Learning how to start an ecommerce business can be a daunting task. There are a lot of things to consider such as researching competitors, choosing an ecommerce platform, choosing and sourcing your stock and creating your online shop. In this blog, we will cover the basics of how to start an ecommerce business along with 5 business ideas for you to consider.
How to research your business ideas
Before doing anything related to setting up your ecommerce online shop, you must first do your research. There could already be hundreds of businesses with your idea already set up and selling online. In some industries this is the case, they are very saturated. But don’t worry, this isn’t the end of the road already. If this is the case, you’ll need to identify what your USP (Unique Selling Point) is.
This could be something you would do differently to your competitors? Could you market and sell the product or service better? Could you undercut their prices or offer higher quality products? Do you have a unique selling point that they don’t?
If you can answer these questions then keep doing your research and plan how your online business would be one of a kind.
Online shop vs marketplace
If you already have a business idea but you’re not sure which way is right for you. Your choices are either your own online shop or a marketplace. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but choosing which one is right for your business will depend on a few things.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of both having your own online shop vs setting up your shop on a marketplace such as eBay, Etsy or Amazon.
The main reason people use marketplaces is to take advantage of the already established amount of traffic they receive to their sites each day. Amazon recorded 579.5 million visits during November 2020.
Additionally, people’s trusts are already established with these well-known market places. This is shown with 54.25% of online shoppers going directly to amazon rather than searching elsewhere.
The main drawbacks are the lack of ability to truly build your own brand and online presence. You must conform to the platforms brand colours and the only flexibility you have is changing the product images and descriptions. There will also likely be multiples of the same product from competitors being advertised on the products search results page.
Lastly, there is a lack of ability to advertise to your customers across social media and boost your sales with the Facebook Pixel. Other insights that the marketplace doesn’t share, such as bounce rates can make it harder to understand how to improve your product and why some may not be buying it. We outline more reasons as to why you can’t build a brand with online marketplaces here.
In comparison, creating your own online shop will not only give you the ability to reflect what products you sell but also the opportunity to build your own brand and online presence.
You also won’t have competitors advertising their products on your pages, like you would on Amazon. Having your own online shop gives you full access to your customer data, meaning you can start to collect emails for your marketing campaigns, retarget customers on social media and so much more.
One way to do this even if you don’t have customers yet is to install the Facebook pixel on your own online shop which will allow you to later target them with advertisements on social media. Having your own online shop means you can also utilise tools such as hotjar, so you can see how people act when they visit your online shop, and further improve your customer’s experience.
However, when you start your online shop you are starting with 0 people visiting your website. This is because they don’t know you exist. You will need to invest your time in learning SEO as well as spending money on advertising.
Luckily EKM already has a lot of SEO included straight out of the box and you can read on for how SEO friendly EKM is here.
How to find products to sell
Create products yourself
Making your own products is a great way to have full control over how they look, from the quality to the packaging itself. Although this will definitely be more time consuming having to make your own products, it can also reduce labour costs and delivery costs. This will allow for a greater profit margin.
However you must consider, if the ecommerce business was to take off, would you be able to upscale easily?
Could you hire employees with your skill and knowledge to make the product to the same quality?
Find a supplier
You could look to source your products from a supplier however, finding a supplier can be difficult.
Additionally, the quality of some can be a little underwhelming. The last thing you want to do is sell products to customers that they are not satisfied with. We have a directory of officially approved suppliers to help you get the most out of your online ecommerce business.
But if you find the right supplier for you and this is the best way forward for your business, make sure to test the quality of the products before placing a large order.
Dropshipping is becoming a lot more popular due to its automated approach to fulfilling ecommerce orders.
Those looking to start an ecommerce business have more than likely looked into dropshipping before. Creating a streamlined process where orders are fulfilled automatically and not requiring stock to be held.
There are a surprising number of advantages, yet also disadvantages to dropshipping. You can read more about if dropshipping is right for you here.
Write a business plan
A business plan will help you set out your business goals, objectives and strategies that will set you apart from competitors. It is important for the business plan to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed).
You probably already have lots of ideas regarding your ecommerce business, so it’s best to get these written down. You can then use these ideas to draft up your business plan.
Compare between each plan as to which will be most feasible for you.
If you need more help writing a business plan and what to include in it, then you can find more information here.
Choosing a name for your business
Finding a name for your brand can be a tough choice. You want to make sure you’re truly happy with it. As it will be in your logo, website headers, product packaging, social media handles, so typically everywhere. This means it must be easy to remember too.
Making long confusing names isn’t the best when it comes to people trying to remember where they bought the product if they wanted to return or recommend it to a friend.
Check out this blog for more advice on how to come up with a business name.
Create your branding
This is something many first-time ecommerce owners overlook when starting their online shop. However, it is definitely one of the most important aspects for looking professional to your customers.
An important part of branding is being consistent. You must choose a colour scheme and stick to it. Hex and RGB codes are handy for ensuring that the same exact colour is used. It can make your ecommerce business distinguishable and stand out from others instantly.
Websites such as coolors is a good place to start when finding a colour scheme.
Set up your online shop
So you have your business idea and undertaken research on competitors within the industry you have chosen. Now it’s time to choose an ecommerce provider that will host your business, allowing you to sell your products or services online. Research is key.
Looking at review sites to see what others are saying about the platform is also important. You can use sites such as Trustpilot and Reviews.io. You should also consider what type of online shop you are wanting to create and features you will need. For example some platforms lack features that allow you to create ‘subscriptions/memberships’.
Therefore it’s always best to try to get a demo of the platform before fully investing.
To make it easier for you we have compared the 5 best ecommerce platforms in the UK.
Setting up your domain
When starting an ecommerce business it is imperative that you attach a domain to your online shop.
It is also a good idea to secure the .com and .co.uk version of your domain. This is to stop other companies taking traffic away from you or even worse impersonating your online shop.
Upload your products
When it comes to uploading your products you want to make sure that you have high-quality images too. Without these no one would know what the product looks like. The more images you can include then the better.
When you are uploading your products it is best practice to include a detailed description too. Things to include should all be related to the product.
The best way is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What would you want to know about the product before buying it? It is also ideal to include a brief bullet point list so that customers with not much time can skim read and find the most important parts of the product quickly.
Remember not to copy your competitor’s descriptions as this will harm your SEO.
When starting your ecommerce business it can be easy to forget some of the essential pages that you need to include on your online shop.
Without pages such as the returns and refunds policy, it can put people off from ordering from your online shop. It is also important to have a place where they can easily contact you.
Especially if they have a specific question about a product before wanting to buy it.
Below is a list of web pages that we recommend you to include when starting your ecommerce business.
- About us
- Terms & Conditions
- Returns and Refunds Policy
Marketing your business
Unfortunately you can’t just set up an online ecommerce business and expect traffic straight away. Although improving your search engine optimisation (SEO) is recommended, these two techniques below will help you to market your business.
Alongside starting your ecommerce business you should also set up your social media accounts. If possible it is always best to try to get the same username for your social accounts as your brand name.
Social media is a great way to engage with your customers. You can post behind the scenes, product launch images and discounts. Not only that but it is great for all the following reasons:
- Provide customer service
- Build brand awareness
- Direct traffic to your online shop
- Retargeting your audience
If you need some more ideas, over on EKM’s blog we have a breakdown of social media events that happen each month.
Paid advertising is a great way to market your new ecommerce business.
Investing in advertising is something that many have tried, failed and then never bothered to try again. Claiming it is a waste of time and money. However if you don’t know how to properly set up ads on platforms such as Google, Facebook and Instagram, it’s probably best to reach out to an expert.
There are a lot of advantages to paid advertising such as increasing brand awareness and getting more sales. However, if done incorrectly you will see nothing but wasted money.
You have to ensure that everything is set up correctly, otherwise you will be targeting groups of people that are not the target audience for your product.
Here at EKM, we have an in house team of Google experts that specialise in doing this for our customers. Google shopping works best for an ecommerce business selling physical products. Find out more about our Google shopping management service.
5 business ideas
If you’re still struggling with coming up with what you could sell on your online ecommerce shop, here are 5 business ideas for you to consider.
1. Personal Stylist
Many businesses have adapted to taking online video calls through either zoom or facebook to continue the same level of service during the current circumstances. This means business ideas such as offering online personal stylist sessions are still a possibility.
EKM hosted a live interview with personal stylist Martine Alexander. Martine talks about how she took the leap from her old job to become a personal stylist, how she found setting up an online EKM shop and using social media to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19.
2. Translation services
If you happen to speak more than one language you should definitely be thinking about starting an ecommerce business to sell your services online. Multilingual people are always in demand. This will also be easy and quick to set up.
Dropshipping as mentioned earlier is becoming a lot more popular due to its automated approach to fulfilling ecommerce orders. It can be a lucrative business if done correctly but there is a lot to consider before you jump in the deep end.
4. Courses and guides
Udemy is a great example of how successful online courses have become. Especially with the work from home circumstances that a lot of us have experienced, this has only boosted the demand for online learning.
If you have a hobby or knowledge on a particular topic you can start to create videos or written courses that will teach others everything you have to know.
5. Clothing Business
Clothes are never going to go out of style, making this a great business idea. The clothing industry is heavily saturated however creating a unique selling point will help when starting your ecommerce business.
Although when starting up a clothing business you aren’t targeting everyone that wears clothes. Look into niche sectors. Maybe you have a particular hobby that requires special clothing.
There are lots of ways to get creative in over saturated markets. Just make sure your brand is unique and offers a proposition that other businesses do not.
You should now understand the importance of doing the research before starting your ecommerce business.