It’s not easy learning how to start an eCommerce Business, but with digital companies and ideas booming, it can be one of the best ideas you ever have. Thus, just think about this: you need to take your time and determine how you are going to approach the process before jumping in.
Ecommerce businesses, which are businesses that send goods, services, and funds over the Internet, can be large or small, so don’t feel pressured for having to establish a specific size for the company.
They range from small pages you land when researching online and Etsy to some crafted websites and retail giants like Amazon to make you familiar with them.
Ecommerce is one of many sectors that has experienced significant growth in the last five years, but especially in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce sales in the United States amounted to over $180 billion in the third quarter of 2020. This represents over 10% of retail sales alone.
Now, it might be a good idea to open an e-commerce store, depending on your goals. This type of business offers many entrepreneurs greater flexibility, affordability, and opportunities without having to open a physical store. How do you set up an online business? This guide will help you to approach the project in the right way.
Research & Choosing a Niche
Research is the first step to starting an e-commerce company to know the waters where you are planning to dive in. You’ll need to do the same research as you would when opening any physical store or business. Thus, this isn’t as simple as just looking at some details. Instead, it would help if you continued giving it your all.
Consider what your e-commerce company will offer. Are you selling products or services, or both? Are you selling physical products or digital products? What are your sources of products?
You’ll also need to consider the business model that you will use. Will you sell single products, subscriptions, or something else entirely?
Additionally, you need to think at a larger scale: how can you get your products and services to your customers? How much will startup costs be? Are there any legal or other regulations that your product or service must comply with?
These questions, along with others, are essential to the start of your business. They will also help you create and draft your business plan while you better understand your goals and how to achieve them.
The growth of the eCommerce industry is a huge benefit to anyone who wants to start an online business. However, it also means that there will be more competition. It’s important to research your competitors and locate a place where you feel you can build your brand and sell products and services.
To make the best decisions quickly and efficiently, you must first build your online store. There are many ways that sellers can decide which products to sell and build.
Now, when moving forward, ask yourself: which problem or challenge are you trying to solve? Which person feels this pain the most? What would you do to solve this problem?
You are trying to be a solution to your prospects or customers. Thus, it is a good idea to set your mind on this.
It is important to find a problem that is worth solving. Without customers, ideas can fail.
During this process, consider the challenges your products will face. You should identify the people who will appreciate what your products are about and keep them in mind. This will help you prioritize your tasks.
It doesn’t take much to come up with a great product idea. People often sell to people they know because it’s easier to quickly identify problems and determine needs. To identify products and services that might be of interest to people who share your interests, think about what you are interested in.
Ideas can be generated from everyday activities, such as sharing a meal with friends or just brainstorming during one of your long yet necessary sessions and days.
When looking for product ideas, there are some questions you should ask.
Your immediate environment is the best place to begin researching your business idea. Find out what people are looking for and how they can help you. You can find ideas for your business by being attentive:
- Which problems or pain points do you want to resolve?
- Which product flaws do you find most frustrating?
- What trends are you able to capitalize on in the world?
Anything related to a product or problem can be included here as a proper question.
Validating the Product Idea
Your chances of success are higher if you spend more time validating your product. Once you have a clear idea of your business, it is time to research similar products and what your potential customers may be looking for.
To validate your idea, talk to potential customers
Talking to people is the best and most cost-effective way to determine if your idea is worth exploring. Talk to people who are most affected by your problem or frustrated once you have identified it as a problem worth solving.
Reach out to a small number of people to find out if they are facing the same problem as you and how they deal with it.
In exchange for 30 minutes of their time, offer to buy 5-10 people coffee or provide a simple gift that isn’t expensive. Your meeting is a great opportunity to discuss the problem and to see if they are willing to pay money to fix it.
You should not bring up your product as it may impact the answers. Instead, think about how they feel about the problem, what they do to deal with it, and if they would pay for the solution. What would they pay to solve the problem? These questions will help you determine if your product has a market.
However, this is only a method; to evaluate the viability of your product, you can use multiple criteria. There are two types of evaluation criteria: product-based and market-based.
These are the market factors you should be looking at:
- Your product/service’s market share and demand.
- Know your competitors.
- This is a growing trend, fad, or flat market.
- How local customers can get the product/service.
- Who are your target customers?
Once you have a clear idea of the market and the people you want to reach, you can start to look at the next criteria. Examine:
- Your potential selling price.
- The possible markup you can get for your product/service.
- How many product types and styles will you stock?
- If you will offer a subscription.
- If you are selling physical products, your product’s size, weight, durability, and strength.
- How likely are you to experience seasonal buying fluctuations?
- Your product or service should solve a problem or serve a passion.
Once done with any of the criteria, start analyzing your results.
You can get an idea of the cost to start your online business by looking at the market and product-based criteria. If you sell a physical product at a low price, you will need to sell more than the premium to make a profit.
However, digital products are more affordable to make and can be priced higher depending on the value they offer. This could make digital products a more attractive option for small businesses or solo entrepreneurs just starting out.
These criteria will give you an idea of the potential market for your product or service and can help you avoid making common mistakes in your niche.
Business Name & Legal Structure
After you have established the main parts for your eCommerce business, it is time to pick a name.
You will need to choose a unique name that clearly identifies your business. It is a good idea to check the website of your local secretary-of-state, as well as that of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which will ensure you don’t choose a name for a business that another company has already claimed.
While you may not want to spend too much time building a website, it is worth checking to see if the potential domain name is still available. If your domain name is currently being used, you may consider a different business name or a different structure.
Next, you will need to choose the legal structure. Your e-commerce business will be affected by the type of business entity you choose.
You will generally decide to form a corporation, general partnership, LLC, or sole proprietorship. Each entity type has its advantages and disadvantages. You may want to consult an attorney to determine the best choice depending on how you want to work with it.
You don’t need to register to establish a general partnership or sole proprietorship. Your business will be legally associated with your name. If you wish to operate under the name that you have chosen, you will need to file a DBA (doing business under) application with your local government.
Did You Think About How to Get the Product?
If you plan to sell physical products, you will need to determine a model to obtain them and ship orders to your customers. Here are some models to consider:
- Make it yourself.
You can make the product by yourself and deliver it to the customer. This is a great option if your product is easy to make, such as pottery or any jewelry. You’d need to buy your materials and work with them to start. Just make sure you do it in small quantities.
- It can be manufactured.
Partnering with a manufacturer is an option if your product is not something you have the skills or tools to create, especially if your product will be sold in large quantities.
Manufacturers usually require that you order in bulk. If you choose this route, you will need to be able to pay for large orders.
- Buy wholesale and resell.
This will allow you to buy commercial versions or independent products of your product and then sell them through your store at an additional markup. The manufacturer determines the price, and the market decides the markup.
Dropshipping is a good option for those who don’t want the hassle of carrying inventory. It involves working with another company to ship your product after someone has ordered it.
Your margin is about 20%, as there’s no startup expense to produce the product. It would be listed on your website and fulfilled by your dropshipping partner.
- Offer digital products.
You can make any type of digital product, and this will be, usually, cost-efficient but a bit time-consuming. Anything you download is able to be used as if it were a product. You can also use digital products to provide a service such as writing, therapy, and design.
Customers can download digital services or downloads online. Depending on the product, there is usually a low overhead cost. If you are just starting your business, it is a great option to offer products digitally.
Your Business Plan Should Be Written
Although this is usually the first step, we wanted to add it here to ensure that you have the basics complete.
Now, to keep your business on the right track, you’ll need a roadmap. After you have decided on the basics, creating a business plan can help you set goals and get into the details of how you will run your business to reach your customers.
Lenders and investors will require that you have a business plan if you want to get a loan for your business. Your plan should be as professional and thorough as possible.
Include these elements to ensure it is as complete as possible since the beginning:
- Your business size.
- Describe what you are selling or offering.
- How you will make money.
- A list of executives and employees involved in the business.
- How you can get financing and why it is worth investing in you.
- Your operations model and business entity.
When developing your plan, keep in mind your intended audience. If investors are involved, ensure they understand what you’re doing. If you are going to hire people to work for your company, ensure they understand your values and how you will treat them.
You can find free online business plan templates if you need something more specific.
Finally, before you jump to this step when you are writing your plan, it is important to understand your goals. The plan will look different if it’s written to raise startup capital than if it’s just for you.
Keep your tone consistent throughout the document. This can be achieved by having one person complete the entire document or by taking the time to edit it before you submit it to others.
Keep your business plan concise and to the point. It should not exceed 15 to 20 pages as part of our recommendation.
You Need to Apply to an EIN
Next, you will need to apply for an EIN (or employer identification number) for your eCommerce business.
While not all types of business entities require an EIN, this nine-digit number can help you to separate your personal and professional finances and save you from bankruptcy if something goes wrong.
You’ll want to apply online for your business tax I.D., as you are learning how to set up an e-commerce company. Once you have done so, you will receive your number immediately.
This process doesn’t take too much time, and you can do most of the tasks online.
Ready? Get Your Business Permits and Licenses
Once you have applied for your EIN, you will need to apply for any permits or business licenses required to operate in your state and city legally; even when you are an eCommerce, you still need to meet laws and regulations.
You don’t need to register your e-commerce company with the state if it’s a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or limited liability company.
But the story changes, and you need to register your company with your state in order to obtain a general operating license. Depending on your location, you may need to obtain one, so everything depends on your final area.
E-commerce is generally not required to obtain business licenses or permits because they are home-based businesses. You will need to research the requirements in your local area to determine what it is for you.
This information can be found online through your state or local government website. To legally operate, home-based businesses must have a home occupation permit. This permit shows that you’re not adding traffic, noise, or other problems to your locality by operating your business from your home.
You may also need the following types of permits and licenses for business:
- Trade and professional licenses are available for certain industries.
- Sales tax permits.
- Permits for health, safety, and the environment
Selecting Your Platform & Creating the Website
The majority of the steps we have taken so far are similar to starting ANY type of business, so there’s no need to dive too deep if you are already familiar with this.
However, what you will need to do next is completely different from the usual. Instead of looking for a physical location and setting up your store, you will start building your online store and website.
This website is like a physical storefront. It will be your customer’s first impression and the place they will go shopping for your products and services.
This is why creating it is an essential part of your e-commerce venture. As you build your online storefront, keep a few things in mind.
Your domain name is the first thing you should think about. It should match your business name, at least in part.
Next, your most important decision is to choose an eCommerce platform. After all, it is the foundation you will use to create and grow your online store, whether it’s an all-in-one platform like Shopify or an open-source platform like Magento, maybe a cheap and free one like Wix.
Many e-commerce platforms allow you to create and launch an online store and customize it, buy a domain, manage inventory, ship orders, collect a payment, and more.
There are many platforms on the market. However, these popular options can be used to start as they offer the best optimization in most cases:
Shopify is the most popular and well-known e-commerce platform. It offers an all-inclusive solution that’s user-friendly with many add-ons. You have several subscriptions and can take templates that provide all the tools you need.
WooCommerce can be downloaded by those who have a WordPress website or are familiar with it.
The plug-in is free, open-source, and available for download. It also includes all the e-commerce features. WooCommerce is more suitable than Shopify for those who have the technical skills to use its open-source nature.
Squarespace is most commonly thought of as a website builder. However, it also offers eCommerce capabilities and is well-known for its modern templates.
Squarespace offers two eCommerce-specific plans: Basic for $26 per month and Advanced for $40 per month.
Like Shopify, it is easy to use and can be used by business owners with all levels of technical skills.
You might also consider the open-source Magento version if you are looking to personalize every aspect of your online shop. You can customize every aspect of your website with this e-commerce platform. However, technical skills are required (or you will have to pay) for it.
While Magento is not the best platform for beginners in e-commerce, if you have the technical skills or the money to hire a developer, Magento will likely offer the best open-source solution available. Plus, it is free to download.
There are many important factors to consider when selecting the right platform for your online business. Consider cost, usability, features, and many others.
Your e-commerce platform will be the backbone of your business. You need a system that can allow you to set up and manage your daily operations.
After you have decided on the right solution, you can start customizing your website and launching it.
Sourcing & Listing Your Products/Services
You’re almost done with the entire process once you have chosen an e-commerce platform. You will now need to source the products that you want to sell.
When you did your research a few steps before, and we talked about finding the products, you should already have thought about how you will go about this and the reason why we included it in this guide.
You might make your products or source them from distributors. If you are selling services such as consulting, you will simply need to list and describe these services on your website.
This step is more difficult if you are selling products. You’ll need to take into account the inventory you wish to purchase and what your startup costs will be.
It’s important to take the time to list inventory on your online shop. This will allow you to think about SEO and how customers experience the entire process, from the moment a customer buys a product to the time they receive it.
Start Marketing Your Ecommerce Business
You’ve now learned how to set up an e-commerce store and get started with your eCommerce.
Then, what’s next? You are now ready to serve customers. You will need to market your eCommerce business properly to achieve this.
You can choose from a number of marketing strategies, including Google ads, social media ads, and word of mouth. You will want to optimize your website for SEO and use any online marketing tools included in your e-commerce platform.
Once your e-commerce site is live and you begin to receive orders, you will need to track which marketing strategies are effective and which ones are not.
This is especially important if you are investing in them. You’ll find the best marketing strategy for your business as you learn more about your customers.
The Local Lead Generation Process for Your eCommerce Business
All right! So, everything is about building properties and generating leads. But how does the process actually take place? Are there other steps I need to know?
The steps I mention below are what students from our local lead generation program follow to generate leads for businesses like yourself. So I’ll help you see what we do. And how if you join our program, you can simply generate leads for your own business (unless you want to start a side hustle and build a laptop lifestyle business).
Essentially, our lead generation can be divided into four steps:
The first is prospecting. You need to take the time to do market research on a niche (industry) and determine how many phone-driven businesses are there.
Keep in mind that this is local research as you need to know how many companies need leads. For example, you may search for “plumbing services Youngstown OH.”
You will find dozens or even hundreds of businesses trying to get themselves in front of the customers by ranking on Map Listings, organic results, and even Ad.
The second step, building. When you find a niche (plumbing, tree services, a software company, real estate…), you will need to start building your digital properties. You don’t need to be an expert in HTML or coding. It can be easy with the right tools.
The third step is now taking time to rank your lead gen website. With the site done, you need to work on SEO strategies and start dominating those Google search results. If you’re new to SEO, it stands for Search Engine Optimization.
To keep it simple, it consists of the entire process of growing a company’s visibility on search engines like Google and generating organic traffic. And remember this, local lead generation is part of the strategies.
Moving on to step four, once you rank the site, you will start getting your ROI and profits. You only need to rent it out to a local business interested in the leads the site generates. You can offer a couple of free leads to their move on with the actual pay per lead.
To review steps 1-4 above, I described it to a normal student who is building a lead gen business to help local service providers generate more calls. But replace the student with you as the business owner. And replace sending the leads to a business to simply siphoning the leads to your personal business.
By the way, fun fact, about 20% of our students in our local lead gen program are actually business owners who went through the program. And they use the skillsets we teach to generate leads for their own business.
An Example of Lead Generation: Home Advisor
You must be thinking, “if lead generation sounds so good so far, how come I haven’t seen any company?” That’s the thing; there are many out there. You just don’t know they are dedicated to it.
HomeAdvisor is one of the best examples you can find on the Internet as it is a top lead generation company that has spent millions building its brand but also earned even more zeros for this same reason.
They started small as everyone else but invested in building their brand awareness to make people who are looking for home services go to their website and find what they need. They are over 75% of people’s first choice when they need those services.
If you don’t get HomeAdvisor that much or need a refresh, users need to submit their information to request a service and get a professional or expert who can provide it.
HomeAdvisor’s job is to share your information, which makes you a lead, with local companies so they can contact you and offer the service you’re requesting. For sharing this lead information, HomeAdvisor gets paid by the companies. This happens for every single lead they send to multiple businesses.
Business owners who don’t have marketing skills or don’t even know how to have any online presence will always rely on those pages to list their services. They will save time and effort, but companies like HomeAdvisor can make them spend lots of money as leads aren’t exclusive (one lead is sent to multiple companies after all).
Using Facebook Ads aka Paid Ad Platforms: Do They Generate Leads?
They DO generate leads. If not, no one would use them.
However, you need to remember two facts:
- Paid ads or platforms can be expensive.
- They don’t generate “natural” leads.
Whenever someone sees or clicks in one of those ads, over 80% of them did it by accident or are trying to close/report it.
Why? Because they aren’t looking for those services. At least not at the moment.
What those ads do instead is interrupt their time on the platforms. Users aren’t there to find companies or businesses unless they are searching for a specific company’s user, and for that, there’s a search bar. This is why it is hard to convert them to actual customers who will show interest in the companies’ services. Also, you’re limited by a budget.
When using lead generation, everything is organic. You aren’t forcing others to pay attention to your business but rather being there when they need you. This is why Google’s organic traffic will always beat paid ads, and the reason companies continue investing in it, which is a lot cheaper as well.
What Is Local SEO?
Don’t worry… I didn’t get it at first either. Following the short explanation, local SEO focuses on scaling businesses’ visibility on search engines. However, this is only for those who serve their communities face-to-face.
What does this mean?
Experts and professionals like painters, plumbers, and dentists (but not only them) offer their services to their local customers. Why? Because they can’t deliver them unless they are located in the same area of their customers.
To make sure those businesses get more leads, you need to rank them locally by claiming the business listing on Google to place them on Map Listings. Local SEO also involves online reviews, citation management, and how you manage your entire online presence in the local area.
If you are going to bet on lead gen, you need to adapt yourself to today’s world: The Internet.
Keep in mind that although traditional channels and methods like billboards, warm calls, and pamphlets still work, they aren’t part of your tools. Whenever someone needs a service, they go to Google and search for it.
“Dentist in Miami” or “plumbing services in Orlando,” etc. And you can keep coming up with services or professionals people need and look for. Thus, you need to make sure you’re using Google to get the companies in front of their clients.
Users will always click on the first search results (those near the top), and many of them will be either Ad links (people paid to place their websites there), Map Listing, and then you get websites. Almost all of them are your goal and where you should always aim to place yourself.
Can My eCommerce Business Utilize a Local Lead Generation Strategy?
If you want customers, you better know you need it. Following the previous explanation, lead gen is all about placing businesses in front of their customers, choosing them over their competitors.
Put it simply – it’s all about closing deals and having clients for those companies to make money. The main difference with the usual methods companies use for this is how lead generation approaches different channels to get them in the right place of the market to get customers.
Those channels are all focused on the Internet as most people are searching for products but also services across the net. The issue is that the Internet is way too broad, and businesses don’t know how to place themselves. They usually try, but they get one common result: losing money and time.
How Powerful Are Organic eCommerce Leads from Google?
For companies looking for customers, it’s everything. For you? Pretty much the same. When you build a business with digital properties, you get to make thousands of dollars a month.
This isn’t a “get started today and get rich tomorrow” thing, but it is HIGHLY scalable, and ROI + positive results are guaranteed. Learning a fairly decent and very needed set of skills to create your digital properties and start ranking them on Google is required.
I have invested in several online businesses over the years, and if there’s something uncertain, whether you will get your ROI or not, even more than the actual profit.
However, this business moved my earnings from five figures a year to a month in ONLY passive income while sitting comfortably at home.
On my laptop. Anywhere. Anytime.
You can look at one of the first sites I built back in 2016, and it continues making me over $1.000+ every month. The best part is that I don’t need to touch it or the rest I’ve built over the years, just like this digital property.
What Makes Lead Generation SO Alluring?
Here it goes: you can work from home.
The main issue with regular business opportunities is how much you need to invest in staff, equipment, or rent to have a place to sell your products or offer your services.
We all know the hassles of traditional businesses that involve regular expenses, which are extremely high. Can you afford it? I don’t think so, and even if you can, is it worth it? Now, it isn’t only about the money. You also need to put in a lot of work, and it isn’t only during the first couple of months or years. Usually, it is as long as you continue running it.
You can save yourself those headaches and bone-breaking tasks and expenses with lead gen since it is more about generating leads with digital channels—mainly websites.
Websites can be VERY cheap to build, and with many tools online, you get to do it in a couple of hours instead of days. Any virtual or digital business is scalable and won’t need constant maintenance.
So, let’s summarize this:
- You save money in regular expenses with traditional and most online businesses as what you need is yourself and digital properties (websites).
- You can bet on passive income.
- There’s no need to hire more people to get started.
- You can generate leads in multiple industries, which allows you to work on any niche you want.
How Can I Get Started in the Local Lead Generation Program?
Anyone can start and learn. That’s the beauty of this business model. I knew nothing about SEO, Map Listing, and everything I’ve mentioned so far. It is all about learning the skills, gaining experience, and deciding to take the step.
Remember that this business model will never get old as business owners are always looking for leads. They need to do business and scale their companies. Why not do the same while helping others and still making money?
You can start with this local lead generation course highly recommended for anyone wanting to grow in the business. It is a close training that will take you through each step and make sure you are able to get your ROI, profits and take control of your life.
You will be added to an incredible lead generation family ready to help you 24/7 when asking questions on the group. Anyone is welcome who’s willing to put in the work. Click here to watch the lead gen webinar.