In the first addition to the “How to Start an eCommerce Store” series we are going to cover what you should choose to sell.

You have an idea.

And it’s brilliant. You’ve always dreamed of having your own business, of being your own boss. You’re finally ready to take control of your professional life and make your business dreams a reality. You’re ready to start an eCommerce store and ride the waves to success.

Congratulations!

eCommerce is an excellent choice for starting your new business as global ecommerce sales will reach $1.915 trillion in 2016 and is predicted to top $4 trillion by 2020! eCommerce gives you the opportunity to reach millions of customers from anywhere around the world. This, of course, is not guaranteed success. But it does mean there has never been a better time to start an eCommerce business than right now!

In How to Start an eCommerce Store, we’re going to be your guide to opening your own successful online business. We’re going to help you create a plan that will help tackle the big decisions you’ll make as a new business owner. In Part 1, we’re going to take your brilliant idea and turn it into a reality by helping you:

  • Choose the type of product you want to sell
  • Check out the competition
  • Start considering your niche market

How to Start an eCommerce Store: Types of Products

There may not be a more critical business question than choosing what to sell. Sure, you have a great idea. But how you package that product is essential to your success. Here’s a quick rundown of the possibilities.

Digital
Born on the internet, digital products are ideal for new businesses. There are no shipping hassles, you don’t have to worry about inventory, and they are relatively cheap to produce. You simply create your digital masterpiece and your eCommerce provider handles all aspects of the transaction, including sales and downloading.

Here’re a few examples of best-selling digital products:

  • eBooks
  • Online courses
  • Videos
  • Apps
  • Guides & checklists
  • Music
  • Webinars
  • Subscriptions or membership plans

Nadia Felsch is a nutrition expert who sells a wide variety of digital products, including eBooks, a subscription service called The Wholefood Society, and her signature 8-week online program, Path to Wholefoods.

start an ecommerce store

Physical

Selling physical products offers new businesses two distinct possibilities. First, you can invent, create, build or manufacture your own product. Or you could become a wholesale distributor of someone else’s products. While digital products are mostly informative or entertaining, people love the option of buying their favorite physical products online. In fact, Cyber Monday sales may overtake Black Friday sales in the near future because many consumers prefer the simplicity of online shopping.

And who can blame them?


In The Definitive Guide to Starting a T-Shirt Business, Molly shares how to determine profitability when creating your own product. The cost of production plus shipping costs has to be considered, along with finding the right price point in your niche. Yet, the need for physical products will only grow as consumers now shop from a computers, tablets and smartphones.

Coaching

With eCommerce, there are no limitations on what you can sell. Online coaching services are a great online possibility, especially in the fitness, nutrition and business industries. These generally include some type of personal consultation along with videos, guides, or an online course.

Knocked Up Fitness is an online fitness site for pregnant women, and offers group calls, videos, menus and exclusive access to a private Facebook group. This is a great niche opportunity for like-minded women to connect with others who are facing the same fitness challenges during pregnancy.

start an ecommerce store

Business coaching is another possibilities with a lot of hot niches. Vasavi Kumar offers a few different coaching options, including Get Clear With Vasavi. This is an intense 3-month program where Vasavi asks business owners some tough questions that will help them gain confidence and clarity.

start an ecommerce store

You have many choices when starting your eCommerce store. Think about your budget, expertise and business goals. What can you do better than anyone else? Then figure out the best way to package your million dollar idea.

How to Start an eCommerce Store: Check Out the Competition

Competition shouldn’t scare you. But you should know everything about the market you’re trying to jump into. That’s tough to do online, as there are a million factors that may go into why one business sells more than another. Maybe it’s price, brand power, or they have a larger marketing budget. Maybe they already have 10,000 email subscribers and thousands more on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Yet, it’s crucial to know if there’s a niche in the market you can crack and you can’t do that until you know what type of competition you’ll be facing.

start an ecommerce store

Do a quick search on similiar businesses and check out the following:

  • Their prices
  • Upsell or cross sale offers
  • Social media engagement (different than the number of followers)
  • Sign up for their email list and check out their offers and niches

And since you’re starting an online business, check out the eCommerce features they use including:

  • Abandoned checkout strategy (you’ll know if they have one if you leave something in their shopping cart and they send you a follow-up email)
  • What type of payment options do they offer? (Paypal, 2Checkout to process all major cards, etc.)
  • Do they have their own website, sell from a blog or from a larger marketplace?
  • Do they offer a “buy now” option?
  • Are they mobile ready?

At this point, you’re not trying to do a complete SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) but trying to learn everything you can about your industry and target market. It helps you create a baseline before move any further into your business planning.

How to Start an eCommerce Store: Consider a Niche

Like learning about the competition, considering what niche you may target isn’t something that will be set in stone at this point. But after taking a look at the competition, you’ll be able to see if there are some niches you may be able to squeeze into.

start an ecommerce store

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you want to sell t-shirts and other printed items. But you can get a t-shirt anywhere. What are you going to do different that will make someone buy your awesome t-shirt? Who would proudly tell all her friends that she’s wearing your t-shirt? Who would share your t-shirts all over Instagram making you a viral sensation?

Everyone needs a hook. Every new business needs to start with a niche that would love your product. Sevenly is a t-shirt business that has a new charity campaign every week. Every seven days, Sevenly creates seven new t-shirt designs and 7% of the profits go to a specific charity. So far, they’ve raised over $4 million for charity!

I’m not saying you need to start a socially minded business (although that’s always a good choice). I am saying that the business model Sevenly uses creates new niches every week by focusing on that charity. They have an instant target market when they create t-shirts that supports autism, veterans, animals and foster kids.

Start considering where you want to enter your specific market now. We’ll work on the details later. Just thinking about what you’re new business is going to do different or better than anyone else.

How to Start an eCommerce Store: Take the First Step

I know you’re so excited to get started. But the rollercoaster of emotions don’t stop there because you’re also nervous, scared, and overwhelmed all at the same time.

Don’t worry – that’s completely normal. And being a bit nervous will keep you on your toes. Starting a business is a huge step in your life and not everyone has the courage to do what you’re going to do. So take a deep breath and remember that we’ve got your back.

start an ecommerce store

This series will take you through the entire process of setting up your new eCommerce store. We’re going to cover branding, logos, blogs, social media, and much more.

You just need to take that first step.