It’s projected that in the next two years, nearly 80% of all Internet users will also be online shoppers (source). That amounts to hundreds of millions of potential customers that could be adding revenue to your business or brand!
Building an ecommerce store from the ground up takes a lot of work, with new tasks and issues cropping up each and every day. However, the basics are really easy and once you learn the fundamentals, everything else will fall into place in short order.
1. Name your brand
If you already have an established business, skip to step 2.
If not, it’s time to come up with a highly memorable, brandable name that isn’t in use yet. A corporate name search is the easiest way to determine if the name you want to choose is available.
2. Buy a domain and set up the website
This can often be the most challenging part of the process. So many domains exist and even the most cleverly-conceived business name may be taken already.
If the domain’s taken, get creative and look for alternatives that fit with your brand. For example, say your business name is Joe’s Auto Parts and Joesautoparts.com is taken already: try Autopartsbyjoe.com or something similar.
Web design costs for an ecommerce solution can definitely be intimidating. If you don’t have the budget or aren’t sure about the market for your products yet, try a ready-made solution like Shopify or one of these alternatives which handle hosting concerns like loading speed and downtime prevention, while allowing you to use your own domain name.
3. Apply for EIN (Employer Identification Number)
Next step is to secure an EIN with the IRS. This will allow you file your business taxes the following year and keep out of tax troubles with the government. It’s also required to open a business bank account.
4. Get appropriate business licenses and permits
Don’t assume that just because the business is located online that you won’t need licenses and permits. All online businesses are bound by state and provincial laws in most countries.
5. Secure reliable vendors
There’s no easy way to go about this if you don’t already have access to a list of good vendors for the products you’ll be selling.
Great starting points include: performing Internet searches, going to industry trade shows, reading industry magazines (ie., search classifieds), consulting with competitors, and even going directly to the big brands themselves to inquire about wholesale agreements.
6. Set up marketing platforms
You can set up an account with Google Adwords account easily and instantly start advertising your store in the search results.
However, getting social media accounts set up – complete with followers – takes much more time and effort to cultivate a following. Research which platforms are performing best to market your products and make sure your profiles are 100% complete.
The same goes for a blog; it takes time to curate and/or write fresh content and start getting some Google love for your efforts.
Start all this before your official store launch, if possible, to add age and credibility to your brand.
7. Hire a maintenance team and set up a maintenance schedule
If you’re using a ready-made solution, most of the scary maintenance stuff will be taken care of for you by the platform provider. If you’re going with a custom solution of your own, you’ll need a smart web developer or two in your corner to deal with layout, maintenance, and security issues that will come up along the way.
Even if you can handle things on your own at first, likely working night and day to do so, updates and maintenance will become a real issue as your store grows.
8. Time to launch!
If you’ve managed to get the above basics taken care of (along with any other requirements you’ve encountered along the way), you’re officially ready to launch your business.
This is where the real struggle begins, but also where your efforts will pay off if you heed the advice you’ve been given here. Continually strive to maintain stringent customer service standards, and always work to expand your network and fill it with people who can answer your questions and offer advice when you need it.
If you’ve made it this far – way to go! Success is yours for the taking!