Starting an eCommerce business can be difficult. It needs thorough research and a proper understanding of each and every detail. Luckily, we have created this guide that will provide you with all information on how to start an eCommerce business. But let’s start with some of the issues which every eCommerce startup faces and why most of them fail.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Budget Planning
- Technical Platform Selection
- eCommerce App or Website? Which is a better option?
- Catalogue Management
- Vendor Selection
- Payment Gateway
- Logistics Management
- Marketing Strategy
1. Selecting technology and platform
This is a common issue which everyone faces whether you are from a technical background or not. Today we have hundreds of programming languages and ecommerce platforms to choose from. It becomes difficult and confusing to understand which one is better, and why.
2. Security and maintenance
Next up is the issue of security. It is a very basic yet the most important thing. Every eCommerce business needs to ensure the security of their online store, payment gateway, users’ data, and more. And to maintain this security according to the ever-changing technology can be challenging. eCommerce startups incur heavy losses due to lack of timely maintenance, security, and feature updates. Because who would like to interact with a business that doesn’t take security issues seriously?
3. Understanding customer requirement
Customers’ demands are ever-changing. Keeping up with this constant change is the key to success when starting an eCommerce business but it’s hardly ever taken into consideration. Every day there is something new in the market and customers want that.
4. Marketing and sales issues
This is the department where many people experience failure. You have a great product, customer service, and everything but if we don’t do proper marketing then how will customers notice you. Marketing and sales play a core part in the success or failure of your ecommerce startup. Many eCommerce businesses fail due to a lack of proper budgeting, marketing, and support.
We understand all these challenges. It is never a cakewalk to grow an eCommerce startup, especially when you have competitors coming from right and left.
At the same time, if we flip the coin and see the current scenario, eCommerce has become a one-point solution for any business to grow. According to research done by Statista, the global eCommerce market is estimated to cross the threshold of $2 trillion in 2020. That’s a huge number. Additionally, these recent stats will show you at which speed different industries and their revenues from online stores are growing.
Every other person in the world right now is placing an order online.
Isn’t that crazy, the frequency at which people are placing orders online?
Now, comes the big question, with this competitive, how one can grow their eCommerce business? Or how one can even think of jumping on this wagon that’s going at the speed of 100 miles per hour?
Don’t worry, here we have got it all covered for you on this page. We are going to help you with the step by step process on how to start an eCommerce business and succeed doing so.
Defining a budget is one of the crucial phases. As an eCommerce startup, it is obvious to have funding issues. And so, having a properly planned and allocated budget can give you the proper start you need.
When starting an eCommerce business, proper budget planning helps in better decision making. It gives a roadmap for future plans, and more. It helps you to understand the difference between what are the things which you need and want, and help you better match your expenses with ROI.
Initially, it is difficult to set a budget or even understand how to go about it. But, once you have defined it, it becomes very easy to run your business and simultaneously grow as well.
Selecting Ecommerce Platform
The platform is the foundation of an online store. It’s very important to have clarity on which platform is right for your eCommerce startup, and what are its pros and cons, and what features does the platform have. So, let’s understand these platforms in detail.
Magento is the go-to solution for businesses just entering the digital space. With the help of Magento development company, startups can easily create customized solutions. It is easy to integrate the store with third-party services, mobile-friendly, and provides SEO friendly URL structures, sitemaps, tags, description, etc.
Along with these merits, there are demerits too. With Magento, you need a dedicated server to host your website. This might increase the cost of development and customizing your site further might become challenging compared to other eCommerce platforms. If you are using the open-source version of Magento then there are chances of you ending up with a slow loading website. But, with the enterprise version which will cost you a handsome amount, this issue gets solved.
Shopify + eCommerce = Success
When it comes to an eCommerce platform, people will usually recommend Shopify. Some of the major reasons:
- Even if you are a beginner, Shopify provides you with a simple drag and drop option to create your online store. No need for coding.
- Integrated solution for payments i.e. Shopify Payments
- Round the clock support
- Mobile friendly and responsive designs available. Additionally, you can also create your own themes.
- Easily integrates with multiple online sales channels like Amazon, eBay, etc. and can help you manage sales from all your channels.
If you wish to develop customized solutions then it is a good idea to seek help from a Shopify development company.
WooCommerce is an open-source platform which means it’s free to use. It’s a go-to solution for people who have experience with WordPress. You can easily customize the design and code of your website and develop it according to requirement. However, if you think you do not have the technical expertise and want experts to handle the job, it’s best to seek help from the WordPress development company.
In spite of being open-source, WooCommerce provides regular security updates, secure and easy integration with online payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal, etc. even community members, users, and developers support these solutions.
One of the major drawbacks of WooCommerce is its speed. Because of all the features it provides and maybe the lack of infrastructure to support heavy features, it slows down the speed of your online store. This can result in losing customers.
MEAN is the new kid on the blog that is becoming a top choice for developing eCommerce or m-commerce online stores. Some of the major features which make it a one-stop solution:
- MEAN stack can provide the high Performance that is necessary for any online store.
- It is an open-source hence no investment in licenses and easy access to libraries.
- User experience plays a vital role in keeping your customer engaged. With the help of MEAN stack development, you can provide a better experience with real-time updates on the websites.
If you are still confused as to make the right choice for your eCommerce startup then talking with an industry expert is a must. We can understand your requirements and help you choose the right platform.
Many entrepreneurs are in a dilemma to choose between building a website or an eCommerce app. Therefore, we think this is the correct time to address this issue and help you in making a choice.
eCommerce App or Website? Which is a better option?
We are living in a mobile-first world. The number of mobile users is greater than desktop users. By 2019, the daily media consumption on mobile devices surpassed desktops by 37%. Not just this; stats reveal that users spent 90% of device time on apps.
That’s why most eCommerce startup owners are forming a mobile app strategy to reach a wider audience, and improve conversions.
Being in the industry for 14 years, and taking up several eCommerce app development projects, we believe that it is time to think ahead and build an app instead of the website. We would like to share both the benefits and limitations of the mobile app approach.
- Apps are more convenient and they provide a better user experience.
- Apps are an excellent way to offer personalization to customers. They will even give you better support to target the audience in your marketing campaigns.
- Apps serve as a handy tool for customer engagement. The more the customer interacts with your brand, the higher the conversion rates.
- Apps require time and effort to upgrade and maintain.
- For better functionality, it is crucial for eCommerce apps to meet the requirements of different operating systems. This means that you will need a separate app for every platform.
You need not worry about separate apps. Our team expertise in designing and developing native, hybrid, and cross-platform apps. If you want to build a solution that best suits your business, contact us today!
Once you choose the platform for your eCommerce app, next comes deciding the products for your catalog and choosing the right vendors to partner with.
For example, you are starting an eCommerce business to sell clothes, then you will be having three different types of catalogs:
- Trending designs
- Evergreen designs
- Your Unique designs
Let’s say in trending categories, you are spreading awareness on national or international issues that the world is talking about. For example, San Francisco fire, safety measures for COVID-19, voting for upcoming elections in Nov 2020, etc.
There are some designs that are evergreen in the apparel industry. You can have one section for this. E.g. t-shirts of NASA, Avengers, games related, or boho-chic dresses, etc.
The final category: unique designs. In any business having a unique point to stand out of the crowd is important. Bring some of ‘you’ or ask your designers to dig deep and bring history to your clothes and sell them. This will help you to gain loyal customers and of course, increase sales of your online store.
Taking an example of another eCommerce startup idea: Jewelry.
There are various types of jewelry available like everyday wear, silver, gold, diamonds, etc. Here, the first thing you need to do is define your target audience.
In the jewelry industry, you cannot sell all types of jewelry with one brand, it’s important to find your niche, understand your buyers, and stock accordingly.
Another example: If you are planning to start an online store in the current COVID situation, then having a section for face masks and hand gloves is a must. We all know there is a global demand as well as a shortage of these two basic things. Thus, selling face masks and hand gloves can give your business a faster boost.
In fact, here you can get a little creative and provide custom face masks and hand gloves.
For vendor selection, you need to define a vendor management model. Are you going to opt for Just in inventory model or procurement model?
Why is it important to define this?
Because whichever method you chose, it is going to affect your overall budget and profit margins. This is the phase you need to decide whether you or the vendor will ship the products to the customers.
Quick tip: If your budget is small then we suggest opting for just an inventory model. But if you have a good budget then choose the procurement model.
Once you make decisions on catalog and vendors, next comes payment gateway and logistics.
Secure payment gateways help avoid credit and debit card frauds. With multiple payment gateways in your eCommerce app, you can provide your customers with easy payment options and hassle-free experience.
Nowadays mobile payment options are most used by users. While developing your eCommerce app, make sure to provide Stripe, Razorpay, or similar popular payment gateways. Alternatively, you may choose to directly integrate PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, or any other mobile wallets.
Make sure that your payment gateway is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) compliant. This standard of security is necessary for online transactions because, without it, your customers won’t feel secure enough to make payments.
Another major aspect of online payment that you need to make sure is the security of your users’ confidential information. It is preferable to use the latest algorithms to avoid cyber-attacks and loss of users’ information.
Firstly, you need to find out the logistics company, sign the deal or contract with that company, and most importantly integrate their API perfectly with your website.
Proper integration is important so your online store can easily calculate the shipping cost and actual product cost in real-time. Giving a clear view of the final amount to your customer is important so even they can understand the costing, shipping, or if any other charges are there.
Let’s move to the last two phases of how to start an eCommerce business.
Marketing Strategy is next on this business guide. Let’s understand different types of marketing strategies and which one to start is right for you.
There are two major types of online marketing strategies that you need to keep in mind for your eCommerce startup:
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is an organic way to get the traffic on your eCommerce app with the help of targeted keywords. It is a slow and steady process and takes four to five months to show results.
If you are thinking about why SEO is important, then I think this stat is enough to tell you why. Every second there are millions of searches happening on Google, Bing, etc. It is the basic and first step to get traffic for your website. We can also say that SEO is an alternative of Search Ads (this we will see further).
2. Pay Per Click (PPC)
There are four different ways to begin marketing with PPC.
- Shopping Ads
- Search Ads
- Display Ads
- Social Media Ads
Shopping Ads are information-rich ads which consist of product images, price, merchant name, and link to the product page. This is a great way to gain momentum at the early stage of your eCommerce startup.
Customers usually believe in the things they see. With the help of shopping ads, your customers can see the images, cost, reviews, and the seller in the first go. This helps you to gain the trust of your customers and they are very likely to click on the shopping ads in which they can see the image. The only drawback of shopping ads is you cannot optimize keywords based on the products.
Search Ads help you to rank a particular page of your website. The amount that you need to invest vary based on the keyword search volume and ranking difficulty. Usually, the search ads are separated from SERP results with an indicator that reads Ad before the listing as shown in the image below.
Display ads are usually for retargeting or brand awareness rather than getting people on a page. They are either image-based, video-based, or text-based ads. We recommend using these ads only after your website has reached a certain amount of breakeven i.e. has gained a certain amount of place in the market. The major drawback of it is it requires a lot of investment but confirms only clicks and not the actual conversions.
Additionally, with display ads, you also get to choose their placement. Means do you want your ad on any website or any random web page. In short, display ads focus on the audience and not the specific keywords.
Social media ads run on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Using social media platforms, you can run the whole marketing campaign for your products. You can promote your eCommerce app, and set up another sales channel.
With the help of social media marketing, the ROI can increase 10X because of the insights into your followers, their areas of interest, age, names, etc. it provides. You can use this information, better understand your users, and create more targeted ads.
If you are confused about which type of marketing you need to start with, then here’s a quick order you can follow:
- Shopping Ads
- Search Engine Optimization
- Search Ads
- Social Media Ads
- Display Ads
Another thing you need to make sure is that your website is search engine friendly. Make sure that you are using header tags, your website does not have duplicate content, proper use of keywords, and most importantly, Google should be able to crawl your website i.e. it should be indexed.
If these things are perfect, then it helps your website to rank automatically on Google. Additionally, you also need to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly which means it should score around 45-50 in the Google page speed test.
Too much to take in?
The last phase is to gain a competitive edge. It is important to know your competitors as it gives you more clarity in defining your target audience as well as understanding them. Learn from your competitors, understand their business logic, study their campaigns, how do they target their audience, and many such things. Use some of the most useful tools like SEMrush, SimilarWen, Ahref to gain insights into the current marketing landscape of your industry.
How Can We Help You?
We are industry-leading experts with more than 14 years of experience into ecommerce development, marketing services, UX designing, strategizing, and more. We have helped our clients grow their businesses from the startup phase to becoming large companies and are still their technology partners. We help them grow their revenue year over year and have a strong online presence. You can take a look at our case studies of Essential Aids and SFCable and know how we have helped them grow their business and maybe we can help you grow as well.