More of us are shopping online than ever before. Daily life has become more integrated with the digital world, considering the growing accessibility to the internet and mobile devices.
Add in a global pandemic that prevented people from going out for several months, and you get retail e-commerce sales amounting to 4.9 trillion USD worldwide. Buying things online and waiting for your packages to arrive is more convenient than going out to the shops.
If you’re considering starting your own business, now is an excellent time to enter the industry and set up an e-commerce shop. Here’s how you can get started.
Decide What You Want To Sell
Before setting up a store, you must decide what you want to sell. E-commerce is a pretty broad category, and there’s room to sell nearly anything to your customers. Some popular varieties are:
- Beauty, health, personal, and household care
- Toys, hobbies, and DIY
- Foods and beverages
- Media (books, movies, video games, etc.)
Selling is selling. However, each category may require specific handling. For example, food and beverages might have different storage requirements than furniture items.
It’s also an excellent bonus to sell something you are passionate or knowledgeable about. This way, you can answer customers’ questions and provide better quality service.
Cover Your Legal Bases
The internet might seem like a lawless place at times. But you must still comply with the law to establish an online store. Covering your legal bases helps you build legitimacy as a business and avoid future problems with the law.
You can start by establishing a business entity in your chosen state, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation. It’s also essential to apply for relevant permits, licenses, or certifications for your business.
Consult legal counsel, especially if you’re not very well-versed in the legalities of setting up an online business.
Find a Niche
Allocating the time to conduct market research and settle under a specific niche will help your chances of success.
A market niche will serve as a guide as to what your pricing, inventory, marketing, or customer service could look like. It permits you to focus on your audience and find specific ways to gain and keep their patronage.
Market research helps you delve into the industry you wish to enter, thus better preparing you for astute business decisions. It enables you to understand your audience and your competitors better.
Create a Business Plan
Many people skip this step, but a business plan guides you through starting and managing your business. It’s also an essential document if you ever need to secure non-personal funding for your business.
There is no single method for crafting a business plan. What’s important is that it makes sense and meets your business needs. Below are some sections you may want to include:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Product line
- Sales and marketing strategy
- Funding request
- Financial projections
Plan Your Inventory
Every shop needs something to sell. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to find suppliers for your business. You have many options at this stage, depending on what you plan to sell. Do you plan to sell ready-made items? Will you be working with a designer or manufacturer?
It’s best to contact various suppliers or manufacturers and compare prices. You could find them online through a quick Google search or visit trade shows relevant to your industry. Finding the right supplier will ensure consistent and high-quality products for your online store.
Set up Your Shop
When setting up your online store, you have two options: create an account on online marketplaces (e.g., Etsy, eBay, Amazon, etc.) or create a website through open-source software.
The former is simple to do, even for people who don’t have a lot of technical know-how in web development. However, these sites often take out a percentage of your earnings since you use their platform to make money.
The latter is a bit more complex, but building your website gives you more control and makes your shop look more professional. But, you will be required to pay for web hosting, especially if you want a custom domain name.
Market Your Business
Now that your online shop is up and running, it’s time to let everyone know about it. There are many ways to advertise, and you can get creative here.
Social media is the cheapest and most efficient way to promote your business today. Creating an account and building a following is entirely free, and paid advertising is still pretty affordable, even for small businesses.
Different marketing strategies can incur varying costs. The bigger you get, the more you can spend on advertising.
Starting an online store can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a new business owner. But with proper planning, dedication, and the many tools at your disposal, you’re sure to find success in the e-commerce world.