Checklist to Starting an Ecommerce Business
1. Identify a high-potential product.
Google Trends, eBay Top Products and Amazon Best Sellers are all great resources to help you identify hot products. For example, fidget spinners are currently the hottest products, with new websites selling them popping up daily. The earlier you can spot a trend, the better your chance of turning it into a thriving online business.
Pick something that you will be interested in, because you’re going to have to invest a lot of time and energy if you plan on launching a successful e-commerce website. The more enthusiastic you are, the easier it will be.
2. Start With Your Business Name
The first thing to do (after you decide what you want to sell, of course) is choose a fabulous, memorable business name that no one else is using. You can conduct a corporate name search to make sure it’s not already in use. Once you’ve chosen the name, register it.
3. Secure Your Domain Name and Website
Ideally, you’ll get your business name as your domain name, but if it’s not available, choose a URL that’s easy to say and spell, and relates to your business.
The design of your eCommerce site may be the biggest business expense you have. But you want to ensure that it’s not only visually appealing, but also functional.
You'll need a web hosting service to publish the website online for shoppers to see. These services store the data files that make up websites, and then upload those files to the web for viewing by those who visit the site through its official domain name.
Mobile (responsive website): Just as important as your website, a presence on mobile devices is more crucial than ever, with more people buying directly from their smartphones. Your website needs to be optimized for mobile, meaning it dynamically changes size and layout for easy browsing on smaller screens.
Your process is more important than your product: Related to the above point – your purchasing process must be absolutely, completely and utterly straightforward and user friendly. If you have a complicated and unsecure shopping cart, you will cut your online customers in half, at least. The functionality of your eCommerce website is the most important part of your online business.
4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Operating an eCommerce business does not exclude you from needing certain business licenses and permits. Check with your city, county, and state to see what sorts of sales tax licenses or home business licenses you need, and get those approved before you start operating.
5. Start Marketing Early
Even if you’re not up and running, it’s a good idea to set up social media profiles and writing content for your blog now so that you’re not starting from scratch Day 1. You can set up your website with a “coming soon” page where people who are interested can sign up to get updates
You have a product and a website, now you need to figure out how you are going to put your offering in front of consumers who are likely to be interested in whatever it is that you are selling.
If you want to start generating sales immediately, launch a Facebook ads campaign that also includes Instagram. You can also use influencer marketing to drive conversions as soon as you launch. While your marketing plan should also include long-term components like search engine optimization, you need to focus on generating sales and revenue right out of the gate if you want to scale quickly.
6. Stock Your Inventory
Whether you’ve got a warehouse full of products somewhere or your inventory lives in your garage, make sure you’ve got enough to launch. It can be tricky, not knowing how much you’ll need, but in general, it’s better to have too much inventory than not enough. Pay attention to how your sales increase so you can be smart with future orders.
7. Figure out your fulfilment and shipping.
8. Find your Merchant services provider
Since online businesses can't accept cash payments via the website, they need a merchant services provider to handle their credit and debit card needs. This service acts as a link between the business, customer and credit card company. It processes the payments and takes the money from a credit card account and places it into the business's account, also known as a merchant account. Most merchant service providers offer this type of bank account, which acts as a holding location for the debit and credit card payments an e-commerce business collects. Once the funds have been approved, the merchant services provider transfers the money, minus a commission, to the business owner's bank account. Without a merchant services provider, a small business has no way of collecting money from customers.
9. Launch your online store.
The most important piece of advice I can give you in regards to your e-commerce business is this: Do not wait until you think it is perfect to launch. You are going to need to constantly split-test and make changes -- it’s never going to be perfect.
I was so eager to split-test different aspects that I launched before my first shipment of product arrived. Don’t let excuses or fear get in your way -- you are never going to know if you have a viable online business unless you launch.