Are you wondering how to start an ecommerce business? In this article and video, you’ll find a guide on how to start an e-commerce business the right way .
In the scenario we currently live in, many people have the desire, the need or the curiosity to organize an online business, so below we will tell you about a very interesting opportunity: the idea of starting an eCommerce site.
How do you start a successful eCommerce business? In this article you will find a basic guide, but if you want to go deeper seriously, you should evaluate the Master E-Commerce to get to open and manage a successful online store.
But why create an ecommerce today? Looking to the present, and to the future, implies considering electronic commerce as a response to the user’s need for convenience. In contemporary society, websites suitable for online sales satisfy the user’s desire, wherever he is.
By reading here, you will find answers to frequently asked questions, such as:
- How can I start a dropshipping online store without warehouse?
- What’s the best thing to sell online?
- How to start? What are the steps to create an eCommerce site?
- Where to sell online for free?
How to create an ecommerce from scratch in 9 steps
Creating an e-commerce site is a long process, which involves some mandatory steps and which leaves little room for improvisation. First of all, it is useful to have a clear understanding of the business, to position it correctly in its reference market, to evaluate its opportunities, limits and competition. It is advantageous to present yourself on the market with your e-commerce in a clear, distinctive way compared to your competitors, immediately identifying the suitable one.
Opening an online store involves risks, a commitment of time and sometimes money. Starting an e-commerce company certainly generates costs, hopefully invoiced and perhaps revenues, with a break even point (or Break Even Point) which in many cases is not reached in the first year of life, but more easily in the second or even in the third . It cannot be denied that organizing online is a project with a high risk of failure, but a lot depends on the actions implemented in the preventive and post-launch phases.
So how to do online ecommerce without falling into the typical clichés? “everything is sold online”, “all you need is an internet connection and a computer”, “there is no need for specific skills”, “there are those who provide you with a ready-made e-commerce site, a turnkey e-commerce site”. The encouraging growing numbers of the Italian e-commerce market are not enough to make your web shop a successful ecommerce, let’s find out what are the salient points for opening an ecommerce business.
Choosing products: what to sell online
What do you need to start with an ecommerce? First of all you have to think about which products you intend to sell and here the choice is very important, because rather than focusing on goods that you assume are much desired by the market, you have to concentrate on the product without much competition among those who already sell it, especially on Internet.
Surely, an added value could be to move towards what you have a passion or a particular interest for.
Starting an online business is a race that can be won in the medium to long term, having continuity and the ability to bring one’s predispositions to the web is relevant for success. Anyone wondering how to build an e-commerce from scratch should start here. This choice determines the complexity of the market in which you are going to operate, the level of competitiveness, the higher or lower input costs and the very profitability of your future business.
4 tips for choosing e-commerce “items” :
- It doesn’t have to be what we know best or love, but what the consumer is looking for;
- It is binding to solve a problem, to respond to a need;
- Must generate a consistent explicit question online;
- It is advisable to offer something unique (brand, product of our production or service), to stand out from the competitors.
Identify competitors and target
In organizing e-commerce sites it is certainly worth considering how strong online competition is, how much it may be in the future and above all what competitive advantages you will be able to maintain even in the medium to long term. You can make an initial analysis of your competitors by browsing the search engines among Google results and use tools like SEMRush to learn more.
Those who want to create an e-commerce site from scratch often make a mistake in choosing the target audience. Attempting to sell to everyone almost always results in an inability to sell to anyone.
How to create a successful ecommerce site, if not putting the customer at the center of every commercial and marketing strategy ? All this requires top-level online marketing skills, which any company that wants to start an online sales business must necessarily have .
There are, for example, disciplines such as User Experience (UX) and Marketing Automation which are indispensable for correctly structuring the design, architecture, communication and customized visualization of an e-commerce site.
Anyone who works in the world of web marketing and digital communication knows at least their meaning, but mastering these disciplines can make the difference between carrying out a professional e-commerce project, setting up a good and successful e-commerce site or instead inaugurating an online store destined to to fail.
Choice of e-commerce platform
How to build a professional e-commerce site? You must have wondered what technology is necessary and if you need special skills perhaps related to programming languages ??or whether to take advantage of an e-commerce solution in PHP. It is crucial to carefully choose the platform or software to make the DIY website. Therefore, what to consider to start with an ecommerce store?
With a few hundred euros, you have the possibility to choose a software, a CMS, otherwise defined as a content management system (content management system) and start the new business. As long as you learn to use it, you will be able to set up your ecommerce, your online store at no cost.
Some of the most popular CMS open source options are:
- WooCommerce (WordPress plugin);
To learn about the platforms in detail, or to understand how to create an ecommerce with shopify, for example, read the article dedicated to ecommerce software.
Putting an e-commerce site into operation there are also solutions such as Wix, Jimdo, Blomming and others.
Each of these solutions has advantages and disadvantages, to simplify see the diagram on the characteristics between ecommerce with open source solutions or ecommerce with paid software.
Regardless of the platform adopted, you will be able to start a professional e-commerce site when you have:
- set up an online shop , with the right graphic design: suitable for the business and target of the e-commerce website);
- fixed the back-end of the site (modules for managing content, customer master data, orders, etc.);
- planned an e-commerce site with a good Analytics and data management system to measure performance objectively and to monitor the KPIs over time ( Key Performance Indicators ).
If you want to create a successful ecommerce site, don’t forget to integrate it with the most important external services such as company management, courier tracking systems or payment systems, not to mention the most advanced, such as CRMs, data exchange, etc.
It is clear that in the design of an e-commerce site technology plays a decisive role and requires the presence of a team with specific, advanced and “vertical” skills.
If you want to take a good site building course , you need to make sure you can work on the e-commerce platform chosen to build the online store, whether it’s Magento, WooCommerce or PrestaShop or more.
Choice of domain
Here, too, there are many solutions. If you already have a business that you want to bring to the internet, then the most practical option is to use the brand name as the domain.
Instead, in the event that the online store is newly opened, or if you launch a new website, you are faced with various possibilities that embrace more or less imaginative choices. To keep in mind:
- the possibility of giving life to a new brand and consequently christening it as a domain name
- identify a domain that describes what your e-commerce does (your products)
As for the second choice, this facilitates SEO , indexing and positioning on search engines. By choosing keywords that represent your business, you will surely have a good chance of positioning yourself well in the Google SERP.
For the creation of e-commerce sites you can make use of pre-configured systems or you can opt for more professional solutions. You will need to purchase paid hosting, use a second-level domain and install a CMS that requires hosting space provided, for example, by SiteGround or Aruba.
Free e-commerce site or how much it costs
How much does it cost to open an ecommerce? What is the method to have a cheap ecommerce site?
Even if we limit ourselves to the pure costs of “technology”, it is not easy to give an unequivocal answer.
It depends on the new business project you are thinking about, the scalability you want to achieve, the skills and budget you have available and many other considerations, including the level of sophistication of the functions to be integrated into the Ecommerce.
If you don’t have the necessary skills “at home” to develop it independently, it is unthinkable to open an online store , without having adequately compared several estimates on e-commerce sites.
Once you understand the cost of an e-commerce website, you will be able to opt for the most suitable system.
By contacting a consultant, you will hardly be offered to create a free e-commerce site without a VAT number. But be careful to carefully analyze the elements contained in the estimate, do not limit yourself to simply comparing the final costs, but critically analyze all the elements of the offer, request the details, and fully understand the meaning. Only in this way will you be able to truly understand how much it costs to create an ecommerce site.
Open the VAT number
In order to sell online it is necessary to have a VAT number . Even before planning the marketing strategy of the e-commerce system, you need to open an individual VAT number, then when the online store starts to mesh, you need to set up a simplified limited liability company. About a thousand euros, very few formalities and you’re ready to issue invoices.
Are you curious to know if you can sell on the internet without a VAT number? Only if the sale is sporadic and not carried out systematically and regularly. In this case it will be enough to report the revenues generated to the tax authorities.
The bureaucratic process, functional to the sale through the website, includes a series of steps common to offline businesses. You can make use of the advice of an accountant or a law expert specialized in electronic commerce to ensure that you strictly comply with Italian, European or non-European legislation, in relation to the scope of your e-commerce site.
The administrative and fiscal aspects concern the communication to:
- Revenue Agency;
- Chamber of Commerce;
- presentation of the SCIA to the competent Municipality.
It is also necessary to activate the PEC, certified mail address.
Regardless of the legal form chosen, the website must comply with the information obligations established by the Consumer Code, the Privacy Code and the GDPR Regulation.
At the same time it is necessary to structure a sustainable business model of the eCommerce project. The business plan is certainly a fundamental document where all the costs are analyzed, which in an initial period are the “masters” before generating profit and being able to define your own winning online store.
Warehouse or dropshipping
In creating an ecommerce you will have to face the issue of warehouse management and shipments. In the world of eCommerce, the problem is easily addressed thanks to an approach called dropshipping .
What is this e-commerce strategy and how much does it cost to open a dropshipping business? Someone stores the products on your behalf, thus freeing you from the need to manage a proprietary warehouse and moreover is dedicated to the logistics of the same.
You can do it with Amazon which uses this system for a fee.
Another option, perhaps to be done in a second phase, is to self-organize dropshipping: ask your suppliers not to ship the products to you, but to deliver them directly to the final recipient. Thanks to software, you receive orders from your ecommerce and send them directly to the supplier by making an agreement with a shipping company, such as DHL.
The latter will take the products from your supplier and send them directly to the final customer without having to pass through you at all. By doing so you can “forget” about the issues related to costs and storage, packaging, shipping of products. Your only task, as manager of the online shop, is to bring potential customers and buyers to the e-commerce site.
Among the immediate advantages of a dropshipping e-commerce site :
- there is no risk of having unsold goods;
- no material storage costs;
- no worries about safety standards for product conservation;
- in the case of deliveries abroad, the customs procedures are not the responsibility of the manager;
- products delivered to the customer with the e-commerce logo;
- seamless integration of online store and supplier catalog.
Dropshipping without VAT number
We have listed the advantages of launching a drop ship e-commerce business, but it is legitimate to ask whether it is possible in this case not to open the VAT number. It should be emphasized that also in this case the Italian law applies the rule that if the sale is carried out professionally and regularly then it is essential to adapt to the VAT number regime.
However, there are e-commerce portals that allow private individuals to make use of their administrative and bureaucratic services, avoiding the “hassles” associated with registering for VAT; in any case, the fees for the transactions carried out must be declared in the income statement.
A clarification goes to the threshold of 5000 euros: it is not a factor directly proportional to the VAT number, but rather the type of sale carried out with habit and constancy, otherwise online shops that do not reach that limit would be exempt!
Selling on Facebook
If you are a private individual, you sell occasionally or you are in an initial exploratory phase, you can test the proposal of the marketplaces. One of the most famous is that of Facebook, an intermediary that allows you to use its services. Through this channel you can offer the most diverse items, from handicrafts to second-hand items.
Another solution concerns the buying and selling groups where you can publish your advertisements. Or you can use the showcase function and display your products on the page.
There is not only this social network, there are many ways to go on the web, however, there is a percentage fee to be taken into account for each transaction performed.
Numerous marketplaces allow you to sell products of different product categories, some of them are specialized by sector. Some examples of e-commerce marketplaces: Etsy, Blomming, Subito.it, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Spartoo, Manomano, a piece of advice above all: keep in mind that here the competition is ruthless!
The payment methods on E-commerce websites are a delicate matter because any user, in the phase dedicated to the transaction, requires maximum security, therefore among the online payment solutions it is important to set the methods that meet the comforts and habits of consumers .
The main payment options are credit cards and PayPal, much less common is cash on delivery. However, if you want to set up non-traditional systems then forms of compensation such as bitcoins need to study the feasibility.
Making and receiving secure payments is a priority and opening a PayPal account and installing the paypal wordpress button means associating the card or linking the bank account and proceeding with the transaction easily with the email and password previously recorded.
Many users bind their purchase to the possibility of using their PayPal.
A variable on which it is good to be clear concerns the shipping costs. The latter must be perceived very easily by the digital customer to reduce the risk of cart abandonment.
Promote the e-commerce site and generate traffic
Where is the outcome of most online businesses decided? On the use of online channels. Unfortunately, most of the founders of e-commerce focus on putting the websites online and not on the large determining variable: the ability to bring quantitatively and qualitatively important traffic to e-commerce, that is, potential customers inclined to be converted into purchases and therefore generate income for the online business.
If we want to create a professional e-commerce, we must take into account that the ability to create traffic is the basis of every website, especially if it is an e-commerce. Regardless of the cost of the ecommerce site, its “beauty”, there is no online store that sells without customers.
“Customers never come to our site for free! They have an acquisition cost (depending on the marketing channel used, the sector in which we operate and its competitiveness, etc.) which we must always take into account when creating an e-commerce”
So here is that in the creation of a successful e-commerce, Inbound Marketing also plays a fundamental role , that discipline that is concerned with attracting the target at the right time, with relevant and pertinent content, through the most suitable marketing channel. of reference.
You will need to equip yourself with your skills and those of people who work with you to become good at doing search engine activities: SEO, SEM. As far as SEO is concerned, for example, the care of the texts in the product sheets, the organization of the catalogue, the strength to build a storytelling functional to the sale, the copywriting techniques suitable for describing the products, the optimization of the photos and optical images of dimensions and attributes alt.
Tricks that aim to obtain the first position on Google for the main queries of the site, allowing users to find them quickly and make them customers through a good user experience.
Furthermore, the world of social networks should not be overlooked , the transit that can come to you from advertising in particular on: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram,YouTube to name a few.
Then there are the affiliation activities: the ability to generate a series of satellite sites, which talk about your products and convey a “passage” that could turn into a sale.
These are some ideas, obviously there are others including email marketing that allows you to personalize communications and segment your audience.
In summary, you need to ask yourself the question right away: how to bring quality traffic to your ecommerce site in order to then be able to monetize it?
Creating a winning e-commerce site involves using the main Marketing Channels to convey customers, among the most important:
- SEM (Search Engine Marketing);
- Keywords Advertising activities, with Google Ads) and Remarketing;
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization);
- Social Advertising (Facebook ADS, and Social Proof;
- Email Marketing on proprietary and non-proprietary lists (DEM);
- ADV display;
- Blogging and Content Marketing;
- Affiliate Network;
- Qualified referrals (e.g. price comparison engines);
- Google Shopping and Market Places.
Here these aspects become disciplines to be studied, to be deepened through specific or broader training courses; subjects within which to gain experience to test the theoretical preparation received. Not all training schools offer this possibility.
Digital Coach, for example, offers within its Masters, not only practical exercises, but also the possibility of carrying out a four-month Work Experience.
Adequate training allows you to understand which, among the various possible Marketing Channels, allows you to best intercept the typical customer, transforming them first into leads, then into prospects and finally into customers, possibly loyal.
Regardless of which product you will sell, the market in which you operate, or how you have decided to create the e-commerce site, you will have to study the Customer Journey, the conversion funnels and deal with sustainability in the project times. If there is a cost to acquiring a new customer, this cost must be reasonable over time.
The right training to create an Ecommerce
How to program an ecommerce without having the skills? Virtually impossible!
A training course, an E-commerce Master, an even more complete course such as the Master with Stage in Marketing , provides the tools to understand the dynamics of the web, to evaluate what the various agencies or consultants offer and the implications of a choice to another.
There is nothing as articulated in terms of digital marketing as the conception and then the management of a successful e-commerce
Improvisation in this business does not pay. On the other hand, preparation and specific quality training are fruitful. Therefore, it becomes important to follow courses to create a successful ecommerce and keep up to date.
Digital Coach, for several years, has been developing some of the best Masters for Digital Marketing professionals and, specifically, for E-commerce Managers.
The right mix of theory and practice, six-monthly program updates, the possibility of classroom or remote attendance, Work Experience are just some of its strengths. The real richness of the training courses lies in the programming of the contents that arises from the constant comparison with the main players in the digital world and their needs.
Tips to open E-commerce
Creating a winning ecommerce site is the desire of anyone who approaches this matter and wants to understand how to make money with e-commerce by selling products online.
First, it is fruitful to push e-commerce to the greatest possible visibility on search engines. To be easily “discovered” by users, it is beneficial to work not only with SEO, but to invest budgets in advertising campaign, to promote the business and its products.
For example, generate specific effective landing pages that describe the article. In this way the potential customer, the consumer who lands on the landing page finds the complete information that can push him to complete the purchase. It is not recommended to take the user to the home page, which is too generic and does not respect the search intent.
Social media also work to generate traffic, so it is good to study a social media strategy that respects the nature of online business. Furthermore, these sources can be used for customer relationship care, such as after-sales assistance, or for communication and information exchange through chats. Popular example Whatsapp Business or chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
The bond that is established, in addition to bringing satisfaction to specific requests and sometimes generating positive reviews, also works as customer loyalty, a very important element for an e-commerce business. Animated engagement dynamics to involve the public are often successful, and here the decisive role of constant and targeted content creation comes into play .
Another starting point for reflection, now essential, is the attention to be paid to mobile e-commerce. The percentage of people who prefer to surf from these devices is considerable and being mobile friendly is a mandatory requirement in light of the share of purchases which, especially in their free time, do not consider the desktop as a priority. Proof of this is Google’s algorithm update: Mobile First Indexing.
Strategies for promoting an Ecommerce site
Once you have gone out to bring traffic to the site, you must provide the public with the best possible browsing experience , convey trust, provide guarantees, distinctive elements compared to your competitors.
How to design an e-commerce site able to give the user an experience in line with his needs and expectations?
Through a relatively new discipline that takes the name of Marketing Automation.
They range from minimal automatisms, incorporated in all e-commerce creation platforms , relating to operational messages on purchase flows, deliveries, personalized payments according to the operation carried out by the individual customer, to much more complex and elaborate forms of personalization , according to the actions performed by those who navigate.
The goal of Marketing Automation is to be able to segment the reference target of your ecommerce site to communicate with customers in a diversified way, customized according to who they are (leads, prospects, new or regular customers), based on their navigation on the site (frequency of purchase, favorite categories, products purchased, cross-selling and up-selling, etc), according to socio-demographic data (gender, age and so on), according to their interests. All in an automated way.
When done right, it allows you to:
- Increase the average customer receipt;
- Increase the conversion rate (ie sales for the same traffic on the site);
- Increase the Customer Life Time Value of customers, acting on the repurchase phase.
If you are wondering how to create an e-commerce site integrated with good Marketing Automation procedures, the answer is to equip yourself with a good Web Analytics system , for collecting and analyzing data from the e-commerce site, through which you can try to improve and optimize online business.
Data analysis is the basis of the management of an e-commerce site and of every subsequent action implemented on it. In an e-commerce, basic configurations are not enough, but advanced configurations must be set, enabling e-commerce tracking, creating funnels and configuring it in order to:
- segment site users (by traffic source, geographical area, time criteria, between new and returning users, by device, etc.);
- define goals and track conversions (user actions of value for e-commerce), macro and micro;
- build verification metrics of achievement of objectives.
Google itself provides an Analytics Guide relating to e-commerce and the data that can be collected and then analyzed through “reports”. Data on products and sales, average receipt value, conversion rate and much more.
User behavior tracking systems can even be one-to-one, in the most sophisticated cases. Some Marketing Automation software allow it. In this case, it may be interesting to schematize the processes, to design them, to avoid exaggerating and falling into over automation.
How to improve the shopping experience on e-commerce sites
Already speaking of the choice of the target, we had underlined the importance of putting the customer at the center of the commercial and digital marketing strategy.
This cardinal principle has strong technical implications and significantly involves the design of the site. So what precautions should we use when we decide how to create an e-commerce site?
The starting point is the user experience.
“…it takes 50 milliseconds for a user to make a first impression on the page he is looking at! (Stanford University)”
When we prepare to build an e-commerce site , we must not forget that the browsing experience, especially for an e-commerce site, has three components:
- the site, its graphic design and its structure);
- that linked to the concept of usability (ease or otherwise of use, to create the shopping experience you want);
- emotional (not only put the user in a position to reach his goal, but make the experience as pleasant as possible).
It designs business processes around the user’s browsing and purchasing experience, the interfaces, the technological system and everything that can gradually improve the User Experience of the e-commerce site in question.
Working on the UX is always possible, but surely creating an ecommerce site from scratch represents a great opportunity to exploit.
How to best work on its Look and Feel?
- choose a design in line with the product, with the perception you want to give of it;
- works on the layout, positioning the distinctive messages with respect to competitors in full view (guarantees and benefits);
- takes care of the site’s architecture, to enhance its navigability (and to improve its SEO positioning on Google);
- act on the navigation menus, on the category structure, on the filters and in general, on the shortcuts;
- takes care of the display of the products, the structure and contents of the single product page (also at SEO level), the visibility of the Call to Action;
- studies and optimizes, also through A/B tests, the most important e-commerce processes: registration, cart, checkout, payments, shipments and tracking;
- immediately designs a layout that is Adaptive or Responsive and that does not penalize traffic from Mobile, to make the most of information searches (Info-commerce) or transactional searches (aimed at purchasing) that come from these devices.
Creating an e-commerce site from scratch therefore has many advantages compared to the prospect of “retouching”, “adapting” an existing online store, all of this if carefully designed.
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I direct Digital Coach®, the professional training school, leader in training all professionals who work in the Digital Marketing & Sales field.
As a trainer, I have trained over 35,000 business professionals from over 300 large multinational companies and over 5,000 Italian SMEs.
I devised the “Digital Strategy Framework®” method, thanks to which since 2014 I have been helping companies to define and improve over time a digital strategy that maximizes the generation of turnover and online sales.