If you want to know the money-making potential of e-commerce, you probably don’t have to look much further than your own shopping habits. According to a 2022 report from eCommerce Guide, 58.4% of internet users buy something online every single week.
With roughly six out of 10 people making a purchase every seven days, that means a whole lot of selling is taking place on the other end of your phone or computer — and those with an entrepreneurial bent are going to wonder why they’re not the ones doing the selling and the earning.
The reason that most people are still on the e-commerce sidelines is that they don’t have the slightest idea how to get started selling online. This tutorial was designed to help them get their new side hustle off the ground.
1. Get To Know the State of the Industry
Unless you’re an e-commerce veteran, your journey should start with a crash course on the current state of the industry. Don’t get bogged down in minutiae, but start with a few deep-dive analysis pieces from trusted sources.
Newbies who read the Forbes “State of the E-Commerce Industry in 2021” report last year, for example, would have known about emerging trends like cross-platforming and changes to the typical purchasing journey — but so much has changed since then.
Primers like the Forbes “E-Commerce Trends 2022: What The Future Holds” report, as well as Shopify’s 2022 “Future of Ecommerce” analysis, are good places to start to get a basic feel for current and emerging trends and storylines in the e-commerce space.
2. Find Your Product or Service — and Your Niche
If you’re considering a move into e-commerce, it’s probably because you make or do something that you want to sell and that you think people would want to buy. If so, you’re ahead of the game.
According to Shopify’s 2022 tutorial on starting an e-commerce business, deciding what to sell is the very first step — and often the one that entrepreneurs get stuck on. You’ll have to evaluate your idea, figure out who else is selling what you’re selling and how yours will be different and better.
3. Identify Your Customers
On the other end of whatever you’re selling are the people who are doing the buying. A Forbes 2022 tutorial on starting an e-commerce business ranks customer research as the very first step. That requires you to create profiles of potential customers and have customer conversations to identify the pain points and shortcomings of your competitors. It’s their customers, after all, who you want to win over.
4. Choose an E-Commerce Business Model
How you sell is as important as what you sell and to whom — and that’s where your business model comes in. Some of the most common e-commerce business models, according to the Nasdaq-traded e-commerce platform BigCommerce, include:
- White labeling
- Print on demand
Volumes have been written about these revenue models and the others. You don’t have to become an expert, but you should take the time to learn about them all to find the best fit for your product.
5. Create a Brand
Like most of the other entries on this list, e-commerce branding is an exhaustive concept that deserves its own article — but for now, concentrate on what 99Designs refers to as “the four Vs”:
That includes things like a brand name, logo, mission statement and color scheme, all of which should be consistent on all your platforms to achieve continuity across your website, YouTube channel, social media pages and physical branding items like business cards and merch.
6. Pick a Platform
There’s no shortage of e-commerce platforms and site builders competing for your business’ business. No matter which you choose, you’ll have to weigh each platform’s cost against the features they offer and factors like how you’ll accept payment and how much help you’ll need to build and maintain your store.
Among the top in the industry are:
- Magento (Adobe Commerce)
7. Plan a Marketing Strategy
This comes after you choose your platform because different platforms offer different types of help with marketing and advertising. No matter your choice, you’ll need to learn the basics of SEO to get your site high in the Google rankings. You’ll also need coordinated social media content marketing and advertising, as well as cross-channel promotion that keeps potential customers in your brand’s online ecosystem.
The truth is, there’s a lot to learn — e-commerce marketing is a specialty that you might have to farm out to a company or a freelancer. Even if you do, you should learn the basics of e-commerce marketing for yourself. Shopify recently released a good primer for 2022.
8. Go Live
With the exception of making your first sale, going live will probably be the most exciting part of your entire journey — or one of the most frustrating, depending on your level of preparation.
Before you go live, you’ll want to make your way down a comprehensive checklist of tasks and tests that include checking and double-checking your:
- Site security
- Payment system
- Checkout process
- Shipping logistics
- Customer communication platform
There are many others, but those are the big ones. Be thorough. Be meticulous. Be ready when it’s time for the moment of truth: going live.
9. You’ll Have To Deal With Legal Stuff — But Not Now
Don’t get bogged down with pursuing a business license, filing for an EIN, forming an LLC or any other legal “requirements” that your e-commerce platform and others will try to sell you as a service right out of the gate.
They might become requirements somewhere down the road — soon, hopefully, if you’re successful — but you don’t have to pay taxes or even report income to the IRS until you make $600.
That’s another headache for another day. For now, learn about the industry, build your store, build your brand, pursue your customers and experience the truly once-in-a-lifetime joy of making your very first sale.
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