How to Sell Online – The Complete Guide for Starting an eCommerce Business

How to Sell Online – The Complete Guide for Starting an Ecommerce Business

Shopping online is a must, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced multiple businesses to run online. It has shown just how important ecommerce is and how much potential there is in starting an ecommerce business.

So, if you’re considering moving into the online space as well, there are a few things you need to know to make it work. These are the tips on how to create and launch an ecommerce site for your business. They work whether you’re going full commerce, or you have a physical store and want to add e-commerce capabilities to it.

In this post, we will cover:

  • Types of ecommerce businesses
  • The foundations of a solid ecommerce business
  • The 5 key steps to starting an ecommerce business
  • Making it a success.

This is the ecommerce crash course to sell online. Let’s get started.

Types of eCommerce Businesses

Your ecommerce business model depends on how you intend to provide the product. Will you make, manufacture, wholesale, or dropship it/them? So, based on this, here are the types of ecommerce business you could start.

  1. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a popular ecommerce business you can consider. You set up a storefront, collect payment, and your supply handles inventory, warehousing, shipping, and delivery. However, in this model your suppliers make or break your business. If they’re too slow, or the product quality is subpar, you get the blame and the negative reviews.

But, if dropshipping is something you want to consider, then Oberlo or Shopify is a good option. You don’t need to worry about building a website and getting developers and designers. Everything is already available in one platform to get your online business started.

  1. Subscription businesses

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Dollar Shave Club or subscription boxes. This ecommerce business type is based on a subscription model with recurring billing.

  1. Private Labeling

This is where a company manufactures the items for you and sells it under your label. The arrangement can include either the manufacturer sending directly to your customers, selling through another site, or directly to you if you’re involved in warehousing.

  1. White Labeling

This is similar to private labeling except that this is a product already being sold on the market. It is just that you can now sell it under your own label. This is common in the beauty and wellness industries.

  1. Wholesaling and warehousing

This requires a lot of upfront investment because you’ll need to invest in warehouse space and inventory. This also requires you to manage the logistics of your business – product packaging and shipment, tracking customer shipments, etc.

The foundations of an ecommerce system

There are certain basic requirements for a good online presence when building an online business. Here are the foundation necessities to build a quality ecommerce business that is ready to make profits.

Storefront aka your online web presence

Your shop name and the design of your online store should help you stand out in the crowd.

Your images are important for helping you make the sale. So, make sure they’re of good quality and shows off your product to its advantage.

The words you use matter too. So, employ search engine optimization to help your site and product pages to show up online. But also focus on explaining to your website visitors why they should buy your product, and why buy from you and not someone else.

Your online presence should be suited to the type of business you want to do. For example, Shopify is one of the better platforms for dropshipping businesses.

A payment system

You need a system to collect payments, whether it be from credit cards, PayPal or another source of payment. Some new ecommerce businesses will try Stripe, Square or PayPal. There is also the option of applying for your own merchant account to handle transactions.

Whatever system you choose, make sure you’re accounting for sales taxes based on state requirements. Taxes for ecommerce businesses differ across stateliness. Plus, some cities have additional taxes. Generally, you have responsibility for sales taxes in your home state. But, there are also some products or businesses that warrant additional taxes in the customer’s state.

So, whatever payment system you invest in should allow for invoicing based on the requisite state tax requirements. You’re going to want to get this part right; otherwise you just may end up breaching a regulation. This is one of the reasons we like platforms such as Shopify. Because this process is built into the platform and doesn’t require any input from you on the back end. It automatically calculates the taxes for you. This is especially useful if you have sales tax nexus in more than one state.

Your business system (ERP)

Critical to an efficiently run business is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. An ERP is a management software that allows you to organize systems and automate a lot of back-end tasks. For example, an ERP can help you streamline your ordering and inventory management. Some dedicated ecommerce platforms already come with that system built in. If you’re moving to an independent website and hosting, then you’ll need to add an independent ecommerce-ERP integration to your website and business back-end processes.

Stock, inventory, order, purchasing

Depending on your product and business model, you’ll need to handle stocktaking, inventory management, ordering, and purchasing fulfillment. As your business grows, you will need to move away from manual handling of these areas. We recommend automating and maintaining this system in an electronic format from day one. It makes it easier for you to scale, especially where you already have processes in place.

Logistics (shipping)

Logistics deals with warehousing and shipping of the products sold. Even if you’re not the one handling this part of the process, you need to understand how it works so you can provide quality customer support. If your ecommerce business deals in digital products, then you need an order fulfilment system that gets the products to your customers on receipt of payment.

Now that you understand the foundation and general elements that go into building an online business, let’s look at the steps to get started.

5 steps to starting your ecommerce business

1.      Identify your ecommerce niche

Too many new online businesses lack focus. When you go on their website, there’s a variety of different products, none of which relate to each other in any shape or form. Just a haphazard collection of items.

This creates problems for optimization. If your website isn’t known for something, then search engine optimization (SEO) will be a difficult task. Strategic marketing will be even harder to accomplish.

So, start your ecommerce business by choosing a niche. For example, are you selling eco-friendly products? Or perhaps vegan-only items? Maybe you specialize in digital products. These are all ideas of broad niches that you can consider and which you can narrow down even further. These can also give you ideas for finding your ideal business area.

And like we had said earlier, you can start by choosing something you like. Or do some research online. See what products are popular and have a market.

2.      Set up your business

Now that you’ve identified what you’re going to sell and your target market, it’s time to get official.

  • Register your business. A recognizable brand is a good foundation to helping your business grow. But you need to protect your brand. So, once you’ve decided on your business name and brand (and maybe trademark if you want to go that far), you should take steps to register them.
  • Get your business license(s). Depending on your state and the type of ecommerce business you’ll be operating, you may need to get a license. If you’d like someone to guide you on the process of obtaining your business licenses, you can check out the Small Business Association or right here for ecommerce business consult.
  • Get an EIN. This is your Employer Identification Number (EIN), and it allows you to open a business bank account. As a small business owner or entrepreneur, one of the things you want to do is separate your personal from your business finances.
  • Get your brand essentials. These are like your logo, brand colors, etc. which can give you a distinct advantage in a crowded e-commerce field.

3.      Build out your website

The first thing in building out your website is to get a domain name for your store. You can also consider getting multiple versions close to your primary domain (e.g. .com, .net, .org), or other relevant URLs to what you’re selling for redirect purposes.

Now it’s to decide where to host your website. You can start out with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce or BigCommerce.

Or, if you want to build a website that you have total control, then a WordPress ecommerce website is a great option. If you go that route, you’ll need WordPress hosting. And here we also have a solution for you – WP Engine managed WordPress Hosting is perfect for new ecommerce users.

In setting up your ecommerce website, there are a few basic pages you should have.

  • Shop page. Even if your products are listed on your homepage, you should have a link in your menu to your shop.
  • About page. This is your chance to connect with prospective customers. Tell them who you are, why the business was started, and what’s in it for them.
  • Shipping & Returns. You should always have clear guidelines for shipping and returns. This keeps your customers happy.
  • Contact page. Your prospective and returning customers should always be able to reach you. So, whether it’s a phone number, an email address, or a form, give them the option to get in touch with you.
  • FAQ. You’ll probably get questions on your product. So, to head them off as well as improve your sales process, make sure to include an FAQ page on your website.

4.      Optimize your ecommerce website for sales

Now that your website is up and running, you want to optimize for conversions. This means paying attention to the words you use on your website. Otherwise, you won’t be able to make the sale. The images you have are great for catching the eye. But the words are what drive the final conversion.

So, everything on your site should be working together to get visitors to click that buy button. Optimization also helps with search engine rankings for your products and website.

5.      Market your online business

Now that you’ve got the business basics down pat and you have your website up and running, it’s time to start getting customers. And this means marketing and promotions.

Yes, some persons will make it seem like once you build your website, the customers will come. But that’s not the case.

You need to actively put work into getting your business in front of the audience that are most likely to buy. You can use any combination of the following strategies to start getting targeted traffic to your business website.

  • On-site SEO

SEO is still an incredibly powerful tool to drive business to your website. So, look at how to optimize your website content, your product descriptions, and using content marketing such as blog posts to drive traffic to your website.

  • Social Media Marketing

Your customers are probably on one or more of the many social media platforms. Pick the 1 or 2 that they’re most likely to be on and start promoting your business there. Don’t try to be in all places at once if you’re doing everything yourself. You’ll stretch yourself too thin and not get the kind of traction that can drive traffic to your business website.

  • Paid Advertising

From PPC campaigns to sponsored posts, influencer marketing, and Facebook and Instagram ads, there are a variety of options for driving paid traffic to your website.

  • Email marketing

When that traffic gets to your website, make sure you’re collecting their emails – whether or not you make the sale the first time they visit. If you don’t make the sale, you can always send later emails to encourage those on your list to return to your website and buy. So, make sure your website is set up to collect emails for your email list. ConvertKit is a great email marketing software to start collecting emails, supported by a lead generation tool like OptIn Monster.

  • Affiliate marketing

Another option is getting other persons to market your business in exchange for a share of the sales – affiliate marketing. You can choose to do so through an affiliate marketing network where you don’t have to manage the logistics of your affiliate program. Or you can create your own.

Making a success of your e-commerce business

Physical stores have closed due to the upheaval of the pandemic. Some may never re-open. And yes, there are a lot of persons seeking to join or are joining the ecommerce space. But a lot of them will fail because they didn’t put the planning into it. You more than likely won’t because you’ve read this blog post. This means you’re putting the work ahead of time and not proverbially flying by the seat of your pants.

What you do and how you do it determines your level of success in the ecommerce space.

If you’re starting from scratch selling online, then start with something you really like or that you’ve researched well. You’ll be more passionate about going out there and promoting the items you’re selling. You’ll also be able to develop as an expert in what you sell and start attracting more buyers.

Be pragmatic as you go along. Learn and adapt as you grow. And above all, start with a set-up that will allow you to scale as your business grows.

The good thing is you don’t have to do it all at one. Start small, building as you go along. It won’t become an overnight success, but if you follow these guidelines and put in the work, you’re much closer to building a profitable ecommerce business.

And if you want additional help to get you over this initial hurdle of setting up your business for success, request a consult and ecommerce strategy session here at Professional Hispano

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here: "Affiliate Marketing Disclosure"

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