One of the least costly ways to go into business, ecommerce can be a very attractive option for a bussing entrepreneur. Doing business online saves you the costs of establishing and maintaining a physical location.
Moreover, with options like drop shipping, you can avoid the costs of keeping stock on hand as well. Still, there are some costs entailed and there are some things you need to know to make a strong go of it, so lets take a look at what you need to do to start an ecommerce business.
Find a Need
Every going concern has at least one element in common with all others. They address some necessity experienced by their customers. In other words, they found a need and set about filling it. To make it as easy as possible on yourself, choose an area in which you have some familiarity, so the learning curve will be less steep in terms of getting up to sped on the products you‘ll offer.
Get to Know Your Customer
Of course, this means you’ll also need to figure out who has that need and get to know as much as you can about them. It helps to think in terms of your ideal customer. Who is this person? Where do they live? Does their gender matter? How much education do they have? What is their income level? Where do they spend time online? The answers to these questions will help you market your ecommerce business.
Get to Know Your Competitors
Odds are if you’ve found a rich vein to mine, others will have staked it out as well. When you’re considering how to start an ecommerce business, you’ve got to get to know the players against whom you’ll compete. Who are they? What are their primary strengths? What can you learn from them? What are their weaknesses? How can you use them to your advantage? How do they market themselves? Where are they sourcing the products they sell?
How Will You Supply Your Customers?
Where will you source the products you offer? Will you need to keep stock on hand to fulfill orders quickly? If so, where will keep your stash? Are you going to make the product yourself? What equipment, materials and facilities will you need to accomplish this? How will you get your products to your customers? Will you need to set up accounts with a logistics service? Are you going to use UPS, FedEX or the Post Office? What kind of packaging will you need?
Name Your Business and Secure a URL
You’ll need to do some research before you settle on a name for your business. It needs to be something simple, readily associated with what you do and most of all — available. The last thing you want to do is choose a name, build your entire business and website based upon it, only to learn somebody else is already using it for the same thing.
Check your Secretary of State’s website, as well as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure the name you want is obtainable. You’ll also need to register it as your domain name. The smart play here is to see if it’s available for that purpose first, then look to see if another business is using it in some other way. With so many names already registered, getting the domain name will be the most arduous aspect of this process.
Once you settle upon a name, you’ll want to register it and trademark it yourself. This will prevent others from usurping it after you’ve done all the hard work of establishing it.
Get Your Legalities in Order
You’ll probably need to get a business license and you’re going to need to get a taxpayer ID number with the IRS. You’ll need an employer ID number too, if you’re going have people working for you.
Operating out of your home could also require certain permits. You’ll also need to make sure you’re operating within the dictates of the codes, covenants and restrictions if you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association.
Find a Platform/Build Out Your Site
There are more ecommerce platforms on offer today than you could ever research all in one go. Universally agreed upon as being among the best are BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, SquareSpace, Wix and WooCommerce.
Each of these offers templates you can use to conduct all of the heavy lifting. They can also be customized to help you establish your own brand identity. Costs, features and the levels of provided assistance vary, so take your time here to find the one most closely aligned with your needs.
Market Your Site
The best prices, fastest delivery mechanism and the single most generous return policy ever presented will all be moot until the people who need you know you exist. This is where that research you conducted on your ideal customer and competitors will come in handy.
Knowing your customer’s needs, traits and habits will help you determine where to go to find them online. This, in turn, will enable you to craft offers and messaging capable of attracting them to your site. Paying attention to the way your established competitors conduct these activities will help you decide upon your best course of action.
Email and social media are where you’ll find the best return on the dollars you spend in this regard. You must also ensure your SEO game is on point. It’s always best to start marketing before your site goes live to build anticipation, particularly in social media. You can have a drawing or hold a contest to drum up interest. Offering an opening day special is a useful ploy as well.
Knowing what you need to do to start an ecommerce business and following through on these tips will help you get started with things in order. This way, you can focus your early efforts on running the business, rather than going back and implementing steps you missed.
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