05Sep
By: Tomas Šlimas September 05, 2017 Topic: Ecommerce Inspiration

In this day and age, times and are changing and more people are looking to be their own bosses. The internet makes this goal more accessible than ever, and ecommerce is one exciting avenue for success. Yet, it can be tremendously difficult to know exactly how to start and ecommerce business that will actually do well enough to generate revenue. There is so much information out there to sift through that creating a plan of action is necessary to prioritize your resources as you develop your own ecommerce business plan.

This guide offers a streamlined and honest approach to subjects like ecommerce marketing and where to source products, along with other tips that are essential to launching a successful store. We’ve covered these things in detail on our blog, but this post synthesizes the basics necessary for taking the first steps. Read on, and you’ll find that the necessary steps for creating your own ecommerce business are clearer than you may have thought possible.

The Key to Succeeding with Your First Ecommerce Business

When asked how to start an ecommerce business that will succeed the following factors probably come to mind: 

You’re right. This thought process makes perfect sense. You have to provide excellent customer support to be successful. You also need an attractive and trustworthy website if you want people to buy from you. Keep in mind, however, that it’s a combination of these things working together that makes an ecommerce business great. These factors are what makes an ecommerce store go from 1 to 10, but not from 0 to 1.

This greatness doesn’t matter if you don’t reach 1 first.


We see this a lot at Oberlo with first-time entrepreneurs still learning how to make their ecommerce businesses succeed. They can lose sight of the most important things and spend days making the perfect store only to close it after a month. What truly fuels your store is sales, and this should be at the heart of your ecommerce business plan. Efforts to bring traffic to your store through ecommerce marketing will bring sales, and sales will bring you more traffic. Likewise, you need to be making sales first before you can provide great customer support to those shopping on your site and before you can decide on your brand’s unique voice. Without sales, you’re finished.

ecommerce tips - ecommerce marketing

How to Start Ecommerce an Ecommerce Business

While it’s great to embark on your new ecommerce business with lots of big ideas, we suggest putting aside your ambitions and focusing on the most practical steps of your ecommerce business plan first. For starters, what you really need is a simple online medium to sell your products. A basic store template on a reputable platform like Shopify serves this purpose perfectly well.

We did a tutorial on how to launch a store in 30 minutes (with products). You might want to take more time than 30 minutes, but be careful about the amount of time you put in during the beginning. Remember the wise words of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman who famously said, “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” This certainly applies to ecommerce businesses as well. The key is to launch quickly and start thinking of ways to generate sales through ecommerce marketing. This will eventually breed opportunity to improve other things along the way. For now, first things first.

Finding Products

If you’re totally new to the world of ecommerce you might be wondering just what on earth you should even try to sell in your store. In fact, getting stuck on this is a big reason why people never take the plunge in starting their own ecommerce businesses. Indeed, choosing what to sell in your ecommerce store isn’t as simple as buying a bulk supply of products you like, posting them on your website, and watch your inventory clear out.

In actuality, you have to be strategic in identifying a set of products or product niche that are currently trendy and not so easy to find in stores or on popular ecommerce websites like Amazon. That’s why going the generic route and opting to sell books or jewelry will likely lead to a dead end. There are already of major players out there meeting those demands. Instead, you’ll want to go with more specific items that appeal to a particular audience.

We suggest starting by making a list of potential products you might like to sell in your store. Think about things that you or your friends, coworkers, and family would be interested in. Yet, don’t limit yourself to these. Also explore social sharing sites like Pinterest, Etsy, or even Instagram for more input on what to sell. There really is inspiration everywhere once you start looking, and you can always verify whether your product ideas are any good by searching them on Google trends. For more specific information about how to decide what to sell, check out this step-by-step guide here.

 

ecommerce marketing

At this point you might also be wondering how exactly to source your products, and that’s where dropshipping might come in as a viable option for your ecommerce business plan. Dropshipping is an increasingly popular among entrepreneurs because it has substantially lower upfront investment costs and is generally a lower risk alternative to more traditional ecommerce business models that require you to stock inventory yourself.

It works like this: You find products you’d like to sell on an ecommerce marketplace like Oberlo Supply, and then you import those items into your store. When a customer purchases one of those items, you then place the order with a third party supplier, and they ship the item directly to the customer. This way you never have to handle merchandise and can swap out products to stay on top of current trends with greater ease. Not to mention, apps like Oberlo automate a lot of the process for you so that you have more time to focus on things that will help you to scale your business like coming up with a great ecommerce marketing strategy.

Ecommerce Marketing: Earn More Than You Spend. Daily.

how to start ecommerce - ecommerce marketing
First-time entrepreneurs rarely invest a lot of capital in their ecommerce businesses up front, hoping to return their investments within six months to a year. After launching a simple store, concentrate on ecommerce marketing 110%. Anything else can wait until you’re sure you can generate traffic and reach potential customers.

The secret to ecommerce marketing is to find the right channel for your products, and then to perfect your marketing strategy until bringing in one new customer costs less than what you earn from a sale. You want to aim for that infinite loop where you spend less than you earn each day. Also, make sure you reinvest all of your profits into your ads. This isn’t the time to pocket all your earnings.

Instead, keep a close eye on the relationship between profits earned and money spent on ecommerce marketing by checking your advertising ROI twice a week at minimum. Ideally, do it daily. Sell products that have high enough markups to cover your marketing expenses on a consistent basis. Since ecommerce marketing can cost a lot of money, make sure you price your products well.

Don’t rationalize that putting $100 to work will bring you word-of-mouth referrals or returning customers. A $100 investment should bring you at least $101 dollars in sales so that you can reuse it on advertising again.

Only once you get to this point can you begin to optimize your store design, invest in creating great brand image, and look for ways to generate more money. You can’t optimize a store if you don’t have any customers to test different features on first. Thus, ecommerce marketing is really essential to standing out from your competitors and generating sales.

A great ecommerce business plan does require some investment, however. Putting money into your advertising tactics should ultimately convert to sales, and you need sales. Unless you have a bigger budget, you should exclude long-term ideas like SEO or email marketing for now.

Prioritize your time and money by exploring all options. With direct advertising like Facebook or Adwords, you can get more sales immediately. It’s best not only to learn how to run your first ecommerce marketing campaign on Facebook, but also how to optimize it. Alternatively, read how others are approaching Instagram marketing or the latest trends in advertising on Snapchat. With this knowledge and inspiration, you can apply new strategies to your own ecommerce business.

ecommerce marketing

When it comes to assessing the performance of your ecommerce marketing efforts, test your advertising campaigns instead of your product pages. This will keep you from getting bogged down trying to analyze and change all of the small details of your store. Just focus on the advertising and marketing, not the ‘buy’ button on the product page.

While much of the advice about how to start an ecommerce business seems easier said than done, it certainly helps to have a clear idea of the first steps including launching a simple store and dedicating your energies to ecommerce marketing. From here, we can begin to explore the particulars.


How to Succeed in Ecommerce: What’s Next?

how to succeed in ecommerce - ecommerce marketing

Once you’ve validated your store idea and secured a steady stream of sales, make sure that you keep up with optimizing your ecommerce marketing as you go. Here are a few additional ecommerce business tips that you may want to consider as you devise your ecommerce business plan.

Customer Service/Self-Help Content

Around 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. Exceptional customer service is critical to your business’s long term success. Create self-service content and a detailed FAQs page, offer live chat support, incentivize product reviews, and build trust with your customers. All of this will give your store valuable social proof and create repeat customers, which are five times cheaper to acquire than new ones.

Conversion Optimization

On average, 69% of your website visitors will leave your site without going through with a purchase. How much would your revenues increase if you were capturing those sales instead of losing them? Optimize your customer journey. Create limited-time offers. Launch a cart abandonment emails campaign. You can even set up a retargeting  campaign.

Store Optimization

Take note that 44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online. Once you have the foundation laid for your ecommerce business, the next important step is to optimize your website. Improve your website speed. Create an intuitive navigation bar. Focus on creating a great product page. Display related items. Optimize your store search. Lastly, check how your store looks on mobile devices.

Inventory

Best selling products tend to quickly fade away, that is why inventory is very important. Constantly look for new product ideas that could keep the traffic coming to your store. Do not rely on just a few products to drive all your sales. Rather, offer new arrivals to your existing customers and frequently test new product ideas based on Google trends.

Conclusion

I know there are people who have had success focusing most of their attention on a unique niche product or exceptional customer service. That said, up to 50% of Shopify stores never receive a single sale. Even though that may seem like a very low number of ecommerce businesses get off the ground, if you compare it against success rates of businesses in general (10%), it is a promising point of departure.

To summarize a few key takeaways from this guide as you develop your own ecommerce business plan, start lean and set all other things aside to focus on sales. Don’t worry about having the perfect product or the best looking web design for your store in the beginning. Jump in and learn by doing. Use the sales aspect of your ecommerce business as your lighthouse because it is the driving force behind any successful store. Once you begin turning a profit, invest the funds into an ecommerce marketing plan to continue growing your business. Only then should you start to hone in on other important details like optimizing your store.

Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand how to start an ecommerce business. You’ve got everything you need at your fingertips to make this the year your store takes off, and we at Oberlo are happy to help you every step of the way in meeting this goal.


Want to learn more?


What’s your ecommerce business plan? Share your experiences or ask for advice in the comments below!


  • Adam

    Hi Tomas,

    You said that long term ideas like SEO and Email Marketing should be excluded. What do you think about contests/sweepstakes delivered through platforms like Gleam and similar ones? Is this a long-term strategy that should be excluded?

  • egeli

    Without sales, you are failed.

    We tried some paid ads and we could not sell any products. It is important to find a working ad platform/campaign. Once you find it, you can make sales.

  • Exactly!

  • IMHO, direct Response ads is just the quickest way to get some initial cash flowing in. All other marketing channels are great, and there are a lot of people using them successfully, but if you don’t have any background in marketing, you should try direct response ads first.

  • Jacob Winn

    Hi Tomas,

    What’s an example of a direct response ad? I’m starting my shop and will be taking all advice pertaining to sales as I have no experience!

  • It’s basically all pay-per-click advertising: Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads, etc.

  • Phaizapharah Phantastic

    Thanks Thomas and Oberlo in general. Mind is just entrepreneural-skepticism cz I opened my online store at shop if but later closed to recapitalise well and open-mind myself to e commerce in specifics as well as how to streamline to and fro my locality. May be Thomas to trim me up if need arises and be.

  • Heather Middleton

    Where do you find unique wholesale products to sell? I can only seem to find generic bulk products

  • Denis Smith

    Though I was in IM for years I never tried drop shipping. I have been following this Shopify thing for few months and I am impressed and want to try it. I hope I will make something out of this. Thanks.

  • Thanks! It is really inspiring me a lot to continue the career with digital marketing. Glad to read your post.

  • Paul David

    Hi Tomas – would you consider facebook or instagram as direct response or rather interuption based marketing? we have heard from a group of people to use instagram and facebook to measure which products are attracting your customers, and then setup PPC for adwords direct to those customers, what are your thoughts.
    I have a second question – is there recommended markup formula for products from aliexpress? one with a good track record of sales?, as more and more people are doing dropshipping there is growing line between too cheap and too expensive

  • Hi, good..I’m learning wth you and it’s very intersting way to work my store, thank you
    I belleave i can grow wth this knowlege

  • Roee Arbel

    I am stuck on trying to decide what is the best strategy to begin with, and I am eager to move forward but don’t know how! – a general store with a wide variety of niche and interesting products, or a store centered around one central niche idea? PLEASE HELP!

  • I’m glad you find it helpful! Good luck!

  • Hey there!

    I’d say go for a store centered around one central niche. Then sell several different products tailored to that particular niche. You’ll save up on marketing by targeting only one particular niche.

    Good luck!

  • Roee Arbel

    Thanks Tomas! Looking forward to starting.

  • Sera

    I enjoy these educational tips. I would suggest changing all the yellow lettering to another color, I can barely read the yellow.

  • gabby

    I was thinking the same thing. I didn’t get to read the tips in yellow, because I couldn’t read them.

  • Hey guys!

    It’s been fixed – sorry for the hassle!

  • Brien White

    Thanks for the arrival Tomas. I am just trying to figure out how to get started and what really focus on first. This will really help me. Thanks.

  • Hey!

    Just like suggested in the article, start with the practical stuff – launching your Shopify store.

    Then invest time and effort in marketing. You should decide your target audience and which countries you are planning to sell your items to.

    If you get stuck at any step in particular, let me know. Will be happy to share some advise 😉 Good luck!

  • Demetrius Culbreth

    Hello, I’m new to the e-commerce world and i want to get some advice, I see all kinds of advice on how to market your products on Facebook, Instagram etc. but, being a new startup how should I approach Facebook marketing with out having any traffic to give any data I’m a little confused on how to get up and running, I have a general store and used kit but, my Business manager was disabled and I had to wait two weeks to get my account back in good standing .

  • Hey there,

    We have launch a series of video that helps merchants run their Facebook ads. Have a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oce_bNA5obM&list=PLbam2U6VuWtkh2p7dRutEzVdznbsLYoag

    We have also put together an ebook on how to advertise on Facebook. Check that out as well: https://www.oberlo.com/ebooks/facebook-ads-tactics

    Hope this helps!

  • Demetrius Culbreth

    Thanks Tomas

  • Mary Kelson

    Do you have to have your own personal website first? Do you need two different websites like 1 with shopify and your own and just link together?

  • Hey Mary!

    No, Oberlo won’t work with your own personal website.

    Oberlo works with Shopify platform only, so having one Shopify store is sufficient.

  • Mary Kelson

    So i won’t be able to use my Domain name ? just new to all this

  • You can use your domain name. You’ll just need to connect it to your Shopify store. Here’s how: https://help.shopify.com/manual/domains/connecting-existing-domains

    Hope that helps!

  • Ranjeet Dada

    Almost 99% of Gurus are teaching drop shipping which is NOT a long term way to do ecommerce. We should be able to operate like a real ecom entrepreneur, not as a drop shipper. So would like to share this free video series with you guys. Here it is http://dotcomdominator.com

  • Yemisi Oladeji

    I am using oberlo. I am in the UK but I want my targeted audience to be USA, so how do I do this? Also I want the currency to be in dollars not pounds sterling.

  • Hello,

    You’ll need to set your shipping rates and zones accordingly. You can set your preferences by going to the Shopify Admin panel > Settings > Shipping > Zones and Rates tab.

    When promoting your store, target the US based customers only.

    Oberlo imports product prices in USD, therefore you won’t need to adjust anything regarding the currency.

    Best of luck!

  • Yemisi Oladeji

    Thanks for your reply. Like I said Oberlo imported goods to my store but the prices which were in dollars were converted to pounds sterling may be because UK was enabled under domestic in the shipping column. I read somewhere that to change the country or currency, I have to deactivate shopify payment , what does that mean? Which payment am I going to use if I deactivate shopify payment?