There has never been a better time to start an eCommerce business. The eCommerce market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.9% over the next five years, totalling $3.5 trillion in value by 2025. Many experts even forecast that eCommerce sales will eclipse those of physical stores within a few decades. With your own eCommerce business, you can take advantage of this rapid growth in demand.
In this post, we’ll lay out six practical steps you can take to start a successful eCommerce business in 2021. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to launch your store with confidence.
6 Steps to a successful eCommerce store
1. Choose a selling method
The first step in launching a successful eCommerce store is to choose how you will source your products. There are three primary options available to you:
Dropshipping is an eCommerce business model where the store owner does not hold the inventory for the products that they sell. Instead, you partner with a dropshipping supplier who stores the products. You list the products on your website or third-party marketplace. When a customer places an order, you buy the products from the supplier, giving them the customer’s shipping details. The supplier will then ship the items to the customer.
Wholesaling is the selling method used by traditional brick and mortar retailers. It functions in a similar manner for online stores. You buy products in bulk from a supplier or manufacturer. Because you purchase a large quantity at a time, you are able to get the items at a discounted price. You then sell these products to consumers at a marked-up price.
With private labeling, you have a manufacturer produce a product for you that you then brand as your own. This allows you to create your own products without the massive expense of having to invest in manufacturing equipment.
2. Do niche and product research
After you choose your selling method, you’ll want to research to find what niche market you want to enter and what products you want to sell. Here are some of the most effective ways to find profitable niches and products:
Use Google Trends
Google Trends is a tool offered by Google that allows you to see the popularity of search queries across the Google Search Network. You can search for any eCommerce product or niche to see if it is gaining or losing interest over time.
Follow social trends
Another way to find profitable products is to monitor trends on social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest will reveal what types of items consumers are interested in. Look to see which types of products are getting the most engagement and which types of brands have the most followers.
You can also search on Amazon to find products to sell. The majority of consumers begin their search for a product on Amazon, making it a great place to see what is in-demand even if you intend to sell on your own eCommerce site.
Start with the Amazon Trend Report. Every year Amazon compiles a report of the niches and products they anticipate being the most successful. You can also search the Best Sellers category on the Amazon marketplace. Simply click the Best Sellers tab in the header menu beneath the search bar. You’ll find a list of different product categories. Select one to see the top 100 products for that niche.
3. Find a supplier
Once you know what product you want to sell, it’s time to find a supplier for your business. The best place to look for a supplier will depend on the selling method that you choose. If you are looking to wholesale items or create private label products, a great place to start your search on Alibaba.
The online marketplace is home to millions of suppliers providing products from nearly every niche. You can search for products and suppliers as you would when browsing any other marketplace. You want to make sure that you choose a supplier that is trustworthy and reliable. Look at their listings to see if they look professional. You should also look for extensive details about the products as well as information about their factories and quality control process.
If you use dropshipping, a common place to start the search for products is Alibaba’s sister site AliExpress. The site is similar but is more geared toward consumers and buyers ordering small quantities of items. It is a solid choice for finding dropshipping products as it has the same breadth of selection as Alibaba. You can also get started right away as you do not need to get a reseller’s license to sell items found on AliExpress.
If you want to find suppliers based in the U.S., you can use a service like Thomasnet to find wholesalers or Wholesale2B to find dropshippers.
4. Create your store
The next step is to set up your sales channels. As an online merchant, there are two choices: selling on a third-party marketplace and building your own eCommerce website.
Let’s examine how to get started with each sales channel along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Sell on marketplaces
The most popular online marketplace for eCommerce sellers in the United States is Amazon. You start by creating your Amazon sellers account. You’ll have the option of choosing between an individual account and a professional account. The difference between the two is the fees that you charged. Professional accounts have a monthly fee while individual accounts have an extra fee for every item that sells.
Once you create your account you can begin listing your products and choosing your fulfillment method. You can use Fulfilled by Merchant where you will store and ship your products yourself. Or you can use Fulfilled by Amazon. With this method, Amazon will store and ship your products for a fee.
Selling on Amazon is a great choice especially for those who are new to eCommerce. You don’t have to worry about any of the technical factors that come with setting up an eCommerce website. You also get access to Amazon’s built-in audience so it’s easier to start getting traffic to your products to generate profit right away. The downside is that you will have to compete with other sellers on the marketplace, and for some products, with Amazon themselves. You’ll also earn lower margins per sale as you have to pay referral fees.
Create own site
The next option is to create your own eCommerce site. To do this, you’ll first need to buy a domain name. You’ll then need to set up web hosting and your eCommerce platform. Web hosting may come with the platform depending on which one you choose. Some of the most popular hosted eCommerce solutions are BigCommerce and Shopify.
Platforms like Magento and WooCommerce are self-hosted solutions, meaning you’ll need to set up your own web hosting.
Once you decide on a platform, you can begin creating your web pages and adding your products to your site. You’ll want to add pages for:
- Shipping and returns
- About us
- Terms and privacy
The benefit of creating your own eCommerce site is that you have complete control over the customer experience. You can add whatever branding and designs that you want and do not have to pay any marketplace fees.
The drawback is that you’ll have to get visitors to your store on your own. You are also responsible for maintaining the site. If you’re not technically savvy, this can be a bit of a challenge. If this is you, consider an easier-to-use solution like Shopify.
5. Plan your marketing strategy
Once your eCommerce store is up and running, you’ll need to get a consistent flow of visitors in order to see sales. Creating a marketing strategy will help ensure that your business is getting in front of the right audience. Here are some of the most effective types of marketing for eCommerce stores.
With digital advertising, you create ads showcasing the benefits of your business. You then pay an advertising platform to show these ads to people who may be interested in your products. The most popular advertising platforms for eCommerce businesses are social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest — and search platforms like Google and Bing.
These platforms focus primarily on a pay-per-click (PPC) ad model. This means that you only pay for an ad after a customer clicks on it. They provide extensive targeting options so you can ensure that your ads are shown to a relevant audience.
Rather than paying for ads, you can also market to your customers directly. The most effective type of direct marketing is email marketing. With email marketing you get people to subscribe to your email list and then send them followup campaigns about your products. Email marketing can lead to very high returns on investment (ROI) as you don’t have to pay for marketing. Once you have someone on your list, you can market to them again and again.
Sales and promotions are a great way to increase conversions. By offering your customers discounts, you incentivize them to make a purchase. Promotions can complement your paid and direct advertising efforts. For example, you can include a coupon code in your emails or show discounted products in your Google Shopping campaigns.
You can also use gift cards and vouchers to promote your store. Gift cards provide pre-paid store credit on a physical card. Vouchers include a discount code for a specific amount or can be redeemed for a specific product.
Gift cards and vouchers both include your branding and logo which can help increase brand awareness. Every time someone sees the card, they’ll be reminded of your brand and your unique product offering.
They are great for increasing sales, particularly during the holidays as they allow customers to gift something from your store without knowing exactly what the recipient wants. Research shows that customers who use gift cards spend more on average. Many will place orders with a value well beyond the original gift card balance. They also help to expand your customer base as shoppers may buy gift cards for others who have never heard about your brand.
You can list vouchers on your eCommerce store as you would a traditional product catalog. This is particularly useful if you sell products or services that are not redeemed until a later date. Some examples include spa services, hotels and accommodations, tickets, and cooking classes.
With Enjovia, you can quickly launch an online voucher store for your business. You can create an unlimited number of discount codes and there are plenty of pre-made templates to help get you started. Once a customer places an order, they are automatically sent their vouchers by email or mail.
6. SEO optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your web pages to rank at the top of Google’s search results pages. High SEO rankings can be one of an eCommerce business’ greatest achievements as it will lead to a consistent flow of high-quality visitors. Here are some steps you can take to improve your site’s SEO:
- Use target keywords: Adding relevant terms to your site will tell Google what your pages are about, encouraging them to rank you for those queries. You should include keywords in your product titles, meta titles, image alt tags, URLs, and throughout your product and category pages.
- Optimize your site’s performance: Google weighs a variety of technical factors when ranking pages and speed is chief among them. Make sure your site loads quickly.
- Ask for reviews: Good reviews from customers can establish your business’ trust and authority. They are also great for increasing the amount of content on product pages which tend to be thinner by nature.
- Start a link-building campaign: Backlinks are one of the most important SEO factors. When another site links back to your site it boosts your domain authority and makes it easier to rank for your target keywords. Look to create quality content and then reach out to popular websites that may be interested in linking to it.
eCommerce is a rapidly growing industry and a solid choice for those looking to start their own business. Whether you want to sell on Amazon or start your own website, you have a great opportunity for success if you plan and take consistent action. This post has refined what you need to do into six easy to follow steps:
- Choose a selling method
- Research your niche and product
- Find a supplier
- Create your store
- Plan your marketing strategy
- Optimize for SEO