By: Tomas Šlimas January 13, 2017 Topic: Ecommerce Inspiration

Here at Oberlo, we are continually asked for advice about the best ways to start an ecommerce business, and then how to succeed from there. We’re always happy to share more about this subject, as we are passionate about giving people the tools they need to see their stores take off. Not to mention, as you’ve probably realized there are so many things to consider.

It can be difficult to figure out where to prioritize your resources and attention at the beginning of the process, and what can wait until later. This guide offers a streamlined and honest approach to subjects like ecommerce marketing as well as general ecommerce 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 creating your own ecommerce blueprint will be far clearer than you may have thought possible.

Succeeding with Your First Ecommerce Business

When asked how to succeed in ecommerce, you might think that having a great website design, top notch customer support, high-quality product images, and a unique selling proposition rank high on the list of importance.

And 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 website great. They are what makes an ecommerce business owner 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. Especially 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 ecommerce business is sales. Efforts to bring traffic to your store will bring sales, and sales will bring more traffic. Likewise, you need to be making sales first before you can provide great customer support to those shopping on your site as well as before you can decide on your brand’s unique voice.
Without sales, you’re finished.

ecommerce tips

How to Start Ecommerce: Where to begin

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 practical steps at first. For starters, what you really need is a simple medium to sell your products. A basic store 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 spend at 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. This will eventually give you the opportunity to improve at other things. First things first.

how to start ecommerce

How to Start Ecommerce: Ecommerce Marketing

Earn More Than You Spend. Daily.

First-time entrepreneurs rarely invest a lot of capital in their ecommerce businesses, hoping to return their investment after 6 months or a year.

The secret to ecommerce marketing is to find the right marketing channel for your product. Then, perfect it until bringing one customer costs less than you earn from a sale. Aim for the infinite loop – when 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 the profits.

Check your advertising ROI twice a week at minimum. Ideally, do it daily. Sell products that have high enough markups to cover your marketing expenses each day. 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 you can reuse it on advertising again.

Only 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.

e-commerce marketing

How to Start Ecommerce: Ecommerce Tips  

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. From here, we can begin to explore the particulars.

A great custom design is an investment. Putting some 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 learn more about all options. With direct advertising like Facebook or Search ads, 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 and apply their strategies to your own ecommerce business.

Test your advertising campaigns instead of your product page. This will keep you from getting bogged down trying to test and change all of the small elements of your store. Just focus on the advertising and marketing, not the ‘buy’ button on the product page.

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.

how to succeed in ecommerce

How to Succeed in Ecommerce: What’s Next?



Once you’ve validated your store idea and secured a minimum stream of sales, continue optimizing your ecommerce marketing along. Here are a few more ecommerce business tips:

Customer Service / Self-Help Content:

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 success. Create self-service content with detailed FAQs page, offer live chat support, incentivize product reviews and build trust.

Conversion Optimization:

63% of your website visitors will leave without purchasing. 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:

44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online. Optimize your website. Improve your website speed. Create an intuitive navigation bar. Focus on creating a great product page. Show related items. Optimize your store search. Lastly, check how your store looks on mobile devices.


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. Offer new arrivals to your existing customers and frequently test new product ideas.


I know there are people who have had success focusing on a unique niche product or exceptional customer service. That said, up to 50% of Shopify stores end up without ever receiving a sale. Even though that may seem like a very low number, if you compare it against success rates of business in general (10%) – it is a promising point of departure.

To summarize a few key takeaways from this guide, 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. Jump in and learn by doing. Use the sales aspect of your ecommerce business as your lighthouse, as it is the driving force behind any successful store. Once you begin turning a profit, invest the funds into a marketing plan to continue growing your business.

Hopefully, this article has helped you to figure out 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.

What’s your ecommerce business strategy? 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.