Getting Started in Ecommerce : Beginners Guide to E-commerce [2021]


getting started in e-commerce

What is e-commerce? If you’re wondering how to start a successful e-commerce business, then you’ve got to stick up with me to the end. I just put together this detailed guide with you in mind.

So, let’s quickly run over what you should do to get started!

How to Start a Successful Ecommerce Business in 2021

  1. Know What Is an E-commerce Business
  2. Brainstorm E-commerce Business Ideas
  3. Pick One E-commerce Platform for Your Store
  4. Build Your E-commerce Website Store
  5. Source Products through Dropshipping or develop Your Own
  6. Market Your E-commerce Business
  7. Scale your E-commerce business

With almost every aspect of human life moving online, what is the fate of businesses? Whether you’re running a small or big business, at some point you’ll have to migrate to the online space.

According to 99firms report, 99% of all sales in the world are anticipated to take place via e-commerce platforms by 2040. Still, the report says that 80% of internet users in the US have made a purchase online.

Clearly, the drift is taking place faster than you can imagine.

That’s why as a savvy e-commerce entrepreneur, you need to be ready when the world switches to 100% shopping online. But how do I switch to e-commerce when I’m only a beginner? You could be asking.

The truth is, starting a successful e-commerce business isn’t hard. However, when you don’t know what to do, you can find it such a hurdle.

But not to worry! That’s the main reason for this guide for e-commerce business. In a little while, you’ll discover everything you need to know to be a successful e-commerce entrepreneur.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it!


1. What Is E-commerce Business?

This can also be referred to as electronic commerce and involves the buying and selling of Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C) goods and services through the internet. An E-commerce business can also take place in the form of consumer to consumer (C2C) and consumer to business (C2B). For the trade to be successful, there should be an e-commerce website store that is acting in the place of a physical store. 

2. Brainstorm E-commerce Business Ideas

E-commerce business ideas

Once you know that you can work online and be profitable, it’s a good idea to operate with a business mindset. By this I mean you can make your business official since there are benefits associated with that.

Some folks prefer being casual with their business. 

But that’s not how savvy e-commerce entrepreneurs operate. For one, they’re intentional about the business and for two, they know the business is scalable. Therefore, to be different from the crowd, below are the things they do.

And I believe this is something you too can do.

RELATED: What is Digital Marketing? Your (2021) Most Burning Questions Answered

Undertake Research to Find Your Niche

Selling online can be fun and profitable. But only when you know what you’re doing. How do I mean? Here’s the thing: you first want to identify a problem on the market, then offer a solution to solve it.

In other words, your business needs to be about creating value.

However, to effectively pull this string, you got to know your customer quite well. You need to know their pain points, challenges, values, goals, interests, and the likes.

For example, if you’re targeting mothers, one pain point would be managing their household.

In retrospect, you can offer solutions geared towards making their lives easy as mothers, or housekeepers. Some of the solutions could mean something like; kitchenware, children’s clothing, baby products, sanitation products, etc.

And if you’re targeting men and fathers, you could offer solutions to their home improvement needs. For this, you can sell tools and any other thing they’d need to make their work easy and enjoyable.

The bottom line is to find a problem and come up with a timely solution to it.

Some of the major niches you can try out include; home improvement, electronics, automobiles, kitchenware, fashion and design, sports ware, health products, sleep, pets, stationery, digital products, and Clothing.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a ton more niches out there. 

To be successful at anything, you need to identify people who’ve already been to where you’re heading. The same applies to any successful e-commerce business.

Therefore, you need to identify a couple of competitors in your niche.

If you’re going with the automobile niche, for example, identify 2-3 e-commerce businesses that are already profitable in this space.

Your aim should not be to copy them but to see what they’re doing right that you can borrow.

While carrying out the competition analysis, carefully check the following; their store design and content, the number of products they’re dealing with, their marketing efforts, customer management, and relations efforts, and their daily traffic and sources.

When you’re done, you want to identify the gaps and capitalize on them. This is the only way your business can stand tall and command more profits for you.

But if you decide to copy what they’re already doing, you may only stagnate where they are.

But you don’t want that, do you?

Comply with the Online Business Statutory Legal Requirements

There’s a regulation that controls almost everything regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. And this doesn’t exempt online businesses.

You need to be wary of all the local and international laws that can have an impact on your business. 

One way to know what laws can apply to you is to first determine your business entity. This is necessary as it’ll have both financial and legal implications for the business.

According to the laws of your country or state, below are some business entities you can operate under.

  • Sole proprietorship.
  • General partnership.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC), or 
  • Corporation.

However, it’s important to note that each of these business entities comes with an upside and a downside. Therefore, before settling on a single one, you’ll need to consult with an attorney who specializes in business law.

This is one sure way of making sure you’re at par with the law.

Other online business laws to acquaint yourself with include; shipping restrictions and trademark issues. You’ll also want to see if there are zoning laws that you need to take care of before getting started.

So, like I’d said, this is something you can do best with the help of a lawyer. 

Come Up with a Business Plan 

At this point, you have taken care of all the statutory requirements. The next thing to do is put every piece of information you’ve gathered so far to create a plan.

Yes, a plan is necessary for the success of every business. Even e-commerce online businesses need a strategy.

So, that’s where a business plan comes in. A solid one helps you stay focused and to avoid silly mistakes along the way. As wave blog puts it, a business plan helps you reduce the risk of entrepreneurship.

There’s no doubt starting and running a business is risky.  However, with a well-crafted plan, you can avoid the trap of failed businesses. 

So, what should you include in your e-commerce business plan? According to Smartasset blog, the business plan document should have a summary description of what the business entails. This should include your vision, strategy, and value proposition.

The other items to include in the document are; market analysis findings, competitive analysis, management structure, what products or services you’re selling, and a solid marketing plan.

It should also include a 3-5 years financial projection plan. And lastly, a request for funding if necessary.

3. Pick One E-commerce Platform for Your Store

Guess what? You’re almost ready to get everything up and running. At this point, you’ve done 75% of the work and ready to complete what you started.

Since you’re getting into an online business, you’ll need a platform to host your online store.

There are tons of platforms for e-commerce stores that you can consider for your business. Nonetheless, making the decision is never as easy as you may think.

And without the right information, you’re likely to pick something that’s not going to help in the long run.

The good news is that I do want you to succeed at your first attempt at starting an e-commerce business from scratch. And steering it to a seven-figure business.

Trust me, that’s possible, but only when you pick the right platform that perfectly suits you.

So, let’s get down to some of the most popular e-commerce platforms that you can opt for;

  • Shopify,
  • WooCommerce,
  • Squarespace,
  • Magento,
  • Wix,
  • BigCommerce,
  • Ecwid,
  • Weebly,
  • Prestashop,
  • Volusion, and
  • 3dcart

There are a ton more, but these few will help you get started.

Since this is only a run-down of the platforms for your e-commerce store, below is a detailed article that reviews the platforms.

The article is comprehensive and bears the answers to all your questions.

Related: [2021] Best Sites Like Alibaba

4. Build Your E-commerce Website Store

e-com store

Before getting into building your first e-commerce website for a small business, it’s necessary that you understand the e-commerce ecosystem. How do I mean? You must be wondering.

Here’s the thing: an e-commerce ecosystem is more like the building blocks of a successful store.

The entire system is interdependent. Therefore, should there be a problem with one part of it, it’s most definitely going to affect your business. In the worst-case, this means low sales.

So, let’s just cut to the chase and run over what constitutes an e-commerce store ecosystem.

  • Traffic; this includes all potential sources of customers that are interested in buying from your store. The dominant traffic sources are; Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, Email, Retargeting, and CSE’s and Channels. 
  • The website store; this is your online shop. The best e-commerce website store has the following features; home page, collection pages, product detail pages, more information pages, landing pages, opt-in page, thank you page, shopping cart page, check out page, and a blog page.
  • Well curated content; this is your marketing message. Therefore, you need to create content for branding and for marketing. For success in content marketing efforts, you should create blog content, video content, graphic content, pre-purchase email sequences, post-purchase email sequences, social promotions, cart abandonment emails, upsell tree content, and general email copywriting for e-commerce.

Once you’ve figured out your e-commerce platform of choice and you understand the e-commerce ecosystem, you can design and develop the website.

The best part is that you can do it by yourself if you’re tech-savvy. Alternatively, this is a task you can outsource to experts.

5. Source Products through Dropshipping or develop Your Own 

e-com and dropshipping

Now that you’ve settled on your niche business, it’s important to know what products to sell in that category. Going forward, there are two options that you can consider.

One, you can choose to sell your own products if you have some already.

Or, you can sell other people’s products. How am I supposed to go about this? You must be wondering. See, it’s very simple. This is where drop shipping comes in.

Dropshipping is a simple concept but maybe a hassle understanding if you’re coming across it for the first time.

Nevertheless, it simply means selling products on behalf of the manufacturers then you get a cut from the sales. Ideally, you’ll be sourcing for the traffic of potential buyers and when they place an order via your platform, the manufacturer is notified.

Afterward, they deliver the product to the buyer then you get your commission.  For more information about drop shipping, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to get into dropshipping. You can check it out here.

The other thing is determining firsthand how you want to sell the products. Is it wholesale or retail– selling to direct consumers? When you choose your niche wisely, this should be a walk in the park for you.

Once you know your customer avatar, serving them is quite a walkover.

6. Market Your E-commerce Business

Dropshipping Digital marketing

Marketing your e-commerce business should be really simple when you’ve done your research on your potential buyers.

You also need to understand the e-commerce ecosystem in detail so that you are strategic with your content marketing efforts. 

Below are the proven methods of marketing your e-commerce business that guarantee a positive return on investment.

RELATED:  Why Your Marketing Approach Is Not Yielding Results

Create an Ecommerce Business Sales Funnel

A sales funnel helps you move customers from total strangers to raving fans. For starters, a simple marketing funnel is divided into three parts, i.e., top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel. 

The traffic that goes through the top of the funnel is usually cold, while the one that goes through the middle of the funnel is warm. The bottom of the funnel traffic consists of the actively engaged prospects who are ready to buy.

Besides, once they’re satisfied they can turn to advocates and business promoters. And that’s what you should be aiming for so that you reduce your expenditure on paid advertising.

Content Marketing

Write blogs, articles or create YouTube videos. The secret to success lies in creating useful and relevant content. Besides, the content should also meet search intent.

The three main search intent are informational, transactional, and commercial. 

So, depending on your customer’s stage of awareness, you can curate the content they’re looking for. Plus, if you know how to create blogs and articles, you can go ahead write some.

But even if you don’t, no need to worry as you can always outsource this task to some awesome writers. 

RELATED: 66 New Blog Post Ideas To Fill Your Editorial Calendar

Paid Advertising

You can create and run ads on Google (Google AdWords), Facebook and Instagram. You can also run some on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms where your potential customers hang out.

The key to success lies in finding the right angle for your ads and touching on the main pain points. But first, you need to understand your customer avatar at a personal level.

Social Media Marketing

Social media platforms are a sure way of getting out your marketing message. Since almost everyone is active on social media, it’s a good thing to go where your potential buyers hang out.

So, once your store is up and running, you’ll need to also create social platforms.

The main ones include; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tik Tok, and LinkedIn. You can try out other platforms, but the above always constitute more than 70% of social media users.

Besides, people engage with videos more. Therefore, you also want to have a YouTube channel.

When you’re all set, link all the social platforms to your e-commerce website store. Then regularly create content that’s informative, inspiring, and entertaining. Remember people don’t come to social media to be sold. 

So, you’d want to create content that’s less promotional in nature. A good rule of the thumb is to create 2/3 informational content and 1/3 promotional content.

Guess what! If your customers see that you care about them more than making sales, they’ll give you the sales.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the cheapest means of getting to your customers. The best part is that you can do it multiple times without sounding pushy and offensive.

And what makes it outstanding is the ability to bring back the highest return on investment compared to the other methods.

Below are the e-commerce emails that you should incorporate in your email marketing and copywriting efforts.

Pre-purchase email sequence

There are two email campaigns you can run under this category. These include; Welcome Series and incentivized discount exit-intent popup.

Here’s what I mean: for the welcome series, you can offer a lead magnet in exchange for your customers’ email addresses.

In case you’re wondering, a lead magnet is a small chunk of value that solves a specific problem for a specific market that is offered in exchange for an opt-in. In this case, you can provide a list of tips on how to accomplish a specific task in a pdf format.

That said, once a lead enters their email address, they’re immediately added to your welcome series emails. According to the marketing rule of 7, a prospect needs to be engaged at least 7 times before they are ready to make a purchase decision.

Therefore, for success in your welcome email campaigns, you’ll need to run at least 7 sets of emails within a period of say 10 days. Once a prospect converts, you unsubscribe them from the email campaign.

Another way of getting prospects into your email list is through the request to join your newsletter. So that they’re ever updated whenever there’s something coming up.

And in case it’s a new product, they can get to it when it’s still at a special discounted price.

Besides, you can place this newsletter opt-in form on your website store footer or let it pop-up whenever a prospect visits the website. The only problem with this approach is that it’s never effective with cold traffic.

For one to give you their email, you need to create a rapport first.

The second alternative is through an incentivized discount exit-intent popup. This method uses a coupon code that the prospect enters alongside their email address.

Then immediately, they’re entered into the email sequence.

People love discounts. So whenever they see you offering special discounts, they’ll most likely take you up on the offer. Like the welcome series campaign, you can run up to 7 email series for this campaign.

Remember your aim is to maximize from the list as much as you can.

Abandoned Cart Email Sequence

Not every time do you see people completing their purchase. For one reason or another, something can come up that hinders the buyer from checking out.

Unfortunately, this will happen a couple of times more than you can imagine it. 

However, if you want to close them, you got to go back and help them out. The easiest way to doing this is to send them reminders via email.

While some people don’t check out intentionally, for some it’s always out of something they can’t avoid. 

By sending out reminders, you’re ideally going after buyers who were ready to make the purchase but something came up before they could complete the sale.

The best part is that you can end up selling them more offers than they had initially planned. The only secret is to send the first reminder then engage them with another set of at least 7 emails. 

Post-purchase Email Sequence

These emails are meant to be sent after someone places an order. Therefore, your first email should acknowledge their purchase then thank them for buying from you. In the email, also let them know when to expect the goods. 

For the sake of tracking, also include a tracking number just in case they want to know where the goods are at any particular time.

Like the other email campaigns, you can send at least 7 emails post-purchase. This will also be the time to upsell or cross-sell them on other offers.

Win Back Campaign

It’s normal to have dormant subscribers. This happens when one doesn’t open your emails after several days in a row. It’s at this time that you launch a win-back campaign to bring them back to you. 

In the email, ask them what could have gone wrong and try and engage them in finding a solution. A great strategy of winning them back is through incentives.

So, giving out new discounts if they buy within 24 hours wouldn’t be a bad idea after all. 

Run Affiliate Marketing Programs

Setting up an affiliate program and using it to market your business is s a sure way to success. This approach is less costly as you’re relying on people who already love what you’re doing.

And using them to pass your marketing message to their circles of friends. 

However, you need to prepare to reward your top fans. The reward can come in various forms but commissions are the most commonly used mode of appreciation. 

7. Scale your E-commerce business

scaling ecommerce business

When starting out, it’s okay to go as a solo entrepreneur. However, as your e-commerce business grows, you’d want to scale it up. If you had only 50 products, you’d need to increase the number to say 100 or 150.

The bottom line is to ensure you’re always growing for as long as you have positive ROI.

And if you started by doing everything by yourself, you can bring in more people on board when you’re expanding. Some valuable professionals to bring on board include; digital marketers, content creators and marketers, graphic designers, copywriters, photographers, and social media influencers.

Ecommerce 101: Wrapping it up!

Starting an e-commerce business isn’t hard after all. You only need to follow this step-by-step guide for beginners to getting started in e-commerce. Remember, reading alone isn’t enough.

If you want to see results, you’d have to take action on everything you take away from this guide.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get your e-commerce business soaring to greater heights. Cheers! If you have something you’d want to share with us, then leave a comment below.

Also, sharing is caring. You can share this guide with your friends who are interested in becoming e-commerce entrepreneurs.


Navick Ogutu

Navick Ogutu is a marketing consultant and master copywriting specialist. He has tons of experience in B2B and B2C E-Commerce products and services promotion. Navick offers top-notch copywriting services, content marketing services, Email marketing services, Social media marketing services, SEO writing services, E-commerce store optimization and sales funnel optimization. Reach out to Navick for a free consultation concerning your content needs.