Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

Frequently Asked Questions

It will generally be cheaper to set up an eCommerce business than a traditional bricks and mortar store. Just how much depends on the decisions you make when setting up the business. If you only sell a few items via social media, it probably won’t cost you much. However, if you set up a large-scale eCommerce store, shipping inventory you first have to buy, it will cost you considerably more. It is possible to create a profitable eCommerce business for less than $1,000 up-front.

How do I succeed in eCommerce?

In brief, eCommerce (electronic commerce) is selling goods or services online. It doesn’t have to just be buying and selling through a formal online store. Many people use an online marketplace, such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay, or Etsy, to sell their goods. eCommerce even includes online labor markets, such as Udemy. And indeed, some people happily make a reasonable living by merely selling things via social media. However, most successful eCommerce businesses build an eCommerce store using a specialist eCommerce platform.

Is it hard to start e-commerce?

Building your own e-commerce business is an exciting and challenging undertaking. It can be hard to start an ecommerce business, but you will learn about products, its viability, and more as you build your ecommerce website and market and sell the product to clients.

Which e-commerce is most profitable?

The most profitable e-commerce business ideas include:

  • Beauty and health products.
  • Selling second-hand products.
  • Smart home products.
  • Online educational courses.
  • Kids toys and games.

How do I start an eCommerce brand?

Here is our definitive guide to starting your eCommerce brand:

  • Pre-launch prep guide
  • E-commerce Platform Buyers’ Guide
  • Other Software to Grow Your Business
  • To Inventory or Not To Inventory
  • Creating a Business Plan
  • Boosting Sales with Third Party Apps

What are the 3 types of e-commerce?

The three primary types of e-commerce include:

  • Business-to-Business (like Shopify)
  • Business-to-Consumer (like Amazon)
  • Consumer-to-Consumer (like eBay)

Ideas from BigCommerce

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

spoke to 27 experts who gave their best online store opportunities for 2023. There was some overlap in their suggestions, meaning that they made various distinct eCommerce business ideas:

Why Learn E-Commerce Online?

The advantages of learning online are numerous: firstly, you can access material anywhere and anytime – perfect for those who want flexibility when it comes to studying. Secondly, there are more options available than ever before; you’ll be able to compare top-quality resources side-by-side and pick the best course for you. Finally, you’ll be able to obtain qualifications and certifications at a fraction of the cost – perfect for those on a tight budget.

That’s why it’s effective to learn e-commerce through a screen, and to prove that, you can start with this article. Let’s learn a gist of how to start an e-commerce business.

Create your business name and logo

Having a product and unique selling proposition should give you some ideas for naming your business, but now’s the time to settle on one.

A good business name should be:

  • Related to your business
  • Memorable
  • Easy to read and say
  • Easy to understand
  • Inoffensive

To come up with a brand name that meets these criteria start by writing down any words that fit your business. For example, if you were selling pet beds, ‘pet’ and ‘beds’ would be keywords, but ‘dogs’, ‘cats’, ‘furry’, ‘woof’, ‘purr’ might be too.

Take these keywords and enter them into a business name generator. Here are some names Shopify’s generator came up with for the keywords ‘dog beds’.

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

Source: Shopify Business Name Generator

Even if a name from the generator doesn’t immediately stand out as something you’d like as a business name, there might be ideas there that can serve as inspiration.

The next step is to check if your business name is available as a domain name for your online shopfront. Go to any domain registrar and enter your name in the search field. In the image below we used 123 Reg. But GoDaddy, Nominet, Shopify or Fast Hosts are all good alternatives.

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

Source: 123 Reg

Once you have a business name and domain name, you need a logo for your business. Your logo will be a key feature of your branding and appear on your e-commerce website, product packaging and marketing materials.

Like your name, your logo should represent your business. It should also be simple, memorable, timeless, versatile and appropriate.

If you’re working on a bootstrapped budget, there are several great tools that let you design a simple, but professional logo for free or a small fee:

To help you with your design, here are two insights to keep in mind:

To help you understand why certain brands use specific colours and how colours can trigger different emotions, read Buffer’s great post on colour psychology.

If you have some budget to play with, check out Fiverr, Upwork and 99designs. All three let you outsource to talented designers for an affordable price.

Quick Tip: To dive deeper into how to choose the right branding for your business, including how to align your core values and messaging with your chosen assets, read our guide on how to build a brand that customers love.

Make your pre-launch checks

After all the work you’ve done to get your product and online store ready, the last thing you want is a small mistake or missing detail to sour your big launch.

You should also make sure you’re familiar with the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. These regulations are in place for every business that advertises and sells goods online and is designed to protect both merchants and customers.

  • Full business details
  • VAT number (if applicable)
  • Prices, including delivery and tax
  • Details and registration number of any trade organisations you belong to
  • Details of relevant authorisation schemes
  • Details of professional qualifications
  • Details of contracts, including conduct, terms and conditions and technical steps

If you send emails to customers, these must include:

  • Details of your business or the person sending
  • Clear identification of goods, discounts, competitions and gifts
  • Clear explanation of qualifying conditions

You can find out more about the EC Directive on the government’s legislation website.

If everything is present, correct and working, you’re ready to show your store to the world.

What are some types of e-commerce revenue models?

Your business model defines who your customers are. On top of that, you’ll need a revenue model — a plan for how your business will make more money from those customers than you spend on inventory, warehousing, shipping and other costs.

Here are some common types of revenue models for e-commerce businesses.

With a subscription e-commerce business, customers sign up to receive products in regular intervals. Subscriptions can help businesses develop recurring revenue streams and maintain longer customer relationships than businesses that rely on one-off purchases.

Subscriptions have worked for many different types of businesses — from toothbrushes and razors to cleaning products, meal kits and clothing. If your product is something that customers will use frequently and need to replace, reuse or may run out of, a subscription e-commerce business model could work for you.

With white-labeling, you buy wholesale products and then brand them with another logo, label and packaging. This can be a good B2B business — you might apply another company’s branding to your products to create employee gifts or trade show giveaways. It can also be a B2C business if your products can be customized for specific celebrations, like bridal parties or baby showers, or with sentimental colors, like school colors.

However, when you white-label goods, you may have to buy in large quantities and maintain . This can increase your startup costs and introduce additional complexities, like maintaining warehouse space.

On-demand printing or manufacturing

With an on-demand e-commerce business, you create a product at the time the customer orders it. This way, you’re not stuck with stock that you’re not sure you can move. You can also potentially offer lots of customization for your customers.

On-demand manufacturing — also called print-on-demand — can sometimes mean orders have a longer lead time to get to customers, because they’ll have to wait for their product to be made instead of simply being shipped from your warehouse. It’s important to be upfront about your timeline, although you may be able to charge customers more for rush orders.

is an e-commerce business model in which you don’t actually keep any inventory in stock. Instead, you list goods for sale, then work with warehouse partners who keep your goods in stock and manage all of the operations once the orders have been placed.

Dropshipping can allow you to experiment with what you sell without having to pay upfront for stock that may not end up getting traction with your customers. But when you don’t manufacture products or manage shipping yourself — dropshippers may sell products they haven’t even seen — quality control can become challenging. Make sure you have a plan to address customer complaints, returns and exchanges.

Wholesaling and warehousing

Wholesaling and warehousing is typically a B2B or B2G business model. With wholesaling, you often keep a significant amount of inventory on hand and require buyers to purchase from you in bulk. You may manufacture these products yourself or act as the intermediary between manufacturers and niche buyers.

Creating a Business Plan

Because e-commerce businesses require significantly less capital upfront, owners can often start up on their own without having to seek funding. It’s always great to start your business without incurring a debt to another person or institution, but many online entrepreneurs think this means they don’t need to write a business plan. There’s a pervasive thought that a well-documented business plan is only necessary to prove to potential investors that you’ve thought everything through, and that you’re able to provide some concrete numbers to back your idea.

This is a disastrous assumption to make.

Even if a business plan were about accountability, it sets a dangerous operational tone to move forward without being accountable to yourself. Just because you know where you’re going on a journey doesn’t mean you can expertly get there: you still need to refer to maps and guides and understand the intricacies of all the places you’ll be passing through to minimize your risk. Your business plan is the map, and you’re going to need to refer to it from time to time. Even with a map you can still get lost—perhaps you missed a turn, or something distracted you—but without a map, you’ll never find your way back to the planned route.

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Approach the writing of your business plan as if you were plotting a long road trip. You may stray from the plan now and again if a different route seems better, or you want to visit a landmark you hadn’t previously known about. You’re not locked into the plan as it’s written before you start, but it’s something concrete you can turn to if you ever get lost.

When planning a road trip, you don’t just get directions and go. You have to plan for your needs along the way and prepare for any and all of them. Each section of your business plan is you preparing for the trip ahead, identifying what you will do at each turn, and how you will stay support your own efforts to get there.

Key Information for your Plan

  • Finances — List out your assets, project your profit and loss. Your projections should be based on realistic assumptions: don’t forecast a million in sales because you “believe” in yourself and your business. Probably more than any other part of your business plan, the section on finances will be the part of your map you refer back to most often. That’s because it’s the money trail where most business owners get lost.
  • Operations — Describe in detail how, operationally, you’re going to achieve everything set forth in the business plan. Who will be your suppliers? How will you handle the workflow from receiving an order to shipping it? Imagine it’s a few years from now and your business is running optimally and profitably: what does the day-to-day look like for all involved?

The Best Laid Plans

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

There’s that fairly well-known adage that came from an old Robert Burns poem: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” There are two interesting things about that quote. The first is its meaning, which is a blunt reminder that there’s only so much we can control and we need to be flexible when the unforeseen happens. The second is that that’s not even the real quote. Written in the 18th century, the line actually ends with the phrase “gang aft a-gley,” instead of “often go awry.” The meaning remained valuable, and so the words evolved to something more suited to modernity while still holding onto its core.

Such is your business plan.

What you wrote at the beginning may not translate well into the future, and so you have to be flexible and adaptable. The underlying goal of your plan will never change, but the methods you use to accomplish them might. Regardless, if you don’t write everything out clearly in the beginning, it may be hard to know what to change when the time comes. Not every business with a plan succeeds. But every business without one is fighting pretty poor odds.

Get to know the competition

Researching the competition helps you understand your rivals—not so you can copy them, but so you can strategically set yourself apart from the crowd.

Doing this now will help you tailor your offer so that you can launch with a competitive advantage.

Start by analysing the competition. You can do this in five steps. We go into depth on each of these steps in our post on how to run a competitive analysis (and win the race), but here they are in brief:

  • Step 1: Identify and segment your competitors. Break your competitors down into five segments:  Direct competitors Indirect competitors, Potential competition, Competitors solving the same problemCompetitors of attention
  • Direct competitors
  • Indirect competitors,
  • Potential competition,
  • Competitors solving the same problem
  • Competitors of attention

Find as many competitors as you can (between 10 and 20 is ideal).

Creating your unique selling proposition

Using your competitive analysis, come up with your unique selling proposition—the factor that makes your e-commerce store better than the rest and the reason shoppers should choose you.

A USP should be:

  • Memorable and distinguishable from everything else on the market
  • In line with your audience’s values
  • Something that can be consistently backed up

For example, rather than go down the overused route of having the ‘richest’ coffee around, Death Wish Coffee sells the ‘world’s strongest coffee’.

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

Source: Death Wish Coffee

It’s a USP that immediately separates them from the competition. And the company backs it up by breaking down how it’s made.

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

Write down everything that makes you different from the competition and how you can meet your audience’s unfulfilled needs to come up with a brand selling point that sets you apart and helps guide the future of your business.

Choose your e-commerce platform

An e-commerce platform is the software that your website is built on. These platforms are designed to make it easy to set up a shopfront and manage your orders and inventory in the background.

There are dozens of viable platforms out there to choose from. Here are five of the biggest platforms on the market for your consideration:


Shopify is the biggest and most popular e-commerce solution, powering over one million stores in 175 countries, including major brands like Heinz, Hasbro and Penguin Books.


WooCommerce is an e-commerce platform plugin designed for WordPress, turning an ordinary website into one that’s capable of taking orders. The platform powers over three million websites and over 8,500 online stores in the UK and is popular for its wide range of customisation features that give you full control over how your store looks and feels.

It’s also open-source, which means it can be downloaded, along with WordPress, for free. Unfortunately, open-source also means you’ll need to pay for web hosting and the platform doesn’t offer dedicated customer support like Shopify. However, there is ample help provided in the documentation and online forums.

Like WooCommerce, Magento is open source and free to use (you’ll need to pay for your own web hosting). It also offers limitless customisation possibilities, allowing you to create an online store that works exactly how you want it to, with a look that’s completely different to other stores.

But the advanced features come with a steep learning curve and making the most of them requires some coding knowledge.

Wix e-commerce

Wix e-commerce is a beginner-friendly drag-and-drop platform designed to get you up and running quickly. Besides being easy to use, Wix’s biggest benefits are its wide range of attractive templates and lack of hidden costs—everything you need to sell online is included in its pricing plans.

These are all great platforms, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Take some time to review features, compare prices and take advantage of free trials to see which option fits your needs and offers the best value for money.

E-commerce Platform Buyers’ Guide

In the first chapter of this guide, we covered all the things you need to think about and do just to get your little slice of the internet ready to host your online store. Now, we cover the store itself: your website. Or more specifically, the software that handles the shopping experience.

At its most basic level, e-commerce software is the shopping cart itself. When your customers select an item it goes into the cart, and that’s where they set up their shipping preferences and payment information. Today’s e-commerce platforms offer much more than this, though, and to figure out exactly what your needs are can be quite daunting.

Because this Buyers’ Guide is nestled within a larger guide on starting an e-commerce business, the information here will be based on a few assumptions: you’re starting from scratch, you’re not highly technical, and you’re probably not hiring someone who is. And that’s fine, by the way. In an age when cloud software (Software as a Service, or SaaS) can be accessed and run from within a web browser, hiring a person whose sole function is IT is a needless expense.

A Few Things to Consider

The decision to choose between a SaaS platform and buying your own server with software installed on it would normally be one of the things you’d have to consider upfront, but we just made that decision for you above. So let’s move on to another few items to consider before you decide:

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

  • Commercial or Open Source? There are some open source options that are as sophisticated and full featured as any commercial option available. If you’re not familiar with open source software, you’ll be interested to know it’s free. But also, if you’ve never heard of open source software, stay away from it. It requires some technical savvy and there usually isn’t any support involved. If there is, it’ll be a premium contract, often through a third party, that may end up eating into those savings.
  • How will you take payments? Payment processing is another service that’s built-in to an all-in-one e-commerce platform. Just as you need to pay a processor when a customer dips her card in a store to pay, you need to do the same with an online purchase. The processor takes a cut of each transaction, so you’ll want to shop around for the best price. And you’ll want an e-commerce platform that affords you the freedom to choose. You don’t need to settle on a specific processor before deciding on the software; just make sure—especially if your e-commerce platform has its own processing features—that you’re free to switch and integrate a new processor down the road if you need to.

Features You Need

In addition to these kinds of preliminary thoughts, you’ll also want to ID features that you want. But there are also some features you’ll need, whether you know it or not, so let’s break it down here.

Content Management System

If you know what WordPress is, then you know what a CMS does (and you can skip the next sentence). If you don’t, it’s the back-end system you use to manage your website and all the content that goes on it. It will provide templates and themes that can govern the look of the site as a whole, and it allows you to update the site, or any page on the site while it’s running. All e-commerce platforms will feature of CMS, but the features may be lacking. For a small business with a static product line, this is probably fine.

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Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

For a more dynamic business where products are added and removed regularly, or where they’re using a content marketing strategy to drive existing and potential customers to your site, you’ll want something much more full featured. Some platforms, like Shopify or BigCommerce, offer a robust CMS as part of their package. Another platform called WooCommerce was designed as a plugin for WordPress.

With static pages and a blog, plus your store, you’ll have an attractive, content-first store. Don’t think you need a blog or anything so complicated? Well, you do. The Content Marketing Institute’s research shows that 63% of marketers believe that content helps build loyalty with customers.

Like CMS, this is something that doesn’t necessarily need to be part of your e-commerce platform—you could use a third party solution that integrates well—but if you’re starting from zero you’ll want to give the inventory module a close look. Really, it’s not a question of “if” your shopping cart software has some inventory features, it’s a question of how good it is. In some cases, it’s just a matter of putting in the number you have on hand, and letting the software count backwards and then alert you when you’re running low. With other systems, you could have a full-fledged purchasing and warehousing management system as part of your inventory control. Whatever way you go is up to you, just don’t overlook the importance of this.

A simple but easily overlooked feature, being able to account for Product Variants (like size or color) ensures that your site doesn’t look like a joke. Think of it this way: if you sell one shirt, and that shirt comes in 3 different sizes and 4 different colors, that’s 12 different shirts. Without variants, that’s 12 different web pages from which you can buy the same shirt. With variants, that’s one page, and the customer can select the appropriate size and color. It’s much a cleaner way to do it. Having product variants isn’t going to make your online store cutting edge, but not having it will make your site a laughing stock.

Abandoned Cart Recovery

In truth, you don’t this in the way that you do CMS or inventory. No one will be the wiser if your site just clears these carts from cache after a certain amount of inactivity. But this is a feature that has no analog in the brick and mortar world. No sales associate from H&M ever knocked on a customer’s door the next morning with the shirts they ended up not buying and asked if they really meant to do that. That would be creepy. A feature like this is a huge reason you want to go the e-commerce route to begin with. It gives you another, non-creepy way to reach out to your customers and entice them to purchase.

Coupons and Discount Codes

One way to convert that abandoned cart into a sale is to offer a one-time discount as an incentive to come back and make a purchase. If your software can’t handle this, that’s a big missed opportunity. That’s not the only reason why you’d need it, of course—promotions and seasonal sales are part of the business. Like Inventory, this is a feature that everyone will offer, but some do it better than others. Make sure to see how it’s handled and how discounted sales are tracked.

Flexible Payment Options and Secure Checkout

The more methods of payment you can take the better. These days, it’s not just a matter of taking a variety of credit cards. Online services like PayPal or ApplePay are becoming increasingly popular because of their added security. Speaking of which: making sure your site is secure from top to bottom is of course important. But the stakes are even higher at checkout time, when some incredibly sensitive information is getting transmitted across the wire. Remember, if your site is ever hacked, it’s not just your data that’s at risk. If you didn’t take precautions, your customers may pay the price. And they may not want to pay you for anything else again.

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Customer Relationship Management

Also known as CRM, this is where you can store all your customer information—like personal information, payment methods, and shipping addresses—as well as the data on all their purchases. Knowing that is a great way to personalize the experience for your customers, but your CRM also serves as the foundation for your marketing efforts. You’ll know what’s trending with your customers, what products to push, and who to push them to. And you’ll have their contact information stored so you can market directly to their inboxes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of features, but these are the ones that will be integral to growing and sustaining your online store. Elsewhere in this guide, we’ll look more in-depth at some other kinds of software that can help round out your business—from big-ticket items like accounting and marketing to add-on apps that can help boost sales. For now, though, you’ve got a store to set up. Take what you’ve learned in these first two chapters and get your business going.

Table of contents

Learn How to Start an E-commerce Business Online

In a Burst blog post, offers a list of 26 trending business ideas. The largest eCommerce platform has suggested business ideas that it has noticed are particularly popular this year. Shopify changes its suggestions regularly, so the examples you see by clicking through to the link may differ from those they suggested when we wrote this post.

How to design an e-commerce business model

can help you define your e-commerce business and revenue models — or, in other words, who you’re selling to and how your business will make money. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Who are your customers? You should know your audience, but it doesn’t have to be narrow. Developing multiple revenue streams can help your business weather industry downturns or changes in consumer behavior — just don’t overextend yourself trying to sell to everyone.
  • How often will they buy your products and services? Are you selling something that customers will need on a recurring basis, or will most of your sales be one-offs? If you’re pursuing a subscription business, make sure you have the resources to order enough inventory and pack shipments on a regular basis.
  • Will you keep inventory? If you want to sell high volumes of goods without on hand, print-on-demand and dropshipping may appeal to you.
  • How much control do you want? If you want to be heavily involved in quality control and the production of your products, dropshipping may not appeal to you.
  • How many products will you offer? Do you want to provide customers with many color, size and package options? The more options you offer, the more you’ll have to manage your suppliers.
  • How much bandwidth do you have? If your e-commerce business is a side gig, you may not be in a position to take on government contracts or large B2B orders.

To Inventory or Not To Inventory

One of the benefits of an e-commerce store is that you don’t necessarily need to invest heavily in inventory, if at all. Nearly a third of all online stores—27% to be exact—use drop-shipping to fulfill sales. If you don’t know, drop-shipping is when the seller arranges for a third party partner—a distributor—to ship the product from its warehouse directly to the customer.

Unless you’re an Etsy-type “maker” who’s handcrafting items for sale, there’s a good chance that using the drop-shipping model can save you serious upfront costs and overhead. There are even some customised products you can sell and make to order while never spending a dime on inventory—think mugs and t-shirts a la . With that kind of flexibility, it’s worth looking deeper into drop-shipping as a viable way to do business. It’s not for everybody, of course, but maybe it’s for you?

The Benefits of Drop-shipping

First and foremost, drop-shipping is a money saver. In a brick and mortar store, you’d have to lay out thousands of dollars to fill it up with inventory, but that’s not necessary for e-commerce—your customers don’t care where the product is when they buy it, just so long as it’s shipped to their door in a reasonable amount of time.

You’ll also save on overhead: if we’re to have a bunch of products on hand, then you’re going to need space to house that product. You’ll want to ensure it, of course, and you’ll need to exact some control via software to keep tabs of what’s coming in and what’s shipping out. All of these things come at a price, and it’s a price you’ll be paying monthly if you want to carry your own inventory.

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You’ll spend some time finding good distributors to work with and negotiating all your costs with them, but once that’s done your inventory is all set. You don’t have to order it, or wait for it to arrive; there’s no need to “receive,” organize and catalog it. And for every order that arrives, you don’t have to pick it, box it, print a label, or ship it. Everything happens through your distributors, who’ve already got the infrastructure to handle this.

Flexible Catalog for your Business

If something isn’t selling well, you won’t be stuck with a bunch of pieces you can’t move. Instead, you just discontinue carrying a product. This is helpful on an individual level, but it’s also a great asset for your business as a whole: you’re essentially A/B testing your product line without any added financial risk.

Growth is Built-In

You might get to a point where you find that it makes sense to carry your own inventory. But if you never do get to that point, there’s no upper limit on your growth with drop shipping. If you want to sell more products, you don’t need to buy more inventory and you won’t need to find bigger warehouse space. You just sell more products.

There is a Downside, Too

Sure, there’s a big upside to drop shopping, but not everything is perfect. There are some negatives around the choice, and it’s important to weigh these against the positives.

Issues with Inventory

Just because you’re not keeping your own inventory doesn’t mean you’re ordering from a magical supply that never runs out. Sometimes distributors just don’t have the items, and you have no control over when they’ll restock. This is not a conversation you ever want to have with a disappointed customer.

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It’s not unusual for an e-commerce business to work with multiple distributors—or for their distributors to have multiple warehouses. There’s a lot of room for error on the distributor side of things, but you’re still the one who has to take the heat with a customer if something goes wrong.

Complicated Return/Refund Process

Ideally, you’d find out what your return policy is when you sign on with a distributor, and then use that as the basis for your own return policy. It doesn’t always work that way, though, and these things can often get complicated. There often ends up being a dispute about who is responsible for what and to whom—as with everything else on this list, it’s ultimately an issue of who is controlling the sales flow,and it’s often not your, the drop shipper.

Tips On Finding the Right Distributor

Because so much of your reputation with your customers is riding on your supplier’s ability to deliver—literally—this is where you need to spend most of your planning time, you ever launch a website. Identifying your supplier or suppliers is the most crucial decision you’ll have to make in the early phases of your business. Do your homework, and make sure you trust the people you’re working with, especially your Account Representative.

Here are some things to investigate:

  • Shipping Times — Because of the extra layer of complication, you’re probably not going to get a delivery experience like Prime. You may not be able to achieve two business days, but three is eminently doable. Investigate what your potential distributor’s shipping capabilities are, and what they can guarantee.
  • Reasonable Per Order Fee — There’s no getting around paying some kind of fee for them to handle and ship orders on your behalf. But some suppliers take the fee too far: do the math on any fee they charge and see how much they’re getting percentage-wise. Is that a fair cut?
  • Back-end Technology Investment — Believe it or not, some distributors still lag when it comes to having a web front-end for their customer operations. This is more important than you think. You’ll know how modern they are by how easy or difficult it is to do business with them. Can you find anything you need easily on the website? Can you order through it? The more modern a supplier’s infrastructure, the easier it will be to do business with them.
  • Product Quality — Beware shockingly low prices: you often end up getting what you pay for. Look for suppliers with high customer satisfaction rates and low return rates (if you can find that out). These are indicators that the product is of high quality.

To Drop or Not to Drop, That Is the Question

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the decision about whether to drop-ship, and then there are a bunch more decisions to be made after that. If you do your homework right, and you partner up with some quality distributors, you’ll find that a lot of your business seemingly runs on autopilot. You can also see that if you don’t do your due diligence here, you’ll end up operating in a constant state of catch up.

So do your homework right, and pick the right partner. Them handling all your order fulfilment frees you up to take care of what is perhaps the most important part of launching your e-commerce business: marketing. And that, not-so-coincidentally, is the subject of our next section.

Boosting Sales with Third Party Apps

From delivery services to loyalty programs, there’s no shortage of third party apps you can integrate with to access a wider audience. This guide will cover the top choices out there.

So, you’ve got your online store going, your marketing is in full swing, and you’re starting to make some sales. It feels like you’re done with the setup portion of starting your business, and you could be if you wanted to. But you don’t want to, right? Because you know that even if your revenue is exceeding your expectations, there is always room to grow.

We say especially for two reasons. First, your customers aren’t limited to just those people around you; there are billions of people on the internet around the world, and it’s not any more or less difficult for them to pull up your site as it is for the people in your community. Second, and this is a big deal, you’ve got technology on your side. There are hundreds of apps designed to integrate and work with online stores, with the goal of boosting sales. There are different ways to achieve this, so let’s take a look at the different categories of apps that can help.

Social Proof

Just because you’ve never heard the phrase “social proof” doesn’t mean you’ve never experienced it. Essentially peer pressure in capitalist form, social proof in retail is the phenomenon by which people feel more comfortable making a purchase because they see other people doing it. If you’re in a shopping mall and see two stores selling clothes you like, you’re more likely to check out the one that’s busy over the one that’s empty. The same idea applies online, though it obviously works a little differently.

For an online store, social proof can come in the form of pop-up notifications. You’ve probably already experienced this.  If you’re looking at a particular item online, for example, a social proof app will pop up a message every time someone else buys that thing,

Michael S. from Scranton, PA just bought 15 bottles of Vodka!

Seeing these messages at least reassures people that you’re for real, and that other people are buying. Seeing several of these messages pop up during a shopping “trip” can also generate some serious FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—getting people to make a more impulsive decision, lest they get shut out of a deal.

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Loyalty, Rewards, and Referrals

You spend time and money acquiring new customers; make sure they come back! And if they’re happy enough to come back, make sure they’re telling their friends about you.

Modern loyalty apps can work in a few different ways:

  • Virtual Punch Card — Buy X amount of an item, get one free; this is the perfect setup for low-cost, non-necessity items.
  • Social Posting — Reward your customers for checking in or sharing purchases, all from a loyalty app.

Along with these kinds of rewards are just simple Referral apps. You can offer incentives at the time of purchase—or anytime, really—with referral codes that link back to your customers.

Upselling and Cross-selling

With the right integration, you can group products that complement one another or identify upgraded/newer models of something. When your customers add one thing to their shopping cart, your store can make recommendations. It can be like Amazon’s “Customers Bought These Together” recommendation or an alert that a newer and better version is available.

Social Integrations

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In a physical store, customers with questions can walk up to employees with answers. But with an online shop people are often on their own. Email is good for less immediate customer needs, but doesn’t help in a sales situation. A phone call is more immediate, but, you know, it’s the phone. No one uses their phones to talk anymore.

A live chat feature adds a human touch to an otherwise mechanized experience, which is good on its own accord. Even better is knowing that customers won’t be abandoning carts because they aren’t sure about something.

Finding the Right Apps

As you might imagine, there are hundreds—maybe even thousands—of apps that you can integrate with your store, and for many more reasons than just boosting sales. Not every app is compatible with every e-commerce platform, so you might need some time to find the right one for you.

As with anything, you’ll want to do your due diligence on the software. At the verify what level of support you’ll receive, if any. Many of these plug-ins are free and come with limited support. Others you may have to pay for, but that’s no guarantee that you’ll get the ability to call someone to fix any problems.

When you’ve found the right ones for you, you can officially consider your online store fully set up. You won’t be able to just sit back and wait for the sales to roll in—there’s still work to be done, but at least you won’t have to leave your house to do it.

More Resources and Information

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We’ve also put together some more in-depth reviews into shopping cart software for businesses that are looking to get more than just a way to take payments.

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • WooCommerce
  • Square Online

We’ve got a collective 70+ years of experience in e-commerce, digital marketing, and growth hacking that went into these guides. That experience, plus a ton of research, has resulted in this, the definitely guide to starting an e-commerce business. So, have at it—and happy researching!

Ideas from eCommerce CEO

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has written about 15 Niche Ecommerce Business Ideas You Can Bank On. In this article, they emphasize that «you DON’T need a specific product to start an eCommerce business. But you do need to validate your business plan and monetization strategy. You can always dial in specific products later down the road.» They observe that «with a million products to sell on Amazon, there are too many small eCommerce business ideas out there.». They, therefore, analyzed many niches to narrow down to the ones they thought best.

The 15 niche eCommerce business ideas that eCommerce CEO went for were:

  • Monetized niche Amazon affiliate site selling private label products
  • Private label natural skin care products for women
  • Sell handmade treats to pet owners
  • Wholesale baby toiletries for eco-friendly parents
  • Print-on-demand lifestyle apparel
  • Dropship HIIT equipment and sell training programs to beginners
  • Launch a beauty subscription box for men
  • Rent high-end fashion to budget-minded fashionistas
  • Deliver organic food on demand to clean-eating enthusiasts
  • Create online courses for computer-savvy students
  • White label prepackaged gluten-free food
  • Dropship handmade jewelry to women
  • Private label bamboo toothbrushes
  • Dropship high-ticket items
  • Private label men’s bags

eCommerce CEO suggests the best eCommerce niches all have:

  • market & sales growth
  • growth on Google Trends
  • strong Amazon sales
  • bloggers and influencers
  • a clear niche type

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