How to Start an Ecommerce Business: Build, Launch, and Grow a Profitable Online Store
The future of ecommerce is incredibly bright. But, learning how to start an ecommerce business is intimidating. It requires hard work and demands many steps and decisions that need to come together at the right time.
To help, we’ve put together a comprehensive blueprint on the best way to start an ecommerce business, compiled from Shopify’s best content. These blog posts, guides, and videos have been organized based on the most important tasks you’ll face when researching, launching, and growing a profitable ecommerce business.
I. Choosing a product
Finding a product to sell
The first step in how to start an ecommerce business is knowing what products you want to sell online, wholesale, or direct-to-consumer. This often is the most challenging part when you start an ecommerce business. In this section, we’ll highlight strategies you can use to find product opportunities, explore the best places to look for business ideas, and finally, look at trending products to consider.
- Find Products to Sell on Shopify with Oberlo
- Strategies for Finding Your First Profitable Product Opportunity
- Trending Products to Sell in 2021
- Online Business Ideas You Can Start from Home
Obtaining your product
After landing on a strong product idea, your next step in how to start ecommerce businesses is figuring out where and how you’re going to obtain your products. The next four posts cover the various methods for acquiring your products, along with the pros and cons of each model.
- How to Find a Reliable Manufacturers and Suppliers for Your Products
- 12 Shopify Apps for Finding Products to Sell (Without Shipping Them Yourself)
- Print on Demand: A Low-Risk Way to Sell Custom T-Shirts, Books, and More
II. Research and prepare
Research your competition
You’ve found your product, evaluated its potential, and sourced a supplier—now it’s time for the next phase of how to start your own ecommerce business. You’ll need to thoroughly research your competition so you know what you’re up against and how you can differentiate your business from theirs.
- How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis
- Find Your Competitive Edge: How to Do a SWOT Analysis [+ Free Template]
Writing a business plan
With your competitive research complete, it’s time to write your business plan to help start your own ecommerce business. A business plan is a roadmap that helps bring your ideas and thoughts together. A business plan is vital in determining what to prioritize, avoiding common business mistakes, and how to effectively reach new customers.
III. Setting up your business
Naming your business
Aside from figuring out what to sell when starting an ecommerce company, another challenging decision is determining your business or brand name and deciding on a domain name. These tips will help you tackle these important tasks.
Creating a logo
Once you’ve selected a memorable name and registered a corresponding domain, it’s time to craft a simple logo. In these resources for how to set up an ecommerce business, we’ll show you several options for creating a great logo for your new business.
- Hatchful: A simple logo maker by Shopify
- 10 Easy to Use Online Logo Makers to Design Your Brand
- How to Design a Memorable Logo in 7 Steps (We Make One From Scratch)
Learn more: From a logo maker and business name generator to gift certificate templates and a discount calculator, Shopify offers free marketing tools to help run your business.
Understanding search engine optimization (SEO)
You’re almost ready to begin building your ecommerce business. However, before you jump into it, you should understand the basics of SEO so you can properly structure your site and pages for Google and other search engines.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO
- What Can I Do to Help My Store Rank in Search Engines?
- Keyword Research for Ecommerce from the Ground Up
- Business SEO Checklist: How to Rank a New Site
Building your store
With a better understanding of search engines, it’s time to build out your store. There are many crucial elements to consider in this step of how to start an ecommerce business. Below, we’ve listed our essential reads to help you build high-converting product pages, write captivating product descriptions, shoot beautiful product photography, choose your ecommerce color palette, and much more.
- 50 Exceptional Shopify Stores to Inspire New Entrepreneurs
- Find Your Purpose: 9 Best Vision and Mission Examples (+ How to Write One)
- 11 Experts Share How to Optimize Your Product Pages
- How to Write Product Descriptions that Sell
- The Ultimate DIY Guide to Product Photography
- Customizing Your Shopify Theme: How To Use Images, Colors, and Fonts
- How to Create a Coming Soon Page and Start Marketing Before You Launch
Don’t forget, if you run into any problems getting your store set up, one of the best ways to start ecommerce business is to hire help from Shopify Experts. If you need help setting up your store or stocking inventory, and are looking for a way to fund your business, check this guide on how to get a business loan to help you get started.
Choosing your sales channels
Once you’re really ready to figure out how to start ecommerce, you’ll need to choose sales channels where they already shop. The right mix of sales channels will depend on your products and your target customers, but there are a number of great options that can complement and support your self-hosted store.
- Etsy and Shopify: How Three Makers Used Both to Grow Their Businesses
- Selling on eBay: How One Business Finds New Customers
IV. Preparing to launch
As you prepare for the launch of your new business, you need to figure out how to run an ecommerce business. To start, there are several shipping and fulfillment elements you need to prepare for. In this section, we’ve curated a few comprehensive guides on how to determine your shipping strategy.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Shipping and Fulfillment
- How Do I Price and Implement a Strategy to Handle Returns?
- How to Reduce Shipping Costs as a Small Ecommerce Store
It’s also a good idea to define your key performance indicators up front so, once you launch, you know what measures of success to track.
- 67 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Ecommerce
- What Are the Basic Ecommerce Metrics I Need To Focus On First?
As a final checklist for this section of how to start your own ecommerce business, the below post covers the 10 essential things you need to do before launch.
V. Post launch
Acquiring your first customer
Starting an ecommerce company successfully also requires marketing. Once you’ve launched, the hard work of marketing your products begins. While many new store owners should consider selling their physical products in person, the rest of digital marketing rests on doing one thing well: driving targeted traffic. Next, we’ll share a variety of marketing tactics that will help you in your first months.
- Marketing Checklist: How to Get Your First Sale in 30 Days
- Need Traffic? Here’s How to Get Visitors to a New Website
- Customer Acquisition: How to (Profitably) Gain New Customers
Marketing your store
You’re well on your way and now likely have a few sales under your belt. It’s time to get serious and focused. The following posts will help you zero in on your top-performing marketing tactics or expand into new ones for driving traffic and converting that traffic to sales.
Email marketing essentials
- Email Marketing: How to Build Your List, Send Effective Campaigns, and Track Results
- 7 Email Campaigns Every Ecommerce Store Should Run
- How to Write an Effective Welcome Email
- Teardown: 60 Days of Emails from a Fast-Growing Ecommerce Brand
Driving traffic from social
- How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy
- How to Get More Followers on Instagram: A Guide for Businesses
- Pinterest Marketing 101: Why You’ll Need a New Playbook to Win
- How to Start a YouTube Channel for Your Business
Driving traffic and conversions from paid ads
- Facebook Ads for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide to Running Your First Campaign
- The Google Ads Playbook: 13 Campaign Types And What to Expect From Them
- The Best Price Comparison Engines to Increase Ecommerce Sales
Optimizing for higher conversions
- The Complete Guide to A/B Testing (Tips from Google, HubSpot, and Shopify)
- How to Find and Plug the Leaks in Your Conversion Funnels
- Drive More Sales and Revenue with Targeted Live Chat
- 19 Experts Share How to Increase Revenue Without Increasing Traffic
- 9 Ways to Earn Customer Trust When You Have Zero Sales
- How Trustworthy Is Your Online Store? 39 Ways to Build Customer Trust
- Driving Traffic but No Sales? Here’s How to Diagnose and Improve Your Store
Using analytics to uncover insights
- The Beginner’s Guide to Analyzing Shopify Reports and Analytics
- 5 Google Analytics Segments You Can Use to Increase Revenue
- 9 Google Analytics Custom Reports by the Experts
- Facebook Custom Audiences 101: A Starter Guide for Ecommerce Businesses
A blueprint is just the beginning
Learning how to run an ecommerce business is as exciting as it is challenging. At a rapid pace you’ll learn a ton about choosing a product, evaluating its viability, figuring out how to get it produced, building an ecommerce store, and marketing and selling to new customers. The process can feel like you’re solving a head scratcher of a puzzle, but it’s rewarding all the same.
We hope following this resource roundup for how to set up an ecommerce business provides you with a clearer roadmap. As always, the best advice anyone can give is to just get started and to enjoy yourself along the way.
Frequently asked questions about ecommerce
How do I start an ecommerce business?
Research what products you’d like to sell or can source to sell, select a business name, register your business with the government, obtain permits and licenses, choose an ecommerce platform and create your website, load your products onto the site, launch and start marketing your business.
Is ecommerce profitable?
Yes, the ecommerce industry is profitable. Successfully starting an ecommerce company is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take 18-24 months for your business to get off the ground. It’s critical that you don’t measure the success of your business by your first year profitability.
Is it hard to start your own ecommerce business?
No, starting an ecommerce company is easy with platforms like Shopify enabling brands to go online in just a few days. Starting a brand consists of hard work and continual market research to improve your business. We encourage you to read all our guides on how to start a business before you set up a store.
What are the different types of ecommerce?
There are four traditional business models or types in ecommerce. This includes B2C (Business-to-Consumer), B2B (Business-to-Business), C2B (Consumer-to-Business) and C2C (Consumer-to-Consumer). You may also commonly hear the term D2C (Direct-to-Consumer), which is similar to B2C, wherein the business takes the products directly to the consumer.
How much does it cost to start an ecommerce business?
An ecommerce business can be started for as little as $100 which is spent on a subscription and purchasing a theme for your store. New ecommerce business owners can expect business costs to rise up to $40,000 in the first year which is paid back to the owner through profit margins.
What is the best ecommerce platform for a small business?
Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for a small business. Shopify is a fast and secure ecommerce platform with online store customization. It offers the fastest checkout experience through Shop, easy inventory management, and has integrations with Google and Facebook to make marketing and selling online easier.