Online businesses are flourishing, and ecommerce is set to become a $476 billion market by 2024. There’s no better time to start selling online and turn your business idea into a lucrative reality—and the process doesn’t have to be complex. Learning how to start an ecommerce business can be as simple as understanding six key steps.
This beginner’s guide will walk you through the tips you need to take your products to launch and start your path toward an ecommerce brand you’re passionate about.
Table of Contents
- Clarify Your Business Idea
- Select a Business Name
- Create Your Brand Identity
- Choose an Ecommerce Platform
- Outline Your Order Fulfillment Process
- Promote Your Launch
How To Start an Ecommerce Business
Creating a successful ecommerce business is a process that blends strategy and logistics together. While you do need to be hands-on to set yourself up for success, the process is far easier and more cost-effective than launching a physical store.
Without the need to deal with rent, utilities, and maintenance or commit to a set schedule, an online store can lead to a better return on investment and greater flexibility. What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity to reach millions more potential customers—all of whom could become loyal to your brand.
Follow this simple, no-nonsense process step-by-step, and you’ll know how to start an ecommerce business without wasting time.
1. Clarify Your Business Idea
If you’re interested in launching a brand new ecommerce business, you may already have your basic business idea in mind. But turning your idea into a business plan with enormous potential for profit—a plan that naturally steers you toward the right business decisions—takes a little more refinement. You need to expand on your central idea and clarify these three things:
Your Products or Services
What are you selling anyway? Whether you plan to sell physical products, digital products, or your own expertise, you need to know what you plan to offer customers when you launch. There’s no need to come up with brand new product or service ideas that never existed before, but you should consider what you want to offer and make sure there’s actually a viable target market for it.
For example, if your goal is to sell jewelry, clarify what that will look like. Will you sell necklaces, bracelets, and earrings? Will you focus on selling rings? Will you use real, precious gems or craft them from everyday metal? To answer these questions, you may need to think about what materials or completed products you can actually access and what types of jewelry are trending or in-demand.
Your Business Niche
Anyone can sell what you sell, but what makes you stand out? Your company’s niche is ultimately what will create loyal customers and help shoppers differentiate you from your competitors.
A part of clarifying your niche is determining who your target audience actually should be. Taking a look at your service or product ideas, think about who is actually looking to buy it. (Hint: “Everyone” is not a great answer.) Give your niche market some specific parameters, based on their demographics—such as age, income levels, and location—or interests (like outdoor activities) and values (like relationship-building).
This is also a great place to start thinking about some of the core elements of your brand. Pinpoint your unique mission—the purpose of your company, beyond selling—and your brand values. Your mission and values will give your customers a way to connect with you deeply and a reason to continue choosing you, beyond your pricing or product selection.
Your Ecommerce Business Model
How exactly will your business work? There are lots of business models that you can follow, but as a small business owner, you need to do some research to determine what will work best for you.
If you’re selling physical products, you should at least know where you’ll source them. You can create your own products from scratch, connect with a manufacturer that will make custom items for you, or purchase wholesale goods that you’ll sell under your own brand. Alternatively, you could sell already branded items (similar to how a grocery store sells Oreos and Pop-Tarts) within your own ecommerce business.
If you’re selling digital products or services, like webinars or software, you should also have a general idea of who will be responsible for creating the product or providing the service in the first place—you, contractors, or a business partner.
If you already own a store location or plan to open one, another thing to consider is how your brick-and-mortar store will fit into your ecommerce business model.
2. Select a Business Name
A great brand name serves three key purposes: It helps customers find you, remember you, and get a taste of what your brand is all about. Don’t just pick the first business name that comes to mind—do your research.
For an ecommerce business, it’s helpful to have a brand name that’s unique enough for your store to show up as the first result whenever a shopper googles it. You should also make sure the name you choose is available—both to be legally registered in your state and to be claimed as a domain name. This uniqueness will make your brand stick in shoppers’ minds, too.
Of course, because search engine optimization (SEO) is key to broadening your reach, it’s also helpful to include one keyword that tells Google (and your customers) exactly what you sell in your business name. For example, if you initially brainstormed the name “Westward” for your clothing store, this won’t inspire many clicks if you’re not well-known. A brand name like “Westward Clothing” or “Westward Boutique” may serve you better.
You can always revisit your business name as your brand awareness grows, just like how “Dunkin’ Donuts” simplified its name to “Dunkin’.”
3. Create Your Brand Identity
To help you with this process, you can see how these visual elements will play out in your content by setting up your brand in Adobe Spark. It only takes three steps and then you’ll be able to create from auto-generated content templates that look and feel like your brand.
Once you have an idea of your color, fonts, and slogan, you can start creating a logo. If you don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer for this job, no need to fret. You can use Spark’s free logo maker to create professional-looking designs within minutes—with thousands of unique icons to choose from.
All of this will help you maintain a consistent brand whether you’re designing your online storefront, ecommerce marketing collateral, or something else.
Creating guidelines for your brand voice—for example, deciding whether you want to be more professional and educational or more fun and peppy—can also help you as you start building your online store and crafting product descriptions and other web page copy.
4. Choose an Ecommerce Platform
Just as local store owners need to find the perfect place to set up shop, you need to figure out if you want your own domain name or if you want to join a larger ecommerce marketplace.
Creating your own ecommerce store is the most flexible option. You’ll be able to add all the features you want and need for your product pages, checkout process, and more. It also gives you the chance to earn higher profit margins since you can avoid referral fees, listing fees, and more—all while making every webpage reflect your own brand identity.
At the same time, it can be expensive because you’ll need to pay ongoing costs for must-haves like your ecommerce website builder (such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or WooCommerce) and domain name. You may also need a developer’s help if you want a super custom store.
Choosing to join a marketplace may not be the easiest way to brand yourself, but it can be an easy way to land more ecommerce sales right off the bat. People are already shopping on these trusted sites, searching for and buying products from brands like yours. You’ll be able to accept most major credit cards and other payment methods without any setup or extra fees.
Whether you’re selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, all three, or another platform altogether, all you need to do is set up your storefront and product pages by filling out fields and uploading designs. Just make sure to do research to figure out what fees you’ll be paying and what products you’re actually allowed to sell.
5. Outline Your Order Fulfillment Process
Providing a five-star customer experience is essential for building a great reputation and a loyal customer base. An important step in making sure shoppers always see you at your best is nailing down an order fulfillment process that’s designed to satisfy.
Once a shopper buys something from your online store, how will it ship out? A few options you may consider include:
- Doing it yourself: Your team can complete the whole packaging and shipment process. Calculate your shipping costs and select an ideal carrier if you’ll be doing this.
- Using your ecommerce platform’s services: Platforms like Amazon actually offer fulfillment services, so this process can be largely hands-off for you.
- Dropshipping: Your supplier can ship directly to your customer when you get an order on your ecommerce site. You’ll need a good relationship with your supplier if you go this route. Many ecommerce marketplaces don’t allow this strategy.
Don’t forget about the parts of your fulfillment process that can affect your customer experience. If a shopper reaches out, how will you make sure they get timely customer support? If you have your own website, how will you confirm their order and provide shipping updates?
6. Promote Your Launch
The final step to learning how to start an ecommerce business is figuring out how you’ll promote it. How will shoppers be able to find and connect with your brand?
Social media marketing is a leading option for many online stores, as it’s where millions of consumers are spending their time. We recommend using one or two platforms to start, based on where your target audience actually is. For example, a Facebook business page can help you reach just about any adult in the U.S. (but not so much teens), while Instagram is ideal for B2C brands and LinkedIn for B2B brands.
You can use Spark to create visuals that actually captivate users on your selected platform and earn you a follow or engagement. Tap below to remix one of our many social media templates and use Spark’s Brandify feature to give it your brand’s unique look and feel in a tap!
On each of these platforms, you can also create highly targeted ads specifically for your niche market. Targeted ads help you reach the exact right people with news about your launch. You can set your own budget and, of course, use Spark to create stand-out graphics that capture clicks.