The Ultimate Guide To Starting
And Scaling An Ecommerce Business

Introduction

So you want to make money by selling stuff on the internet. And we’re not talking about marketing someone else’s product or dropping a few affiliate links. No, we’re talking about building an entire virtual storefront—branded products, real live merchandise, lifelong customers — all with you in charge.

That’s ecommerce. Skip the brick and mortar. Forget having to deal with the huge upfront costs of physical retail. In a world dominated by giants like Amazon, the future of commerce lies in online sales.

But you don’t have to be Jeff Bezos to earn good money selling stuff on the web. Just ask Gretta van Riel.

In 2012, at 22 years old, she had $24 in her bank account. But she was ready to hustle, and that’s what she did, building a multimillion-dollar enterprise called SkinnyMe Tea that brought in $600,000 per month after only four months. She didn’t stop there, either. Gretta went on to launch business after business, creating The Fifth Watches, Drop Bottle, Nichify, and Hey, and funneling in millions of dollars.

1 million dollars in 1 day
how to start an ecommerce business
how to start an ecommerce business
0-600k per month in 6 months

how to start an ecommerce business face

At Foundr, we’re lucky enough to have Gretta now teaching our Start & Scale ecommerce course. One student of that course, Shannon Willoughby, launched her own ecommerce business, Aromarrr. This is how her income skyrocketed in just four months.

From absolutely nothing to $250,000 worth of sales — a leap Shannon made in four months.

how to start an ecommerce business schedule

Sure, not every story will play out exactly like Shannon’s. But she put in the work to learn from successful ecommerce stars like Gretta, and she put in the work to take action on that learning and actually start an ecommerce business.

This guide is our effort to condense those lessons into one easily navigable, step-by-step workbook, for anyone to fire up, at any time. You just need to show up with the elbow grease.

Is This Guide for You?

If you want to start a new digital storefront, or you already have one and want to up your game, you’re in the right place. We’ll talk about how to set up an ecommerce business, from pinpointing an idea to finding a manufacturer to growing your customer base. Throughout, we won’t just talk theory—you’ll get concrete tips on what to do to make it happen.

You’ll find this guide useful if…

how to start an ecommerce business

You want to start an ecommerce business from scratch

how to start an ecommerce business

You already have an ecommerce company, but sales just aren’t where you need them to be

how to start an ecommerce business

You own your own ecommerce store but are having trouble scaling it up to size

Let’s Talk About Dropshipping

Before moving on, we should briefly touch on dropshipping, an ecommerce approach where you don’t store or handle physical products yourself. Instead, a third party stores and ships whatever it is you’re selling, leaving you to deal with only marketing and customer service.

This guide is for people who want to create, stock, and sell their own ecommerce products. Sometimes entrepreneurs dropship early on to test out a market, and you might experiment or start out with it. But for the most part, we recommend that you don’t dropship. Instead, try just stocking and sending things yourself.

Profit margins on dropshipping can be low, sometimes 10% or lower—not a good number for a small, young business. Plus, putting shipping in the hands of someone outside your brand, while having to worry about customer service, can be a recipe for disaster.

That said, if you’re interested in dropshipping and aren’t concerned about its disadvantages, you’ll still find a lot of valuable advice in this guide.

Over the years, Foundr has partnered with and interviewed some of the most innovative people in ecommerce, in all sorts of niches and using all sorts of strategies. Here, we’ve distilled their wisdom into actionable steps that you can take toward starting an ecommerce business.

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

how to start an ecommerce businessFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

how to start an ecommerce businessLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

how to start an ecommerce businessBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

how to start an ecommerce businessSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

how to start an ecommerce businessMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
how to start an ecommerce business foundr main img

Chapter 1

Choose Your Product

Many people get into ecommerce because they have great ideas that beckon to them. Others get tripped up on the very first step: How to choose a product to sell online.

If that’s you, don’t despair. While picking an ecommerce product is the first step, it’s also one of the hardest. Hard, however, doesn’t mean impossible. If you learn the right tactics and put in the work, you can do it. Here’s how to choose a product to sell in your ecommerce store.

You may have been told in the past to just sit down and have a good ol’ brainstorming session, and ideas will come to you. But this advice is trash. It’s trash, not because it’s wrong, but because it doesn’t tell you exactly what to do and why you are doing it.

The key is to flip your thinking: The question isn’t, “What can I sell to make money?” The question is, “What do other people need that they will pay money for?” Switch from me, me, me to them, them, them. That’s how you’ll win.

(Bonus: You also don’t need to sit down while brainstorming. Pace the room, lie in the park, go for a jog, whatever gets your creative juices going.)

To assist your brainstorming, there are tools out there that specialize in product research. Take for example Jungle Scout. They offer a Web App and Chrome Extension to help you sort through potential products to sell on Amazon.com. The Jungle Scout tools report the kind of data that helps you discover products with high demand that you might not otherwise find. Data such as monthly sales estimates, competitor reviews, sales rank, and even an opportunity score that weighs demand and the competition.
There are several different ways to filter all of the data, but there are several pieces of criteria they recommend to use as a rule of thumb during your research:

  • Retail price between $20 – $60 USD – First, you want to have a retail price range in mind as you search for products. Setting the minimum retail price at around $20 ensures that you’ll be able to cover all of your margins – from manufacturing costs to shipping to Amazon FBA fees to advertising costs – and still be able to make a profit. If you go too low, you might not break even!
  • Decent sales volume. – When you are looking at the estimated monthly sales in the Chrome Extension, products that are selling 250-400 units per month at a minimum are a great indicator of a product that will sell well.
  • Low seasonality. – You want to go after products that will sell all year round, which means avoiding products that only sell during specific seasons and holidays.
  • Less than 200 reviews for the top sellers. – Under 100 reviews is even better! The Jungle Scout Chrome Extension pulls the top sellers for a given product right on Amazon.com, and you want to take a look at how many reviews your potential competitors are getting. The lesser the number of reviews, the bigger the opportunity to jump into that market! Alternatively, if a top seller has thousands of reviews, it’s best to avoid that product category that is already dominated by a competitor.
  • Ability to improve the product. – Anyone can recreate a successful product, but you will only stand out in the crowd if you create a superior product. That’s why you should seriously consider letting your customers co-create the product with the help of a product personalization tool. Make sure you analyze the data you collect from this tool as a source of inspiration on how you can further expand your catalog. Also, don’t forget to take note of the customer feedback left in the reviews for your competitors, and use it to your advantage to improve the quality of your version.
  • Small and Lightweight – Your shipping and storage fees are determined by the size of your product, which is why going for small and light products will keep your shipping costs and FBA storage fees as low as possible. Fewer fees = more profit!
  • Simple to manufacture. – Steer clear of complex materials or any potential manufacturing challenges! Try to keep the manufacturing and shipping processes as simple and as smooth as possible.

Jungle Scout believes product selection is more about discovering a product that already has existing demand on the Amazon platform with low competition. It’s not about selling what you love, but selling what will sell.

As you brainstorm, try to keep in mind that you’re brainstorming specifically for ecommerce, not a brick-and-mortar store. The best ecommerce ideas check off three major boxes. We call this the golden trifecta:

  • Trending – You ideally want an idea that’s en vogue. Everyone can go to their local store to grab the same old, same old. What are you doing differently to capitalize on recent trends?
  • Light – We’re not talking color or aura. We’re very literally talking about weight: You want a product that isn’t heavy. Why? Unlike a physical store, you have to ship your products, and shipping for heavy items can be astronomical. Keeping your product light keeps your costs low.
  • Cost efficient with high value – This is simple. In a perfect world, you would sell a product that costs nothing to make yet sold for millions of dollars each. We don’t live in this magic world, though, so the goal is to get as close to that ideal as possible. Try to brainstorm products that have low production costs but high perceived value (so people look at your products and say, “Oh wow that’s impressive and I want it now!”).

Let’s add a dash of business jargon: unique value proposition, or UVP. When you ask, “What do they need/want?” you’re really just looking to see what gaps exist in the current market. Where can you fill a gap by doing something special, something that other companies aren’t doing, or something they aren’t doing well?

That’s the UVP. The unique benefit your product could provide to a potential buyer.

Unique doesn’t mean a trivial gimmick. An ecommerce product’s uniqueness should itself be a source of value.

Here’s an example. Sarah Hill, a student of our Start & Scale ecommerce course, launched a company (with her mom!) called Beetle Bottoms. It’s a store selling books, games, and dolls for kids. Families definitely want stuff like that. But there are tons of children’s products out there. What’s Sarah’s UVP?

Part of it is the world this mother-daughter duo created. All their products feature fictional characters who share the company’s name. Here’s what their website says:

“Beetle Bottoms are tiny people who live in your garden. Beetle Bottoms are real kids with a taste for adventure, however they are only the size of an apple pip and live in your garden.”

starting an ecommerce business
Beetle Bottoms, assemble!

It’s a unique, creative framing for their products. But these characters aren’t just a gimmick. Kids love imaginary worlds, so including these characters takes the store’s books and games to the next level.

As you come up with potential ecommerce product ideas, then, you should figure out each idea’s UVP.

A good idea’s unique value proposition will come from a real world want or need. To figure out what kinds of things people find valuable, start with these questions:

  • What stuff do you buy?
  • What can’t you live without?
  • What’s popular right now?

Of course, you can’t just remake stuff that already exists. To get a hint about what kind of unique value people might be searching for, ask yourself:

  • What things do you hear people complaining about?
  • A product that solves a common gripe is a product with a real UVP. What improvements do you wish you could see in existing products you use?
  • Is there something you would like to buy online but can’t find?

Beyond just pondering these questions yourself, you can talk to friends or look at social media to see what people are saying on these questions.

Another question to grapple with: Do you care? Seriously, do you actually care?

It’s best to brainstorm ideas that you have some personal connection to, because you’ll have more fun selling the product, you’ll have a better sense of what you should do to break into the market, and you’ll be able to craft a more compelling pitch to potential buyers.

Let’s say you had an amazing idea for a nifty new customizable shower head. Let’s also say you didn’t shower—you’d never taken a shower in your life. In that scenario, sure, you’d have bigger hygienic problems (or a deep passion for baths). But you’d also face a big business problem: no firsthand knowledge of your market.

As you brainstorm, remember that you don’t necessarily need to make something entirely new. (And honestly, is there such a thing as entirely new?)

For example, Gretta van Riel co-founded The Fifth Watches. The store sells watches, which are — and we double-checked this, then checked again—not a new idea. What’s unique, though, is how the company releases new products. On the fifth day of every month, the brand launches a new limited edition watch available only to members of The 5TH VIP program.

how to start an ecommerce business watch
The 5TH VIP program taps into a certain UVP: exclusivity.

When starting an ecommerce business, then, at least one part of your product needs to be unique: the design, the function, the context, the price. This is your UVP.

But don’t worry about an ironclad UVP just yet. Later on, you’ll validate ideas to pick which is best. For now, write down everything that comes to mind.

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Narrow Down Your Ideas

Once you have a list of ideas, it’s time for a bit of cleanup. Validating potential ideas takes time and effort, so you’re better off chucking out really unviable schemes right off the bat.

Generally, get rid of ideas if they have:

  • High shipping costs – This can really hurt a new ecommerce store.
  • Potentially messy legal implications – Say, for example, that you had an idea for some kind of nutritional supplement, but the idea would involve making medical claims that could land you in legal hot water. Unless you have legal background in the area, it’s better to cross such ideas off your list now and save yourself the trouble down the road.
  • No relation to your interests, expertise, or passions. You don’t need to know everything about the product or love everything about the idea (power to you if you do!) but some sort of interest in it will make your life a lot easier.

Validate Your Ideas

Now choose your favorite ecommerce product ideas from your list. It’s time to see if there’s anything to them. This process is called validation, where you see if an idea stands a chance on the market before you sink a bunch of money into it.

Where to start? Amazon. The site’s Best Sellers list isn’t just a cool place to find stuff to buy. It’s a free tool for the ideas stage of starting an ecommerce business.

Let’s say you had an ecommerce product idea for a fun new baby toy. You could check the Amazon Best Sellers list and click “Baby” in the menu on the left. To get more specific, you could filter down into sub-categories—in this case, you might check both “Gifts” and “Activity & Entertainment.”

how to choose a ecommerce product

For each idea you have, click the category that best describes it. You’ll see the top products in each category, which can help you figure out whether people are looking for anything like your idea. If lots of companies are selling the kind of product you’re interested in, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If their ratings aren’t great, you’re looking at a golden opportunity to break into a market if you can improve on what’s available.

Analyze Search Terms

If you want to pick a product to sell online, it only makes sense to look at Google search terms. After all, that’s how many customers will one day find your ecommerce products (using Google).

In this realm, Google AdWords is king. You’re obviously not buying ads yet, but if you create a free account, you can input keywords and get an idea of how much volume different search terms receive. If search terms related to your topic don’t get much traffic, your idea probably won’t have a huge market. On the other hand, you don’t want to see too much traffic, as that could indicate a crowded market that might be tough to break into.

Let’s take another silly example: Suppose that our brilliant plan is to start an ecommerce business selling toy swords for infants ages zero to six months. Is there any kind of appetite for that product? By throwing a few search terms into AdWords, we can see that there’s literally no search volume:

how to pick a product for your ecommerce store
Shocker: Parents are not rushing to purchase a replica blade for two-month-old Johnny.

When using Google’s tool, you don’t have to get specific with any of the other fields. Input a country (or countries) you’d target and any random amount of money for your budget. The key is to just try out some core search terms for your product and see what you find.

In gauging search volume, other tools such as SEMRush, can help on this front too. The tool is not free, but it does have a free search function that gives you a few results.

Ask People

Remember, this isn’t about you. It’s about potential customers.

To that end, one of the best ways to see if an idea has any traction is to simply ask people what they think of it. You can’t just wander around asking random people, of course. You also shouldn’t just go see if your friends and family are into an idea, since they may not be objective.

What you need to do first is identify people who might have interest in the product. These potential buyers are the people you’ll target in marketing later on, so they’re the people you should chat with about your idea now. Ideally, you’ll already be in the same business spaces or social circles as the people who might find use for your idea. In that case, reaching out to people you know—and asking them to reach out to their networks—could do the trick. If you don’t know enough potentially interested people in your life, you’ll have to get creative. Developing relationships on social media can be one avenue. You can also meet people in your area on sites like Meetup.

If you talk to a good number of people (say, 20 or more) and most of them give the thumbs down, your idea is probably lacking.

Make a Prototype

What’s better than telling people your idea? Showing them.

As a kind of “rough draft” for your ecommerce product, a prototype will give a more concrete idea of what you want to sell. It doesn’t have to be super polished—the goal here is simply to give people an idea of how your product might work.

How to test this prototype? Meet with people in your target demographic, maybe at a coffee shop, and give them a chance to try it out. Create a meetup group for like-minded individuals and bring the prototype. Give away free copies of the product as an incentive for signing up for your email list. Whatever you do, take this chance to make connections with the kinds of people you’ll eventually want to sell to.

This isn’t an exact science. But chat with more than just one or two people—aim to talk with around 20. If a majority of those people express interest, you might really have something.

The idea is really just to get a minimum viable product, or MVP. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles, as long as it communicates the basic premise of your ecommerce idea. And if people are genuinely interested, it’s time to make that idea a reality.

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

starting an ecommerce businessFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

starting an ecommerce businessLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

starting an ecommerce businessBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

starting an ecommerce businessSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

starting an ecommerce businessMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
starting an ecommerce business

Chapter 2

Make Your Ecommerce Store A Reality

Finding an ecommerce idea you believe in is one thing. Finding an ecommerce idea others believe in is another thing entirely. If you’ve done that, congratulate yourself. it’s a big win!

With an idea in hand, you need a brand. Figuring out how to go from a neat idea to a real store can be overwhelming. Here are some tips you can act on.

Find Your Brand Persona

How do you want the public to see (and think about) your brand? The answer to that question is what we call your brand persona. Shaping your brand persona is an essential step in starting an ecommerce store.

A business offering health products might be bold and energetic. A company making toys for children might try for nurturing and welcoming.

Above all, a good brand persona is a consistent brand persona. Apple is always sleek and innovative. Cards Against Humanity is always edgy and irreverent. Raising Cane’s is always hyped about their One Love, chicken fingers.

Make Your Ecommerce Store A Reality

A brand’s persona is like a friend’s personality. It sticks with you over time. And the stronger it is, the better you remember them, even if years pass between meetings.

A quick, helpful exercise to begin establishing a brand persona is to ask yourself: If I were to buy my product from an individual person off the street, what would I want that person to be like? What kind of personality would make me most inclined to close the deal?

Maybe you’d want to buy a computer from someone who seems sophisticated and forward thinking. Perhaps you’d want to buy a flippant card game from someone funny who doesn’t seem to give a damn. And if you were hungry for chicken tenders, you’d probably be down to buy from a guy who’s so obsessed with them that that’s all he talks about, and all he sells.

Your brand isn’t a person, but you can draw on the personality traits you identify to shape your name, logo, marketing, etc.

If you’re stuck, circle back to your unique value proposition (UVP). What single thing makes your product stand out most? Pinpoint that, then figure out what human characteristic suits it best.

Choosing a Name, Making a Logo

Starting an ecommerce business from scratch means coming up with every element of its branding. Of those elements, your store’s name and logo are some of the most important.

Your name won’t be “perfect,” though, so don’t get too caught up in trying to achieve some imaginary perfection. What you should focus on is coming up with a name that:

  • Appeals to your target audience
  • Doesn’t get in the way
  • Fits your brand persona

Think about who will buy the product, and make sure it’s a name that your target audience can resonate with (maybe run potential names by some of the people you ran your product idea by).

You also don’t want a name that’s so clunky or gimmicky it distracts from your product.

But do feel free to get creative. Foundr’s audience consists of young and aspiring entrepreneurs, folks who want to be founders. Delete the “e” to make it a little unique, and you’ve got the brand name.

A similar example is Toggl. Its product helps people track their time by toggling a timer on and off. Toggle? Drop the “e,” get a brand name.

What’s the lesson here? It’s not that you should think of a word, eliminate the first “e” and call it a day. It’s that your name doesn’t have to be perfect or too complicated. Something simple often does the trick.

Ollie, for example, is a common dog name. It’s also the name of Ollie, an ecommerce store selling dog food.

how to start an ecommerce business
Which of these dogs is named Ollie? Not sure, but they look like they’re having a doggo-licious time
chowing down on this food.

how to start an ecommerce business pampers

It has to fit your brand persona, of course. For example, if you were starting an ecommerce business selling vitamin D lamps — with an upbeat, happy brand persona — you wouldn’t call it “Gloomi.”

What if you sold baby diapers? A company like that might craft a brand persona that’s loving and caring, because parents want to protect and pamper their newborn children. There’s the name: Pampers.

The company’s logo fits that brand persona too, with light, airy colors. This underscores that they’re all about comfort and caring.

If you’re not a graphic design pro, don’t freak. In this day and age, there are plenty of options to outsource great logo design. Talented designers are online right now, waiting for you to contact them about a logo for your store. A few popular options:

how to start an ecommerce business 99designs
how to start an ecommerce business foundr upwork
how to start an ecommerce business fiverr

Warning! As you work through ideas for names and work with a designer for a logo, try to anticipate potential downsides. What other meanings might people read into your brand name? What unfortunate associations might your logo conjure up?

One Silicon Valley startup created big vending machines / mini shops with a neat app to match. They called their company Bodega, after the little corner stores dotting places like New York City. A good homage, right? Nope. They got caught up in a wave of backlash, with critics charging cultural appropriation and raising questions about whether the app was trying to put real, beloved bodegas out of business. Not great media exposure for a new company.

how to start an ecommerce business dirty bird

On the logo front, let’s end with one more example from Dirty Bird. I’m sure their chicken is fine. What may not be fine is the visual their logo leaves more dirty-minded readers.

Even if your mind isn’t in the gutter, you can’t say the same for every potential customer. You have to think this stuff through.

Want to save this guide and read it later?

Download a PDF version hereDownload My PDF Now

Set Up Your Store

Have a brand name? You’ll need a domain name to go with it. As the address for your website, a domain name will help buyers find your store. Here are some items to consider when choosing your domain name:

  • Domain name
    In “Google.com,” Google is the domain name. Ideally, your domain name should be the same as your store name.
  • Domain suffix
    In “Google.com,” the suffix is .com. For an ecommerce store, you should aim to secure a .com domain, rather than .org, since .org is generally used by nonprofits and similar such organizations. While there may be room to get creative, .com is a pretty safe bet and has been the domain suffix of choice for successful ecommerce stores like The Fifth Watches, Triangl Swimwear, GameKlip, Harry’s, and others. If you can’t find the .com, another options is to use .co or .net (less preferable).

Platforms like GoDaddy, Google Domains, and Gandi sell domain names. If you’re looking to get more advanced, we’ve got a killer guide on how to purchase the perfect domain name for your startup.

When setting up your website, you’ll want to include these essential pages:

  • Shop
    An obvious link to your store is a must, even if you have products for sale on the home page. If you have a number of different product types, you can include a drop down menu for different categories.
  • About
    Don’t forget to tell people the purpose of your site, and the story behind how you came to be.
  • Shipping/returns
    Provide essential information on the logistics of shipping, and your return policy, in one easily accessible place so that customers don’t have to tear their hair out looking for it. Macy’s, for example, has a great returns page, as it gives visitors clear steps for how to return items. (Want tips on how to write a great returns policy? BigCommerce has you covered.)
  • Contact/help
    Make sure the header of your site gives users a clear place to click for info on how to contact customer support.
  • FAQ
    As you run customer support, you’ll start getting a certain set of questions about your store over and over and over again. Instead of just emailing the same answer a billion times, you can compile all those answers on a “Frequently Asked Questions” page.

The next step is to set up the store itself. Don’t panic. While this could get technical really quickly, it doesn’t have to, because you can let someone else do the hard part for you. There are several ecommerce platforms that allow you to set up a shop pretty much instantly, letting you focus on your product and brand.

Here are some we recommend:

  • Shopify
    It’s the most popular ecommerce platform, because it’s pretty intuitive and it offers great customer support. On the flipside, the basic packages charge you for every transaction, and additional features, themes, etc., all cost extra. Pricing runs between $9 and $299 per month, depending on what features you need. Shopify does offer a free trial for up to 14 days.
  • BigCommerce
    This platform has an awesome transaction fee: 0%. And no matter which plan you pick, you get an unlimited number of staff accounts. One downside is that premium design templates can be pretty expensive, generally running about $170 or more (though some are a tad cheaper). Pricing runs between $29.95 and $249.95 per month. You can also get a 15-day free trial.
  • Magento
    It’s free. Because Magneto is open source, there’s no cost and if you know how to code (or can pay someone who knows how to code) you have limitless flexibility with store design. The downside is that Magneto does have a steeper learning curve, and if you don’t have much coding knowledge, it may be a better idea to go with a paid platform.
  • Ecwid
    Ecwid is another option to look into if you want to sell directly on your website. With Ecwid, you can add a shopping cart to WordPress, open a Facebook store or sell on Instagram.

Take some time to browse each platform’s website, comparing their pricing and features. They’re all good options, but you want to know what you’re getting for your money, and what best suits your needs.

That said, if you’ve still got stuff to do on the product planning front, you don’t need to rush. You can wait until later to pull the trigger on setting up your store.

(In our exclusive Start & Scale ecommerce course, we offer a step-by-step walkthrough for creating your store with Shopify.)

Now you’ve got the basic infrastructure in place for starting your ecommerce business. It’s time to think more deeply about your product.

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Make Your Ecommerce Store A RealityFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Make Your Ecommerce Store A RealityLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Make Your Ecommerce Store A RealityBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Make Your Ecommerce Store A RealitySourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Make Your Ecommerce Store A RealityMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
Make Your Ecommerce Store A Reality

Chapter 3

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce Product

One of the biggest pain points for people excited about the idea of starting an ecommerce business is the pure logistical challenge. You’re not a huge corporation, so how, exactly, can you manufacture a real, live, physical product?

Yeah, it can seem staggering. Lots of people just think, “Oh, that’s not realistic. I couldn’t do that.” And they turn away, pursuing some other business idea, or even worse, abandoning their entrepreneurial ambitions entirely.

That’s too bad, because the truth is that in today’s world, ordinary people really can hash out the logistics of manufacturing and shipping products.

What’s more: You’re reading this guide, and you’ve gotten this far. That alone means you have enough drive to push through and make this happen.

Manufacture Your Product

When people are first learning how to set up an ecommerce business, they have a ton of questions about manufacturing. That’s fair—it’s complicated. But here are the basics.

There’s no need to stress out about assembling parts or figuring out every technical detail on your own or turning your garage into a mini factory. Really, you don’t need to manufacture your product yourself at all.

Instead, you can contract with an experienced manufacturing company to get the job done. By working closely together and drawing on their expertise, you can keep upfront costs low when first starting out.

Who should you work with? There’s a lot to consider in that decision, but when you’re first developing your product, the first rule is to stick with someone local. By partnering with a nearby manufacturer, you can be more involved in the process and avoid the hassle of communicating with strangers halfway across the globe.

Global manufacturers can put out lots of product for cheap. But they generally demand a high minimum order, requiring that you purchase something like 1,000 units of your product right off the bat. For new ecommerce stores, unless you’re lounging in a hammock between two money trees, that cost can be prohibitive. Global manufacturers can be tough to work with when developing and prototyping a new product, mainly because of the logistics of being so far apart and dealing with a place you’re not familiar with.

So how do you find a local partner? When searching for a manufacturer for your early stage ecommerce business, you should ask two big questions:

  • Where are they located?
  • Can they put out quality product?

Location is key, for the reasons mentioned above. Unless you already have connections, the best way to find a local manufacturer is simple: Just search for it online. Say you live in Boston and you’re starting an ecommerce business selling bracelets and other jewelry. Go to Google and type in “bracelet manufacturer boston” or “wholesale bottle manufacturer seattle.”

Yes, I basically just told you to Google it, but what can I say? That’s where you start.

how to start an ecommerce store

Try out another search engine or two as well. You can use general search engines like Google and Bing. You can also try specialty business search engines like ThomasNet.

Once you find several manufacturers you might want to work with, it’s time to research them.

What are their track records? Can you find other business owners complaining about them online? Who else do they manufacture for?

You should also reach out and chat. Ask them to explain their processes and pricing. Get them to give you an idea of the quality of the work they produce, not with empty promises, but with real, physical examples of things they’ve made. This is another reason starting off with a local manufacturer is the best move.

Later on, once you feel confident enough in your product to place much larger orders, you can always transfer production to a global manufacturer. The best bet for finding a global manufacturer who fits your needs is Alibaba, where you can create a free account and browse millions of merchants.

Even if you’re creating your product on your own, you still might need a supplier for raw materials. Some of these same tips can help you through that process.

Find a Global Manufacturer

Eventually, you may be ready to move from local to global manufacturing in order to get a higher volume of product at a more affordable rate. When you arrive at this stage, fire up Alibaba, the biggest online commerce company in the world.

Alibaba is a massive directory of manufacturers, suppliers, and other merchants. With millions of sellers on the site, it’s the perfect spot for finding manufacturers who can produce merchandise at scale.

Finding and sourcing global manufacturers is an extensive subject and needs more detail than what we can write here. Fortunately, we can offer some great resources to dive in a little deeper:

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Package Your ProductYou obviously can’t just throw a great product in the mail and say goodbye. It needs packaging.

Let’s start by taking a breather. You don’t necessarily need to have custom packaging, especially not when first starting an ecommerce store. It’s OK to start with plain packaging if that’s what works for you (it might even fit your brand).

But packaging is part of the customer experience. It’s the first thing buyers will see when they unbox your product, so it’s important you put real thought into it and consider all your options. Your product is like a book, and packaging is like the cover. Customers will judge it.

You should ask yourself, “What kind of unboxing experience do I want customers to have?” This may seem like a minor detail, but if you want your ecommerce store to stand out, you need to make every detail intentional.

Flat pack will generally be the cheapest, though other options may better fit your product, your brand persona, or your sense of professionalism.

That gets at the problem with packaging, though. It costs money. You can’t go hog wild on packaging, because it will hit your bottom line. The key is to find a balance between the imperative to keep costs low and the need for professional packaging that embodies your brand persona.

To help inform your packaging decisions, you can see what others in your niche are doing. Here are two ideas for doing this research:

  • Order products from your competitors
    This will let you see exactly how they package their products and exactly how their unboxing experience feels.
  • Search online
    You can head over to Google and Pinterest and search for examples. Simply type your product type + packaging and see what pops up.
how to start an ecommerce store

You can get packaging from the same local company that’s manufacturing your product, but that’s not the best call. More often than not, they’ll just contract with a different company for the packaging. To minimize costs here, just cut out the middleman and find a separate packaging company yourself.

Packaging is tough to talk about because it varies so much from product to product. The details of your packaging will depend on the specific size, shape, and type of product you’re selling, so this is a time when you’ll need to get your hands dirty with a little research. A great place to search for packaging suppliers is ThomasNet.

Finally, put some thought into the appearance of your packaging. Here, you can work with the same graphic designer that you contracted for your logo and include some of the same branding elements. Many packaging companies will also have an in-house designer, which can be a good option too.

Ship Your Product

Once your product has been manufactured and packaged, you’ll be ready to ship it out to customers.

But, uh, how exactly do you do that?

When figuring out the logistics of shipping your product, you should assume from stage one that you’ll be shipping internationally. It’s the internet, after all, and the more people you can ship to, the more people you can sell to.

As an action item here, do some research specific to your product idea to find out if there are any unique restrictions or regulations. Do countries have laws about transporting the kinds of goods you want to sell? Are there customs regulations about international shipping of a given product? Shipping food or liquids, for example, will involve dealing with more regulations than shipping plastic toys.

Shipping Cost Calculator

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Once you get an idea of what the logistics look like, it’s time to figure out the details of when, where, and how you’ll ship.

With ecommerce, you basically have two options for getting your product to a customer:

  • Ship from your home (or wherever you’re working on your business).
  • Go entirely through a third-party logistics company.

These are the kind of nuanced details that can make or break an ecommerce company, so let’s break each of these shipping options down, one by one.

Option 1: Ship from your home or place of business

After the product is produced, have the manufacturer send it to your home (or business space if you have one). Then, package the item yourself and send it off to buyers.

This can be an ideal setup for new ecommerce businesses because you can avoid the stress of delegating shipping to someone else during the initial growing stages of your company.

In the early days of your business, you’ll largely handle shipping yourself because you may not have the capacity to make a good deal with a warehouse or third-party logistics company. These third-party shipping companies often require a minimum order to work with them.

Instead, we recommend you use your home (or business space if you have it) as a kind of central hub, then ship out orders via a shipping provider of your choice. When looking for a shipping provider, keep two main things in mind:

  • How long it will take for your package to ship.
  • How much you’ll have to pay for each shipment.

Some examples of big shipping providers are FedEx, DHL, and UPS. You can also compare pricing and other considerations (like how long shipping will take) with the government-run postal service of your home country—agencies like the U.S. Postal Service and Australia Post. These can often be a better option when you’re shipping from your home.

Each company or government has their own specific process, of course, but the end result should be getting your products from point A to point B. With DHL, for example, you can work with a representative over the phone to set up an account. You’ll need a registered business so you can both receive and send packages.

One thing to keep in mind with this setup: It can ultimately be more expensive, so you’ll eventually want to transition to a more affordable way of doing things, which is the next option we will discuss here.

Option 2: Ship directly through a third-party logistics company

Instead of getting product sent to your home, have it sent to someone who will handle shipping for you: a third-party logistics (3PL) company.

Under this option, you’ll store manufactured product in a warehouse. Once you contract with a 3PL, they will ship that product: they’ll pick it up from the warehouse, package it, and ship it out to your customer.

This option is generally cheaper than shipping from your home using postal carriers because 3PL companies have a lot of bargaining power and can typically demand lower postage rates. This comes with a catch, though: Many of these companies set a minimum number of orders. They’ll say, for example, that you have to guarantee 500 orders per month in order to use their services. For a young ecommerce company still trying to find its footing, that’s just unrealistic. But for a company that has reached the requisite level of volume, boom—you can cut your costs down big time.

3PL companies usually charge for a couple other things, too:

  • Warehouse storage
    You generally have to pay a monthly fee to hold stock of your produce in a warehouse.
  • Pick and pack fee
    3PL companies will also charge for having their warehouse employees grab the items you need, scan them, and pack them for shipment.

Some prominent 3PL companies include Shipwire, Floship and ShipBob.

After establishing all of this, start researching some packaging suppliers who handle your packaging. Here are some great resources on finding the right packaging supplier:

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In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce Product

Chapter 4

Ecommerce Customer Service

Starting an ecommerce business on the right footing means establishing good customer service right from the start.

Customer service is vital for any business, but it’s especially so for ecommerce. While people are pretty comfortable buying products online these days, there’s always lingering worry about scams. Giving helpful, prompt assistance to customers will help alleviate those worries.

For all businesses, but especially for ecommerce, customer service is actually a branding issue. Think back to all the work you did creating a killer brand persona. If customers complaining about your service beset your fledgling store, their complaints will overwhelm your carefully crafted brand. Your new brand persona won’t be trustworthy or quirky or flirty or authoritative or cheerful or edgy or whatever else you came up with. It will be unreliable, or more likely some other colorful adjectives your angry customers come up with.

Remember: Your customers are your primary assets. They’re not a liability. They’re not a hassle. They’re the people trusting you—a stranger on the internet—with their money. That’s why serving customers needs to be your number one priority.

“Sure,” you may say, “I get that I need good customer service. But can’t I set up these procedures later on? I don’t even have any customers yet!”

No.

When you launch your store, problems will pop up. You should be prepared to deal with those issues proactively and to have clear communication with customers.

Failure on this front could give you a bad reputation immediately.

Beans, an ecommerce customer reward service, looked at 20 of the biggest ecommerce failures since 2000. They found that the most common cause of failure—at 55% of the cases they studied—was customer retention, which often has to do with shoddy customer service.

Take Choxi.com, an online retailer that sold a range of lifestyle products. Defective products and incorrect order fulfillment prompted a rash of customer complaints, and the Better Business Bureau slammed the company:

Consumers also say that they are encountering diffficulties with company’s customer service department. An ongoing problem being reported by consumers is assurances made by customer service representatives about delivery dates or refunds for returned merchandise are not being honored by the company.

It seems like this ecommerce store might have had other shady stuff going on, but bad customer service was a part of their downfall. Besides, customers can’t necessarily tell the difference between an honest company struggling with customer service and a scam operation with intentionally poor responsiveness.

Help buyers give you the benefit of the doubt by implementing stellar customer service right from the start. That includes everything from prompt, professional email support to little touches that make customers feel respected and cared for.

But how to do that? Implement some of these actionable strategies for ecommerce customer service:

Set up a Unique Customer Support Email

This one is essential. Customers deserve a clear, dedicated channel for communicating with you. For ecommerce customer service, that’s email. It’s simple: [email protected]

An email address and account devoted solely to support will also make things more organized on your end.

Reply to Emails Quickly

When thinking about customer service, your best tool is empathy. Try to put yourself in the shoes of potential customers, then walk a mile in them. Think about a time you’ve contacted some company’s customer service or product support channels.

How did it feel to wait for a response? Chances are, especially if you had a big problem on your hands, the wait felt long. Maybe every minute felt like an hour.

Minimize this feeling for your customers by committing to answer support emails in a timely way. You’ll want to brainstorm some ways you can make this happen: Can you handle the emails by yourself? Do you have a business partner who can help shoulder the load? Should you hire someone part time to deal with them? Carve out time in every day and devote it to email? It’s not enough to say, “Oh yeah, I’ll totally reply quickly.” You need an actionable plan for how, specifically, you’ll do that.

How timely is timely? You should always reply to emails within 24 hours. But sooner is better, because quick replies make happy customers.

Write Email Templates

This is one specific tactic you can deploy for answering emails quickly. Customer service interactions aren’t all unique, and in fact many customers will have similar questions or face similar problems.

Once you’ve had two or more buyers come to you with the same issue, write a standard template that you can use, and edit as needed, for future inquiries in that genre. This will save you time down the road.

Don’t forget to personalize each template-based email with the buyer’s name! A personal touch goes a long way.

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Create a Chatbox on Your Website

Many customers appreciate a chance to chat live with a customer service representative. If you can, consider adding a chat box to your website for quick, responsive support.

The technical aspect of this can obviously be tricky, as your chatbox really needs to be responsive to customer questions. Luckily, you’ve got a bunch of options for chat bot software that will do much of the heavy lifting for you. Here’s just a small sampling of options:

Send Handwritten Thank You Notes

Extending your customer service beyond problem-solving support is a great way to stand out from competitors. Handwritten thank you notes to send with your products are a cheap way to do that. If it sounds like a lot of work, reconsider: Services like Thankster can help you do this easily.

A bit skeptical this is worth it? Thank you notes aren’t essential to an ecommerce store, but they can take your customer’s experience to the next level. If may not be cost-effective to start sending thank you notes right away, but keep it in mind for a time in your business when money isn’t quite as tight.

Give Free Product to Unhappy Customers

This isn’t the best approach for every store. But you should seriously consider it. If a customer is really upset about something with your ecommerce product, giving it to them for free can help mend the wound, and potentially prevent nasty reviews or social media comments aimed at your brand.

Save Repetitive Questions and Create FAQs

Do you find yourself using the same email templates over and over and over and over and over again? If people keep asking the same questions, preempt them by adding those inquiries to a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on your website.

The big takeaway? So much of effective customer service is just anticipating problems before they pop up.

Set Up a Help Desk

As you grow, you’ll want a better way to manage customer support emails, and you might want additional features as well.

When that time comes, a good call is to look into help desk platforms, which can be reasonably priced with some great features.

Two solid options are Help Scout and Zendesk.

If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back, because you’ve accomplished a lot. You’ve built a brand, created a product, connected with a manufacturer, and prepared your customer service.

Next step? Let’s go live.

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce ProductMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
Manufacturing, Packaging, and Shipping Your Ecommerce Product

Chapter 5

Launch Your Ecommerce Store

Tons of preparation goes into starting an ecommerce business. Pouring work in before you ever actually launch can feel frustrating. But to build, you’ve got to lay a foundation. And now, it’s time to prepare for launch.

If you put in the work thus far, you have the right to feel confident. You never know exactly what will go down when starting an ecommerce business, but that’s business. If things don’t play out how you want, you’ll simply rethink and retool, trying something new until you hit gold.

Having said that, a successful launch can do big things for your business, generating a strong base of customers to start with and providing an early cash infusion. It’s an opportunity to make a big splash in your market, so it doesn’t end up wasting away in a dark corner of the internet. We want you to start making big sales ASAP, so here are some of our best strategies for a successful ecommerce store launch.

Choose When to Launch

The first thing you need to do is pick a launch date. For one, you need to be certain you’ll have product in stock. Also, look at the calendar. Make sure you’re not picking a launch date that conflicts with any major holiday or event that might dominate your audience’s attention.

Make a Landing Page

You should do this at least two weeks before launch, but the earlier the better. It’s extra work for you, so why do we suggest it? A landing page gives your store a web presence before it’s ready, which builds expectation.

We’ve got a great blog post on how to design a killer landing page. It’s loaded with actionable tips that’ll take your landing page to the next level. Mainly, your landing page should give the lowdown on your store or product to get people excited, and clearly state your launch date.

Obviously, excitement one day doesn’t mean someone will even remember you weeks or months later. That’s why the entire purpose of your landing page should be to get people to enter their email addresses for notification of your store going live. If you’ve started building an audience on social media, drive them to your landing page. People who know you are more likely to sign up for notifications.

One way to snag those precious emails is to offer people something in return. Consider hosting some sort of giveaway, drawing, or early bird discount to incentivize email signups.

Here are some of the best tools for creating your ecommerce store landing page:

Bonus: If you use Shopify, you can actually just create a “coming soon” page directly on the platform.

Here are some key tips for designing an effective landing page:

  • Keep text to a minimum
    Use short sentences that sell the main idea of your product and focus on your unique value proposition. Paragraphs and paragraphs of text are a no no.
  • Leave your design room to breathe
    Instead of cramming the landing page full of information, highlight simple messages about your product and its value, and leave plenty of blank space in between design elements so that the page doesn’t feel crowded.
  • Include a photo of your product
    A high-resolution, high-quality picture is incredibly important if you have one to feature. Shows potential customers what you’ll be bringing to them soon, and they’ll be more likely to buy into your narrative.

Check out this blog post for 30 examples of great coming soon landing pages.

This landing page by IAMTHELAB Consulting doesn’t barrage visitors with paragraphs of text. Instead, it gives the design room to breathe and includes a brief description of the coming site. No product photo? Not a deal breaker. In this case, some relevant art did the trick.

how to build your ecommerce brand

In the next chapter, we chat about some broader strategies for building your brand’s influence. Pre-launch is a great time to start employing some of these approaches to put yourself a step ahead.

Build Buzz on Social Media

You should be on social media well before your store launches. As you work to build an email list through your landing page, you should work to build a social media following on the platforms of your choice. For ecommerce, we recommend Instagram.

You should be posting somewhat regularly—at least three to five times per week, but more if you can—on Instagram in order to help build anticipation for your store. Try to create posts that generate a sense of suspense or excitement for what’s to come.

Some ideas for pre-launch posts:

Photos of your product


Give people a glimpse of what will soon be for sale. A solid photo with a descriptive caption will generally do the job:

how to start an ecommerce store

Testimonial quotesConsider getting a brief, positive quote from someone who tried out your product during the validation stage. Posting a couple such quotes over background images can help give potential customers an insight into what you’re selling.

how to start an ecommerce store

General images that relate to your target audience

You don’t want to be posting too much overt advertising in the lead up to your launch. Instead, sprinkle in a few of the two post types mentioned above, but focus on general pictures that will connect with your target audience. If you were selling hiking boots, for example, you might post a photo of a mountain landscape and ask followers if they dream of scaling a big mountain peak, or have already done so. Any photo with an associated caption that elicits engagement from your target audience, giving them a chance to discuss their interests, will do.

how to start an ecommerce business instagram

In the days before you have many photos of your own to share, you’ll likely be posting pictures from other sources. A great source for beautiful, high-resolution photos that you can use for free is Unsplash. What’s great about the site is that, while the photos are of stellar quality, you don’t have to pay a cent, and you don’t even have to credit the photographer (although they’d certainly appreciate if you did).

See the next chapter for more details on how to use Instagram to its full effect.

Double-Check Everything

If your launch is a dud, you’ll end up going through everything that you did, trying to figure out what went wrong. It will suck.

To dodge this bullet, comb through everything before you launch. Test everything in your store. Enlist a few friends to make dummy purchases, hopefully catching any issues you missed.

Here are some ideas of other items for your pre-launch checklist:

  • Site stats
    Make sure you have Google Analytics in place. You’ll be able to make the most informed decisions for your store if you track visitor statistics right from the start.
  • Influencer marketing
    Connect with influential voices in your niche before going live. Make deals, offering them free product or straight up cash in return for hyping your store on social media the day you launch. Peep the next chapter for more info on influencer marketing, or get our Start & Scale course, which has some real gold on this.
  • Customer service
    Be certain that all of your customer support mechanisms are in place. Nothing can more quickly derail a launch, and betray your audience’s trust, than poor support from the very start.

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Launch Your Ecommerce Store

You’ve got infrastructure in place. You’ve got a landing page bringing in leads. You’re killing it, and you’re now ready to really, truly launch your ecommerce store.

A general guideline for launch is that it should be a period of concentrated activity. However much you normally post on social media, do more. Whatever you normally do to get the word out, do more.

This is your baby. Let people know!

A few essential actions:

  • Blast a notification out to your contact list (so you can get sales on day one)
    If you’ve been growing a list of emails during the pre-launch period, now is the time to tap into that. Email your list! This email should include a clear call to action and link them directly to a page where they can make a purchase. Ideally you want to set this up as a series of emails that features a special pre-launch discount. Other emails can include FAQs and also let people know the discount is coming to an end. This increases urgency and makes people act fast to take advantage of your deal.
  • Up your social media posting schedule
    In the early days of a business, when you’re doing it all yourself, keeping up with social can be a pain. No matter how successful you’ve been up to this point, the week of your launch is a time when you have to be posting frequently. Share your excitement with followers!
  • Think about a promotion
    If you really want to start things with a bang, consider offering a launch promotion, some sort of limited-time deal for customers who buy early on.

Last step? Treat yourself. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re no longer starting an ecommerce business, you’ve started an ecommerce business. Putting that in the past tense is a major milestone, so congratulate yourself. And celebrate.

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
Launch Your Ecommerce Store

Chapter 6

How to Build Your Ecommerce Brand

Now that your ecommerce store is up and humming along, it’s no time to sit back and hope the money comes flowing in.

You know that. Our readers know that. So we commonly get this kind of question: “I’ve launched. I’ve made some sales. But how can I build my ecommerce brand?”

Use Instagram

Every ecommerce store should be on social media in some form. But you can’t always be on, or focus on, every platform. That’s OK. The trick is to devote time to the platforms that can best build your brand.

We recommend pouring most of your energy into Instagram. It’s ideal for building an ecommerce brand, because it draws high engagement and allows you to really showcase compelling visuals of your product.

Every ecommerce store will have its own approach to Instagram. What works for one store could flop for another, so it’s key that you put thought into what kind of content you’ll post to the site.

Picking What to Post

These three basic tips will take you a long way:

  • Brainstorm what your target audience might want to see
    Everything you do for your ecommerce business should excite your customers (and potential customers), so ask yourself what type of content they’d be happiest to see when scrolling through their feeds. Better yet, find people (in real life and/or online) who are actually in your target audience and ask them what stuff they would like to see.
  • Check out your competitors

    Study the Instagram profiles of businesses serving the same niche. Whether they’re direct competitors or people selling something else your target audience wants, this will give you an idea of what content performs best.
  • Pivot over time
    Don’t just put an Instagram strategy on autopilot. You should constantly look at which posts work and which post don’t. Adjust accordingly.

Short bits of text—jokes, memes, or inspiring quotes—can draw high engagement. Frank Body, an ecommerce store specializing in coffee scrub skincare, posts tons of photos of models and customers using their product. But they’ll also post quotes and other images related to their brand. This post below is so simple, yet it garnered thousands more likes than their typical posts with photos of their product.

how to start an ecommerce business instagram quotes

Fresh Heritage sells beard grooming products. The brand posts photos of their products, images of results from their products, motivational quotes, and more. Other times, as here, they ask a question to spur audience engagement.

how to set up an ecommerce business

Whatever kinds of content you post, here’s one helpful hack: Aim to get a reaction out of people. This doesn’t mean provoking your followers or courting controversy. What it does mean is that you should try to post content that will bring out emotion.

Work with Influencers

Influencers are people with substantial social media followings in your industry or space. They have influence over an audience, and if they recommend or endorse your product, it can really drive sales. Your goal should be to strike deals with influencers so that they promote your product on their social media. Their endorsement can be powerful advertising for your store.

starting an ecommerce business using influencer marketing

Not all influencers are dogs, although we’re totally here for it. Canine presence aside, this is a fairly typical influencer post: photo of the product, fun description, tagging the company that’s advertising, and a discount code for interested buyers.

To tap into this power, though, you first need to identify influencers. Some things to consider:

  • Research to find people who have a strong social media following among your target audience. One good way to do this is to look at competing brands, check out what kinds of hashtags they use, and see what accounts are performing well in those hashtags.
  • Note that influencers don’t necessarily need huge audiences. An engaged audience is what’s most important, so look not just at follower counts but also at the number of likes and comments an average post receives. Often a smaller following that is more relevant and devoted is far more useful than a really big following.
  • Micro-influencers have somewhere between 1,000 to 100,000 followers, but what they lack in follower count they make up in the potential for high engagement.

Influencer marketing works because it incorporates an ad for your product into an everyday post, like this one from blogger Shalice Noel. People see the post first and then ask, “How can I get that?”

starting an ecommerce business instagram influencer marketing

For an in-depth look at how to effectively identify influencers, use paid shoutouts, and more, check out our deep dive guide into Instagram marketing.

How to Contact Influencers

Reaching out to influencers will be most effective if you can get noticed before you need something from them. Try interacting with influencers in your niche by liking their posts and commenting thoughtfully. The more you can do to develop a relationship with influencers, the better.

Once you’re ready to do some influencer marketing, you should reach out to them via DM or email to ask whether they’d consider promoting your product. Generally, you’ll approach them with one of two types of proposals:

  • Product for post
    Under this approach, you offer to give them free product in return for a social media post about said product. This can work with influencers who have smaller audiences.
  • Payment for post
    This is the more common path for larger influencers, and it’s a straightforward marketing deal. You work out a payment with the influencer so that in return for money from you, they post about your product and direct people to your website. Payment for post is the norm with bigger influencers. And if the post you’re asking of them includes a direct link to a sales page, payment for post is all but required.

As you talk terms with the influencer or their representative, you should consider what you want the agreement to look like. Here are some things to think about:

  • How long after publishing the promoted post will they agree to wait before posting on social media again? It should usually be at least an hour.
  • How long must the influencer leave the post up before deleting it? Generally speaking, three months is a good minimum. But, this will vary. Many times, this will not be discussed at all. The conversations typically involve where they post, whether in Instagram stories or their feed, or both.
  • Are you making sure to require that they tag your store’s social media account? This is a no brainer.
  • What other post elements are you agreeing on beforehand? Should they, for example, agree to use specific hashtags in their promoted post?
  • What kind of content can you expect? We recommend allowing the influencer a lot of leeway in the image. After all, followers love the account’s content and you don’t want your brand to interfere with it.

You can try your hand at all of this, because it’s ultimately just about building relationships and contacting people with good offers. For help with the process, look into influencer marketing platforms like Hey.

Here are some other influencer marketing guides to help you as well:

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Market with Content

In the long haul, you’ll see big returns from something that’s deceptively simple to create: online content.

On the web, attention is a hot commodity: Aside from the occasional up-until-3-am-reading-random-Wikipedia-pages binge, people aren’t giving it out for free. If you want their attention, you need to give them something in return. Content, even something as basic as a blog post, can do this—hence the term “content marketing.”

What kind of content can work? Here are some ideas:

  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Quick downloads such as checklists, templates, and “cheat sheets”
  • Podcasts
  • Videos

Creating content is a great way to build trust with an audience. If you provide content that’s relevant, useful, and even entertaining—whatever that means for your specific target audience—they’ll start to see you as an industry authority. This builds trust. And the more a consumer trusts you, the more apt they will be to purchase your products.

And if people share your content, boom: They’ve exposed your brand to a new potential customer.

Offering free content is also beneficial because you can use it to build your email list. For example, you might offer a free ebook in exchange for a signup to your email list.

The key to great content is to go back to the idea that attention is a hot commodity: If you want to make the trade for people’s time, you can’t be cheap. Offer something that’s unique. Offer something that really helps solve a deep problem. Offer something that’s amazing.

Here’s some helpful resources on content marketing:

Contact the Press

Social media and blogging aren’t the whole game. Traditional media outlets still have a lot of pull, and can lend powerful credibility to your company.

Sometimes people think they need a publicist in order to get coverage in traditional media. Luckily, that’s not true. The trick is to contact magazines and websites that are relevant to your product or store. A good media strategy is a broad media strategy. Think about different kinds of outlets, including magazines, newspapers, news sites, blogs, podcasts, TV shows, and radio shows.

One warning: Be careful to pitch content creators and media outlets that actually cover your niche. Some journalists, for example, get dozens of press releases every day that have nothing to do with what they cover.

how to set up an ecommerce business

Also keep in mind that the fact that your business or product merely exists is almost never enough for a press outlet to write an article (unless it’s extremely unique, or you’re doing extremely well in your market). That’s basically just asking a site to run an ad for you. Your pitch needs to offer something newsworthy, a good story or a larger trend, or some kind of data or knowledge you’ve come across in doing business that readers would find interesting.

Looking at coverage of your competitors is one easy way to find outlets that might cover your ecommerce product. Whether it’s a direct competitor or just someone in a similar space to your store, conduct web searches to identify where they’ve landed stories. Those outlets might be interested in covering your stuff, too, if you can make a compelling pitch for why your product matters to their readers now.

Getting coverage in outlets your competitors haven’t touched yet is also valuable. If you haven’t launched yet, try to find media outlets reporting on your niche that feature pre-launch items. Some pre-launch stores, for example, might be a good fit for TechCrunch.

You can also find coverage of competitors written by freelancers. Freelance writers pitch and pen stories for a variety of publications, and they’re always on the lookout for new story ideas. Find a story by a freelance writer about one of your competitors, then pitch that writer instead of the outlet they wrote for. If they think your product might make a good story, they’ll pick an outlet to pitch: It could be the same outlet, but it might be entirely different.

Here are some steps to take:

  • Start with a brain dump. Think of every medium, from magazine to podcasts to blogs, and brainstorm a list of every publication/outlet within that medium that you know of that might cover something like your store.
  • Google each of your competitors, the other businesses in your space. Identify the outlets where they got media coverage, and add those outlets to your list.
  • Repeat the above step, but cast a broader net: Instead of just searching for info on your competitors, brainstorm a list of 5-10 businesses that, although you don’t compete directly with them, are in a similar niche. If you’re selling kids’ toys, for example, search for media coverage on companies that sell kids’ books, parenting tools, and the like.
  • Look at every news story (or magazine article or podcast, etc.) that you found in steps two and three. Google the name of the author of each story and identify which ones are freelance writers. Find contact information for those freelancers (generally available on their website, which you can find by searching for their name) and write it down.

Once you’ve assembled a list of outlets and writers you might want to contact, the next step is to narrow your list down. For every publication on your list, find the names of their writers on their website and conduct a few searches on them. Identify one writer from each publication who covers things most relevant to your business. For every freelance writer on your list, double-check to make sure that they do indeed cover topics in your niche, including businesses.

After you’ve got a narrowed list, it’s time to make a press kit. Basically, this is a compilation of all the core info someone would need to write a solid article on your product. A press kit makes it as easy as possible for writers to craft a piece about you, which ups your chance of landing coverage. Your press kit should include:

  • A brief biography of your business that centers on your business’s unique value proposition.
  • Links to your website and all social media accounts.
  • Images that media outlets are authorized to use. People in media always need pictures to accompany articles, so make this easy for them by providing photo options right out of the gate.

If you want some more information on landing press coverage, read our step-by-step guide to landing press coverage without a publicist.

Consider Kickstarter

Kickstarter is the poster child for crowdfunding. It used to be that if you wanted capital for your company, you had to raise money from a handful of wealthy, hoity-toity investors. With crowdfunding, a bunch of ordinary people all pitch in small amounts.

The idea is that you set a funding goal and offer rewards to people who invest. Unlike platforms such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing funding model. If you reach your goal, you get the money. If you don’t, investors get their cash back.

Crowdfunding isn’t just a good way to get investment. It’s also a really powerful way to build awareness and market your product. Besides helping get initial attention to your product, platforms like Kickstarter also help validate your idea. If people are willing to invest, you may have a good thing going.

how to set up an ecommerce business

Even here at Foundr, we branched out into physical products with a Kickstarter campaign for a killer coffee table book.

Not every product is suited for Kickstarter, and not every store should put the time and effort into a Kickstarter campaign. Foundr, for instance, didn’t launch with crowdfunding. But several years into the business, we did run a highly successful Kickstarter for our first physical product, a coffee table book about entrepreneurship.

Email Subscribers

No matter what other strategies you use, collect emails from the start. Always be thinking about how to use incentives like special offers, discounts, and unique content to encourage email signups.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s almost impossible for an internet-based company to thrive without a good email list. A strong email list is the bedrock for strong email campaigns, a mainstay of successful internet marketing. It seems like no matter how much the web changes, email is still king or queen.

how to set up an ecommerce business

Why? People still use it—as different social media platforms rise and fall, email remains untethered to any specific platform, and it remains in use for business and personal needs.

It can generate hefty returns, too. According to Adobe, every dollar spent on email marketing can bring in a return on investment as high as $40.

Another perk of email is that it lets you have a different kind of conversation with potential customers. People signed up to your email list form up a dedicated audience that gets your brand more than the average social media follower.

For an ecommerce store, a classic yet effective kind of email you can send is the deals roundup. This email, which is particularly appropriate if you have lots of products in your store, entails sending subscribers a set of deals or discounts on items in your store.

Brandless, an ecommerce grocery store, sends deal roundups based on a specific theme, like this email focusing on spices.

 

You can also send emails that highlight new arrivals. By announcing new products in your store, you appeal to people’s need to get in on the latest thing:

how to set up an ecommerce business

Sephora sent this email with the subject line, “It’s that time again… new arrivals are here!” It gives subscribers a neat deal in the form of trial-size product, then runs through a host of new products that have just arrived in their store. The urge this strategy tries to tap into is probably best summed up with the email’s copy itself: “New. Need. Now.”

You also might consider sending out a discount offer. People love to get their hands on good deals, perhaps even more than they love to have the newest stuff.

Here’s an example: Vionic, a shoe brand, sent an email about its Memorial Day sale. Discounts varied depending on which product customers purchased, but the email led with the maximum haul of up to 30% to get people in the virtual door:

how to start an ecommerce business shopify

The main takeaway is that you should always work to offer value to subscribers. They’ve given you their email, so make sure they get something in return. A sneak peak at the latest arrivals or a good discount on items in your store are good ways to do that.

Some action items for email marketing:

  • Respect their inbox
    For many of us, a clean inbox is as rare as a four—no, make it five or six—leaf clover. Adding to that problem by filling people’s inboxes with junk is a surefire way to build resentment. Sure, “don’t spam” is pretty obvious advice. But it goes deeper. Make sure that every email you send provides value to your target audience.
  • Address people by name
    This is pretty standard these days, and is easy to automate in all major email marketing software.
  • Use friendly language
    Don’t be stale and impersonal. Have fun.
  • Experiment with segmentation
    The best email marketing services let you send certain emails only to particular segments of your audience. Think about how to use this strategically. For more info, check out our blog post filled with details on exactly how to do this type of personalized email marketing.
  • Try out automation
    Email automation is every ecommerce entrepreneur’s best friend, because it saves you time while helping you target emails to subscribers on a more personal level. With automation, you set up commands directing your email marketing platform to mail certain subscribers based on actions they take, all without you ever having to lift a finger. For example, if a visitor to your website adds something to their cart but doesn’t finalize the purchase, your platform can automatically follow up with a cart abandonment email. Other automatic emails could include a welcome emails, re-engagement emails, and the day-to-day transactional emails (like order and shipping confirmations) that you’re sending anyway. For details on how to use email automation to maximize profits, check out this blog post. We also chat a bit more about this in Chapter 7 of this guide.

MailChimp is one of the most popular services around. It’s a great service to start off with, because it’s free if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers. But other services exist too:

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Launch Your Ecommerce StoreMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
Launch Your Ecommerce Store

Chapter 7

Scaling Your Ecommerce Store

Starting an ecommerce business is one challenge. Scaling that ecommerce business is another one entirely.

Once you start to grow your brand and market your product(s), you’ll hopefully see an uptick in sales. But growing your brand isn’t enough for success. Do that alone and you’ll end up with high demand but no way to meet it. To meet the buyer demand that will come with an expanded brand presence, you need to be ready to scale—ready to grow the operations side of your business to meet the needs of an expanded customer base. Ultimately, the question is: 
How can you grow your ecommerce store to meet ongoing demand?

A first step is to keep tabs on your KPIs, or key performance indicators. The more stats you track, the more data you’ll have to draw on as you make important choices about the future of your store.

Be sure to keep track at least the following key performance indicators:

  • Sales per month
  • Average order size
  • Visitor conversion rate
  • Cart abandonment rate
  • Site traffic
  • Sources of traffic to your site
  • Average time a visitor spends on the site
  • Email subscribers
  • Social media followers

Tracking how these KPIs change over time, and how they shift when you tinker with your website or your marketing, will help you make tough decisions about branding, scaling, and growing your ecommerce business. To go deeper into these metrics and more, check out Shopify’s awesome blog post on KPIs for ecommerce.

Decide When to Hire Help

When first starting an ecommerce business, the budget may have room for only one employee: you. But as you grow your ecommerce store, you’ll want to be thinking about when to hire employees or outside contractors to help with day-to-day operations.

This is probably what you have in mind, anyway. You don’t need to be (and probably don’t want to be) a one-person-show forever, since the whole point of starting an ecommerce store is to build your own life and do what you want to do.

The challenge entrepreneurs sometimes have, though, is actually letting go. Often they’re so focused on the details of running their business that they don’t zoom out to the big picture. That’s why you’ve got to keep both your business and lifestyle goals in mind.

To reach those goals, you should eventually offload menial tasks, and stuff you just plain don’t like doing, so that you can focus your energy on high-level actions and decisions.

Here are some pretty reliable signs that you need to bring on help:

  • You’re super stressed about your business
  • You’ve started to experience burnout
  • You feel like you’re working constantly but seeing little progress
  • You find yourself doing tasks you hate
  • You want more time to do other tasks needed to grow your ecommerce store
  • You just want more time for yourself

Lots of things can be safely outsourced, to some degree or another: graphic design, content marketing, copywriting, social media, and basic administrative tasks. Even something like customer service can potentially be outsourced, though keeping that in-house is ideal if you’re able to hire employees.

When you’re ready to bring on help for some of these items, think carefully about how you’ll maintain control over your brand. Take content marketing. You wouldn’t want to hand your blog over to some random person you met online. Instead, start by having them write and upload posts that you edit, approve, and publish. Over time, as you develop relationships with contractors, you may decide to lend more control to them.

How can you find the outside help to let you grow your ecommerce store? Here are some places to start:

Determine What to Automate

Automation is another way to lighten your load and give your store the capacity to scale. Over time, you can streamline processes and eventually automate some of the tasks you used to do manually. Another upside of automation? It can reduce human error.

What are we talking about here? Simple stuff—tasks that don’t require thought or decision-making but still suck up time and energy.

Think about email. It’s essential for your store. It ups your sales. It’s not an option.

And parts of it can be downright boring. Solution: Automate those parts.

For example, you might send automatic follow-up emails to people who haven’t opened an email from you in a while. These dormant subscribers might not seem interested in what you have to say, but you don’t have to count them out entirely. You can set up an automatic process so that subscribers who haven’t opened any of your emails in a given time period, maybe three months, get a special email asking if they’d like to remain on your list. Still no response? Send them some sort of discount code or other incentive. Finally, you can send a third email alerting them that they’ve been unsubscribed. This kind of process can keep your email list clean and full of engaged subscribers, and automating it you save a ton of time.

Platforms like Infusionsoft can help do this. For more info, check out the Foundr podcast, which has a great episode on the power of email marketing automation. And this post on ecommerce email marketing automations.

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Advertise to Convert

To grow your ecommerce store, you’ve got to advertise. There’s no two ways around it. One of the most effective and common ways to do this is what’s called pay-per-click advertising (PPC).

This is a time when you might consider using Google AdWords for ads rather than just research. You can identify keywords and choose how much cash you’re willing to hand over to appear in search results.

There are some really neat tools to help you target the right keywords, including Adthena, KWFinder, and Market Samurai. Targeting the right words is important, because Google’s algorithm tends to give more weight to the relevancy of an ad than to the amount of money a business has poured in. Marketing on search results can actually work if you target the same search terms users will choose when they’re looking to buy a product online.

Social media is another place to advertise. When it comes to social, no platform has more users than Facebook, so even though it’s not always the best place to cultivate a social media following, it can be a goldmine for social media advertising. A benefit of running ads on Facebook is that you can target ads to highly specific demographics of people. On Facebook, you can pay per impression (view) or per click.

But the power of advertising on Facebook doesn’t stop with demographic targeting. You can take your ad game to the next level with retargeting.

This is when you target ads to people who have already visited your store’s website or interacted with your brand on Facebook. Say that someone clicked on a normal Facebook ad you were running, went to your website and just didn’t end up buying anything. You can retarget the user in question, by showing that specific person more ads to lure them back to your store.

According to Invesp, people will click on retargeted ads about 10 times as often as typical display ads and, as a consequence, web users who view retargeted ads are 70% more likely to convert on your website.

Retargeting strategies go deep! It’s too much to cover fully here, so check out these helpful articles for more info:

Really, ecommerce advertising in general is a HUGE topic. Peep these resources for more on tapping into this:

Upsell, Upsell, Upsell

One way to grow your ecommerce store is to take the customers you’ve already got and convince them to spend more money.

That’s easier than finding new customers altogether. Your chance of selling to a new prospect is somewhere between 5% and 20%. Your probability of selling to an existing customer is more like 60% to 70%.

Upselling is all about convincing people who have already decided to purchase that they need to buy more from you. Once they’ve added an item to their cart or are ready to check out, you can hit them with an upsell offer.

Upsell Calculator

Please tell us about your customers

65% 35%

New customers Existing customers

Average Chance of Selling

35-40%

There are two kinds of upsells to consider:

Price upsell

Offer buyers more of the same product for a discount. Maybe it’s “buy three get one free.” Maybe you offer a 60% discount if they buy a second widget.

Value upsell

Offer buyers a different product that in some way complements what they bought. This is a great way to provide additional value to customers while promoting other products in your ecommerce store.

Men’s shaving brand Harry’s does a great value upsell. If you add a starter shaving set to your cart and go to check out, the site invites you to “round out your Harry’s Experience” by buying some post-shave balm, too. And they’ve got their bases covered. If you’ve already added some balm to your cart, they’ll try to upsell you some shave gel.

how to scale your ecommerce business
Harry’s does a great value upsell: The connection to the original purchase is clear, their presentation is clean, and they maintain trust by giving uninterested buyers an easy out — with an X on top and a “no thanks” button below.

As you scale your business, to get beyond a certain point, you’ll likely need to build out a product line. Granted, it’s possible to do quite well with one killer, beloved product. But even a company like Casper, for example, which celebrates simplicity and convenience in its offerings, pretty quickly added new products as it took off in popularity.

Upselling can pad your profit margin. But be careful and don’t be too aggressive. For example, while you can try to upsell buyers throughout the process, you might want to put earlier upsells at the bottom of the page, not right up in the customer’s face.

Remember, a good brand image needs a good shopping experience. If you have a pop-up for an upsell, make it easy for the buyer to say “no thanks.”

Tap into Social Proof

Create more demand for your products by tapping into the power of social proof. The best marketing is honest testimonials from ordinary customers. You can string together the best copy, post amazing photos on social, and enlist big influencers, all of which can have a huge return. But no strategy to grow your ecommerce business is complete without evidence that real people like and use your stuff.

Call it social proof.

This is super critical for first-time buyers, as it can make or break their decision to buy from a stranger on the internet. Positive customer reviews are the perfect form of social proof, and are especially useful on your website. In fact, 61% of buyers read online reviews before deciding whether to make a purchase. That’s why it’s so important to actively harness reviews and showcase them to make a good impression.

With automated email services like MailChimp and Infusionsoft, you can add automatic email prompts asking customers to review products they bought.

Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, so cash in on that. With apps like SocialPhotos, you can show customer photos right under the product listing in your store. Doing this puts social proof right where it’s most valuable: where potential buyers are about to make a purchase decision.

how to start an ecommerce store

Beetle Bottoms, an ecommerce store selling kids’ products, includes customer reviews at the bottom of its product pages. With high ratings and cute photos of kids enjoying Beetle Bottoms merch, their social proof is sure to translate into sales.

starting an ecommerce business bettle bell bottoms

You can also tap into social proof in the most logical place: social media. Instagram is the perfect place to highlight visuals related to buyers using your product, promoting this “user-generated content.”

Ask your customers to post content on Instagram using your product and a custom-branded hashtag. You can do this in your purchase confirmation emails or in inserts inside your product packaging. Track these hashtags on Instagram and re-post the customer images on your account, tagging the original poster.

Take GoPro, the wearable camera company. Each day they post one piece of user-generated content, a photo taken with a GoPro, chosen from one of the many photos people posted that day with the #GoPro hashtag. By posting a photo each day from the #GoPro hashtag, the company gives social proof about its product and encourages more use of the hashtag—a double-pronged marketing victory.

starting an ecommerce business gopro
BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Scaling Your Ecommerce StoreFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Scaling Your Ecommerce StoreLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Scaling Your Ecommerce StoreBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Scaling Your Ecommerce StoreSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Scaling Your Ecommerce StoreMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
Scaling Your Ecommerce Store

Chapter 8

Final Tips for Starting and Sustaining an Ecommerce Business

Starting an ecommerce business is hard work, but it is also so rewarding. Our hope is that this guide has helped you learn how to set up and scale your store, because however hard this work may be, it’s work that can seriously pay off.

You’ve read this whole guide. You’ve started implementing the strategies and principles we’ve gone over. No matter what background you’ve walked into ecommerce with, we hope that our insights give you the strength to run to the finish line and beyond. A successful ecommerce business can continue to survive and continue to scale and continue to sell.

Here at Foundr, we’ve interviewed many successful ecommerce entrepreneurs and taught the these concepts to many more. We know the truth: Ecommerce companies that make it come in many different forms from many different people.

There’s no singular path to success. Solid strategies exist, but how you combine and emphasize them is up to you. How you succeed is up to you.

As you launch and grow your ecommerce store, we’ll be rooting for you. And no matter how your business fares—whether expansion is fast or slow, whether things go according to plan or swerve in wild ways—remember that your growth relies on deep roots. We’ve tried to help plant those seeds in this guide.

As you continue on your entrepreneurial journey, here are some final words of advice to keep in mind:

Communicate Clearly

Your customers are everything. Treat them well, and they’ll return the favor. Treat them as an afterthought, and your business will tank.

The key to keeping customers is clear communication.

Always remember that your ecommerce company isn’t a brick-and-mortar store. People won’t just notice a new storefront pop up. You’ll never be a neighborhood institution. You can’t sweet talk customers face to face. On some level, you’re just digital bits and bytes out in the online ether.

What makes you more than that is the customers who care. Online audiences can be fickle, but if you treat them with respect, they will notice. Respect means explaining yourself. But it also means listening. Pay attention to social media. Let your audience know what you’re up to, but listen to them too.

Strong communication means pouring your all into customer service. Listen to your customers. Really, really listen, and then act quickly to express your empathy, explain the situation, and fix any harm that’s been done. And don’t just wait until something goes wrong to treat them well. Add personal touches in all you do.

Business communication is a lot like interpersonal communication: If done right, it’s a two way street. Don’t crash the car.

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Track Everything

OK, maybe not everything. But keeping tabs on key stats for your store can save you from huge headaches down the line.

Remember those key performance indicators we looked at in chapter seven. Paying attention to those will help you spot potential problems in advance, and figure out the right fix when things go wrong.

Good decisions draw on data. The more stats you track, the more data you have.

Don’t Hesitate

You’ll face a lot of challenges when starting your ecommerce business. The biggest challenge of all is one you have the most control over: you.

Many potential entrepreneurs talk themselves out of success. “Oh, everyone else is doing this,” they’ll say. “Ugh, I just don’t feel confident enough to launch. Maybe next month.”

That hesitation is understandable. Ecommerce can be tough.

But here’s the thing about reality. You shape it. You create it. You should certainly cover your bases and think things through, but these things should never be an excuse for inaction.

At some point, you just have to jump.

No product is perfect. No store is foolproof. This is true especially when you’re first starting out, which is why you have to be OK with making mistakes. Taking a wrong step or three is all a part of the game. When that happens, you just reevaluate your choices and pivot to a new strategy. Analyze your failures. That’s where you’ll find success.

So here’s the upshot: Pull a Nike. Just do it. Run through the steps we’ve outlined in this guide and then launch. Once your product is out on the market, you’ll find out what people really think. You’ll get customer feedback and see your sales and test your marketing. Every day, your ecommerce store will face new challenges and find new opportunities, and every single situation will teach you something. Every victory is a data point. Every misstep is a data point. Over time, you can analyze that data to tinker and improve.

But you can’t do any of that unless you launch. You can’t do any of that if you just sit on your great idea, never sharing it with the world.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to do the work. It’s time to get it out there. It’s time to hang that “open for business” sign on your digital storefront.

We believe in you.

BRAND NEW! EXCLUSIVE FREE TRAINING REVEALS….

How Can You Start a Profitable Online Store
in 12 weeks or less…

In this ecommerce masterclass with Gretta Rose van Riel (5X startup founder) & Nathan Chan, you will learn:

Final Tips for Starting and Sustaining an Ecommerce BusinessFind a Hot Niche

How you can find and come up with a guaranteed profitable idea for your product in a trending niche

Final Tips for Starting and Sustaining an Ecommerce BusinessLearn from the Best

How this 23-year-old entrepreneur made $600,000 USD per month on her first business (after just 6 months)!

Final Tips for Starting and Sustaining an Ecommerce BusinessBuild Your Brand

How to build a multimillion dollar ecommerce brand from scratch

Final Tips for Starting and Sustaining an Ecommerce BusinessSourcing & Manufacturing

Learn how you actually produce the product at a cost-effective rate

Final Tips for Starting and Sustaining an Ecommerce BusinessMaster The Golden Trifecta

The 3 elements that ensure your ecommerce idea will be able to print you money

Don't take our word for it

Gamal Codner - Fresh Heritage
Brandon & Justin - The Run-Away Success
Shannon Willoughby - Aromarrr
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