The learning process of becoming an online seller can be overwhelming for most people. Even though it isn’t always easy, it is definitely one of the most rewarding things you can do.
The biggest hurdle is doing your research and understanding what’s required before you leap in. In addition, you will need to use the old-fashioned “trial and error” method to find success.
You must be prepared and ready for what is in store for you. Keeping that in mind, you’ll be able to be confident that you’re making great decisions that move you closer to your dream life.
In order to assist you on your way to becoming an e-commerce entrepreneur, I have outlined eight steps. There is also a wealth of resources, guides, and articles you can bookmark for further reading on the topics we discuss.
1. Identify a market need
Having an online retail business online offers a number of possibilities. Quite a few.
If the products you want to sell aren’t in demand, first make sure there is a need for them in the market. You may find doing this research tedious at first, but finding good online retail business ideas is a non-negotiable task.
No point in having an eye-catching store if no one makes a purchase, right?
Several resources are available to help you validate market demand for your ideas and find inspiration for new ones through market research.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Trends on Google
- You’ll need to open an Ads account, but it’s free!
- Keyword Surfer, a Google Chrome extension
- Using social media and marketplace websites like Amazon and Alibaba to search for product demand
2. Identify Your Target Audience
No, No customers, no revenue. Everyone understands that. Finding your potential customers, bringing them to your online store, and converting them into paying customers aren’t so easy.
There are countless ways to accomplish this. But it all begins with knowing your ideal client.
The main thing to understand is your customers’ pain points and needs. Once you know these, you can make sure that your online retail business is truly reliving those pains and solving those needs.
It is fantastic to use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool, with tons of data and targeting capabilities that can help you find your ideal customers even down to the pages they like on Facebook. Using this tool will be very useful if you decide to run Facebook Ads.
Market research is also available through D&B Hoovers, Nielsen, and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
3. Business Logistics and Requirements Research
It’s great to have big dreams and hopes for your online retail business. However, if you want those dreams to come true, you must ground your dreams into reality.
Prior to knowing for sure if your idea will work, there are a few things you need to consider. Make sure you are aware of all the laws, regulations, resources, and logistical challenges of your store concept.
Below is a list of things to consider:
- The registration of your business, licenses, and permits in your country
- SKUs (stock-keeping units) assigned to your product line
- Calculate shipping weight and costs
- You must comply with shipping restrictions for the products you sell
- Amounts spent on production and overhead
- Sales tax and business tax
- Considerations regarding trademarks, copyrights, and patents
Consider consulting a professional if you’re unsure of anything in particular. Safety first!
4. Create a business plan
A business plan for an online retail store is essential. Business plans help you make sure you are taking into consideration all the important factors and planning for them appropriately.
Also, you can set benchmarks for yourself to hold yourself accountable. Identifying your goals and laying out your progress will let you know if you’re on track to achieve them or if you need to make any changes.
Here are some considerations to make when creating your online retail store business plan:
- Company description
- We provide products and services
- Analysis of markets and competitors, including a SWOT analysis
- Marketing and sales plan
- Managing and operating a company
- Projections and requests for funding
Shopify offers a great video tutorial on how to write a business plan. We also have a template you can use.
5. Locate a manufacturer or supplier
You need to look for a trustworthy and reliable manufacturer if you’re considering manufacturing your own products.
Consider these factors as you explore your options:
- In order to save money, many online retailers choose manufacturers overseas rather than domestic suppliers. Please keep in mind that shipping times may increase, and quality may suffer.
- Search for manufacturers on Alibaba or directories such as ThomasNet, Kompass, and Sourcify. Discover wholesalers and retailers in Handshake. Finally, a Google search isn’t a bad idea either.
- Question manufacturers: If a manufacturer catches your eye, don’t be afraid to contact them with any questions. Also, you can check out their reviews and see whether you can speak to other customers who have given them a positive review (or a negative one… dun dun dun).
You won’t have to design, manufacture, or store your products if you dropship. To dropship products directly to your customers, you’ll just need to find a supplier who’s willing to do so. Check out dropshipping platforms like DSers to find dropshipping suppliers.
6. Establish a brand
Branding and design tie together your customer relationships. Branding is easy to overlook because it is the last step. When you write your business plan, you should start thinking about it before you build your company.
Follow this checklist to guide your branding process:
- Keep it simple and easy to read while still creating a unique logo that stands out.
- Your website visitors will be captivated by visuals like product photography and illustrations.
- You should select colors that complement your brand’s personality. Use the psychology behind colors so you can find out what they mean to you.
- You can use copywriting to connect and build relationships with your audience, speaking to their likes, needs, and wants.
- It is more than just a logo that makes up your brand. Take a moment to think about what your brand strategy entails, including your company’s vision and mission statement.
In learning how to start an online retail business, you’ll come across a lot of inspiration from other brands. A running list of successful brands and messaging, along with failures, is a great idea.
When building your brand, make a list of what you like and don’t like so you have an idea bank.
Use Shopify’s free brand-building tools to build a business on a budget, such as the Logo Maker and Online Video Maker.
7. Build Your Online Retail Store
Let’s get started! Bring all your ideas to life.
Get a Shopify account to sell online. Also, if you’re dropshipping, you can join DSers, which was designed to speed up the whole dropshipping process on Shopify.
Below you’ll find a list of things you’ll need to put in your online store:
- Creating unique and engaging product descriptions for every item you sell
- Your product photos need to be beautiful
- The landing pages of your website and those that you direct visitors to when they click your ads and other marketing materials need to be killer
- Legal documents: terms and conditions, privacy policies, shipping policies, and refund policies
- Decide on factors such as shipping rates and zones
- Install the payment gateway and set up the checkout page
One of the greatest things about eCommerce platforms like Shopify is that you can easily build a store even if you’re not a web developer or designer (and don’t have the money to hire one at this point).
8. Develop a marketing plan
After you’ve opened a store, it’s time to get people into it.
Marketing plans are usually between $0 and thousands of dollars. If you’re bootstrapping your business and wish to start an online store without spending money, there are plenty of inexpensive and free ways to promote your brand.
The best way to build long-term relationships with your subscribers is through email marketing. Be sure not to bombard them with sale announcements. Make their day more enjoyable in a way that’s related to your brand.
It is inexpensive to use influencer marketing if you work with micro-influencers instead of mega-influencers who are expensive. A photoshoot with a micro-influencer and free products can often result in shoutouts for your brand. Influencer marketing on Instagram is effective.
It’s an effective way to engage potential customers, who might eventually become your actual customers (if they are not already). Use content that aligns with your brand. Don’t just talk about your awesome products every post – add value to their lives instead.
Facebook Ads are a great place to begin if you have a budget to spend. It won’t take off overnight though! You might have difficulty gaining momentum with less than $500-$1,000 to spend.
Example of an online retail business
You can use these examples as you learn how to start an online eCommerce store.