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How to Start an Ecommerce Business

Ecommerce businesses come with several potential benefits, including low startup costs, an expansive customer base, and the potential to scale relatively easily. But is it really as easy as it seems to get an ecommerce business off the ground? It can be when you know the steps to take to start an ecommerce business that’s designed for success. In this guide, you’ll learn to do exactly that.

Why Starting an Ecommerce Business is Worth It 

Ecommerce is the modern way of doing business. Think about it: Do you spend more time shopping in stores or shopping online? 

Customers choose online shopping for its convenience and easy access to sales. Sign up for an email newsletter from a company, and you’ll usually get a discount to shop with them instantly.

Ecommerce businesses aren’t just convenient for shoppers, though. They’re also convenient for business owners who want a simple way to set up a store—you can skip the overhead costs and hassle of finding the ideal real estate for your business. Depending on your business model, you may not even need to hold inventory to sell products to customers (hello, dropshipping!). 

Sure, you can sell products on Etsy, eBay, and other online marketplaces. But having your own store on the web gives you complete control over how you sell, what you sell, and how you price your products.

Plus, you can sell to people across the globe if you choose by harnessing the power of the internet.

The Investment Needed to Start an Ecommerce Business

An ecommerce business can be one of the most affordable and quickest to start, but there are some ongoing costs you’ll need to think about, too.

Your biggest investment will likely be your inventory, depending on what you’re selling. However, if you plan to dropship, you won’t need to carry inventory and can cross that expense off your list.

Next is your ecommerce website builder. We recommend Wix as the best for most ecommerce businesses because of its affordability, professional templates, and easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder.

Wix home page

Wix’s ecommerce plans start at $27 per month, but you may want to bump up to the $59 per month plan for unlimited storage space, unlimited dropshipping products, and marketplace syndication. 

Remember that, by using Wix, you’re cutting out the need for web hosting and domain expenses, as it’s an all-inclusive platform. You also won’t need to worry about paying a web designer if you use a premade Wix template. 

Aside from your business website, you may also need to pay for your business entity setup and business licenses, depending on the requirements where you live. Each state has different license and business structure fees, so check with your state’s Secretary of State office for details.

You should also consider getting a business email address through Google Workspace starting at $6/month and a separate phone line to have a way for customers to contact your business directly.

Additional and ongoing investments for your ecommerce business might include:

  • Product photography
  • Initial launch marketing
  • Freelance writer for blogging and copywriting
  • Software for email marketing, customer relationship management, etc.
  • Professional insurance, like general liability or cyber liability
  • Accountant to manage your finances
  • Business bank account

Now, let’s walk through the steps to start an ecommerce business so that you can get on your way toward selling.

6 Steps to Start an Ecommerce Business

We’ve talked about some of the benefits of starting an ecommerce business and the potential investment to consider. Now, let’s learn how to get your business up and running.

Step 1 – Determine Your Unique Business Niche

How is your ecommerce business going to stand out? Your unique positioning is also known as a niche, which can make two similar businesses still offer something different to their customers.

For example, several online grocery stores and food delivery services are available. But Thrive Market aims to make healthy food more accessible to everyone by undercutting the prices of many of its competitors.

Image of family in kitchen next to message from Thrive Market co-founder and CEO

Shoppers looking for organic and healthier food options might choose Thrive Market over, say, Amazon’s grocery delivery. 

The best way to find your niche is to start big and work your way toward a narrowed idea.

Let’s say you know you want to sell products in the beauty niche. That’s the big picture to start with. 

Now, think about the type of beauty products you want to sell. Do you want to focus on hair products, cosmetics, skincare, or a combination of them?

Next, consider how you can narrow that category further. For example, you might focus on hair tools rather than a full range of shampoo, conditioner, serums, and tools for hair.

Finally, determine a unique position. What will set your business apart from the hundreds of others that sell hair tools?

You might decide to sell hair tools for curly hair or hair tools for professional salon artists.  

People looking specifically for hair tools for curly hair will probably be more inclined to shop with you than with a generalist beauty shop because you’ve positioned yourself as the expert for curly hair care.

Research is key to finding a winning niche.

Spend time looking at businesses within your big-picture niche to learn how they’ve inserted themselves into that niche in a different way. You can usually find helpful information about a company’s mission on its about page to guide your own distinctive ideas.

Step 2 – Create an Online Store with Wix

Setting up an online store for your ecommerce business should be the least of your worries. That’s why we recommend Wix for most ecommerce business owners. 

Wix ecommerce landing page

The platform is designed for virtually anyone to set up a professionally designed online shop within a few minutes. Start with a template, customize it, add your products and pages, and you can start selling.

Wix’s templates also target specific types of businesses to help you get started even quicker. For instance, a furniture or home decor store can use the home goods store template to start. 

Here’s how to sign up for Wix and create your store:

  1. Visit the Wix ecommerce site.
  2. Click Create Your Store to sign up and choose a plan, or get started for free.
  3. On the dashboard, choose a site type, like Online Store
  4. Click Edit Site to choose a template and edit your pages.

Don’t publish your website just yet. We’ll walk through legally setting up your business before finalizing your online store.

Step 3 – Set Up Your Business

Getting the legalities of your business in order before you start selling—or even coming up with products you want to sell—is a must. 

Some types of products come with legal restrictions regarding shipping, selling, or labeling that can affect how and to who you sell them.

To avoid getting into hot water later with any aspect of your business, get the help of a business consultant.

They can work with you to devise a business plan that includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • What you’ll sell
  • Who you plan to sell to
  • Where you sell and ship
  • A business description
  • Names of business partners
  • Marketing strategies
  • Financial plans and goals
  • Operational strategies
  • Supplier information

Your consultant can also advise you on the right business structure for your company, such as LLC or S corp, along with any licenses or permits you might need.

Check with your state or local government offices for more information about specific licenses and permits relating to your ecommerce business. 

Also, check on your business name to ensure that it isn’t already legally off the market. Search the USPTO’s trademark database to prevent using a trademarked name.

USPTO's trademark database with box to select a search option and another box underneath for additional search options

When it comes to forming that business structure, a business accountant can assist you with getting everything set up financially so that your business can pay the right amount of taxes on time. 

If formed a partnership or corporation or will hire employees for your business, you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Apply for an EIN with the IRS.

Step 4 – Work on Branding

Next up is making a name for your business through branding. Branding helps you create that ideal position in your niche that you settled on and allows customers to build a perception of your business.

It’s best to work with a professional marketer who’s experienced with business branding. Also, consider a designer who can help you with your logo, social media assets, and other graphic elements you’ll need for your website, social platforms, and content.

You can also use a tool like Canva to build these yourself using Canva’s range of photos, illustrations, and graphics.

Start with a template and tweak your graphics with your brand’s fonts, colors, messaging, and personality. 

Example of creating custom branding in Canva

Save your branding materials in a central location that’s easy to find and share, like a Google Drive folder, to create your branding kit.

Step 5 – List and Sell Your Products

You have products ready to sell, so it’s time to list them on your site. 

First, consider what products you’d like to start with.

Perhaps introducing your brand with a small inventory can allow you to build a strong audience and give them something to look forward to by gradually adding new products.

You’ll also get a feel for the online selling process by starting small and growing as you feel more comfortable and gauge the flow of business. 

With Wix, you can create new product pages to add photos, descriptions, and prices to your site.

This can become time-consuming with multiple products, but the product collections feature makes it easier. Collections are like categories for your products, giving you a simple way to organize everything.

It’s also helpful for deleting or archiving collections of products, such as for seasonal sales or limited-time launches.

To use it, go to the Collections tab on your account dashboard. Then, add the products you’d like to include in that collection. 

Now, you can add a collection name and image and move that collection where you’d like it to appear in your product listings.

Once products are on your site, preview how everything looks.

When you’re ready, hit Publish to let your ecommerce site go live.

Step 6 – Market Your Ecommerce Business

You’ve officially launched, but how do you bring in your first customer?

It starts with lead generation. An ecommerce business that focuses on optimized lead generation can cultivate new buying relationships in a relatively short amount of time. 

One of the best ways to do that is through blog content. 

Have a blog on your Wix site that answers questions your customers would tend to have. Then, use those blog posts to point to products that solve customers’ problems. 

You can also create hub pages on your site that work similarly, perhaps as detailed guides with product recommendations or tutorials. 

For example, a search for work from home office essentials leads to an Office Depot hub page entitled, “Working From Home? Here’s What to Buy.”

Office Depot hub page with listings for ergonomic chairs

On that page, readers find listings for ergonomic chairs, desks, storage solutions, and other necessities for a home office. Each product category links to the Office Depot page where customers can shop for that specific solution.

Web content marketing is just one piece of the puzzle to get you started. For continued success, you’ll want to pull in other forms of marketing, such as:

You may not need to use all of the above types of marketing. Instead, decide which ones work best for your specific business and continue to run with them. 

Next Steps Toward a Successful Ecommerce Business

Now, it’s up to you to keep drawing in new customers and building strong customer relationships to allow your ecommerce business to thrive.

CRM software can help you manage your customers’ data, hang onto their contact information, and analyze trends in customer behavior. It can also streamline your marketing efforts by allowing you to organize your customers by each step in your sales funnel.

Speaking of, learn how to create a successful sales funnel that guides customers toward purchasing your products. You’ll end up with a more strategic marketing plan tailored to your business and your customers’ needs.

Also, never stop improving your website. As your business grows, your traffic will increase, and your website will need to handle the influx of new customers and sales.

Optimize your website for speed and ease of use, and continuously monitor its performance. Pingdom has a free site speed test with suggestions for improvement. 

Finally, strive to release unique products that people need to come to you to buy, with the additional perk of excellent customer service. You might just find that these two simple things are what keep customers coming back.

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