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How to Start a Successful E-Commerce Business – 6 Tips from Seasoned Pros

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How to Start a Successful E-Commerce Business – 6 Tips from Seasoned Pros

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 26, 2012 Updated: April 30, 2012

According to U.S. Census data, e-commerce sales are increasing at a rate faster than traditional offline retail sales, raking in approximately $190 billion in sales in 2011. So it’s no surprise that budding entrepreneurs and existing “bricks and mortar” businesses are turning to e-commerce as a business opportunity.

You only need to browse the SBA.gov Community Discussion Boards to see how many topics focus on how to start an e-commerce business!

Given this interest, I thought it would be useful to draw on the advice of Community members, many of whom are business owners themselves. So, if you’ve got questions about starting an e-commerce business, consider the following tips and recommendations, along with some useful links and resources that can help.

1. Decide what you want to do and define your niche

Knowing what you are going to sell, how, and to whom is a critical part of your business plan. Community members offer the following advice:

ehrs” has this to say about finding your niche: “You really want to be 'specific' enough to get the right kind of customers and the least possible competition.”

Lee Belcher” expands on this: “What I would recommend is first finding a niche in something you enjoy reading about or taking part in… The next thing you want to do is decide whether or not you are going to sell the products or be an affiliate of them.”

Lastly, “Jenr” reminds us that: “…(selling products) means you have added logistical issues such as shipping, storage and initial purchase of product.”

If you need help finding your niche or deciding what to sell, these blog posts can help:

2. Have a plan

Starting any kind of business requires a documented plan. Without one, you’ll lack focus, overspend, and struggle to deal with the curveballs that starting and running a business throws. Community member “solsoly” learned this lesson:

I started an online business two years ago... without any plan whatsoever, and I regretted it, because sooner or later you will find yourself in deep problems… not knowing what to do next. So! What I have learned is, make a plan!”

This blog post offers tips on writing a business plan: How a Simple Business Plan can Get you from A to Z, and Navigate all Things In-Between.

3. Fund your business at a low cost

Starting an e-commerce site needn’t be costly, as these two Community members explain:

The only reason I can think of where you would need a loan is if you are actually stocking product to sell. Otherwise an online business should cost you next to nothing,” writes “Zholley”. 

Zoltan” adds this: “I would not suggest you [plow] any significant money into it until you have gained some practical experience and gained some revenue stream.”

4. Build a website

“…a major factor in your success will be the creation of a website. Not all sites are created equal. You can spend a lot of money on a website. It may look pretty and busy but may not help you sell your product,” states “Jenr”.

For low-cost tips, read How to Start a Website for Free or Low Cost - 21 Tools to Consider. You’ll also need to know how to set up a merchant account.

5. Drive traffic to your site

Driving traffic to your site and increasing search engine optimization (SEO) is essential and one of the trickiest aspects of doing business online. Here’s what Community members have to say:

Wolverine63” offers this advice: “Technically, you have over 3 million potential customers (at any given time) that are going [past] your online store. They are not aware of you unless you start doing some form of promotion... Start reading up on the various ways to achieve a higher search engine result… If you have the cash for it, you can always hire one of the numerous SEO firms to help you.”

MinEn” recommends using Google Keyword Tool to improve SEO:“This tool tells you the number of people searching for your product each month” (based on specific keywords or phrases).

For tips on driving traffic to your site, read:

6. Don’t forget to follow the rules of the road

Don’t forget, you’ll also need to follow the basic steps involved in legally starting a business. These 10 Steps to Starting a Business can help. For a complete soup-to-nuts overview of getting started in e-commerce, read: Getting Started with E-Commerce - An Entrepreneur's Checklist..

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Be Different. Really, Really Different from others, and Focus on One Also Become A Product Expert and Fight A Downhill Battle to achieve great things.
Great article. E-commerce websites should really focus on building confidence and trust in audiences too. This can easily be achieved with focus on small details. This post provides some ways to achieve this..
I simple lines i would tell as, find the needs build and design your website make it search friendly site build reputation Provide more offers to attract customers Keep adding attractive products
This is a good general starting point, but the most important thing is to take your time and add as much detail to your plan as possible. Explore each aspect of your plan for the latest ideas and technology.
For running an successful ecommerce business all we need is more than jst a website. Make a plan, use analytics, have an attractive web design, Make check out painless, drive targeted traffic. Run successful business.
Any Business is successful when it is developed with proper planning and management. Also you should keep your website updated with latest stuff so that people like it and make purchase. Also, don't forget to provide more payment options to the customers. You may also check this related post where investment, cost and logistics of an eCommerce Website is included:- This comment was edited to remove a link. Please review the Community Rules of Conduct for more information.
No. 2, I think is the most important because planning is the key closest you can succeed. Thank you for sharing
this is really helpful to me... I have been looking for this for months. Thank you so much for this great list!!!
you share such a useful information in very good way.
Very nice list. I agree with all of the above. The best point i liked among are the "6". Because it says to follow, not just read and forget :)

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