A laptop, cocktail drink on a beautiful island… Most people have had the dream at one point or the other of running their own online business and earning money remotely or even passively.
While you’re reading the right guide. Today, we’re going to run through some of the most important tasks you will need to deal with when figuring out how to prepare, launch and grow a successful e-com store. Here’s your very own guide on how to set up an e-commerce business.
What is eCommerce? ☀️
Have a look at the emoji on the headline of this section ☀️.
What is the sun? The sun is pure energy. It gives warmth and life to plants via photosynthesis. This photosynthesis trickles down through the ecosystem because herbivores eat both plants. Carnivores prey on the herbivores — and the energy transference goes up the chain. This may be a strange way of wording, but business is no different to exchanging something of pure value for another form of value. Like the sun giving warmth to the earth, you are providing a solution to the problems of your customers. In return, they give you cash.
If you want to retire on a beautiful island 🏝️, your e-commerce store should be focused on how to deliver as much value as possible. For this, you need to focus intensely on competence. Perhaps your guitarist selling music lessons. You first need to be very good at playing the guitar, so that you can give lessons on music theory, strumming, and chord progression. This is no different from any other e-commerce enterprise.
The number of niches in industries is immense, and it will be impossible for this article to list all of them.
Whatever industry you choose, the business model is centred around buying and selling goods and services online. There is a digital transference of money and information done in order to execute these transactions. Savvy online sellers try to increase their level of personal ability — so there is a lot less like dealing with an unknown entity more like dealing with an actual human being. So conveying your Mission and purpose is important. A few things that are important to any business:
- Speed — how quickly do you get things done?
- Adaptation — how adapted are you to the changing environment; are you ready for an economic depression or is this something you are struggling to deal with?
- Competence — what qualities and skills do you actually have to offer that are of intense value? If you don’t have any, need to start developing competencies.
Why own an online business?
There are also lots of advantages to having an e-commerce business rather than a physical store or working for somebody as an employee. To begin with, you are not rooted to your specific city or town or your country. This has opened up a world of digital nomad existence to many people. You can choose the most affordable country living and work within the visa restrictions.
Another advantage is that your online store ones constantly during the day. Customers can interact with and make purchases whenever they want. Many stores are hybrids; they have physical stores but also operate online good having an online store also increases scalability immensely in many cases.
But you need to remember that you are indeed running a business. Perhaps you do hair styling and you make your bookings online. Not accounting for taxes could cost you dearly later on down the line. And customers need to have ways to be reminded of your existence — because they cannot see you join their daily commute down the street, you have to figure out ways of reminding them for customer retention. Things like email newsletters and social media. It’s common for physical stores to gain the majority of sales through mobile devices.
One such’s case study of this is Roxanne King, who owns The Holistic Mamma e-com site. She gives advice as the following:
The key to e-commerce is building trust. People are not able to see you in person… So this can make them sceptical. But using blogs and social media, you can more easily build trust. Allow them to peer into your life and your business, this will encourage them to support you
More on Roxanne King later…
Steps: How to Setup an eCommerce Business
Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this…what are the actual steps of starting an e-commerce business in the UK?
Step 1: Do your research, know your values
Step one is doing your research.
There are many ways are going about this. In my opinion, the most important aspect is to begin with your own personal context. As a business owner, you will need to be offering solutions to problems; another way of wearing this is by providing a service or product that adds to somebody else’s life in a beneficial way. Once again… A very simple but powerful way of imagining this is the warmth you feel from the sun’s rays. It has an obvious and clear-cut value. You should aim for something as transparent.
Let’s say you’ve honed in on what niche you can add the most value to. You need to start investigating just how. Suppose you wanted to set up a restaurant, you could start looking into the various locations, menu options, and themes. Looking to figure out exactly what value it is that your e-commerce business is offering. Are you offering a service or product? Will it be physical or digital, if it’s a product? How will you source your product? In this way, you also want to understand the best business model — memberships, packages, products and more.
What evidence do you have that your business idea is valuable? Or feasible? Can you test this via a kickstart or a very cheap prototype? Unless you have extreme evidence, it’s an enormous time cost to start working on an expensive product before you are actually generating customers.
People can overthink making a business and ask themselves a million questions about how to ship, what the start-up costs will be like and legal regulations. But your purpose might be a better focus in this preparation stage. By focusing on this higher energy exchange — like the sun — all of the smaller things will fall into place by themselves. But focusing on the details first leads to a million questions but no clear vision or realistic understanding of the key value offering.
Focusing on your competition can be useful later on down the line, but unless you really have strong business experience working hard and developing your competencies often pays off.
Step 2: Establishing your legal structure and business name
So you’ve got a clear business product or service that obviously offers good value and the way to deliver to customers.
One extent is to establish your brand and name. Does your business name reflect what it is you do? Talk to the trademark and patent office to make sure that your name isn’t already claimed by another business. Can also have a look to see if your domain name is available. If is already being used, you can give it an alternative URL affix.
As for the legal structure, what you choose will have substantial financial and legal ramifications when it comes to your operations and taxes. For instance, there are certain benefits that come only with corporations that are not available for sole traders. One of the main ones is that if you go bankrupt as a corporation, only your business is liquidated and not your personal assets.
People registering as an LLC need to actually have an address that they are legally dead to be operating from — although you do not need to actually be operating from the address. You can use a substitute address; services that form companies offer these as extra features.
Step 3: Obtain business permits and licenses
Most of the section will not apply to you if you are a sole proprietor rather than a corporate business or working in a heavily regulated industry like health and safety or construction.
Today, it’s simple to set up an e-commerce store with nothing more than an online website builder. All that will be required of you, if you are not an LLC, is to fill out your tax returns at the end of the year — part of this includes keeping a record of your financial transactions.
But suppose you are a corporation, once you have the key elements of VAT set up in your registration with HMRC, now you can begin obtaining the various permits and licenses needed to operate your business. These rules really only apply if you are actually becoming a corporation rather than being a sole proprietor.
The rule of thumb is if your business is based at home or you are a sole proprietor, you do not need to deal with as much in the way of business licenses and permits. Brick-and-mortar stores have to go through a heavy amount of contracting before they can actually begin selling goods. But really the only concern an e-commerce store needs to have is with filling out tax returns at the end of the year.
Step 4: Build your e-commerce website
There are plenty of free website builders, for those who want to start without investing any money. These will involve watermarks and feature limitations but you will get a working website where people can see your visibility online and do things like contact you and your contact page or read about your mission on your about page. In many situations, however, e-commerce features are either severely restricted or not offered without upgrading to a paid plan.
Let’s say you’re ready to start your e-commerce business. You will now website functions in the same way as a physical storefront on the high street. This is how people interact with your brand and buy your services and/or goods. This means that your website is one of the most important aspects of your e-commerce business. Therefore, there are a few things to investigate.
Domain name: As mentioned earlier, your domain name says a lot of things. You generally want to match whatever it is that your business is or does — or your business name. The e-commerce platforms available let you customise the design of templates, make a website and launch your online store. There are backend features for managing the inventory, handling shipping, as well as taking and receiving payments. Many of these are available in the market, here are a few to consider:
Wix vs Wordpress
We reviewed Wix in the past. People severely underestimate how tedious it can be to start your own website. Unless you are technically minded and already have some experience in website creation, designing a competent site can take days or weeks of grinding away. Something like WordPress offers very powerful features but trying to do it yourself has a surprisingly steep learning curve even for simple templates.
Wix, however, is designed to make the process as easy as possible. Sure, you may not end up with the most incredibly professional-looking site. But it is suitable for small businesses and start-ups who are building their customer base for the first time. Alternatively, you can pay for a website designer to create a site for you in a fixed fee according to the e-commerce capabilities that you need. Your answer to this will depend on your circumstances and objectives.
One of the most popular e-commerce services out there. Get an all-in-one solution to creating an online store. Your Shopify storefront contains everything the user will need as well as add-ons for customising their experience and curating your storefront to suit your size of business. Some of the low-level plans can be as cheap as a fiver per month, although you will not get a full-featured online storefront.
In fact, this tool is highly integrated. If you have used WordPress before in the past, you may be familiar with this name. This allows you to start selling on any WordPress website. It’s an open-source plug-in that you can download for free which gives you a comprehensive range of e-commerce capabilities. It’s worth saying, however, that you are going to need more technical savviness in order to deal with this open-sourced aspect of this tool.
Typically thought of as a website builder, Squarespace also has the ability to turn its websites into online storefronts.
Featuring a bunch of modern templates, you can opt for the ones that are specific to e-commerce. Depending on the level of complexity you need, monthly fees varied — up to around 40 quid per month. Similar to Wix, this entry has garnered a reputation for being very user-friendly and a powerful tool for business owners who do not have particularly strong technical or programming skills — but who want to have an affordable online storefront.
Lastly, Magneto is available for technically gifted business owners who have no problem with programming and website creation.
Magneto gives you the advantage of being able to tailor in more detail your online storefront. The open-sourced version is highly malleable. This is therefore a range of situations including people who want very unique capabilities websites for their brand and customers. So, this entry isn’t usually recommended to beginners or those without programming know-how or team members on their roster who do.
Do not underestimate the level of intricacies and learning curves involved with creating a competent website. Programming and website design is a complex skill set. A lot of it is painstakingly focused on critical thinking and the ability to solve problems using fractal reasoning — for this reason, programmers are paid pretty well but they have to work hard for it.
As you can tell, the website creation stage is very important and a lot goes into it. So you need to have a clear understanding of your budget, desired outcomes and what experience you want your customers to have. For new brands without steady revenue and a good profit margin gross profit margin, you might be better off with a free or very budget solution.
Step 5: Organising the value offering
You should already have a clear sense of what value you are going to offer and how you want to offer it — including where you want to source any products or how you are going to deliver your services.
By this stage, now that you have a working website, you need to review all of the products you have in your inventory. You should have knowledge of how you’re going to get them distributed and shipped off to customers — for those wooden services, make sure you properly describe your offering. Consider hiring a copywriter. It helps to let your customers, your story in your About page.
For those who are selling products, things are a little bit more complicated. You need to manage your inventory and have a good grip on the shipping and start-up costs. Speed becomes an important factor but your story can count more; a woodcarver who was in high demand can give a waiting period of 2-3 months because his work is highly unique and this is part of the reason why his product is so sought after by a small number of customers.
Step 6: Marketing
Let’s do a final word on marketing.
Once upon a time, the Internet was new and people were easily tricked into purchasing things that have a lot of hype around them but were not particularly valuable. Today, people are sick of being shouted out and all of the noise. They no longer respond to simply seeing things repetitively and then in forced to buy it.
In 2016, it was really easy to make a lot of money using Facebook ads. You could just pump a lot of money into the ad and sell something really sketchy. But now conversions have reduced and traffic prices have gone up. Having a blog or social media to generate income isn’t what used to be. Using a sales funnel isn’t what used to be. People who were once successful or having to retreat — or have completely quit.
The current marketplace has many people who come in and out as quickly, crashing and burning. But there are only a few people who manage to thrive in periods when the prices for conversions and traffic saturation — these are people you should look to for advice on how to develop a product and continually evolve in a way that is truly valuable. Remember, the sun 🌞?
“It’s not the strongest species survive, is the one the most adaptable to change.”
More on that below in the Buying Guide, where we summarise the advice from marketing in today’s landscape.
How to Setup an eCommerce Business — Buying Guide
This section contains tips that I think are extremely powerful for anybody who truly wants to be effective in the marketplace today.
There is an incredible culling of businesses that are weak in their value offering and approach; so it pays to do due diligence. On the front end, this will involve a lot of blood sweat and tears — but on the back end, it will lead to you being a very adapted and prodigious business.
Tips for starting an e-commerce business
In the introduction to this guide, we mentioned Roxanne King of The Holistic Mama. I also mentioned Sam Ovens, who is a multimillionaire business consultant and creator of different software products for businesses. This section is an amalgamation of their advice on how to not only survive the culling of the week as the financial environment in Britain tightens and tightens, these tips may even help you to thrive.
Let’s begin with King, who was a popular healthy lifestyle blogger in 2011.
She was producing her own natural skin care products, made at home after going through a first pregnancy and becoming very concerned with problems from preservatives added to commercial skincare products. Over a multiple-year-long process, she began to explore using various cleansing products made by herself — and selling these informal markets as well as online. This was the start of her e-commerce business.
There are a few key takeaways to take from the story as I think it is incredibly important in understanding what the essence of business is:
- 🌼 Knowing your specific story, owning it and loving it — King was focused on her personal story… Her business was a natural development from having an actual problem and needing a solution. Her first thought wasn’t making money, her first thought was dealing with a real-world issue. The learning lesson here is to understand that even the very small and idiosyncratic skill sets and experiences that you gained can be valuable; the key is to appreciate that story and to put it to use.
- 🌼 Sharing your story with the world — it’s one thing to have a solution to a problem, it’s another to take the next bold step of showing the world. People often want to create products that have absolutely no connection to themselves personally. But this leads to a disassociated product that has no life of its own. Sharing your story as a solution is one of the truest types of brand messaging you can achieve. But it requires the courage to honestly share it.
She did not begin with a marketplace. She started with a simple blog about the store. Over the first few months, only a single product was sold. People could pay using PayPal.
Share your business across multiple streams including social media; sell your products in the same way
It’s extremely easy to stay stuck in the same patterns. King began as a blog writer. She credits this as being very important to help her open an online store two years later. Because she really had so many followers, customers were ready to jump on board as they trusted her.
*Doing this across various social channels can expand your reach further, such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Hints can be dropped about our common launches or reveal of products. And multichannel selling integrates other marketplaces that could otherwise be seen as competitors. Rather than just selling on your blog, you can integrate the likes of Amazon and use both.
*Read the section below called ‘The product wins.’
Marketing alone doesn’t work
It was once possible to sell a product if you knew how to do marketing. A landing page could sell a product — you didn’t need trust, a real product ready for sale, or actual value. This no longer works. Copywriting and marketing can’t be used to operate a successful business. Those who are willing are focusing instead on the actual product, supporting the customer and actually offering value… it’s important to know marketing, but it should not be will you know and value beats marketing.
The product wins (the market is more aware than ever)
“The marketplace can remain delusional for a short amount of time. Over that short amount of time, some people are able to make profits. But as soon as that time grim reaper becomes in, it corrects everyone that is not adding value.”
Quote from Ovens again… What this means is that the product is the only thing customers care about. Since 2016, competition has been intensely rising. It’s more important than ever to separate yourself from the crowd. You don’t differentiate using marketing, you differentiate using a superior product. Relentlessly focusing on making a great product will always serve you well. Rather than focusing on social media and being on multi-channels may seem great but in the long run you will lose. (The only exception is if you are able to offer an immense amount of value by using those social streams).
One very useful book for this is Deep Work by Cal Newport. This teaches how to relentlessly train your ability to focus so that you have the capacity to day after day fine-tune your products and service. Long-term, this will pay off.
“The people who provide the most value always win”
Don’t go to markets where you need to compete hard
Any market usually has a winner takes all scenario. They will take about 99% of all of the customers. Everybody else struggles for the remaining 1%. The way business works is that competition is for losers. You want to be somewhere with evident noise and you can differentiate yourself simply by standing out with the value that you offer.
As with King, this means focusing intensely on your own story and understanding with this and in the wider world in context. Rather than trying to be the mirror of somebody else was succeeding very heavily, figure out the true reflection of your value and story.
Look back to the quote above. Over time, those who are willing in the short-term will be course corrected unless they are truly providing the most amount value. So you really need to understand what makes you different from everybody else — if you are not able to answer this, then you are in big big trouble. How to be different? Actually be different. Don’t pretend to be.
Systematise if you want to scale
A business can’t scale whenever it relies too intensely on bespoke human services. The waiter’s goal is to have a single very good product that you systematise constantly. Rather than constantly coming up with new products, you constantly come up with new ways of systematising that single product that is generating good income.
If your product truly offers value, you can so that put that product out every day, every hour of the day year after year. This can be done with a single funnel. Every aspect of that sales funnel and product needs to be machined and systematised. You to break it down into all of its different components and figure out ways of making things automatic.
Aim to obtain data over the long term, being patient rather than constantly tweaking things expecting instant results. Focus on the value of your product and be logical with the information you are receiving. If you have multiple social profiles multiple products and multiple funnels across multiple websites, and doing different split tests, it’s next to impossible for you to understand what the hell was going on in your business.
✔️ As with King, start small, focus on value and slowly allow your systems to grow around their value like a sprout from a seed. To scale, things need to be very simple, evergreen and stable. Go for unchanging, reliable systems.
❌ Avoid events and lots of one-on-one situations like one-on-one coaching. Aim for things that are systemised and machined.
Develop yourself into a ‘full stack’ business owner
Becoming full stack is one of the hardest aspects.
In the old world of work, people were skilled at a single thing. They were very good at webinars, online ads or doing chatbots. These separate silos only know one aspect of the production chain. Trends and fads will save your business. The only thing that will win will be offering great products and services that are differentiated, with scientific thinking that efficiently creates error-free systems. Having a full stack mind means you know a little bit about everything. Rather than just knowing how to copywriting, doing ads, or run a business, you should learn all of it.
Understanding accounting, taxes, corporate structures, source funnels, do conversions and more. In order to be a successful business owner, you need to know a lot about a wide range of things. This allows them to operate in a wide range of circumstances. Avoid the pattern of focusing on one little thing and not take into account how it connects with everything else.
Part of this is being willing to go into new ventures and make new mistakes. Business really is one thing; you’re problem-solving every single day. The more critically you can problem solve, the more that your value will appear to the market 🌞.
- ☑️ Educate on everything. Learn about all of the different aspects of running a business, and all of the different components of the product or service you are in. Constantly educate yourself. No the numbers. Know the financials. Know how they connect together.
- ☑️ Develop your mindset. Increase your level of self-awareness, your focus-ability and your identity. Earlier, we mentioned King. This also includes your habits, belief systems and all of the different processes. All of these connect together.
You can have a team and delegate. But don’t rely on outsourcing everything to everybody else. Learn this stuff yourself! Know how the machine works 🤖.
eCommerce Setup FAQs 🏝️🌞
Here are questions you should be thinking about when setting up your e-commerce business. These are common questions you see related to this topic, but they are highly relevant and powerful.
How do I start an eCommerce business?
If you are selling coaching, make better coaching services. If you are selling anything, improve your skills. Focus 100% on adding value rather than flashy marketing. Once you do this, you will be much more likely to attract clients.
How can I stand out as an e-commerce business?
Do people like your product? Do people enjoy your product? Do people get a lot of value from your product — are they surprised by how much value they get? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then you are succeeding. Do not go for impressive marketing, go for an impressive product — both are good, but the product is the only one that is essential.
If your product is great, word-of-mouth will eventually make this clear to the world. This happens time and time again and is ironically the most valuable way of growing your business when the market has a lot of noise. Be in a class of your own. Be out there in the blue ocean.
Should I get famous to grow my e-commerce business?
No. Always focused on providing the most amount of value. If your product or service is the greatest on the market, then you will succeed over time. Even if you start by selling only a few products per month, liking, over time this week was created. Now, if being out of the limelight is an aspect of providing this excellent value, then there is obviously a good leeway there. Success and fame are not the same thing – people are now more aware than ever: simply appearing everywhere won’t make you famous… We even have a name for that today, clout chasers. These are forgotten as quickly as they are put into the limelight.
What is the best way to sell?
Offering value and focusing rather than diversifying. Have a single product that you know works really well. There’s no need to dilute this if it works that well. Having a central purpose to base all of your efforts around some of the most important principles of business. Coca-Cola sells drinks. Amazon sells stuff online. Know what one thing you do — do it really well and have 1-2 products with a single funnel each. This is one of the most powerful ways of concentrating your energies at a time when there is an immense amount of noise and distraction.
The real game in the modern world is knowing how many things you can ignore, so you can focus on the one or two most important things. Ignore diversification, enhance your level of focus.
What should I focus on for my e-commerce business?
There are many things that you can put energy into and there is not much of a causal reaction. But there are one or two things that when you touch them, explode in ROI. These are the things you need to focus single-mindedly on. Once again, the game is ignoring all of the rest.
What’s the best system for an e-commerce business?
If you want to scale, you to have a clear system for all of the different aspects and levels of your business. Your sales team should have a script, for instance — no different from the Wolf of Wall Street movie. You should have a system for tracking things. You need a production system. You should think like an engineer and critically think in a fractal way to boost efficiency rather than focusing on making more noise. Make your system reliable, efficient and stable.
Your company is an organism — it’s a body of connected parts working together in conjunction in an organised, coherent way. It’s no different from the cells in your body, or the way your hands and arms connect. The to have a very cultivated way of cooperating with each other — your employees, how you outsource, your working process, the sales funnel — every aspect brought together.
Critically think, avoid simply making noise. Know the cause of elements that create the biggest effects. Know what to push to move the needle on the best way. Find these things and then focus on them as your single point of focus. Ignore everything else. This enables businesses to grow rather than to become confused and flounder.
If you want to survive in an environment filled with a lot of noise, charisma is enough — people are demanding reality rather than perceptions. We are at a time when the market has evolved enough that people can discern between what is noise and what is simply persuasion.
Closing Thoughts — How Can My Business Survive the Depression and Recession? 📘
Inflation in Britain is climbing and isn’t getting better anytime soon. What can you do to survive this period of crunch? I’ve left this section as a potential answer…
First, make a decision on where you want to be in this game. Do you want to be the person struggling with a person thriving? Rather than focusing on marketing and flash, focus on adding value. You want to create a product that isn’t just good the best available — re-read that — avoid competing, make a product that is so differentiated there’s nobody like it.
Know what actually moves the needle. Some things are a signal, and other things in noise. You should do those things and nothing else. Ignore the rest. Rather than looking for those of different niches and streams, double down on a single one. A lot of this comes down to having a strong identity that allows you to focus on your purpose.
With our powerful story that you know is correct, you will be unable to pour all of your energy into it. So focus is essential. If you are looking for a mental, go for those who do a lot of the right things, ignore those who say a lot. Focus on what people and your customers are doing, rather than what they are saying.