Want To Start Your Own Ecommerce Site? Here’s what you need to know.

Starting Your Own Ecommerce Site

Ecommerce is here to stay. From US$1.3 trillion in global ecommerce in 2014, experts expect that in 2022 there will be US$5.4 trillion exchanged via ecommerce. If the pandemic has had one lasting effect on our society it is that all of us have learned to buy things online, and have come to expect that an ever growing number of products can be purchased there.

All this to say that now is a great time to start your own ecommerce site. The market is getting bigger and more diversified. But where to start?

We help people with big ideas and awesome products start ecommerce sites all the time, and we want to give a step-by-step guide to help you understand what you’ll need to do to get your ecommerce shop online and thriving.

Getting Started with Your Ecommerce Store

Starting an ecommerce shop can be a long process if you are starting from the very beginning. There are many decisions to make before you even begin to consider starting an ecommerce shop. What product(s) will you sell? What is your brand identity? How will customers find you? These are important questions, but they are really business questions. Creating a business plan, doing market research to see if it will succeed, and working on defining your brand are all important steps that should be done carefully and intentionally.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you already have given some thought to this, you know what product(s) you will sell and you already have a brand identity. As well, you already know how your customers will find you. For instance, maybe you already had an Etsy shop, or an Ebay shop, and now you want to scale up and take it to the next level. Or maybe you have a brick and mortar store, and you know some people in the area would like to order your products online as well. Congrats, you’re ready to get started!

Three Big Steps

Here are the three big steps to take towards starting a successful ecommerce business.

1 – Choose a platform for your ecommerce store

Deciding what ecommerce platform to use is a crucial decision to make when setting up an ecommerce site. A lot of folks already have heard of WooCommerce and Shopify, but the options are plentiful. It can be overwhelming to start comparing plans and options for popular platforms. Before doing that, we recommend that you try to define what you will need the site to do, and then find a platform that can meet those needs.

Here are some questions you might want to consider:

  • Front-End Needs
    What kind of experience do you want your customers to have? How do they learn about the products? Will you use videos? Are there large and complex product searches and catalogs to move through?
  • Back-End Needs
    What back-end integrations are needed? How will the website interact with your fulfillment and accounting software? What other integrations are important so the website can work smoothly with software you are already using?
  • Catalog Management
    How many products do you have? How many variations? How many SKUs? Are there special catalog needs, for instance bundles and discounts? Or is it more straightforward, a few main products and a couple of variations?
  • Customer Management and Engagement
    What are you doing with CRM right now and how do you want to use the website to continue to engage with your customers?
  • Performance, Scalability and Security
    What are your expectations in terms of uptime, speed and scalability? What are your sales projections? What payment gateway are you thinking of using?
  • Mobile Requirements
    Will the majority of your customers be on mobile?

Once you have asked yourself these questions, you can begin to look at the options, try demos, consult with developers, and see what platform will best suit your needs. Perhaps quicker, hosted platforms with fewer options for customization but better out-of-the-box versatility, like Shopify or BigCommerce, are better for your needs. Or maybe you want full customization and scalability, so going with WooCommerce or Magento is a better option. The point is that once you know what you need, you can ask specific questions and rate platforms according to your specific use. We can help!

2 – Choose a Payment Gateway

A payment gateway is another important element to consider when creating an ecommerce shop. The payment gateway refers to the system that supports payments on your site. This is what enables visitors to pay you, so it’s pretty important! There are many different payment gateways, each serving different needs. As with platforms, it’s best to take stock of what your needs are by asking some of these questions:

  • What volume of sales are you expecting?
  • What is the average transaction size?
  • Are you doing a lot of international transactions? If so, to which countries?
  • What security features and fraud safeguards are important to you?
  • Do you already have the ability to accept credit card payments, or do you need the payment gateway to also take care of that (i.e. by setting up a merchant account)?
  • What is an acceptable percentage of transaction costs for your business model?

Here are a few places to get started looking for a payment gateway:

  • Paypal – if you’re starting a first ecommerce venture and you think your sales will remain relatively low, Paypal is a great option. It’s ubiquitous, trusted, fast, and affordable. Currently, Paypal has over 400 million global users.
  • Square – If you have a brick and mortar store and you want to add an ecommerce store to your business, Square is a great option. It integrates well with Point-of-Sales programs, and can keep your accounting simple between online and in-store sales.
  • Payoneer – Payoneer is great if you do a lot of international and cross-border sales.
  • Stripe – Stripe is great for customizability and developer-side ease.
  • Payment Depot – Payment Depot is an excellent choice for high volume businesses (over $50,000/month) because it has low fees at those volumes.

These are just some of the options. Get in touch with us if you need help deciding on a payment gateway.

3 – Choose a shipping partner or fulfillment service

The last big step to building your ecommerce store is deciding how you will ship the items you sell. This might sound straightforward (we’ll put them in the mail?) but in fact shipping is an area where you can find an edge over the competition, and give customers a memorable purchasing experience.

Keep in mind that customers have high expectations about shipping speeds and shipping costs. Amazon and other major online retailers have a competitive advantage in providing exceedingly fast shipping times for relatively low cost. A recent survey cited that for many people (72% of those surveyed), the reason they shop online is precisely for free shipping. So, expectations are high! Also we see that many of the reasons why online shopping carts are abandoned are because customers didn’t like the shipping options, thought it was too expensive, or didn’t think the product would arrive fast enough.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you determine which shipping partner to use:

  • Is your clientele local, national, or international?
  • Do you want clients to pay for shipping as an add-on to the product cost, or do you want shipping to be included in the product cost?
  • Do you want to give customers shipping options? Or do you want to just provide one shipping option for all purchases?
  • Are you working on a subscription model, so shipping costs are absorbed in a membership fee?
  • What expectations are there about how fast a product like yours should arrive at a customer’s address? Are other companies providing competitive shipping options?
  • How do you want to handle returns? Is that something the customer would pay for?
  • What range of sizes and weights do the products you are shipping have?
  • What volume of products are you shipping?
  • Are there any legal or hazardous material concerns regarding your product and interstate or international shipments?

Depending on the volume and relative complexity of your shipping program, you may find yourself in one of two situations:

A – In the first situation, you just need to price out a relatively straightforward shipping program with one of the big national or international carriers: USPS, FedEx, DHL or UPS (or a combination of them all, for different products or shipping routes). Simply get in touch with the shipper to discuss your needs.

B – In the second situation, you realize that it would be better to work with a fulfillment service like ShipBob, Rush, or ShipStation (to name but a few). These are end-to-end fulfillment services that can do everything from printing labels, picking items from a warehouse, shipping them, and managing customer relations during shipment. If you are doing a lot of volume, or you have a complex product catalog with multiple warehouses, these might be good logistics services to use.


With Ecommerce, the Devil is in the Details

We hope that this article has given you some good information about some of the big steps that you’ll need to take to start a great ecommerce store. As you can see, there are a lot of details that you have to sort through, and in our experience, it is these details that are crucial in the success of the business. We have helped countless companies get started with ecommerce sites and we are happy to provide guidance throughout the journey. Get in touch if you want to learn more about how you can find success in ecommerce.