Are you a small business owner who is consider expanding your revenue channel through e-commerce? Today, as more and more consumers are opting to shop online, setting up an e-commerce website for your business could be the key to expanding your reach and growing your sales.
According to Statista, the global e-commerce sales is expected to reach the $6.9 trillion by 2024.
This in itself presents a huge opportunity for small businesses owners to tap into an ever growing market and compete with larger retailers.
However, starting an e-commerce website can be intimidating, especially if you have little experience navigating the digital realm.
Thankfully these days, starting an e-commerce website isn't as complicated as it used to be. With a bit of planning and some tips, you can launch a successful online store that can attract customers and boosts your sales.
In this blog post, we'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to start an e-commerce website for your small business in 2023.
1. Define your e-commerce business idea
Before jumping straight in to launch your own e-commerce website, it’s important to define what the scope of the business you want to create.
You need to ask yourself questions like:
- What type of products or services would you be offering?
- Who are your target customers?
- What’s unique about your business that will set it apart from competitors?
Considering these questions would help you decide what sort of e-commerce platform and features are the best fit for your business that you want to scale.
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Set up your business
When setting up your business, it is vital to consider factors such as the business structure, tax structure, and laws and regulations specific to the industry and country that you operate in.
Determining the appropriate business structure is important because this decision would affects factors such as legal liability, taxation, and operational flexibility.
Common options for business structures would include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, and corporation.
Each structure has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's crucial to research and understand each structure before making a choice.
Understanding your country's tax structure is vital for compliance and financial planning too. Different business structures have varying tax obligations, such as self-employment taxes for sole proprietors or corporate taxes for corporations.
Additionally, knowing the tax incentives and deductions available for specific industries or business activities can help you in your tax planning. This could help you with some potential savings and access to government grants in the future.
Furthermore, being aware of the laws and regulations relevant to the chosen industry is crucial for operating within legal boundaries.
These regulations may include licensing requirements, health and safety standards, environmental regulations, and employment laws.
Compliance with these regulations not only ensures the smooth operation of the business but also helps build trust and credibility with customers, suppliers, and stakeholders.
Source or manufacture your products
When starting your new business, one of the crucial decisions is whether to source products from suppliers or develop and manufacture your own products.
Both approaches have their advantages and considerations, and understanding them can help make an informed choice.
When should you considering sourcing products
Sourcing products from suppliers offers several benefits. Firstly, it provides access to a wide range of products already available in the market.
This give you the flexibility in choosing products that align with market trends and consumer demands. Sourcing also leverages the expertise of established suppliers who have efficient supply chains and can ensure timely delivery of products.
Additionally, sourcing products can be cost-effective, especially when dealing with large-scale suppliers. It eliminates the need for significant upfront investments in manufacturing equipment, facilities, and labor.
This can be advantageous for entrepreneurs with limited capital or those who prefer to focus on marketing, distribution, and other aspects of the business.
When should you consider manufacturing
On the other hand, developing and manufacturing your own product offers unique advantages as well.
Firstly, it allows for complete control over the product's design, quality, and branding. This control can be crucial for creating a unique value proposition and differentiating the business from competitors.
It also provides the opportunity to innovate and customize products according to specific market needs and customer preferences.
Moreover, developing your own product can result in higher profit margins. By eliminating the costs associated with intermediaries, such as suppliers and distributors, the business retains a larger portion of the revenue.
This can be particularly advantageous in industries where profit margins are typically slim.
However, developing and manufacturing your own product comes with certain challenges.
It requires significant upfront investment in research and development, prototyping, manufacturing facilities, and skilled labor.
Plus, it also involves taking on additional responsibilities, such as quality control, supply chain management, and regulatory compliance.
Ultimately, the choice between sourcing products and developing your own product depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, available resources, market dynamics, and long-term strategic goals.
Some entrepreneurs may find sourcing more suitable for quickly entering the market and testing demand, while others may prefer the control and potential for differentiation that comes with developing their own product.
2. Build your website
Before you can begin to build your website, it’s important to establish some clear objectives and understand the key elements of an e-commerce website.
For instance, some key areas of consideration is that the website should be designed to offer a seamless, user-friendly experience and it should include some essential features such as product search, order tracking, payment options, secure checkout system, and customer service.
When it comes to building an entirely new e-commerce website, there are several options available in the market. You could opt for DIY (do-it-yourself) website builders such as Magento, WooCommerce, or Cococart.
Professional web developers can also create a custom website according to your specifications.
Below we explore some considerations you'll need to do before choosing the right platform to start your e-commerce business.
Choose your content management system
Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is essential for creating and managing an e-commerce website.
A CMS is a web application that allows you to create, edit, and manage digital content such as text, images, and videos.
Popular CMSs include WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, and Magento and many of these include marketplaces with an abundance of plugins features that may fit what you're looking for.
When selecting a CMS for your e-commerce website , it’s important to consider the features you need, the complexity of your website, and your budget.
For instance, if you might need an advanced features such as product catalogs and inventory management system or bulk discounting, you may require a more powerful CMS such as Magento.
Alternatively, if you’re running a simple online store with a few products, an open source platform such as WooCommerce or Shopify may be more suitable.
There are also options for a no code e-commerce store like Cococart. This is a great option for business owners that don't have a depth of technical knowledge or experience with web development or even the time to build a website from scratch.
One of the main advantages of a no-code e-commerce store is that the set up is relatively cheap and fast.
Create a web hosting account
Creating an account with a web hosting and domain registration service is essential for launching your e-commerce website.
When choosing a web host, it’s important to consider the technical specifications of the server, such as storage capacity, bandwidth, and operating system.
It’s also important to look for features such as secure checkout and customer support services.
When registering your domain name, make sure that the name is unique, memorable, and easy to spell.
Consider using keywords in the domain name that are related to your business.
It’s also important to check if the domain is available on popular search engines such as Google and Bing.
Set up your e-commerce website
Once you have chosen the right content management system and registered your web hosting and domain name, it’s time to set up your e-commerce website.
The setup process may vary depending on the CMS you’ve selected, but generally it involves installing the necessary software, setting up payment methods, adding products to the product catalog, creating customer accounts and setting up shipping options.
Some additional factors that would affect your time to launch your own website are:
Design and user experience
Create an appealing and user-friendly website design that aligns with your brand identity. Consider factors like navigation, intuitive layout, clear product categorization, and responsive design to provide an excellent user experience across different devices.
With the increasing use of mobile devices for online shopping, optimize your e-commerce website for mobile responsiveness. Ensure the website layout, images, and checkout process are mobile-friendly to provide a seamless experience to mobile users.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Implement effective SEO strategies to improve your website's visibility in search engine results. Conduct keyword research, optimize product descriptions and metadata, create unique and compelling content, and build high-quality backlinks to drive organic traffic to your website.
Additionally, you can consider no code e-commerce website builders that you could easily set up in a couple of minutes.
Create product listings
Creating product listings on your e-commerce website is an important step in launching your business.
To ensure that customers can quickly and easily find their desired products, it’s important to create detailed product listings.
When creating product listings, include a clear description of the item, relevant keywords, accurate pricing information, available sizes and colors, and high-quality images.
Provide clear description of your items
Providing a clear description of your items in your product listing is extremely important for your e-commerce site because it helps potential customers make an informed decision before making a purchase.
If your product descriptions are vague or incomplete, it can lead to confusion and frustration for the customer, ultimately resulting in lost sales.
Detailed descriptions help customers understand what they are buying, what it looks like, how it works, and what benefits it provides. This leads to a more informed decision before customers complete their purchase.
Additionally, clear descriptions also improve your search engine rankings and make it easier for potential customers to find your products through search engines like Google or Bing.
Use high quality product images
Utilizing high-quality product images is critical when building and launching a successful e-commerce website as it is the first impression potential customers get of the product.
If the images are poor quality or do not highlight the product's key features, it may deter customers from making a purchase. Customers want to feel confident about their purchase and showcasing the product in the best possible way will help to build trust and increase sales.
Ultimately, taking the time to invest in high-quality product images can make a significant difference in the success of an e-commerce website.
Build trust through product reviews
Product reviews can be a great way to build trust with potential customers. Allowing detailed product reviews and ratings can show customers that you are committed to providing accurate information so they can make the best purchase decision.
Figure out order fulfillment
Order fulfillment is an essential step in running a successful e-commerce business. It is important to figure out the best method for order fulfillment, based on the needs of your business and customer demands.
You can consider self-fulfillment, dropshipping, or third-party logistics (3PL) services.
With self-fulfilling orders, you are responsible for packing and shipping orders. You may need to purchase additional packaging supplies.
Self-fulfillment involves managing the entire fulfillment process in-house, where the business owner or their team handles tasks such as order processing, packaging, and shipping directly from their own facility or warehouse.
Dropshipping is another fulfillment method that eliminates the need to keep inventory on hand, as orders are shipped directly from the suppliers to your customers.
It's a fulfillment model where the business owner doesn't hold inventory but instead relies on suppliers or wholesalers to fulfill orders on their behalf.
Finally, you can outsource order fulfillment to a 3PL provider. This is an especially useful option for businesses with high-volume orders or those that require more specialized shipping and handling services.
The 3PL provider takes care of shipping and logistics, including selecting the appropriate shipping carrier, generating shipping labels, and arranging for timely delivery to the customer's address. They may have negotiated shipping rates, which can benefit the business owner.
Set up payment methods
When integrating payment methods into their e-commerce store, business owners need to consider a few key factors.
Firstly, they should understand their customers' preferences and choose payment options that align with their target audience.
Additionally, ensuring the security of customer payment information is crucial, so they should select payment gateways that comply with industry standards and implement extra security measures.
The cost of different payment methods should be evaluated, considering transaction fees, setup fees, and any additional charges.
Compatibility with the e-commerce platform is essential, as is offering globally recognized payment options for international customers.
A seamless user experience, reliable support, and future scalability should also be taken into account.
3. Market your new business
When marketing a new eCommerce store, business owners should consider several key factors.
Firstly, it is important to clearly define the target audience and develop a strong brand identity with a unique selling proposition (USP).
If you're just starting out and don't want to spend too much on hiring a professional designer to build your brand identity, consider using AI tools such as Brandmark or Canva to quickly build something real quick.
Additionally, optimizing the website for search engines and creating content that resonates with your target customers can help drive organic traffic to the site.
Social media is also a powerful marketing tool for e-commerce businesses, providing an opportunity to reach potential customers and build relationships.
Paid social campaigns can be effective, allowing businesses to reach highly targeted audiences or retarget warm audience at scale.
Another channel to pay attention to for your marketing is email marketing.
Email marketing is a powerful tool for small businesses to reach their customers and prospects. It is cost-effective, easy to track, and provides the opportunity to nurture relationships with existing customers and potential new ones.
Lastly, tracking analytics and making data-driven decisions allow for continuous improvement of marketing strategies.
Having the right analytics in place is critical for any business to understand and measure customer behavior.
For an e-commerce business, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as website traffic, conversion rates, and average order value will help to identify areas that need improvement or optimization. By tracking the customer journey from start to finish, businesses can gain insights into what works and what doesn’t.
Building an e-commerce store for your small business can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and strategies in place, you can have a successful website up and running in no time.
4. Tips for starting an e-commerce business
Starting an e-commerce business can be an exciting venture, but it's important to lay a solid foundation for success.
One crucial tip for beginners is to start simple. Instead of overwhelming yourself with a wide range of products, focus on a niche or a select few items that you are passionate about or have expertise in.
By starting small, you can refine your processes, understand your target market better, and establish a strong brand identity.
When starting out designing and building an e-commerce website is a key step for businesses looking to sell products online.
Your website needs to be user-friendly, secure, and easy to navigate. Start by considering the important parts of your website, like organized categories, payment options, loyalty programs, and shipping flexibility.
If you are in the market for one right now, consider using Cococart.
Cococart is an all-in-one solution for small business owners looking to take their business online. It includes a suite of powerful features like bookings, ordering platform, marketing tools like email, customer loyalty programs, and analytics.
Pricing per month start only at $5.
Build a loyal following
Building a loyal customer base is crucial for the long-term success of your e-commerce business. Happy and satisfied customers not only bring repeat business but also become brand advocates who can help spread the word about your store.
One effective way to cultivate loyalty is by providing exceptional customer service.
Respond promptly to inquiries, address concerns, and go the extra mile to ensure a positive shopping experience.
Personalize your interactions and follow up with customers to show that you value their patronage.
Another strategy to foster loyalty is through rewards and loyalty programs. Offer incentives such as exclusive discounts, freebies, or early access to new products.
Encourage customers to join your mailing list and regularly engage with them through personalized emails or newsletters.
By building strong relationships with your customers, you can create a community around your brand and encourage repeat business.
Invest in multichannel sales strategy
To maximize your e-commerce business's reach and potential, it's essential to invest in multichannel selling.
While having a well-optimized website is crucial, expanding your presence on other platforms can significantly boost your sales and visibility.
Consider selling your products on established online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. These platforms already have a large customer base, allowing you to tap into a wider audience.
Additionally, leverage social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to showcase your products and engage with potential customers.
Each channel provides unique opportunities to connect with different demographics, so it's important to tailor your approach accordingly.
Consider signing up for pop up events and local markets to showcase your products in person, you may or may not make bank from these events, most importantly you are able to get your product out there and speak to customers directly.
Managing multiple channels may require more effort, but it can lead to increased sales and brand exposure.
In conclusion, starting an e-commerce business requires careful planning and implementation. By starting simple, focusing on exceptional customer service, and investing in multichannel selling, you can lay a solid foundation for success.
Remember, building a successful e-commerce business takes time and dedication, so stay committed to continuous improvement and adapt to changing market trends.