The future of ecommerce is incredibly bright. But, starting an ecommerce business is hard work and demands many steps and decisions that need to come together at the right time.
To help, we’ve put together a comprehensive blueprint for starting an online store, compiled from Shopify’s best content. These blog posts, guides, and videos have been organized based on the most important tasks you’ll face when researching, launching, and growing a profitable ecommerce business.
I. Choosing a product
Finding a product to sell
The first step to building an ecommerce business is knowing what products you want to sell online, wholesale, or direct-to-consumer. This often is the most challenging part of starting a new online business. In this section, we’ll highlight strategies you can use to find product opportunities, explore the best places to look for product ideas, and finally, look at trending products to consider.
Evaluating your idea
Once you have a product idea in mind, how do you know if it will sell? In this section, we’ll cover a few approaches that active entrepreneurs have used to validate their product ideas and potential market.
Obtaining your product
After landing on a strong product idea, your next step is figuring out where and how you’re going to obtain your products. The next four posts cover the various methods for acquiring your products, along with the pros and cons of each model.
Sell your retail products online
Many independent retailers face a challenging road ahead. Shifting your brick-and-mortar business online can help you weather this storm, generate cash flow, and build a more resilient business.
II. Research and prepare
Research your competition
You’ve found your product, evaluated its potential, and sourced a supplier. But before you get into that, you’ll need to thoroughly research your competition so you know what you’re up against and how you can differentiate your business from theirs.
Writing a business plan
With your competitive research complete, it’s time to write your business plan. A business plan is a roadmap that helps bring your ideas and thoughts together. A business plan is vital in determining what to prioritize and how to effectively reach new customers.
III. Setting up your business
Naming your business
Aside from figuring out what to sell, another challenging decision is determining your business or brand name and deciding on a domain name. These tips will help you tackle these important tasks.
Creating a logo
Once you’ve selected a memorable name and registered a corresponding domain, it’s time to craft a simple logo. In these resources, we’ll show you several options for creating a great logo for your new business.
Learn more: From a logo maker and business name generator to gift certificate templates and a discount calculator, Shopify offers free marketing tools to help run your business.
Understanding search engine optimization (SEO)
You’re almost ready to begin building your ecommerce business. However, before you jump into it, you should understand the basics of search engine optimization so you can properly structure your site and pages for Google and other search engines.
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Building your store
With a better understanding of search engines, it’s time to build out your store. There are many crucial elements to consider. Below, we’ve listed our essential reads to help you build high-converting product pages, write captivating product descriptions, shoot beautiful product photography, choose your ecommerce color palette, and much more.
Don’t forget, if you run into any problems getting your store set up, you can always hire help from Shopify Experts.
Choosing your sales channels
One of the best ways to reach new customers is to choose sales channels where they already shop. The right mix of sales channels will depend on your products and your target customers, but there are a number of great options that can complement and support your self-hosted store.
Ready to create your first business? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.
IV. Preparing to launch
As you prepare for the launch of your new business, there are several shipping and fulfillment elements you need to prepare for. In this section, we’ve curated a few comprehensive guides on how to determine your shipping strategy.
It’s also a good idea to define your key performance indicators up front so, once you launch, you know what measures of success to track.
As a final checklist, this post covers the 10 essential things you need to do before launch.
V. Post launch
Acquiring your first customer
Now that you’ve launched, the hard work of marketing your products begins. While many new store owners should consider selling their physical products in person, the rest of digital marketing rests on doing one thing well: driving targeted traffic. Next, we’ll share a variety of marketing tactics that will help you in your first months.
Marketing your store
You’re well on your way and now likely have a few sales under your belt. It’s time to get serious and focused. The following posts will help you zero in on your top-performing marketing tactics or expand into new ones for driving traffic and converting that traffic to sales.
Email marketing essentials
Free Ebook: How to Grow Your Ecommerce Business with Email Marketing
Whether you’re just getting started or dreaming up your next big campaign, this email marketing guide will provide you with insights and ideas to help your business grow.
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Driving traffic from social
Driving traffic and conversions from paid ads
Optimizing for higher conversions
Using analytics to uncover insights
A blueprint is just the beginning
Building your own ecommerce business is as exciting as it is challenging. At a rapid pace you’ll learn a ton about choosing a product, evaluating its viability, figuring out how to get it produced, building an ecommerce store, and marketing and selling to new customers. The process can feel like you’re solving a head scratcher of a puzzle, but it’s rewarding all the same.
We hope following this resource roundup helps provide you with a clearer roadmap. As always, the best advice anyone can give is to just get started and to enjoy yourself along the way.
Illustration by Cornelia Li
Frequently asked questions about ecommerce
How do I build an ecommerce business?
Research what products you’d like to sell or can source to sell, select a business name, register your business with the government, obtain permits and licenses, choose an ecommerce platform and create your website, load your products onto the site, launch and start marketing your business.
Is ecommerce profitable?
Yes, the ecommerce industry is profitable. Starting a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take 18-24 months for your business to get off the ground. It’s critical that you don’t measure the success of your business by your first year profitability.
Is it hard to start an ecommerce business?
No, starting an ecommerce business is easy with platforms like Shopify enabling brands to go online in just a few days. Starting a brand consists of hard work and continual market research to improve your business. We encourage you to read all our guides on how to start a business before you set up a store.
What are the different types of ecommerce?
How much does it cost to start an ecommerce business?
An ecommerce business can be started for as little as $100 which is spent on a subscription and purchasing a theme for your store. New ecommerce business owners can expect business costs to rise up to $40,000 in the first year which is paid back to the owner through profit margins.
What is the best ecommerce platform for a small business?
Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for a small business. Shopify is a fast and secure ecommerce platform with online store customization. It offers the fastest checkout experience through Shop, easy inventory management, and has integrations with Google and Facebook to make marketing and selling online easier.