Operating an online store is a great way for a small business to hang with larger competitors plus online stores aren’t restricted to poor locations, small population sizes, or terrible local markets. E-commerce continues to grow at a rapid rate and lessons learned from COVID-19, the online business is one of few to exponentially grow year on year. This might be the best time to go online!
However, starting an eCommerce business is tough and demands careful steps and decisions that need to come together at the right time. Still, doing business online presents various challenges, from building a website to ensuing it works and functions plus is user friendly and secure to collect user details and payment information to connect the products from the warehouse, your location to shipping and delivery companies, there’s a laundry list of steps required to start your online store.
Luckily there are many online resources dedicated to assisting e-commerce entrepreneurs in getting their online stores off the ground and in front of their customers and to help here’s a framework for getting started, compiled from various popular platforms and their recommendations to help you deal with the important tasks when researching, launching, and growing a profitable eCommerce business.
Choose a Business Structure
When you start a business, you must decide whether you’ll operate as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or corporation.
A sole proprietorship is the simplest type of business structure and you don’t need to file any paperwork to set one up. However, sole proprietors have no protection from liability for the business’s debts and obligations.
Limited liability entity such as a limited liability company or a corporation (LLC). The owners of these types of business entities are typically not personally liable for the business’s obligations. LLC is generally more flexible and involves less record-keeping and reporting than a corporation.
However, a corporation may be a good choice if you want to bring in money from outside investors. A corporation is a business entity that legally exists separately from its owner(s). The owners of a corporation are shareholders; their percentage of ownership in the business is represented by their corporate stocks or shares. Shareholders can choose a board of directors to manage business operations, or they can create a shareholders’ agreement, which will allow them to manage the business directly.
Corporations are more complex than unincorporated businesses. You will need to file the taxes for the corporation separately from your personal taxes. In most states, you will not be held personally responsible for corporate debts.
Choose a Name and Set Your Brand
In a highly competitive environment, it is worth taking some time to choose a unique name for your online business that can give you some recognition and:
- Helps you market your business
- Minimizes the chance that a similarly named business will accuse you of trademark infringement
- Increases the chance that you’ll be able to get a domain name that matches your business name
Complies with state law requirements that corporation or LLC names be different than all other entity names registered in your state.
Once you have a name in mind, you can conduct a Google search to see if any similarly named businesses come up. You can also search trademarked names at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, and most states allow you to search registered business names online.
With the name comes your branding, Branding is important so that it can make an impact with your customer and they can remember you. The name needs to be easy to recall and pronounce, the logo needs to be recognizable and your content needs to have some sense of your overall brand personality. Example: ‘Taste the feeling’ – Coca Cola, ‘I’m loving it’ – McDonald’s, ‘Do the right thing’ – Google and who can forget ‘Just do it’ – Nike.
Write Down Your Plan
Next, put your plan on a paper to see what that looks like. This will ensure that you have everything that you’ve planned and putting that on a paper will help you visualize it better and see if there are any gaps and or you’ve missed out anything. This will convert into an action plan or work plan and essentially turn into the framework of your e-commerce business.
It’s important to write down the plan because this will draw you further into your own idea that was in your head and now out in the open, make it realistic for you to see what is possible by giving you a sense of scale. This will also help you determine what kind of resources you will need to have in place to kick start your idea and how much it may cost. You may start with a lot of products and then rationalize what realistically you can sell to who and how.
Choosing a Product to Sell
After you develop your plan, you should be in a relatively good position to know what products you want to sell online, and if that product has market demand. If it does then how it’s going to help people and what are the benefits that may give your product some leverage over the competition. After landing on a strong product idea, your next step is to figure out where and how you’re going to obtain your products.
You might be the manufacturer of the product that you want to sell in which case the assumption is that you have done most of the research already and have developed your product USP (unique selling proposition) and know your competitors.
In case you are a reseller of someone else’s products then you will need to research the target market, competitors selling the same or similar products, their pricing and promotions. Any additional services they are offering like free delivery, return policy, damaged product mitigation, 24/7 customer care, and so on and so forth.
The bottom line is that your product needs to sell at a better price, or better value to the customer else they will go to the next guy.
Securing a Domain Name
If you prefer having your own website, it’s critical to secure your own unique domain name. Normally the domain name is your business name however sometimes you may want to have a different domain name reflecting a different setup, like you may want to differentiate between your online business and your physical business or company name. However, if choosing a domain name always make sure to select something easy for your customers to remember. You want to avoid confusing your visitors and should also settle on a name unique enough to stick in someone’s mind. Don’t get discouraged when you come across a domain name already secured by someone else; you’ll likely run into this issue often before finding an open name that is available and suits your online store.
It’s highly recommended that you select a domain name ending with ‘.COM’. There are many other options available but .COM is a clear winner in terms of share of internet traffic and physiologically it creates a sense of security and stability in the customer’s mind and perception of your online business.
Building Your Store
Now that you have a fair idea about your online business and have registered your name and designed a logo and created content, you will need to build your e-commerce or online store. Typically, there are two main ways to build your own online store.
- Build your own with your own requirements
- Build using various e-commerce platforms
Building your own is a good way to setup an e-commerce business when you have a vision, and you do not want a platform to constrain your ideas. Many online businesses have unique plans for optimizing or designing their site, yet the options available to them in existing platforms may not be quite right. If this is something you have in mind then you should definitely look into your requirement-based solution in order to allow for total design freedom. This gives you better control and if you build your own platform, you are able to dictate what features you want to be included and how you want them to be implemented in order to suit your needs as the business and global situations evolve. We offer this service for businesses of all size, talk to us if you need any help.
Build using an e-commerce platform is a good and easy way to setup and run your online store quickly if your business is small and sells simple products. Additionally, if you have a business without complicated transactions or a large volume of customers, most likely you will not require customized back-end and a large database. In this case, purchasing a platform solution should be able to suit your business needs to go online in a relatively quick and easy way. There are many platforms that sell e-commerce websites to build solutions and can be quite cost-effective as well. We also offer a suite of e-commerce ready products to suit businesses of all sizes here with additional benefits like retaining your own domain name, SEO optimization, search engine registration and link submission, connection to social platforms, newsletter, social wall, and much more. Please check in with us to see how we can offer you the best solution to suit your online needs.
After you have created your e-commerce store, you will need to host it with the Internet Service Providers. Again there are tons of them out there, some good and some not so good. This is also where seeking professional help will go a long way in saving and value add. If you don’t have your in-house IT or digital savvy person then let us know and we can help you host your website.
Marketing, advertising, and SEO
Well now, now the work really begins!
Once you build the e-commerce website, you will need to promote it otherwise no one will know you have this amazing online store. One tactic to use is seeking the help of search engines like Google where you will need to promote your business. One way to do this is through organic growth of your e-commerce website or online store and the best way to ensure you get that growth is through internet traffic to your website. To do this will need to at least have good quality content that is direct and relevant to your e-commerce business else search engine will not rank the content high enough for your website to gain visibility upfront when people are searching for related online products and businesses that sell those products online.
You will also need to invest in online marketing and social media advertising. Social media is one of the best tools available to any online store owner, creating an exclusive page on Facebook for your business, and posting constant updates helps your online store attain exposure. Social media platforms like Facebook Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter are among the most popular and efficient conversion platforms from awareness through to purchase. Social media presence requires dedication meaning you will need to update and post new content on a weekly basis so that you can attract more and new customers. Moving forward you will also need to invest in Google and social media paid advertising to ensure that your product ads and videos reach a maximum number of people.
The above information should put you in a better place to understand what is at play and what you need to do before you get serious about setting up an online e-commerce business and opening up an online store. Integet has been helping clients solve their marketing and e-commerce challenges for quite some time. We’ve worked with businesses large or small and across many different industries and markets to fully understand the complexities and how to design and deliver a best-suited e-commerce website to suit your online business.
With our vast experience in e-commerce, we are perfectly positioned to support, build, fix, and connect things to help your business grow online and succeed, and to do that we’ve developed an e-commerce service called ‘Cura8or’ pronounced curator to help businesses like yours to successfully launch your online store. Cura8or is designed to support your sales, marketing and if you have an eCommerce team, improve their overall performance, and deliver sustained profitable results.
We’ve also developed our e-commerce suite of products called ‘Cura8’ pronounced curate that offers ease for setup with the scale to deliver for your needs. The product line is easy to use and managed through WYSIWYG style online platform that offers a convenient and low-cost subscription to suit your business and deliver profitable results.