If you're starting a business in the 21st century, it's probably an eCommerce business. Regardless of whether you want to sell dairy online, learn how to ship wine, or sell meat online the rules are the same.
In 2019 alone, consumers spent more than $601 billion online with U.S. merchants. The worldwide numbers are nearly triple that amount.
Whether you want to start B2B ecommerce or a direct to consumer brands, there's a lot of money to be made. To help, we've put together a comprehensive guide on how to build and run an eCommerce business.
Read on to learn the basics of starting, growing, and running a successful online company. Let's take you from having eCommerce business ideas and wondering what is an LLC to having a thriving business.
What's eCommerce Business?
An eCommerce business is a company that sells its products or services over the internet. It can be a B2B business (see what is a B2B company) or B2C, there are many types of eCommerce businesses. All that matters is that the majority of their sales are made online.
Starting an eCommerce Business from Scratch
If you're looking to start an eCommerce business from scratch, you need determination, patience, and money. With these three in-hand you can start building a successful eCommerce business.
Oh, and don't forget to pick up an eCommerce business license or this new venture will be short-lived.
How to Start a Successful eCommerce Business
Setting up an eCommerce business is one thing, but making sure it's a success is another. The best way to start eCommerce business is by following a few steps when starting the business.
Here’s a quick eCommerce startup guide:
- Choose a product or service. Whatever you come up with, make sure there is a market for it. If not, you'll likely never get your eCommerce business off the ground. Maybe you want to sell a coffee bean subscription, or homemade jewlry.
- Research the competition. You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your future competitors. This will tell you the best way to market your business and what features you should or should not include to make your customers happy.
- Write an eCommerce business plan. With your ideas and market data in hand, the next step is to create your business plan. This will serve as your roadmap to success and give you a valuable tool for swaying investors.
- Build a website. The "e" in eCommerce means nothing if you don't have a website. There are many options for building an online storefront. If you are launching a B2B business, look at using a B2B eCommerce platform or B2B online marketplace. For wholesale food vendors, the BlueCart eCommerce is the ideal choice. It's the best eCommerce platform for SEO for food suppliers.
- Launch your business. With the storefront built it's time to get your business going. Start making sales, fulfilling orders, and growing your bottom line. Make sure to also open an account with one of the best banks for online transactions so you have a place for all your new money.
Starting An eCommerce Store
Now that you know how to start an eCommerce business, let’s take a look at the eCommerce store itself. The most important decision you’ll make is what platform you use to build your store. You can use a dedicated eCommerce platform to host your website or you can create a storefront on an online marketplace. Either way, there are a few things to keep in mind:
First, always focus on the customer experience. It doesn’t matter how well-built your site is or what features it has if customers can’t navigate it. Test out all aspects of your site before making them accessible to the general public to work out the kinks. Then, get feedback from your customers to ensure your site matches what they’re looking for. You don’t want to miss out on sales because your store is clunky.
Second, look for additional sales opportunities. Most eCommerce sites now use various tools and widgets to help increase sales. Things like a “Customers also bought” widget are great for cross selling and fairly easy to get up and running. Don’t underestimate the value of adding new features to your site if you’re looking to increase sales.
Third, include lead generation methods in your website plan. What we mean is, have a way for people to give you their contact information to be added to email marketing lists and your database. If you use eCommerce content marketing, you can have the ability to sign up for blog updates. If not, look for another unique reason they might want to be added to the list. This is a very valuable tool for driving sales and increasing customer engagement and retention.
How to Build an eCommerce Business
Building your eCommerce business is tied to building a loyal audience that connects with your brand. Spend your early days positioning your business as the answer to your target market's needs.
Research their problems, market your business, and make them understand that you care. This will build your business on a solid foundation and set the stage for sustainable growth.
How to Grow eCommerce Business
Once your eCommerce business has been established, you can focus on growing your sales.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Personalize your content. This is a major trend in eCommerce and it pays dividends. By adjusting product offerings for different customer segments and tailoring marketing emails to the recipient, you can grow your sales quickly.
- Use shoppable social media. Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest have integrated shopping abilities. This allows you to market your goods and have them added to a cart in one fell swoop. It's a great way to turn prospects into customers in a single step. You can easily make your feed look attractive and saleable like a line sheet.
- Build SEO value. Google is the key to growing an eCommerce business. If you focus on the search engine value of your site you can get your brand in front of more prospects every day. BlueCart Digital Storefront is optimized for search engines out of the box.
- Acquire UGC. User-generated content (UGC) are images of your products or services shared on social media by your customers. More than 80% of millennials and 70% of baby boomers say that UGC has an impact on their buying decisions. It's even free for you, so it's a win-win.
- Focus on marketing. Creating engaging marketing material can make your new business stand out and grow an audience. Just remember, there are differences between B2B vs. B2C marketing (see what is B2B marketing), so make sure your efforts are aimed at the correct audience.
How to Run a Successful eCommerce Business
Successful eCommerce businesses need leaders who are continually working on maintaining and growing the business. There are a few ways they can do this.
Here are five tips:
- Treat it like a business. Many people mistake eCommerce for being easier to run than a traditional business. That's not the case and won't lead to success. An eCommerce store needs to be treated as though it's already a big business. That means investing in eCommerce accounting software and picking up eCommerce business insurance to protect your money.
- Pick the right tools. A successful business owner needs to review tools and software regularly. Don't waste your money on a B2B eCommerce platform or eCommerce credit card processing platform that isn't doing what you need it to. Identify challenges, make a budget, and find the tools that fit your needs.
- Listen to the data. Every sale and site visit provides insight into your customers and trends. Use this data to adjust your plans and better serve your market.
- Turn customers into marketers. Word-of-mouth marketing is more impactful than ever. Testimonials from your satisfied customers can grow your business and convert people who are on the fence.
- Smooth out the checkout process. The last place you want to lose customers is in the checkout. If they made it that far and fell off, there's room for improvement. Add in an eCommerce payment gateway, limit unnecessary screens, and see your conversion rate increase.
Let's Take It Online
Starting an eCommerce business can be daunting, but by following the steps above and working hard, you can grow a successful company. Focus on using data and helping your customers. In turn, this will grow your bottom line. For more information, read our full guide on how to start an eCommerce business or, if you're interested, how to start a coffee company
If you're looking to start an eCommerce food wholesale business, BlueCart is the best tool for you. It is an all-in-one online marketplace that helps food wholesalers make wholesale sales, DTC sales, acquire new customers, and grow their businesses
We also recommend picking up some of the best eCommerce books and reading an eCommerce blog or two so you know the current trends and things to avoid.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to start an eCommerce business?
Start an eCommerce business by following the steps below:
- Do research to find your eCommerce niche
- Choose a business name and develop a legal structure
- Apply for and obtain an EIN
- Get all of the necessary business permits and licenses
- Pick an eCommerce platform for your website and create it
- Develop your product list
- Market your eCommerce business
Is starting eCommerce profitable?
eCommerce can be incredibly profitable if you strategize properly and understand what the market wants. This can depend on your business model and the products or services you sell.
What are the 3 types of eCommerce?
The 3 main types of eCommerce are:
- Business-to-business or B2B
- Business-to-consumer or B2C
- Consumer-to-consumer or C2C