Start an Ecommerce Business – Where to Begin?

Maybe you want a job without a boss. Maybe you just want a better life for yourself or some side gig that you can make some extra income. E-commerce is a great and also somewhat difficult way to pursue your dreams. In the last few weeks I’ve been getting more people contacting me asking about how to get started…and how to take the first step.

Here are the notes I’ve taken when talking to people during my Discovery calls. The services that I typically offer are for mature companies doing sales more than $1 million per year. But, if you haven’t gotten there yet, here are some suggestions I have to help you get started. These are somewhat generic and different for everybody but I think it’s a great foundation for you to get started to winning at E-commerce.

Register A Domain

Buy a domain name. If you have a great idea and you haven’t grabbed the domain, do it now. It may not be perfect, it may be one that makes you cringe, but if it has anything to do with your brand get the domain name. Do not waste money .org, .commerce, .biz, or any of that other garbage. Do not worry about paying for all the add-ons that the domain name providers will force upon you. Just buy a domain name for one year and get moving.

Buy the domain from GoDaddy. Don’t get caught up on price comparisons and coupon codes, this should be a fast step in the process. Don’t pay more than $15.

Godaddy.com – www.godaddy.com

Find Your Online Audience

First let’s discuss who it is that you’re going to be selling things to. Do not stretch and try to find an audience that you are not a part of and do not understand. For example, I’m a middle-aged white guy. I have no business trying to sell products to South American moms who speak Spanish. Although that market might be massive and perfect for my product I do not understand them and I have no business trying to sell to them. Instead, I need to speak to my tribe and those people that I know.

We do this for two reasons:

  • One is because we understand them and we can ascertain what forums they might be at and what demographics make them up. That is because we are ultimately speaking to ourselves.
  • Two, because our website is going to eventually bore us and selling these products will not be nearly as fun three months from now as it is now. So you need something that you’re interested in so you can keep up the momentum you’ll need to push through and find success.

You need to leverage your audiences as much as you can that you currently have. If you have a good size following (over 1000 people) on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest…that is a great start. That is your original audience and it’s time for you to start figuring out how to connect with them regarding your new E-commerce ambitions.

Your audience does not need to be huge. Unless you have aspirations of creating a $1 billion unicorn you only need 1000 true fans to make a great living. Read this article, it’s great. 1000 True Fans

Connect to Your Audience for Cheap

There are two ways I advocate to do this: blogs and emails. Yes, you can also do social media but most likely you’re already been doing that, so continue what you’ve been doing on that platform while seasoning in your products. I hate to break this to you but if you do not understand social media and do not have a following on social media…you will not be successful on social media. The goal in the starting phase is to lean in on what you already are good at and want to do. Starting something new you can save for some other time.

About the Blog

Your blog needs to be geared toward your audience. If you have a social media following or some other audience, invite them to your blog regularly and write the content in a voice that is friendly and spoken in your voice. Remember, you’re talking to people just like yourself, so write in a way that you would want to be talked to.

These blogs need to be at least 300 words but more in the 600 – 1,000 word area. There are tons of considerations like SEO but for right now just create the content. Write 1-2 blogs a week.

Email List

Next you need to sign up for an email service and start sending out emails. Start with Mailchimp – www.mailchimp.com (referral link). I know there are other services out there (Klaviyo is my choice for e-commerce) but for this stage in your development get the easiest, the best, the fastest: get MailChimp.

You’ll send 1 to 2 emails per month to start. Your emails will announce the blogs that you have written or the social media you’ve posted that your list might find helpful. Do this even before you have products to sell. Later you’ll season in some products down the road. If there are some goings-on’s in your life that you want to share…share them. These emails should not be very long. People do not have time to read a ton of things, instead just put in a picture, a short excerpt, and then a link to your content. We do not want to spend all month writing emails.

Most of all, give your audience what they want. Every audience is different but make sure that you’re doing whatever you can to provide value to those people that are potentially reading your email.

Grow Your Email List

Sending emails to 15 people makes it hard to justify the time. To get more emails – ask for referrals from friends and family…in fact, ask EVERYONE you know to sign up. Tell them you’re working on new stuff and you’d love to keep them in the loop. Once the your products are for sale, ask them to buy and ask them to tell their friends.

Added bonus: Spend a little extra time and make a “welcome journey” to engage people the just signed up.

What Ecommerce Store Company Should I Use?

It’s easy to get lost in the pro’s and con’s of e-commerce stores. A lot of them have some great merit but there are only three that I would ever consider working on: Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce.

Shopify ECommerce Store Pros and Cons

Shopify.com – this is the easiest way to sell online. You can connect to Amazon, Walmart, Facebook, Instagram, etc. The tools that Shopify provides out of the box are very basic but more than enough to get you started and make you feel in control. Be ready to spend a few dollars on a template and you will have to do some very light design work to get everything looking okay.

Beware, Shopify “nickels and dimes” you to death with add-ons, tracking features, and every cool tool you see your competitors using. However, for the introductory fee of $29.99 per month, it’s hard to beat it’s simplicity and ease of use. Our goal right now is just to get going and this is the easiest way to do it.

https://www.shopify.com/pricing – start here and select the basic plan

Big Commerce Store Pros and Cons

BigCommerce is the number two behind Shopify when it comes to features, functionality, and market size. I find that BigCommerce has more functionality for a similar price of Shopify out of the box. Also, the apps that you get are usually less expensive. But, although it sounds like it beats Shopify in many ways, it does not have as large of a developer network. This means the templates are usually lacking and the add-ons and plug-ins are lacking.

BigCommerce has a really cool feature called headless e-commerce. It sounds evil but it’s actually a great way to leverage the best of WordPress for SEO and blogging with the store functionality of BigCommerce. The theme of this blog is to get you started quickly and I think ideas like headless e-commerce are best saved for later iteration of your e-commerce store.

https://www.bigcommerce.com/essentials/pricing/ – start here and select the standard plan

WooCommerce Store Pros and Cons

Finally there’s WooCommerce. Built upon the extremely popular WordPress platform it comes with SEO and blogging tools built-in, which is great. WooCommerce and WordPress are both free to download which makes them extremely economical for starting a new site. However, if you are not knowledgeable in HTML and website development, then the cost savings will be offset with the cost and time it’s going to take to get the site up. If you do have experience setting up and running a WordPress site, then WooCommerce is a very intriguing option versus the other two. You will be hosting a site and you will be having to make sure it stays up-to-date with plug-ins so there’s more management, but if you’re used to that then you should find this to be ok.

In short, WooCommerce has a very robust app development culture, a large array of themes, and the cost is very low compared to the competitors. It just takes further development to get everything going and locked in properly.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/woocommerce/ – WooCommerce plugin

https://aws.amazon.com/lightsail/ – Suggested hosting platform

Get Inspired

While you’re on your way to becoming a big mega corporation you’re going to be small. I find inspiration in books by Seth Godin and this is one that I recently listened to that I recommend you listen to (or read) as well. All of us need a little bit of help and motivation and this one provides plenty.

Seth Godin (Listen to at 1.5 speed) – “Small is the new big” (referral link)

Other Resources

Want to sell t-shirts?

Website content and flow?

Make great content and art

There you go. Have fun. Is your business already selling over $1 million a year in sales? Schedule a Discovery Call with me. If you’re almost there, you can call, too.

Do you have suggestions for new ecommerce store owners of your own? Leave them in the comments below.