For most of my life, I have dreamed of being a business owner. I grew up in a small town where the single location, “mom and pop” stores were the norm.
As a young girl, I went back and forth between wanting to run my own clothing store versus my own book store. Although my town had a few of these niche-type shops and a couple of department stores already, I still held onto my dream for many years.
But then I graduated from high school, went off to college, and have lived in larger towns ever since.
However, even in my small hometown, the entire concept of shopping has changed dramatically over the past two decades. The town I grew up in now boasts a “super” Walmart and a Kohl’s store, for example. I’m glad that some of the original independent stores continue thriving though.
In today’s hustle and bustle world of franchises and mega-stores, the small, family-owned businesses seem to have become more of an exception than not.
There is also the ever-growing popularity of online shopping, which is yet another form of competition that many small business owners find they must now contend with. People no longer have to leave their homes at all to buy almost anything they want or need. And online shopping continuously becomes more sophisticated and convenient in order to keep up with consumer demand.
How about you – are you a startup or small business owner with products and/or solutions to sell?
If so, there has never been a better time to consider starting your own ecommerce business, especially if you want to reach consumers who are outside your local bubble.
Here are a few things to consider when starting an ecommerce business
In a recent article for Entrepreneur, The Top 5 Reasons You Should Start an Ecommerce Business, Thomas Smale explains why now is the “right” time:
- Worldwide, ecommerce is expected to grow by as much as 13 to 25 percent (forecasting $1.6 trillion in profits for online merchants this year, and $2.5 trillion in profits by 2018).
- The ability to earn as you sleep (Time zones are no longer a factor – your shop is open 24/7/365).
- It’s easy to get up and running (I talk about this more below).
- Eighty percent of the web population has made a purchase online.
- You can sell more to customers down the line.
If you’re new to the concept of ecommerce, you may feel initially overwhelmed by all the options out there.
However, once you choose an ecommerce platform, you’ll find that most online storefront builders provide all the resources and tools you need. Most of them will walk you through, step-by-step. This helps you to set up your shop and start selling online quickly and easily.
How to start an ecommerce business: 6 easy tips to help you plan out the basics
I found a helpful post on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website about starting a successful ecommerce business.
The author of the post, Caron Beesley, obtained advice from real business owners who have hands-on experience and first-hand knowledge.
Here is a list of the easy tips and helpful hints they provide for starting your own ecommerce business:
- Decide what you want to do and define your niche
Knowing what you are going to sell, how, and to whom is a critical part of your business plan.
- Have a plan
Just like any other aspect of sales and marketing, you must start with a strong foundation – i.e., a plan – from the get-go.
A plan provides you with the goals and focus you need, as well as a budget to work with. As well, having a plan allows you to anticipate and be prepared for all situations – positive and negative – that may arise.
- Fund your business at a low cost
Fortunately, most ecommerce builders and platforms let you get started at a low cost. Some even let you start for free.
That way, if you decide that an ecommerce business is more complicated or time-consuming for you to maintain, you won’t lose much money.
- Build a website
Just like having an attractive and findable website is important for your other inbound marketing activities, it is essential that you have one for your ecommerce activities as well.
Your website is where your potential customers can learn more about you and your products as they begin researching and making their purchasing decisions.
- Drive traffic to your site
Having a great website is not enough these days, especially when you’re building an ecommerce business. In order for people to find you online, you must also implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques such as regular blogging and making good keyword choices for your evergreen content.
Being active and engaged on social media is also essential. Social media platforms allow you to have online conversations and develop relationships with current and potential consumers.
When your ecommerce business is more established, social media can provide great opportunities for you to reward loyal customers (with coupons or special sale notifications), as well as provide customer service. These help with customer retention and a good reputation for your ecommerce business.
- Don’t forget to follow the “rules of the road”
In other words, make sure you read and fully understand all of the terms and conditions for the ecommerce platform you choose to go with. And, just like starting a brick and mortar business, you will also want to follow all the legal steps involved in starting an ecommerce business.
The SBA provides information for starting a business here.
They also provide a thorough guide and checklist for entrepreneurs who are specifically interested in starting an ecommerce business here.
Are you in the process of starting your own ecommerce business or have you considered it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.