Many entrepreneurs have gained independent success by starting an online ecommerce business. There are many ways to start an ecommerce business, whether through your own website, drop shipping, or launching on a marketplace (Amazon, Walmart, etc.). It can be a challenging process but also rewarding.    

Here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. The first step in starting an online business is to decide what you want to sell. Consider your skills, interests, and the needs of your target market when choosing a product or service. This often is the most challenging part of starting a new online business.
  2. Once you have an idea of what you want to sell, it’s important to do market research to ensure that there is demand for your product or service. This can involve looking at competitors, analyzing industry trends, and conducting customer surveys. Thoroughly research your competition to understand the scope of the opportunity, pricing, margin, and initial capital outlay.
  3. Create a business plan that reflects a detailed roadmap for your business that outlines your goals, target market, marketing and sales strategies, financial projections, and other important information. Having a clear plan to guide your decisions and help you stay on track is important.
  4. There are several different business structures, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company (LLC). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the one that best fits your needs is essential. Choose a logo, name, and set up your online store
  5. Depending on your location and business structure, you may need to register your business with the government. This typically involves obtaining a business license or permit and registering for taxes.
  6. Sourcing your product will take different paths based on whether you plan to manufacture or purchase the product through wholesale companies. Deciding whether to source domestically or from overseas plays a more significant role, as challenges to the supply chain can significantly impact your business. Additionally, understanding the lead time for your product; how much will be needed in inventory will affect your financial forecast. It’s a good idea to secure more than one manufacturer, especially if one can be domestic or overseas. Your local manufacturer can be used as a backup. So, if orders from overseas are late or incorrect, you can fall back on your local supplier. They are often more expensive, but it’s better to keep products stocked and customers happy than have them wait for overseas shipments.
  7. You’ll need a website or storefront to sell your products or services online. There are several options for creating a website, including using a website builder or hiring a web developer. Today there are many shopping cart platforms and once you select one make sure your 3PL partner is a true 3PL for Shopify, 3PL for BigCommerce, 3PL for Magento or 3PL for WooCommerce and seamlessly communicates to your shopping cart in real-time. You’ll also want to set up social media accounts to promote your business and interact with customers.
  8. You’ll need to set up a payment processing system to accept payments from customers. Several options are available, including credit card processors, online payment gateways, and mobile payment systems.
  9. Pricing your product can be difficult and has to be approached differently than in the past. Depending on the product category, a multiplier of your cost would be the typical way to position your product. The cost should typically include landed cost, marketing, admin, and support, to name a few. In today’s marketplace, that may not be sufficient and require continuous evaluation of pricing, competition, sales, promotions, etc. 
  10. Once your business is up and running, promoting it to attract customers is crucial. This can involve creating marketing campaigns, building a customer email list, and using social media and other online platforms to reach potential customers. Social media influencers have become prominent in recent years and can be beneficial. However, the number of influencers has increased exponentially, and most won’t add value to your brand. Initially, it might be best to become the spokesperson or hire someone with the skills to represent the brand you are building.
  11. Get found by customers when you optimize your website for search engine visibility by creating content that uses relevant keywords and link building. It would be best if you also optimized for usability by ensuring your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate.
  12. Customer support becomes an integral part of your company’s success. Initially, you may do this yourself to ensure the appropriate level of customer satisfaction, product feedback, and building a repetitive client base. 
  13. Managing profitability and understanding all the costs involved will be crucial in the initial start-up phase as the first eighteen months will determine your business’s success. Pay attention to the details and understand where every penny goes. 
  14. Initially, many entrepreneurs will have to wear many, if not all, the hats to launch their business. As the business grows, your ability to manage all the aspects diminishes. Always consider “what is the best use of your time” to ensure resources are managed efficiently. You will often find some of the work should be outsourced. Over time, this decision alone can define your ultimate success.
  15. Ask for help early and often. Many resources can guide you to minimize poor decisions because, ultimately, the number of bad decisions will determine your level of success. Consider asking experts to assist you in critical areas such as marketing, accounting, customer service, and product fulfillment.

Starting an online business requires hard work, dedication, and persistence, but with the right planning and execution, it can be a rewarding and lucrative venture. Make sure early on you partner up with a fulfillment services provider (3PL) that integrates with your ecommerce shopping cart platform.