely need a box, you should consider purchasing custom-made boxes that can protect your item without increasing your postage due to the length and width.
3. Outsource Customer Service
If you are the only employee in your business, it can be extremely difficult to handle logistics, packaging and customer support. Outsourcing your customer support would free up your time and shed a positive light on your company that could enhance your credibility. Note that you should always conduct your due diligence in order to hire a call center company that represents your values.
Being able to run an e-commerce business from home is the dream of many people. However, this dream comes with a variety of daunting challenges. Utilize the tips listed above in order to avoid some of the common pitfalls of running an e-commerce business from home.
E-commerce Awaits—Are You Ready to Start an Online Store?
Now you know how to start an e-commerce business, but the question is, “Are you ready?” Only you can decide when it’s time to jump in and get started. So start your business plan, choose an e-commerce platform, and start listing your products and making sales. You won’t know just how successful you can be in your new business until you dive in and give it your all.