How to Launch an E-Commerce Business
If brick and mortar stores are the biggest losers in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the biggest winners have to be online stores. Online shopping is booming right now.
The convenience of making purchases from the comfort of a couch at home, coupled with the fact that people are avoiding crowded stores, has created a very promising future for online sellers. Note that e-commerce was growing steadily even before the pandemic; you can bet that even if the current upsurge in online shopping declines post-coronavirus, which is very unlikely, online businesses will still be lucrative. That is why you should learn how to create and launch your own e-commerce business. Here is the ultimate 10-step guide to launching an e-commerce business.
1. Know what you will be selling
Truth is, you can sell anything online, but that doesn’t mean you should just because you can. E-Commerce is a business like any other and what you sell, plus who you sell to, matters a lot in your eventual success (or failure). You have to give a good thought about the target market, the products you intend to sell, and the type of online shopping experience your want your customers to have. Expertise isn’t a prerequisite for a successful e-commerce business, but it helps if you know a thing or two about the demand and supply of your target products.
2. Choose an e-commerce business name
Choose a unique name that sets you aside from the competition, but that captures what you sell and who you are targeting. Check with your local patent office to ensure that you aren’t plagiarizing someone else’s business name.
3. Licenses your e-commerce business
Different countries have different license requirements, so you should look for advice from a mentor in your line of work. If you want to set up a company in China on an e-commerce platform, for example, you need to apply for your licenses through the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. You will also need to set up a Wholly Foreign Owned Entity (WFOE) if you are a foreign investor. Bottom line: Take your time to learn the ropes before applying for your licenses.
4. Get your EIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) will come in handy later when you’ll be filing your taxes or opening a business bank account in the US. Learn about the equivalents of the EIN if you will be operating in a different country.
5. Choose a legal structure
Your legal structure choices include:
- Sole proprietorship
- General partnership
Each option has its pros and cons, but they all will have far-reaching legal and financial implications on your e-commerce business. It is best that you seek legal advice from a lawyer and a financial expert before making your choice.
This will also have a huge impact on your finances and general operations. Your common choices include:
- Drop-shipping model. You don’t own the products, and neither do you store them in your warehouse. Your role is just to bridge the gap between the original seller and the consumer. The only investment you need for this model is an e-commerce website.
- Warehousing and wholesaling model. You get the goods from a manufacturer, keep them in your warehouses, and then sell them online. This model requires a bigger investment because you have to rent a warehouse and pay for the goods upfront.
- Labeling and manufacturing. You own not only the product but the product idea as well. You sell your products under your own brand.
7. Learn online business laws
If you will be selling to overseas clients, you need to understand shipping restrictions and zoning laws. If you will be selling someone else’s products, you need to learn about trademark laws. Not understanding the laws can land you and your business in trouble.
8. Analyze your market and competition
You have to conduct a competitive analysis before starting a business, whether offline or online. Know who your competitors are and what you need to do to give your platform a competitive edge. Evaluate market viability and analyze your target market to understand your ideal customer. That will help you choose the best approach to appeal to the market.
9. Choose the right e-commerce platform
Choose an e-commerce technology and shopping cart platform/software that will best serve your model and target market. The model you choose has to be compatible with your business structure, be SEO-friendly, have a reasonably fast loading speed, and be compatible with different payment gateways. All these features will help you turn visitors into shoppers.
10. Set up the store and launch
Now that you have a platform, a model, and a structure for your e-commerce business, just add your content and launch your business.
Advertise your e-commerce business platform through email newsletters, social media, and any other platform you’d find your target customer on. Learn how to drive organic traffic to your platform and make conversions.