Thinking about starting an e-commerce store this year? With a boom over the last five years in the industry, e-commerce is not only here to stay, it’s here to prosper. With thousands of online stores available and just about any product you can think of ready for purchase, it can be difficult to find your niche. Here is the ultimate guide to starting an online store this year so you can start building your e-commerce empire!
Do Your Research!
Before you even begin to think about logos or websites, you must perform a certain amount of research into your industry and your marketing niche. What is your product? Who does it appeal to? How much will you be selling in for/how does it compare to competitors? Why should people choose your product?
These are just a few of the questions you’ll be asking yourself during the research phase. Find out what you want to sell, how you want to sell it, and who you want to sell it to; and how you’re going to reach your intended audience. Don’t forget to research the legality of your store and/or products, and be aware of any permits, licenses, or other legal paperwork you may need to have in order to start your e-commerce store. Compliance is the best way to avoid issues down the road!
Create a Business Plan
Ok, so you’ve performed your research, now what? You need to create a business plan. If you’re looking to secure funding from a bank or any kind of investor, this is an absolute necessity. You can pretty much guarantee no one is going to fund your project if you don’t have a solid business plan behind it.
A business plan should include all of the research you’ve done, as well as what you plan to do should the business fall through, projected income numbers, as well as startup costs. Make sure your plan is as thorough as possible. This will take time; don’t rush it! Do it right the first time, and you’ll have much better luck securing those coveted startup funds to get the ball rolling.
Financial advisors can help you figure out the financial end of things when making your business plan; costs, potential profits, etc. If you’re in California, you can read this list of the best financial advisors in San Francisco for a better idea of who to contact.
Do NOT Forget the Legal Stuff!
This should go without saying, but as long as we’re talking startups, we might as well mention the legal end of things. Do not forget the legal stuff! That means all of the legal stuff. While there are certainly less stringent policies regarding e-commerce stores than if you were running a brick and mortar store, you still must remain compliant with state, federal, and, of course, IRS regulations. What’s a quick way to sink your business in the middle of your success? Forget to pay your taxes.
Create a Business Name
You’ll want a registered name for your business on file with the state and/or federal government. This also helps with brand recognition and sets you apart from the competition.
Register Your Business
Register your business with the state, obtain your EIN (employer identification number), and be sure to check if you need to register with the state for state sales tax.
Acquire Necessary Permits
You probably won’t need a lot of permits, if any, to run your e-commerce store; but if you’re producing and selling something, you’ll likely need a place to run production. Production facilities are subject to laws and regulations specific to state, local, and federal requirements, so be sure to research and acquire any permits you may need.
Create a Logo, Website, and Social Media Pages
Now that you’ve got your research, your permits, your registered name, and you’re ready to go, you need a website and a logo. Logos are essential to successful brands, as they are the first thing a customer will notice. Hire a designer to create a stunning logo for your new business, and be sure to hire a web designer for your website.
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While sites like Weebly and Wix are great for personal blogs and the like, an e-commerce site will likely require a level of customization that’s simply not possible to achieve via drag and drop DIY site builders. Make the investment into your site; hire a designer. A poorly functioning and aesthetically dead website is not going to perform well, no matter how great your products are.
The Right POS System
You’ll want to give your customers the ability to purchase your items with a variety of payment methods. This means choosing the right POS system for the site; one that can handle online transactions with ease and security. Finding the best POS system for your e-commerce store is easy once you know what you’re looking for.
Be sure to do a thorough price and feature comparison on your prospective POS systems. If one system has extra features you don’t need, you might want to choose a more simplistic system, since you won’t even need it outside of web-based transactions.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line of starting an e-commerce store is to do your research. This will probably involve some late nights and early mornings, but the more research you perform and information you gather, the more likely you’ll be to secure funding and see success with your products. If you’re serious about making your e-commerce store successful, remember that it will likely be a full-time job. Best of luck with your online business!
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