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A Simple Checklist for Starting an eCommerce Business in 2020

Business development
eCommerce
Nathalie Nilsson eCommerce business analyst and author
| 11 min read
ecommerce business on laptop
ecommerce business on laptop

With eCommerce steadily growing it is no surprise that more and more want a piece of the lucrative cake. Starting an eCommerce business from scratch can seem easy enough at first. However, there is a lot to think about before launching your online store. To ensure that your new business won’t become a flash in the pan we have put together a handy checklist.

  1. Think about your product
  2. Learn from the competition
  3. Set up your business
  4. Pick the right platform
  5. Keep SEO in mind
  6. Build your store
  7. Provide customer service
  8. Stay active on social media
  9. Choose the right time to launch
  10. Run ads
  11. Keep an eye on the data

1. Think about your product

The first step is to decide what your product is going to be. Furniture? Food? Jewelry? If you want to start an eCommerce business, you probably already have an idea of what you want to sell. Perhaps you have a brick and mortar business you want to bring online. Maybe you have a vision of a new brand that will stir up the existing market. Either way, you must determine your niche before you set out.
It is recommended that you avoid seasonal products. A product that sells all year round is a much more financially viable option. Clothes might seem like a good fit, but they have a very high return rate. Also, consider the shipping cost when deciding on your product. Light and easily packaged items are preferable over heavy and unwieldy ones.

Business model, revenue model, and buyer persona

Once you know what you are going to sell, you need to pick the right business model. B2B? B2C? Something else? This is a key decision you have to make before setting up your business.

Once you have picked the business model that suits you best – think about your target audience. By putting together a buyer persona you will better understand your customers and what they want. This will affect how you design and promote your eCommerce store.

Last but not least, decide which eCommerce business revenue model you are going to use. This decision boils down to your product and your resources. If it is your first foray into eCommerce it is a good idea to find an experienced supplier with good reviews. A beginner is also often better off choosing a local manufacturer, as it will enable you to be more involved in the process.

The Right Business Revenue Model for eCommerce Success banner

Packaging and shipping

When you first dip your toe into the waters of eCommerce, using plain flat-pack packaging is sensible. Your priority should be to get your product unharmed to your customer. However, packaging is part of the customer experience. Depending on what you sell, the design of the package itself can add value to your product.

Once the product is safely packaged, it needs to be delivered to the customer. Assume from the very beginning that you will be shipping internationally. After all, the main advantage of eCommerce is access to a global market. You need to decide whether you will ship your product yourself or let a third-party logistics company handle it. Do your research here – this will affect both the cost and the delivery time. Also, keep in mind that importing products such as food is more heavily regulated in some countries than others.

Boxes with different packaging

2. Learn from the competition

Take the time to identify who your competition is. How do their products differ from yours? What is the price range you are competing with? What are their delivery times? Do they offer free returns? What do their websites look like? What sets them apart from one another?

Take notes and be honest with your evaluation. Can you compete with them? Is there something you can offer that they don’t?

3. Set up your business

Your business will need a name, preferably a memorable one. There are a few important factors here. The name you choose:

  1. Shouldn’t be similar to a competitor’s.
  2. Should be short and simple.
  3. Should fit your chosen niche.

Ideally, your brand name should be your domain name, so investigate if it is available. Try to get your hands on the .com suffix of your brand name domain if you can, since it is what people will expect the address to be.

Logo

A good logo is simple and easy to recognize at a glance. This means there shouldn’t be any small details that will be hard to see if the logo is viewed as a tiny icon. Ideally, its colour scheme should match that of your website. Again, it shouldn’t be similar to that of any of your competitors’.

Do the paperwork

An online business is still a business, and as such you will need to do the relevant paperwork before you get it up and running. Investigate what licenses are necessary to start an eCommerce business in your country. Also, take the time to register your business.

4. Pick the right platform

There are pros and cons to all of the most popular eCommerce platforms. Shopify is fairly easy to set up but offers limited functionality and scalability. Magento offers a more versatile platform for businesses that aspire to grow but requires a bit more technical skill to get the most out of it. BigCommerce is popular but has a steep learning curve and can be a bit pricy. WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that is largely used by smaller businesses and start-ups.

Comparison of eCommerce Platforms for Medium and Big Businesses banner

Do your research before choosing the platform. How much work are you willing to put into making your eCommerce store look just right? Do you expect your business to scale quickly? What budget is reasonable to you? Are you prepared to partner-up with a professional to set it up for you?

Code of ecommerce platform on laptop screen

5. Keep SEO in mind

When you are putting your eCommerce website together you need to take search engine optimization (SEO) into account. A digital business is dependent on search engines for new customers to be able to find it. Therefore, keep SEO in mind from the early stages of development and implement it in your designs. It will be a lot easier (and cheaper) to launch an already optimized website instead of having to optimize and change it when it’s already up and running.

6. Build your store

There are a lot of elements to consider when designing your online store. Again, it is a good idea to look at how the competition has designed their websites and learn from them. Remember that your platform of choice may limit your design options.

First and foremost, however, your website must prioritize being helpful and easy for your visitors to use. Finding the right product must be simple and intuitive, while the journey from product page to check out – short and smooth. You must also make sure that your website is mobile-friendly to avoid losing potential customers.

Easy Ways to Improve Your Website’s Mobile Optimization banner

7. Provide customer service

It might seem excessive but having an FAQ in place from the very beginning can really make a difference. You should also have an official email address dedicated to customer service ready. You will need to check in on it often and answer any questions potential customers have as quickly as possible. Offering good customer service signals that you are trustworthy and care about providing a quality product.

8. Stay active on social media

Don’t be afraid to make some noise on social media even before you launch your website. Attracting attention to your new eCommerce store and its products beforehand will ensure that you don’t start at zero. Consider posting flattering pictures of your products on Instagram. You can also write some helpful blog articles about the kind of products you sell and share them on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Social media applications on smartphone screen

9. Choose the right time to launch

When is the best time to launch your eCommerce business? That is entirely dependent on your product, which you absolutely must have in stock beforehand.

Take care not to pick a launch date that is overshadowed by any major holiday. That being said, some products sell better at certain times of the year. If you are selling school supplies, you want your store up and running before the back-to-school season. By launching your eCommerce store before any typical high traffic dates, you will also buy yourself time to test it before the big sale period. There is no less opportune time for your eCommerce store to have a hiccup than during the busiest time of the year.

10. Run ads

You will no doubt want to run ads to make sure that people find your new business. Facebook and Google both provide well-established options for this. Targeted ads are an excellent way to reach a wider audience that may be interested in your products. However, make sure that your website is in order before you invest in ads. If the landing page is not what visitors expect it to be, they will simply bounce and go elsewhere.

Analyse the data that you gather while running your ad campaigns. Try different tactics and see which have the best results.

11. Keep an eye on the data

Set up Google Analytics early. It will help you keep track of the number of visitors and their behaviour while they browse your eCommerce store. By checking in on the data regularly you will be able to identify any problem pages that need seeing to. This will help you make informed decisions about your business.

Google Analytics screenshot
Check, check, check? Do you feel confident that you have everything under control? No eCommerce success is truly cut and dried, but your odds improve significantly when you have done your homework. Please get in touch if you have any further questions, we are happy to help.

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