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The Ultimate E-Commerce Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Business Development

There’s no denying that e-commerce is becoming more and more popular worldwide.  

As with many other industries, the retail landscape has undergone a drastic transformation following the rise of the internet. And, thanks to the digitalization of modern life, consumers in all parts of the globe are now profiting from the perks of online transactions.  

With internet access and adoption rapidly increasing, the number of digital shoppers keeps growing each year. In fact, it’s estimated that there will be 2.14 billion global digital buyers in 2021.  

Indeed, e-commerce is the future - which is probably why you’re here, yeah? If you’re thinking of starting your own online retailer, then you’ve definitely come to the right place!

As a digital marketing Miami company that has helped countless e-commerce startups climb their way to the top, it’ll be our pleasure to walk you through the path to success.  

We’ve put together an exhaustive blueprint for starting an e-commerce business to ensure you’re on the right track. In this post, you’ll be looking at our step-by-step guide - from doing your research and determining your target market to applying for business permits or licenses and marketing your e-commerce store.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The Ultimate E-Commerce Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Step 1: Research, Research, Research

Every well-established e-commerce owner would agree that doing research is the first step.  

Bear in mind that growing an online business is a huge investment. Operating based on instinct and guesswork will only set you up for failure.  

Before deciding on what to sell, it’s imperative to understand the different e-commerce business models. Trust us, it will leave an impact on your business structure.  

For instance, if you’re planning to have your own warehouse full of goodies, working with a wholesaling or warehousing model should be your best bet. Or, if the idea of turning a profit without investing heavily at the beginning or touching your product excites you, you’ll certainly want to go for the print-on-demand or drop-shipping model.

The white-label model is perfect for anyone who wants to sell a product from another brand while under their personal brand. Basically, the manufacturing company will allow you to distribute its goods under your brand so that it appears as if you’re the one who produced them.  

Subscriptions are another option. You’ll be curating a single product or a set of products to be delivered to your customers at regular intervals.

Whichever e-commerce business model you decide to pick, make sure that it’s something that will work for you in the long run.  

Step 2: Choose Your Niche

Finding the right niche is a critical step in developing your e-commerce business.  

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s your area of expertise?  
  • What are your marketable skills or knowledge? Where do they fit in the market?  
  • What kind of products are you interested to sell?
  • If you’re selling a digital product, how will you source it?
  • Will you base your business around one-time orders, bundles, or a subscription model?
  • Can you manage production on your own, or will you need assistance?

If your expertise is in high demand, be sure to capitalize on that. Say you’re an experienced freelance writer, for example. Your e-commerce store can focus on offering editing services, paid online blogging courses, or print on demand.

Picking an overly crowded niche is a giant no-no. Specificity is key. The more specific you are, the less competition you’ll likely face.

Skip anything dominated by popular brands as well. Especially since you’re just a newbie in the world of e-commerce, you don’t want to find yourself competing against the top dogs.

Decide on a niche that performs well in social media, and opt for a product category with a minimum of 1,000 keywords. If you can, try to snag a couple of affiliate marketing opportunities. That way, you can still make a profit without having to worry about shipping as much product as you need to.

Step 3: Brainstorm Product Ideas

digital marketing Miami brainstorming product ideas

There are many proven tactics you can use to select your first e-commerce product. You can cater to a small niche market, solve a common pain point in your area, or focus on your personal passion.  

If spotting trends is something you’re good at, use that to help you decide. Being adept at recognizing trends can actually make you a leader in the market. However, if you don’t have the skills, here are three tips to help you:

  • Use Google Trends. Google Trends lets you see the trending products people are searching for, the most commonly used keywords in search, and the problems users are trying to solve.
  • Social listening. Spend time on social media channels where your target customers usually hang out in. Take advantage of social listening tools and browse trending hashtags to gain valuable insights.  
  • Explore e-commerce and aggregator websites. Pages like Trend Hunter or assorted subreddits for your niche can give you a hint of developing trends before they get big.  

It’s also crucial to do keyword research to learn what most users online are on the hunt for. Although Google is the leading search engine, you should consider online marketplaces too. If you’re not aware, Amazon and eBay have their own search functions.  

Here’s a tip you’ll find incredibly helpful: Type in the product name you intend to sell on the aforementioned sites and see what keywords come up. Their results will display suggested search times, giving you an idea of what consumers look for in that product.  

Step 4: Know Your Target Audience

Now, it’s time to figure out who you want to sell your products to.  

Defining your target audience can assist your e-commerce strategies in numerous ways. It saves up the time and energy that were previously being utilized to reach a bigger, but less interesting market. Knowing what your ideal audience is looking for enables you to generate the same revenue with lesser resources.  

As you're gathering product information, be sure to study your prospective customers. Who are they? What traits and qualities do they possess? This is where creating customer personas come in.

Personas are pretty much-fictionalized versions of your target customers that allow you to predict how they'll act. Envision the person you think would benefit greatly from your product or service and find out how you can capture their attention.  

These questions can help you establish customer personas:

  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are their interests and hobbies?
  • What are their shopping habits?
  • How much money do they earn?
  • What are their pain points?

From there, you'll be able to infer where they're likely to spend time online and what messages they'll likely respond to. This will help you market your product effectively once you launch your online store.

Step 5: Validate Your Product

digital marketing Miami validating a product by testing it with target audience

Validating your product means evaluating its viability. That’s why you should take this step seriously.  

Before you can finally invest in the product, evaluate it carefully. Test it and get a feel so you can pinpoint any potential problems and prepare customer service scripts to answer common questions.  

Then, examine the following criteria:

  • Your possible selling price and markup
  • The number of product types you’ll stock
  • The weight, size, and durability of your product
  • Any restrictions or regulations around your product
  • Whether your product or service serves a passion or solves a pain point
  • Whether your product is perishable, consumable, or disposable
  • Whether you'll likely experience seasonal buying fluctuations
  • Whether you’ll offer a subscription

These criteria can give you an insight into the potential of your product or service, as well as how much it'll cost you to get your e-commerce business up and running.

Step 6: Decide How to Get Your Product

If it’s a physical product you’re selling, you have to find the appropriate model to obtain it and ship them to your customers. Below are your choices:

  • Make it. This option is highly favorable for those who are selling homemade products, like pottery or cookies. Ideally, you want to buy your materials or ingredients in smaller batches since you’re just starting out. That way, you won’t have to worry about your profit margin.  
  • Partner with a manufacturer. If you don’t have the skills or tools to make the product yourself, find a manufacturer to work with. We also recommend this option if you’re thinking of selling in large quantities, considering that manufacturers typically require their partners to order in bulk.  
  • Purchase wholesale then resell. In this approach, you’ll need to buy independent or commercial versions of your desired product, after which you sell them through your online store at a markup.  
  • Dropship. If you don't like the idea of carrying inventory, this option will suit you best. Dropshipping involves teaming up with another company that would ship your product on your behalf once someone orders it.  

On the other hand, if you’re selling digital products, you can offer them as downloads. Digital products can be in the form of online video classes, blog posts, templates, and even services like therapy or design.

Step 7: Register Your Business & Brand Name

Naming your business can be quite challenging. It has to be catchy, captivating, and easy to recall. More importantly, it should be unique, original, and define who you are as a brand.  

To determine whether someone has already taken that business name you have in mind, you may either search on your Secretary of State’s site or run a search with the US Patent and Trademark Office.  

You’ll be using your business name to register. Speaking of which, you’ll be the one to decide which type of legal structure works best for you: Sole proprietorship, general proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Consult an attorney or any legal expert to ensure you make the right decision.  

Since there will be legal protections and tax benefits for incorporating, don’t think about skipping this step.

Step 8: Apply for Your Licenses, Permits, & Employee Identification Number (EIN)

Running an e-commerce store doesn’t mean that you’re no longer required to obtain certain businesses permits and licenses. Check with your city, county, and state to learn what types of licenses you need, and have them all approved before opening your business.  

Be aware that you’ll likely need to pay a fee for them. That said, add those expenses into your business budget upfront in case you’ll be dealing with financial surprises down the line.  

Although getting an EIN isn’t really necessary for all businesses, it can still be useful to obtain one to keep your business and personal finances separate. And, it’s not exactly a time-consuming and burdensome task. Simply apply through the IRS, and a number will be assigned right away. Oh, and it’s completely free.  

Step 9: Build Your Online Store

digital marketing Miami creating ecommerce store for client

Now that you’re officially a certified e-commerce business owner, it’s time to pick a website builder for your online store.  

As a digital marketing Miami company, we can fairly say that choosing the right e-commerce software isn’t simple. You have to assess things like features, compatibility with your business structure, SEO-friendly features, loading speed, and your web developer skills.  

You might think that you need to hire a specialist immediately (if you have the money, of course!) for it, but the truth is, you can do it yourself. Just use a theme and you’re good to go. A little heads up, though - you’ll probably need to pay a fee of at least $100 to get a fantastic template, but it’ll certainly be worth every penny.  

Additionally, if you don’t want to stress yourself taking credit card payments, you can sell your products on an online marketplace like Amazon.

Setting up your e-commerce store is more than merely adding your products and publishing content. It’s also about automating your email and remarketing campaigns, as they’re both essential for driving conversions.  

Send a welcome email to new customers, keep your subscribers up-to-date with your latest products and deals, offer coupons, and recommend other products they might be interested in.  

Step 10: Promote Your New Business

For the final step, let the whole world know about your new online business. You are now ready to bring in customers!

Try out different tactics in your marketing strategy. Collaborate with affiliate marketers or influencers, run Instagram or Facebook ads, or if you have a blog, promote it on top social media outlets. You might also want to use shoppable landing pages so your customers can buy your products with ease.  

Create an email list so that you'll know who is interested in your products. Besides the fact that you'll be able to notify them of future offers, promotions, and discounts, it's a great way for them to send you feedback or concerns. It's a win-win!

Ready to Start Building Your E-Commerce Business with a Reputable Digital Marketing Miami Company?

Allow Digital Resource to become a part of your journey!  

With a dedicated team of experts in SEO, web design, content creation, ads, social media marketing, and email marketing, we can help you achieve your e-commerce business goals!

Book a free consultation with us to learn how. Or, read what our former clients had to say about us first to get the reassurance that we’re really serious about seeing you succeed.

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