How to Start an E-Commerce Business From Scratch

Starting a business can be tempting for some people. If you have an interest in retail but don’t want to be bound to the rent and upkeep of a physical store, you might want to start an e-commerce business. In 2018, retail e-commerce sales totaled $504.6 billion, so this is an enormous and growing industry. If you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce business, here’s what you need to do. 

Pick a focus

The first thing you need to decide is what you will sell. You might be tempted to just open a site and start selling anything you can, but having a focus will make you much more successful. Having a focus means you’re only purchasing specific inventory (important for your budget) and your shoppers will easily and quickly know what’s available from your store. Make sure your focus is not something that your business will be squeezed out of. You won’t be able to compete with Best Buy, so maybe don’t focus entirely on electronics. Something definitive without being too specific will help you succeed, such as focusing on just cellphones and cases. 

Understand your customers

Identifying and understanding your customers is a crucial part of the planning process. Now that you know what you’re going to sell, you need to figure out who you’re going to sell to. What do these people look like? How old are they? Are they on social media? You can make surveys to help determine who would be interested in what you’re selling and use this information to further develop your e-commerce business. Understanding your potential customers will help you purchase inventory, design your site, and create a marketing plan. 

Create your business

Now that you know what you’re going to sell and to whom, it’s important that you actually create your business, which includes choosing its name. In some cases, you don’t have to register your business, but by not registering, you lose out on tax and legal benefits, so it’s best to register. Make sure you file to get a federal tax ID and look into tax software envelopes to make tax season easier for you. You will need to register at the state level as well and check locally to make sure you have all the licenses you will need. If you want, you can even trademark your business with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Take your time and complete this step accurately, because making your business a legal entity is not something you want to take lightly. 

Build your store

Now it’s time to build your online store. First, make sure you’ve found reputable and reliable vendors who can provide you with what you’re going to sell. Then, create your online site and ensure it’s compatible with e-commerce software. Consider how large a site you think you’ll need and what features you’d like to incorporate. Make sure you’ve set up your email marketing before your customers start checking out the site. After you have everything set with your online store, you can start marketing it and generating site traffic. It’s your job to make sure customers find your site, so put a lot of energy into your marketing. Don’t underestimate the importance of emails, and use social media platforms. Market to those ideal customers you outlined toward the beginning of the process and work to keep customers happy with your store. 

Once you have the basics of your e-commerce business sorted out, you’ll be able to just focus on keeping your inventory stocked and your customers happy. Running your own e-commerce business can be extremely rewarding, and, if you follow these steps, you’ll have an amazing online business in no time.