We are in quite possibly THE best time to start an Ecommerce Business right now!
With the very unfortunate pandemic of the last couple of years, the online business world moved a lot faster than futurists predicted and online sales are growing at a tremendous rate year on year.
Of course, why not? People are at home a lot more and are therefore far more likely to engage in shopping online.
This is unlikely to change anytime soon. I’m sure it will level off a bit, but the trend moving forward is for a lot more businesses to encourage remote working giving you the time and opportunity to start your own ecommerce business and work from anywhere in the world!.
The question is, how to start an ecommerce business and take advantage of the opportunity?
In this post, I’m going to walk you through how to start an ecommerce business and make money, step by step.
This is a long post, so before we get into the step by step details of how to start an ecommerce business in 2023, here’s a quick summary of the key steps to take;
How to Start an Ecommerce Business From Scratch – TL;DR
1. Choose your ecommerce business model – are you going to start with print on demand, perhaps you like the sound of dropshipping, maybe retail arbitrage is your jam, private label or even making your own products. Decide which ecommerce business model resonates with you.
2. Choose your ecommerce business platform – with the explosion of micro ecommerce stores in the last few years, there are many ecommerce business platforms to choose from. The one I highlight & recommend in this post is Shopify, however, do your own due diligence and find an ecommerce business platform that works for you.
3. Choose your ecommerce business niche – there are many examples of successful ecommerce stores who attempted to replicate Amazon’s broad offerings, however, when your biggest competitor is Amazon, it’s a better idea to pick a niche and become a specialist in one area. Go through my detailed section on how to choose your ecommerce business niche and you’ll find it easier to choose which products you want to sell online.
4. Find profitable products to sell online – in order to start and grow a profitable online store, product research is essential. Your product selection choice will be dependent on the ecommerce business model you choose, however you’ll need to determine demand, cost, availability and profitability.
5. Create your ecommerce business brand – once you’re clear on your model and the kinds of products you’ll be selling, you’ll need to create your ecommerce business brand. This is essential these days. Building a unique brand starts with a memorable logo design and includes your company website, brand colors, fonts, voice, and overall visual identity. Your brand needs to stand out from the sea of ecommerce businesses online. Don’t let this hold you up from getting started with your own online store, but get your creative juices flowing and try to create a business name & brand that will resonate with your ideal audience.
6. Build your ecommerce business online store – if you’re focused and you have your products selected, your business name and logos ready to go and you’re clear about what you want your own ecommerce store to look like, you could realistically start an ecommerce business within a day. Unlike a brick and mortar store, you won’t need to stock inventory or paint the walls! Add your images, products and payment details and you’re live!
7. Promote your ecommerce store – now the hard work really begins! You need to let the world know your ecommerce store exists! That’s why I love Shopify. It connects with Facebook & Instagram, meaning visitors can shop online on both those platforms. Plus I suggest looking into search engine optimization (SEO) and writing content to be found on the search engines. Also, a great way to start an ecommerce business is to network with influencers in your niche and get in front of their audiences.
8. Scale your ecommerce store – once you’re up and running and can see some data coming in, you can start to improve your online store by increasing conversion rates, adding upsells, email funnels, sales funnels, launching new product lines and gradually building your audience over time.
So that’s the long and short of how to start an ecommerce business from scratch. I go into each step in much more detail below, so I recommend you bookmark this post and re-read as you launch your own ecommerce business.
Alternatively to access this guide as a downloadable PDF and receive a FREE Ecommerce Business Builder Checklist to help you go through the process step by step, sign up here.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, from which, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products and services I’ve personally used and believe can add value to your business. If you choose to purchase from any of my links, thanks so much for your support! 😊
How to Start an Ecommerce Business in 2023 (Long Version)
What is an Ecommerce Business?
Ecommerce can literally be used to describe any kind of online business transaction.
E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-commerce
So technically every single post I write on this blog about starting a lifestyle business could be lumped under the ‘ecommerce business banner, but for the sake of this article, I am specifically talking about the sale of physical products.
Even more specifically, the selling of physical products on your own online store as opposed to Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.
Is an Ecommerce Business For You?
Of course, I can’t answer this for you, but I can talk a little about the pros and cons and the type of personality required to start an ecommerce business.
The awesome benefits of starting and running an ecommerce business are the same for all the online lifestyle business models;
- You get to create something from your passions if that’s what turns you on.
- You get to work from anywhere in the world (my entire brand motto)
- You get to sell to a global marketplace (although be careful with this one because of shipping costs – I cover that in the shipping module) – but literally from day one you are an ‘international’ brand.
- You can get started without even seeing what you’re selling (although I don’t advise it). But! You don’t have to have any inventory to hand, you don’t have to store anything and you don’t even have to be responsible for shipping et al!
- You can also get started with relatively low upfront investment. You will need a few quid to get your platform set up, get some designs done for your site etc, but you don’t need to lay out $$$ upfront to buy stock (the downside of Amazon)
- Depending on the ‘type’ of entrepreneur you are (as discussed below), potentially you could have multiple online stores in differing niches all earning you a pretty penny.
If you’ve just called your entire family into the room to read out how exciting this venture is and ‘someone pop the champers, this time next year we’ll be millionaires’, just hold your horses! (Brits will get that, everyone else google it). 😉
There is some downside.
To start an ecommerce business is hard work. Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say and neither will your online store be. (Well technically that’s not true, you could actually have an online store up and running in a day). But….
Once your ecommerce store is live then the hard work really starts.
There are a lot of ecommerce businesses out there including of course the big hairy monster Amazon, all vying for the attention of your potential audience.
So standing out in a crowded marketplace is going to be tough.
Don’t for one minute think that just because your ecommerce store looks great, your product is unique and valuable and you know your target market that you can sit back and watch the dollars roll in.
The people who have the most successful ecommerce businesses work for it.
However, your personality is a huge driver in how you go about building your ecommerce business.
What type of ecommerce entrepreneur are you?
Broadly speaking there are really two main types of ecommerce business builders;
Type 1 is the ‘content driven, invested in the brand’ entrepreneur.
This person loves their brand, wants to be able to offer top quality products. Lives and breathes their message and is impassioned by the idea that they can spend their days talking about their brand, showcasing their products, adding value, solving problems, and growing something with meaning for them and their audience and customers.
This, my friend, is me. This blog you’re reading, my articles, videos, podcasts, the FB Community, are all born out of my passion for freedom, for travel and for building lifestyle businesses that give us that choice.
Some other awesome examples of this kind of entrepreneur include;
Rachel Hollis is an author, a speaker, an entrepreneur, a Mum, a TV Host, a cook, a podcast host, you name it and has an ecommerce business selling journals & planners on her site. Just your basic all-around average superwoman! You can find out more about her through her Instagram profile – https://www.instagram.com/msrachelhollis/
Jenna Kutcher is a photographer, entrepreneur, podcast host, influencer and a huge advocate for female empowerment and also has an online store selling physical & digital products. You can find out more about her also on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/goaldiggerpodcast/
Ladyboss aka, Kaelin Tuell Poulin is an author, entrepreneur, weight loss specialist, coach, and speaker amongst her many talents. She has a huge ecommerce business selling merchandise, supplements and health packs. You can find her here – https://www.instagram.com/ladyboss/
Boom by Cindy Joseph
Very sadly Cindy Joseph herself passed away in 2018, but the brand which is owned and managed by probably the best in the ecommerce business world Ezra Firestone is an 8 figure brand.
This is a long term, brand building strategy that will not happen overnight. It’s going to take some time to grow your audience and your brand unless you’re adding an online store to an already well-known brand and if that’s the case you’re on a winner my friend!
Type 2 is the ‘data driven’ ecommerce entrepreneur.
This person is all about the numbers. They wake in the morning just to flick open the FB Ads Manager page to see which ads are winners or losers. What they don’t know about ad objectives, conversions vs page post engagement, lookalike audiences, custom audiences, video watch times and CPC’s isn’t worth knowing.
I’m using FB Ads as the example here, but I could just as easily be talking about Google PPC, Amazon Ads, YT Ads.
They are less concerned with the niche they’re in, or their brand. In fact, they probably picked their products to sell online simply based on what people are shopping online for right now.
This, my friend, is certainly not me and is, in fact, more like my husband. He couldn’t care less about content marketing or being the face of a brand etc. Are the dollars rolling in? That’s his only thought each and every day. That’s why he’s quite good at Amazon and it bores me to tears. (A match made in heaven you might say.)
You may have noticed that many of the groups and forums dedicated to how to start an ecommerce business online are more for data-driven entrepreneurs. They have enthralling conversations spouting numbers and acronyms which are well above my non-linear mind!
This route is typically the ‘faster’ route to growing your ecommerce business as you’re buying attention and getting your products straight out in front of your potential audience, however, the ‘content-driven’ route will likely stand the test of time far more robustly.
The obvious choice to start an ecommerce business would be to utilise both methods, and for this particular guide we will be focusing on the ‘brand-driven’ model first, followed by paid advertising and some more ‘data-driven’ methods.
If this is currently all like reading Chinese to you, then unless you are indeed Chinese, fear not, I will clarify all of this through the post ahead and by the end, you’ll be totally fluent!
I honestly believe starting an ecommerce store is for anyone who has a desire to sell an actual tangible item and who is willing to undergo a steep learning curve (and steep it is) and work their buns off.
The Different Ecommerce Business Models
Print on Demand
In 2019, I had a radical idea to start an ecommerce business using a print on demand company. I was intrigued with the model, believed I’d come up with a top idea for a brand and thought I’d give it a go!
It was a great learning experience and one I’ll be putting to use when I launch my new YLB e commerce business in 2023 here on this site.
It wasn’t wholly successful, however, and I wrote about my ecommerce business journey here (please note some gems of wisdom learned through mistakes in this post, which is sometimes the best way to learn!)
- How to discover your niche and validate your product idea
- How to choose the right Print-on-Demand fulfillment app for your business
- How to build your Shopify store from scratch
- How to generate traffic and sales with Facebook marketing and email marketing
Print-on-Demand is one of the fastest growing business models for ecommerce entrepreneurs.
With Print-on-Demand, you have the opportunity to print your own brand and designs on products like t-shirts, phone cases, pillows, hats and even shower curtains. You don’t have to hold any inventory, you simply need to focus on marketing and design, and choose a fulfillment company that will send your customer their product when you receive an order.
In this FREE course you’re learn from serial ecommerce entrepreneur Adrian Morrison, who will teach you the step-by-step process to create your print on demand store from start to scale (the level of success is up to you).
But just in case you don’t read that, (although I recommend you do), Print on Demand is basically what it says on the tin.
Rather than selling bulk items, you’re selling an item that is then printed on demand. So if someone purchases just one of your items, just one product is printed and sold.
Over the years, due to the rise of ecommerce businesses wanting to take advantage of this aweome online business model, various companies have sprung up that offer a range of products including t-shirts, mugs, socks, shoes, iPhone cases, wall art and all sorts.
All of these products are left completely blank for you to add your own design.
Case in point;
They all have a cool backend allowing you to select the product, add your design and then add the designed product to your online store so it looks like a ready-made product.
Here’s a great example of how to create a product using Printify;
Then when someone buys it, the order goes to the print on demand company who print your design on the selected item and send it out!
Print on demand is a great way to start an ecommerce business, but the downside is the cost price of the items from these platforms is high. So you need to add a pretty big markup to see any profit and you could end up pricing yourself out of the market.
We’ll discuss that later in the post but other than that I would say it’s the fastest way to start an ecommerce business quickly with minimal setup.
Here’s a breakdown of the best 16 print on demand companies for you to choose the one that suits your needs best.
But Print on Demand is only one of several ways you can start an ecommerce business. Here are some of the other most popular models;
Dropshipping is also a fairly quick and easy way to start an ecommerce business depending on where you source products and yields potentially higher profit margins.
With a dropshipping ecommerce business, you source products that other people manufacture. You promote those products on your site and when the customer buys, you then order the product on behalf of the buyer and the product gets shipped directly from the manufacturer to the customer, meaning that once again you don’t have to invest in upfront inventory.
This is a great ecommerce business model, but the bulk of your success will be based on the quality of the product, so you need to be spending some time sourcing quality products.
The great thing about this model is that sites like Shopify work with apps like Oberlo to make it super easy to set this all up.
But it too has its downsides and it’s not as easy to start an ecommerce business dropshipping as many of the articles and ‘gurus’ selling dropshipping courses would have you believe.
I’ll delve deeper into the print on demand and dropshipping ecommerce business models as we move through the post so you’re clear about the ups and the downs.
So the word arbitrage means;
‘Arbitrage in online selling means sourcing products online with the specific aim of exploiting a price mismatch between two marketplaces, so you can resell them at a profit.’ SRC – https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en/news/online-seller/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-online-arbitrage
In the ecommerce business world, this is basically translated as heading out to a car boot or garage sale, buying stuff cheaply and then listing and selling for a higher price typically on eBay / Amazon.
By all accounts retail arbitrage is a pretty risk free way to start an ecommerce business.
I personally haven’t done this myself, but there is an excellent site called Your Selling Guide. Nikki Kirk specializes in this strategy and has some great stories so go check her out if you fancy this model.
This is the most popular way to start an ecommerce business model on Amazon FBA. (And how we’ve supported our lifestyle over the last few years).
You create your own brand. You find a product that’s already selling well on Amazon, then head to a site like Alibaba to find someone who supplies that product. You then negotiate a minimum order and add your own branding to the product and/or packaging. Usually upward of a few thousand units.
You ship your order to wherever you’re going to be storing your stock (if selling on Amazon to their warehouses) and away you go.
The upside to this is it can be very profitable. The downside is you need some money to invest in stock to get started & the risk levels are higher.
As I said above, we ran our own 7 figure brand on Amazon for a few years, before selling in early 2020. You can read my Amazon FBA Guide here.
Designing & manufacturing your own products.
If you’re a crafter and make all your own homemade products, a great way to start an ecommerce business selling your own stuff is on Etsy.
I just so happen to have published an article on How to Make Money on Etsy. If this resonates with you give it a read.
The Different Ecommerce Business Platforms
Let’s start with the behemoth in the ecommerce business industry – Shopify.
Shopify is for ecommerce what WordPress is for blogging.
It’s a complete bespoke website specifically for ecommerce businesses, with most of your bells and whistles built-in, like product pages, cart page, checkout page, shipping settings, payment settings etc. It even has pre-written emails for product sales, abandoned carts, shipping etc.
It connects to social media, and integrates with a gazillion cool apps connecting you to email platforms, upsell software, FB ads etc.
Like WordPress, clever techie people have come along and built awesome themes and apps that enhance its features and functionality but to be honest you can get started building your ecommerce business with just the basic features.
Here is a blueprint to launching an ecommerce store on Shopify, by Shopify.
Shopify in my opinion is the fastest route to start an ecommerce business if you want to set up your own online store.
But Shopify is not the only ecommerce business guy in town.
You have options!
Other ecommerce platform solutions include;
Moving forward I’ll be walking you through how to set up and launch your ecommerce business on Shopify because it’s the one I use and in an already steep learning curve it’s the fastest, the easiest and the most user-friendly option in my opinion!
So are you ready my awesome action taker?
OK then lets get started! 😎
Choosing Your Ecommerce Business Niche
Let’s begin by exploring what kind of ecommerce business you’d actually like to start.
You know you want an online business selling physical products but do you know what niche you want to be in, who you want to serve, what you want to sell and how you want to sell it?
If your answer to that question was a resounding YES! Then move on my friend this section is not for you.
But if you’ve got as far as, ‘I want my own online store’, then this will be extremely helpful to you.
Let’s start with you.
What ecommerce business niche do you want to be in? What kind of products would you love to sell?
You may have thought the headline to this post has got it back to front. Sell stuff you love? Surely you need to sell stuff other people love right?
Yes of course, but the chances are if you’re selling something you love, other people will love it too. And the more you love it, the easier it is to sell it!
What do you enjoy doing?
What do you enjoy talking about?
What are your hobbies?
How do you help others?
What can you do all day without even thinking about it?
Write down some ideas that come to mind from the above questions.
Some examples might include;
I love making soap,
I love makeup tutorials,
I love my pets,
I spend all day discussing the future of AI & technology,
I enjoy jigsaw puzzles,
I’m a voracious reader and love discussing books,
I’m a keen gardener and enjoy helping my neighbours with their gardens.
I love baking.
I tinker with my car engine all day or take apart and put back together all the electronics in the house,
I love to make model boats and cars.
I love to play games with friends and family & regularly host games nights.
Once you have your list of ideas, ask yourself is there a potential ecommerce business opportunity here?
For example from the suggestions above opportunities might include;
Selling soap or soap making kits
Selling makeup or skincare products
Selling pet products
Selling technological gadgets
Selling jigsaw puzzles
Writing book reviews and affiliating for Amazon
Selling gardening kits & tools
Selling cooking accessories
Selling electronics, gadgets or tools
Selling model boat & car kits
Selling board games
Here are some great ecommerce business examples;
A Jigsaw Store
The world is your oyster right!?
When I decided to start an ecommerce business and built legendsnotladies.com last year, it all came about because of an Instagram photo I saw.
Sara Blakely was wearing a hat bearing the Stevie Nicks quote ‘Be a Legend Not a Lady’.
It caught my eye and I just loved it as a brand idea.
I decided to start an ecommerce business selling t-shirts, mugs, bags & journals with cool designs and quotes (print on demand), and as I grew I could have also moved into the world of jewelry with empowering quotes, custom made inspiring journals, key-rings, posters, jewelry boxes, trinket dishes, etc, (dropshipping and eventually private labeling).
Critical Questions to ask yourself
The opportunities are endless, however, just deciding on the products you’d love to sell is only part of the story.
Is it profitable?
Is there a need?
Will people buy it?
How much will it cost to ship?
These are all questions we’ll explore as we go through this process.
However, when considering your options it might be worth running through the 17 criteria as identified by Richard Lazazzera at A Better Lemonade Stand, my go to blog for all things ecom.
He says when picking the perfect product you need to be thinking about;
1. Potential Market Size
I’ve always been a huge advocate of picking as narrow a niche as possible when building a brand and an audience, but I’ve now been told by a couple of ecommerce business experts. Too narrow and your market size is too small.
As Richard says;
Never be afraid of competition, if other people are doing to it shows there is a market. However, the bigger the competition the more you will need to work on your USP.
3. A Trend, Fad or Growing Market
It’s always an attractive proposition to go after a trending product. As I write this I could do well with medical face masks due to the Covid19 pandemic, however, once the virus dissipates so will the market (possibly).
Richard recommends Google Trends as a good starting point to see how popular a product has been over time and a great way to determine the popularity of a product is by typing in your main search term for example ‘face masks’, selecting the criteria ‘shopping’ and if the term has been above 50 for at least 50% of the time in the last 90 days and is still above 50 today it’s a potential winner (dependant on a lot of other criteria also).
Potential being the operative word. Remember this is just a starting point to list products you might want to explore further.
Looks like T-shirts could be a long term winner!
Face Masks? Who knows! 😷🤔
Richard goes on to list another 14 criteria including target market, durability, size & weight etc, and gives excellent examples of sites that either meet or don’t meet the criteria, but don’t get yourself too overwhelmed at this stage.
We’re just gathering some ideas.
If you find yourself getting a bit stuck for ideas, just head over to the big gun itself – Amazon.
See what’s selling. What are people buying?
In fact if you go to Amazon bestsellers, you can see the most popular products sold on Amazon today by niche!
Spend some time here exploring your ideas, and be sure to choose a niche you could put your heart and soul into. Building an ecommerce business is no easy task and so you need to be committed from the outset.
Armed with your ideal niche and a list of potential products now would also be a great time to define your ideal target market if you haven’t already.
Here is an example customer avatar sheet I use when thinking about my ideal audience.
If you’re still unsure about your niche, passions, interests, or target market, my post – How to Build a Life Changing Online Lifestyle Business, guides you through finding your purpose, your life & business goals, your ideal niche and your ideal customer.
Finding Profitable Products
Deciding on your product has a lot to do with the ecommerce business model you choose.
If you decide to start an ecommerce business with Print on Demand, the products you choose will be whatever is available on the site you choose.
If, instead you choose to start an ecommerce business dropshipping, your options are seemingly endless, but also limited to supplier availability, price, and most products early on will be non-customisable, so you’ll also be looking at quality, design, brand, etc.
If you decide to private label or manufacture, that’s a whole other ball game and I urge you to read my Amazon FBA post to find out more.
Let’s explore how you would start an ecommerce business in each area and hone in on exactly what you’re going to sell;
Print on Demand
1. Start by making a list of all the print on demand companies you like the look of.
I’ll help you out with that;
Teelaunch – who I used for Legends not Ladies – products good quality, prices on the cheaper side for POD, delivery a bit slow (but it was coming up to Christmas), but not the best selection of products and the customisation app is super laborious.
Printful – Apparently one of the best in the ecommerce business, print on demand game. I haven’t tried them yet, but they are a serious contender for my new YLB online store, with a much larger product selection than Teelaunch.
Printify – Again a serious contender, these guys use a selection of printers you can choose from. They’re all much of a muchness for me, so it really comes down to product selection, price and ease of customisation.
SPOD – I don’t know much about these guys but it looks like their shipping might be superfast which from a customer service standpoint would give your e commerce business a serious edge. May be worth a serious look at!
Some others I don’t know much about but might be worth a look!
Lulu Xpress – Print on demand for books!
JetPrint – Print on demand for watches!
My question is what won’t there be print on demand for soon???
In fact, my 16 year old teenage daughter has decided she wants to start an ecommerce business selling makeup and I found this site that does print on demand for make up!
What a fabulous online business idea!
2. Go through and look at the range of products – who sells what you want?
Don’t go product crazy as I did with Legends, but start to make a list of the type of products you’d love to offer in your online store and which POD site offers them all.
For example, let’s say you really want to start an ecommerce business selling, women’s tank tops, leggings, socks and caps.
If you go to Teelaunch, you’ll be out of luck as they do neither leggings, socks or caps.
So the first thing is to check if one app has everything you want to sell online. You can add more than one app and mix and match products, but that does mean a more complex shipping arrangement as one customer may place an order on products across a range of POD companies and each item will need to be shipped separately.
It’s doable but more complicated, which you don’t really want when getting started. (Let’s add complications a bit later down the line if we have too!)
So start with just one POD company and select your ideal product list from there.
3. Now, with products in mind and print on demand apps selected, create yourself a little spreadsheet – here’s one I did earlier!
On the left write down the top 3 products you would like to sell online under each print on demand company and along the top, the cost price, shipping, proposed retail price etc, so you can get an idea of which company is going to be the most profitable for your ecommerce business.
Your sale price is dependent on you and your brand, but a good starting place to see what similar items sell for is of course Amazon. In an ideal world you don’t really want to be selling for much more than what’s on Amazon, but to make a profit with a print on demand ecommerce business the likelihood is you’ll have to.
Of course depending on how you position your brand you may end up charging a lot more than Amazon, wouldn’t that be grand!
By the end of this exercise you should have a winning product and be on your way to building a profitable online store.
Now would be a great time to order a product from each of your potential POD platforms to check shipping times, quality etc. Nothing like experiencing it first hand.
Once you have your winner, you’re up and away!
When you set up your ecommerce store, you’ll add the relevant app to the backend of your online store and create your products from there. Happy Days!
The easiest place to start looking for products to dropship is aliexpress.com.
However you don’t just have to look to China any longer. There are companies popping up all over the world geared to service the new demand in people building their own ecommerce businesses.
Here’s a great list of apps that connect with Shopify making your life whole lot easier when you create your own online store;
Just spend a couple of hours having a look through, seeing what’s on offer in your niche and which products you’d love to sell online.
Also you could use this fabulous little Product Validation Spreadsheet created by Tim Kock for the folks over at Oberlo, to grade your product based on demand.
I know it looks a little complicated but he explains how to do it in his blog post where you can also download the spreadsheet.
This could be a bit of a job so be prepared to spend some time finding the right products and don’t be afraid to let some products go if they don’t meet the criteria, no matter how excited you get about them.
Once you have selected your potential winners, see if you can order one for yourself.
Check out the quality, how they’re shipped, packaged, the shipping time etc. Also why not send a couple to friends or family to get their opinion also? It’s always good to get some objective feedback before you get too emotionally invested!
Your own products
Clearly if you’re going to start an ecommerce business making or sourcing your own products locally then you are super clear on what products you want to sell online.
However it would still be worth checking demand for similar types of products, looking at where they’re selling, how much they’re selling for etc.
You want to see where your products fit into the ecommerce marketplace and how you’re going to compete.
Calculating the Profitability of Your Products
Once you have checked out your products demand and decided if it’s a good fit for your target market, meets a need, there’s a solid market size etc., it would be a good idea to do a very simple profit & loss exercise just to be sure there is room for profit.
Quite simply, take your proposed selling price, minus any costs associated with getting the product into the hands of your customer and what’s left is your potential profit before tax.
So for example, let’s say you’re going to sell a great quality t-shirt at $29.99. Your P & L calc might look something like;
Selling price – $29.99
Product Cost – $10.49
Shipping – $5.00
Payment Fees – Shopify / Paypal – 2.9% + $0.30 – $1.17
Advertising per unit (approx) – $5.00
Overheads – staff / time etc – $5.00
Costs = $26.66
Profit = $3.33
This is fairly typical for a print on demand product, (but don’t despair my print on demand friend, this is why in the marketing section we encourage multiple sales and upsells! This is what increases your profit significantly). For dropshipping and your own products, the potential for higher profits is far greater, but this is offset by the amount of work involved.
It’s always tit for tat right!
The greater the elbow grease, the higher the reward!
Things to consider when deciding what to sell online
1. Are you providing what your customer wants & needs. Who is your customer? What does a typical day in the life look like and how can you enhance it with your products?
2. Explore your competition. Browse through Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and other ecommerce businesses to see who is selling something similar. What’s their messaging? How are they presenting the product? How can you be different / unique?
3. Beware of trends. By definition, that means something that’s hot right now, but may not be in a few months time. Here’s a great quote from Jeff Bezos of Amazon;
“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build an online business strategy around the things that are stable in time. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”
What’s not going to change in your niche for the next 10 years?
4.Set some criteria for yourself. Questions to consider would be;
- Does this product meet a need my customer has?
- Does this product provide novelty value or inject fun into their day?
- Does this product have a high perceived value?
- Does it meet my quality requirements, will my customer be happy with the quality of the item?
- Does this product represent my brand?
- Is there a good size market for this product?
- Is it light and easy / cheap to ship?
- Can I markup the product by 5 – 10x it’s cost price?
- Is it unique?
- Would I be excited to promote it?
By end of this exercise, you should have a clear idea of how you want to start an ecommerce business and a list of 1 – 5 products you’re feeling pretty confident about.
Creating Your Ecommerce Business Brand & Business Name
Naming Your Online Store
So by now you know;
- Your ecommerce business model and platform
- The niche you’re serving and who your ideal customer is.
- The kind of products you want to sell online
- The potential profits you could make
You should be in a great position to come up with a fab name for your online store!
According to Shopify, your name should be;
Short, Simple, Creative & Unique.
Well thanks for that Shopify! 😉
(Seriously though the article has some great tips on finding a name & some good examples of great names.)
I encourage you not to overthink this.
Yes, it’s important, but a name can be changed. A domain can be changed. Not ideal but doable. Don’t spend weeks and weeks coming up with the perfect online business name. We need to get going!
Simply thrash out a few ideas and go with the best one to get you started building your ecommerce business.
Here are some fab tools to get you started;
(I just used the word candles as an example)
https://namelix.com/ This one is great if you want to create a unique business name! It gives you logos also!
(Same keyword used – candles)
Not enough? Here’s another 23 Free Business Name Generators!
Once you’ve come up with a winner, you need to check to see if you can get the domain.
I personally use Bluehost, having used 123reg.co.uk for years previously.
There are a multitude of domain name companies out there to choose from and they’re all much of a muchness.
If you decide to use Shopify as your ecommerce platform of choice you can of course connect an existing domain if you have purchased your domain from a domain provider such as Bluehost.
However, you do also have the option of buying your domain directly with Shopify when you set your online store up.
Pros of buying directly with Shopify are, you don’t have to mess about connecting a separate domain which isn’t a huge deal, but is a bit of a techie pain and you may need some assistance (or at least I did, but that’s not saying much!!!) 😂
The cons are; although you get to keep the domain even if you close your ecommerce store down, you don’t get email or anything like that (although they do offer email forwarding). It is literally a domain.
So it is your choice.
Personally I’d buy my domain from the registrar and then connect to Shopify, but you do what feels right to you.
Here’s how to secure a domain with Shopify – Shopify Domains
I’ll go into how to connect an existing domain when we set your online store up.
Creating Your Ecommerce Business Brand Images
To be able to create your ecommerce store and hit the ground running you will need;
- A logo
- A nice header style banner imag for the site,
- Designs for your print on demand products if that’s the route you’re going down
- Social Media headers, profile pics etc
Creating the Images Yourself
No-one really cares about your logo except you.
Clearly, it’s representative of your brand and ecommerce business overall, so at the very least needs to look clear and professional, but don’t do what I did and spend hundreds of dollars getting a fine-looking logo which you’ll probably change at some point in the future anyway.
Personally I would head straight to Canva.com for creating my ecommerce business logo.
They actually have an entire section dedicated to logo creation and you can quickly and easily add the name of your ecommerce business, change the colors, move things around a bit and voila! One clean & professional looking logo. No cost.
However, if like me you are ridiculously aesthetically challenged, here are some options for having someone else do it for you!
Option 1 – Who do you know who is not aesthetically challenged? Can a family member or a friend hop on to Canva and do it for you for the price of a beer or a lunch?
Option 2 – Fiverr.com – Just type ‘logo design’ into their search bar and hundreds of options will pop up starting at a fiver!
Option 3 – 99designs – This was the option I chose, not recommended at this stage. It’s a great service, but super expensive for an online store not even making any money yet. (Logo designs starts at $299) Save this for logo upgrade!
Option 4 – Upwork.com – I use this site all the time. Almost all of the team I have working with me come originally from Upwork! Simply post your requirements, people bid for the work and you choose the best person for your job.
Option 5 – Free Logo Design – Simply type in the name of your brand, pick a category and choose from one of the many designs offered to customize further or download as is. NB: You can download a 200 x 200px logo completely free or you can purchase larger higher res files.
Using Image Sites
For the banners, headers, and background images on your online store, you can utilize the fabulous images created by others and hosted on image sites.
The best image site out there in my opinion is ‘Unsplash’.
I love them because they have images for everything and allow you to use the images copyright free for all uses including commercial.
If you can’t find the image you’re looking for, there are plenty more image sites on the web.
Once you have an image you can use Canva to crop it, filter it, add text etc and generally make it your own.
Superfast, super easy.
I love technology!!!
But before you go rushing off to create all your fabulous designs, you may want some tips on the kind of designs that work for print on demand.
And as if by magic, I found this fab video from the team at Printful, which I highly recommend you watch;
7 Print on Demand Design Mistakes Beginners Make
But what if you’re stuck for ideas?
You know your niche and your target market but you’re just not sure what designs you should be adding to all your lovely products.
Look for inspiration online. It’s all around you on Redbubble, Zazzle, Etsy, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. Look to see which products seem to be the most popular.
My Image Examples
To give you an idea of what you need I thought I’d load up here all the pics I created ahead of time when preparing for the roll-out of my ecommerce store;
2. Banner Images for Ecommerce Store
3. Product Images
4. Banner Images & Profile Pics for Social Media
(I just used the banner images I created for the site to get them live, but it would be a good idea to create custom social media headers at some point.)
5. Mock ups of products being worn / used created on placeit.net
If you’re unsure about banner sizes etc at this stage, don’t worry too much, they’ll generally be a ratio of around 0.56 – 0.60 give or take for headers and square for other images on the site.
(For example, roughly 1000 pixels by 560 pixels or 1000 x 600 or 1000 x 1000px)
But you can crop and make perfect when you set your ecommerce store up.
Take a breathe my friend. You are rocking and rolling.
Now onto the real fun, let’s go build your ecommerce business shopfront!
Building Your Ecommerce Business Online Store
So for the purposes of this article, as I’ve said I’m using Shopify as our online store platform of choice, simply because it is completely made for the job and makes my life so much easier!
As I’ve already said, what WordPress is for blogging, Shopify is even more so for ecommerce businesses.
When you sign up you’ll get a 90 day trial for $1 and then the plan I recommend for a full ecommerce store is $29 / month.
They do have a lite plan for $9 / month, but that literally gives you a buy button to add to your website.
How to Setup Your Shopify Ecommerce Store
Firstly here is a step by step introduction to Shopify from Shopify themselves. This is a great guide to have to hand so if you have any questions you can pop in here and the chances are you’ll find the answers you’re looking for!
However, the best over the shoulder video I found showing you exactly how to set up your online store and even get started customising your theme is by the very generous Chris Winters, who clearly and succinctly walks you through the most important elements of your Shopify ecommerce store.
He advises at the start for you to follow along with your own online store, so if you’re ready to start building head over to the Shopify Sign Up page and click ‘play’ on the video below!
Some things to note;
When you pick your theme for your ecommerce business, the customisation settings will be different for each theme. The best thing to do is to get in the back end and start playing with your theme. Every single one has been created in such a way that you don’t need to be a coder or a programmer or even a graphic designer to make the themes look really good.
I personally recommend the Booster theme, because it adds all the sales bells and whistles you might want later, but it starts at $179 and for a new ecommerce store making no money, you don’t need that off the bat. You can use the Debut theme for free and your online store will look beautiful!
When you do start to think bells and whistles, don’t do what I did first time around and hire a developer to add them. The chances are there is a pre-built theme that can do almost everything you want, so do some homework and go looking for it! A pre-built theme will be far cheaper than a developer!
Chris goes over some of the backend settings in this video, but I’m going to take you through them step by step in the next section.
Adding your products will very much depend on what model you have chosen.
If you’re going down the Print on Demand route then you’ll be adding products from the app of the supplier you have chosen.
If dropshipping, I recommend Sell The Trend or Spocket which works on other ecommerce platforms, not just Shopify.
If adding your own products then you’ll follow the standard Shopify ‘add product’ route.
We’ll go through adding products in more detail below.
Adding your ecommerce business domain.
Remember above when we talked about domains and I said it was your choice whether to secure a domain from an external registrar or buy directly with Shopify?
Well now we want to add your domain to your ecommerce store.
If you have purchased directly from Shopify this will be super easy. You will simply connect your new domain to your online store from the Shopify Domains section within the settings area.
Here is how you purchase a domain directly from Shopify
Here is how you then set that domain up as your primary domain for your ecommerce store
If however you’re using a domain purchased from a 3rd party domain registrar, the setup is slightly more complex, dependent on the provider.
Luckily for us, Shopify has step by step instructions for all the domain providers out there so even if you have purchased a domain from someone a little obscure the chances are they have you covered!
However before you run off to consume the instructions, I have good news if you’re a Bluehost user!
Shopify & Bluehost have made it super easy for you and all you need to do is;
1. Head to domains in the backend of your Shopify ecommerce store.
2. Click on ‘Connect Existing Domain’
3. Add in your Bluehost purchased domain
4. Click ‘Connect Automatically’
Shopify will verify the settings, it can take anywhere from a few minutes up to 24 hours for the domain to ‘propagate’, meaning getting updated by servers across the web and actually working when you type it in, but essentially your new domain should now work and show your Shopify ecommerce store when you type it into a browser.
One last step though, in order to get rid of the Shopify created URL, e.g., storename.myshopify.com, you will need to set the new domain as the primary domain.
This thankfully is super easy, you just go back into domains and click ‘Change Primary Domain’
Then click your new domain which will show in the pop-up window and click Save. (Please note nothing is showing in mine apart from the main Shopify domain because it’s merely a test online store and I haven’t added any other domains. But once yours has propagated it will show up).
If unfortunately you’re not a Bluehost user, then once you enter your domain in the Domain field, Shopify will redirect to their instruction page for each provider depending on which provider you’re with.
You then have the option to try to work it out, hand it over to a good friend or someone you know who is a bit techie to work out for you, call or email the support people at the domain registrar (probably the next sensible option) hire a shopify expert to do it for you (bit pricey), or find someone on Upwork / Fiverr.
What do I do if my domain is already being hosted elsewhere Jo?
Aha! This was an issue I had way back when, when setting up our first online store to work alongside our Amazon ecommerce business.
If you have already purchased your domain and have moved the hosting of that domain over to your hosting company, then you’re going to need to change the domain settings from within the Cpanel of your hosting company.
As I am not a technical expert and I could totally lead you up the garden path with this one, my advice? Call your hosting company.
Explain what you want to do and ask them to assist.
If you’re unable to get any support from your hosting company, take my word for it, you’re with the wrong hosting company!
If all else fails, go and find a super clever techie on Upwork who can just make it all happen for you; set up a lovely working domain, emails, the whole shebang and you can go to bed sleeping soundly in the knowledge someone far techier than you is dealing with the whole thing!
What if I want to add Shopify to an existing brand or blog Jo?
Oh my goodness! You really are testing me now aren’t you!
Ok you have a couple of options.
1. Simply add buy buttons to your website.
For only $9 a month you can purchase a Shopify Lite plan and set up buy buttons for all your products which you can place anywhere on your website.
This means you never actually have a full storefront, you’re given a backend to create and set up all your products and then the facility to create buy buttons to add to your sites wherever they may be.
2. Create a Subdomain
If however you want a your ecommerce store to fall under the umbrella of your brand, you’ll have to create a subdomain.
Something like shop.yourlifestylebusiness.com (which I daresay will be the domain for my upcoming ecommerce store!).
I am not even going to try to explain how to go about setting up subdomains as it will be different depending on your hosting provider, so my advice?
Call your hosting company.
Explain what you want to do and ask them to assist.
If you’re unable to get any support from your hosting company, take my word for it, you’re with the wrong hosting company!
If all else fails, go and find a super clever techie on Upwork who can just make it all happen for you; set up a lovely working domain, emails, the whole shebang and you can go to bed sleeping soundly in the knowledge someone far techier than you is dealing with the whole thing!
Deja vu anyone?
Years ago I was obsessed with working out all this stuff on my own and I once spent 4 hours trying to get a Paypal button to open in a new tab. For those of you who have messed around with your websites over the years, you will know it’s literally a piece of code you add to a link which opens the link in a new tab ‘target_blank’. That’s it. That took me over 4 hours. But you don’t know what you don’t know right?!
I also know that there are umpteen videos on YouTube about creating subdomains, managing your DNS records and such like.
But I ask you, do you want to create a fab ecommerce business and sell amazing products which delight or enhance people’s lives or do you want to spend hours of your valuable time playing with code?
You don’t need to know how to do everything. Spend your time on the important stuff like sourcing awesome products, creating great copy, promoting your amazing ecommerce store and leave the techie stuff to, well, techies! 😁
Get it Done, then get it right
There’s a lot here I know, but the most important thing is to just get started.
Don’t worry if your logo isn’t quite right or you don’t have all the images you need.
A mentor of mine always used to say – Get it Done, Then Get it Right.
It’s far more important you just get your ecommerce store done as best you can, go live and tweak and improve as you go.
I know you might want everything perfect but I can guarantee, no-one is watching you. (Sorry to burst that bubble.)
Once you click ‘Go Live’, there will be no champagne corks popping, rapturous applause and a sudden rush of emails from fans.
It’ll probably be a bit of an anticlimax to be honest, but hey, at least that gives you permission to go live and start an ecommerce business without striving for perfection!
Customising Your Shopify Settings
So let’s walk through the backend of your Shopify online store step by step so you know the important parts to setup pre-going live with your ecommerce business.
Add in the email you want Shopify to contact you on and the email you’ll use for Customer Service enquiries.
Make sure your address details are correct, the timezone is good for you and the currency is what you want to trade in.
I choose USD because even though I’m a Brit living in Thailand, the bulk of my customers will be from the US.
2. Payment providers
Here’s where you’ll set up Shopify Payments, PayPal, Stripe and whatever else you want to setup.
It’s super easy to connect your PayPal account (you’ll need to set one up if you don’t have one already).
Here’s a fab article all about Shopify payments
A lot of these buttons will be left as they are but you may want to do some minimal customization.
Because I use a theme with a great checkout page, I don’t need to customize the checkout here, but you may want to.
I tend to not use accounts at this stage mainly because I’m just keeping it simple, although here is an article about using customer accounts.
Other than that just read all the options and check your preferred one.
Here are some screenshots of my options so you can see what I have chosen for my ecommerce store settings.
I highly recommend Free Shipping worldwide and adding in the cost of shipping to the product price.
In the world of ecommerce, free shipping is almost a given now and if we want to give ourselves a fighting chance, especially when we’re just starting out…
It also makes the shipping settings super easy!
I make it a habit never to comment on taxes.
The reason being it’s a minefield for which I have absolutely no qualifications.
Add to that I’m a Brit, married to an Aussie, living in Thailand. There are very few people who would have a tax profile in common with mine.
Probably the best in the ecommerce business world for tax advice for ecommerce sellers is TaxJar.
Also Shopify has an entire manual on taxes to help get your head around it all, but my advice is to get a good accountant involved as soon as you can to guide you at to your individual situation.
Does that mean you now need to wait, speak to an accountant and get all your ducks in a row before you start your ecommerce business?
Just skip it, make a note to speak to someone and crack on. It’s going to take a while for the momentum of sales to build so you have time!
I haven’t ever used locations and see no reason to do so with an online store, however, if you’d like to know more here is a help article about locations from Shopify.
For now, this will simply be the main address you entered into the system.
So this is all the Shopify email settings.
We going to talk about email & the Shopify notifications in far more detail later in this post, so for now just click the main ‘customize’ button on the left and add your logo and change the colour of the buttons, so the emails are representative of your brand.
This is where you’ll find all the uploaded media. So any logos, banners, images etc you upload on the site will all be found here.
9. Sales Channels
Here is where you can add Facebook & Instagram and any other sales channels you’d like to sell through.
10. Plans & Permissions
Here’s where you’ll go to check which plan you’re on and also to give any staff members access. On the $29 / month plan, you’re only allowed 2 staff accounts which is a bit of a pain, but best to give them their own login where you can.
11. Ecommerce Store Languages
Does what it says on the Tin! Manage your ecommerce store language from here.
Manage your Shopify account payment method here and see all bills.
This is important as if you use Shopify payments, their fees will show here. If you sign up to any apps, they’ll be detailed on the bills in here.
So you’ll probably find yourself checking the bill quite regularly. Just click on ‘Recent Bills’ to get a full cost breakdown.
13. Legal Pages
Last but not least, the legal stuff!
You can use your own or if you notice Shopify has kindly provided templates. Thank you Shopify!
Personally, for now, I would add the templates as-is, make some minor amendments to ensure it’s personal to your company and you can always come back and tweak later when you’re making money!
You will need to add your own Shipping Policy as that’s personal to your online store and whether you’re charging for shipping, how long you expect the items to take etc.
Here is a nifty little tool to help you generate your shipping policy – https://www.easyship.com/shipping-policy-generator
Just be sure to amend shipping times, prices etc so they are personal & relevant to your ecommerce store.
So there you have it!
The bulk of your settings are done.
Now let’s get your ecommerce store set up for business!
Setting Up Your Ecommerce Business
Adding Products to Your Online Store
It took me almost 3 weeks alone to get this part done, but I could have done this in 2 – 3 dedicated days if I had put my mind to it.
I stupidly created 187 products.
I do not recommend that. At all. Not even close.
How many products you start with really depends on the type of online store and the ecommerce business model you’re choosing.
- If your goal is to sell print on demand candles for example, you might want to start with one style of candle, but 5 – 10 smells.
- If you want to sell novelty t-shirts, you might start with one style of shirt, but 5 – 10 different slogans or designs.
- If you’re following the dropshipping model and want to test a few different niches before you pick the one you want to work with, you might pick 5 different niches and offer one product per niche to begin with.
- If you’ve defined your niche, you might find 2 – 3 different products within that niche that you really want to focus your time and energy on.
There really are no hard and fast rules, but when you’re just starting your ecommerce business, I would start small.
The work that goes into enhancing quality product images, creating product descriptions and then marketing those products is time consuming and right now you have little evidence your products are going to sell.
So you do not want to be creating hundreds of products only to find 99 of them are duds and it took you hours and hours to get them up and running.
Test and measure is the key here my friend!
So if you’re only going to add 1 – 10 products to your ecommerce store there is absolutely no reason you cannot do it all in one single day.
1. Print on Demand
So adding your products here will depend entirely on which print on demand platform you have chosen to use.
But you will need to have decided the range of products you’re going for, i.e., t-shirts, socks, bags etc., and you will need to have prepared the designs to go on those products.
Each platform will have specifications for sizes and style of designs.
For example Teelaunch design requirements specify that your artwork be a PNG at a minimum of 2400px wide.
(As a previous user of Teelaunch however, I recommend you look at each product for the specific file guide to ensure your image is sized correctly for that specific product as 2400px may be the minimum but it certainly is not the maximum.)
Printful however accept files in JPG & PNG and recommend you look at the individual file guides under each product to ensure you have the correct sized image.
Adding the App
So firstly you’ll need to install the relevant app to your Shopify store.
1. Head to ‘Apps’ in the backend of your Shopify store & click ‘Visit the Shopify App Store’
2. Add the name of the app you’re looking for
3. Select the correct app
4. Click Add App
5. Then Install the App
6. You may have to create an account with the app platform at this stage
7. Then just follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation of your app.
Add Your Products
Now it’s time to add your products!
Here is a fab video from the team over at Printful showing you how to create a t-shirt on their platform!
If you’re not using Printful, check out the support section of the app you’re using or head to YouTube and type in ‘adding a design on X’ (x being your print on demand platform of choice), I’m pretty sure you’ll find someone to show you how.
Create Your Product Descriptions
So once you have uploaded your designs, created the product and added it to your ecommerce store, you now need to ensure you have included the correct pricing and written a fabulous product description for each of your products.
I challenge you to be super creative here!
Don’t just go with the standard ‘White cotton T-shirt, safe for the washing machine, all sizes available’.
Go crazy! Appeal to your ideal audience by attracting them to your products with educational, informative or entertaining copy.
Remember you can always come back and play & tweak with everything later. For now, be as creative as you can but don’t try to be perfect because perfection leads to procrastination!
Lastly, particularly if you’re selling apparel or accessories, head to placeit.net and create some images of actual real people interacting with your designs, either wearing them or using them.
Get some nice real-life images you can add to your product so that when your visitor is hovering over the images on your product page they can see the products in action!
At some stage in the future, you can swap these out for images sent to you by your customers! We’ll get to that in the marketing section.
So that my friend is that! In summary;
1. Select product
2. Upload design / choose colours, sizes etc
3. Add pricing info
4. Add product description
5. Add some ‘real-life’ images of your product in action.
Do that for all your products and get them live on your ecommerce store (which is not yet live I’m presuming), so you can see what they all look like and get excited!
If your plan is to launch your ecommerce business with just Print on Demand products then you can almost call it a day now and go and get a cuppa! But before you do just take a quick look at the section at the bottom of this post titled ‘General Product Settings‘.
I just want to touch on Shipping & Collections before you run off.
However, if you want to launch a dropshipping online store, then stay with me here as that’s next!
In theory, adding products to your ecommerce store for dropshipping is far simpler.
This is because some super clever people have created apps like Oberlo that work directly with dropshipping suppliers allowing you to basically click a few buttons and get your chosen products live on your ecommerce store.
I say in theory because of course these things never quite work out as simply as we would like right? 😂
Add Your App
Firstly as with Print on Demand above you will need to add the Oberlo app to your Shopify store. Please see above for directions on how to do that (choosing Oberlo as your app of choice of course).
Find and Add Your Products
Once installed you’ll be taken to the Oberlo dashboard where you’ll be asked to select a product.
There is also a playlist of videos walking you through exactly how drop-shipping with Oberlo works.
Click ‘Explore Products’ in the dashboard and enter the search terms you used when originally sourcing your products or the actual product name and fingers crossed your products should magically appear!
Hover over your product of choice and click ‘Add to Import List’.
Select any other products you would like to add to your import list and either click ‘Edit Import List’, or simply click on “Import List’ in the left-hand menu bar.
Add Product Descriptions
Here your chosen products will be displayed and you can now go about the task of changing the titles, description etc.
Please read the section on adding product descriptions above as it’s equally as pertinent here.
When you’re ready click ‘Import to Store’ and you will now be able to see and edit your product directly on Shopify.
(Note you can do this as soon as you have added the product to your Import List and do all of your editing from within the Shopify store if you choose.)
Here you can change the title, description, price, add more images, create tags to make the product easy to find, add to a collection etc.
And that my friend is that, your product is live on your online store.
Wow! Super easy right?
There is a ton of information on how to start an ecommerce business dropshipping So much that you can become quickly overwhelmed.
Personally I would start with the video playlist I linked to above and then the videos freely available from within the Oberlo app. That’s certainly going to help you get your head around how it all works.
Alright so in summary;
1. Add Oberlo app to ecommerce store
2. Search for selected products
3. Add to Import List
4. Add to Store
5. Add product descriptions, titles, prices, more images etc.
Boom! You’re up, up and away!
Lastly for uploading products I want to talk about adding your own products that you make or have supplied by a local supplier.
3. Adding Your Own or Locally Supplied Products
First things first, you do not need an app! Yippeee.
You will be loading your products directly onto Shopify and adding your product descriptions, images, pricing etc, directly into the products section in the backend of Shopify.
Here is a detailed article from Shopify explaining how to add a product.
You won’t need to add every setting they explain, just go through the process and add what’s relevant to you and your ecommerce business.
1. Add product
2. Create headline (title)
3. Add description
4. Add images
5. Add your price (and sale price if applicable)
Bob’s Your Uncle! Your product can now be viewed on your online store.
General Product Settings
1. Compare at Price
The compare at price is the higher price you’d enter if you wanted your product to display a sale price.
The only time I have ever used inventory is to post 0 when we’ve run out of stock so it says ‘Sold Out’ on the product.
Getting started you won’t have much call for the inventory settings so you can probably leave them for now but should you want to know more in the future here is the Inventory help doc from Shopify.
My recommendation at this stage to get off the ground would be to offer free worldwide shipping and price your shipping costs into the price of the product, but at some point, you may want to revise that especially as your ecommerce store gets more popular.
It would be lovely to have Amazons deep pockets I’m sure, but you are just one small online store in a sea of online stores and you’ve got to make a living right?!
See the Shipping section above in ‘General Settings’ to see the video on setting up your Shipping profiles.
Also here’s an article from Shopify which explains how to create free shipping rates if that’s what you want to do.
I love collections and this is basically the fundamental way you will organise your ecommerce store.
If you look at the menu bar of Legends Not Ladies, when you click on any of those menu headers a collection of my products will display organised by tags or type (in case you were wondering what they were for).
But you don’t have to create collections just for your menu bar, you can create collections of specific types of products, sale items, from a specific supplier and more.
Here’s how to create collections on Shopify.
Creating Customer Email Flows
Now you have your products ready to go, one of the most important things you’ll want to have set up before you launch your ecommerce business are your email campaigns.
- A – Newsletter & Discount Coupon Flow
- B – Abandoned Cart Flow
- C – Post Purchase Flow
Rejoiner actually has a fab graphic showing no less than 8 trigger points for emailing potential customers, active customers and declining activity.
To get up and running, we’re just focusing on three emails in the ‘Entering Customer Base’ section, and can come back later to add the others.
Sorry, email what?…..
Apologies if I’m running away with myself here.
If you have never come across email marketing before, in very simple terms it’s a way of communicating with potential and current customers by way of email.
Be sure to read my How to Build a Huge Email List of HOT Leads For Your Business post for a deep dive into email marketing for all online business models.
Setting Up Your Email Flows
OK, but how do we get their emails?
Ah, well this is where the magic happens.
For Flow A – the newsletter or discount coupon flow, you’ll need to set up some kind of ‘optin’ offer on your online store.
For Flow B – this kicks in after your visitor has added items to their cart page, has come close to completing checkout but then for whatever reason abandons the purchase. (See abandoned cart emails below)
Flow C is of course after a visitor purchases an item.
Now this may sound complicated and I’m not going to lie to you, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to email marketing, but thankfully for us, there are super techie people who spend their lives trying to make it easier for us to run our online businesses, so we need to take advantage of the fabulous tools they’ve built for us!
First, you need to decide who you are going to use for your email service provider.
I personally recommend Klaviyo when it comes to email marketing for an Ecommerce business. Much like Shopify, the platform is made for ecommerce.
When you sign up, you already have all the flows & campaigns built-in, you just have to go in and personalize it to your online store.
The downside, they are not the cheapest on the market and as your database grows so do their fees, but the good news is they’re free up to 250 people on your email list, so by the time you have more than that I would hope you are generating enough to afford them, but again that all depends on profit margins etc.
There are a multitude of email providers you can choose from. Here is a super post from Oberlo comparing many of the email platforms on the market today to help you make your decision.
You’ll notice they are very specific under each email platform which ones integrate directly with Shopify and which ones don’t.
This is important as if it doesn’t directly integrate with Shopify you’ll have to connect using another app like Zapier and now things start to get complicated.
Keep it simple my friend and pick a platform which works directly with Shopify.
No matter which one you choose, once you get inside the platform, aside from different layouts, names and references the process is roughly the same, so once you’ve made your decision head to the help guides provided by your platform of choice for detailed walkthroughs on setting up flows, campaigns and such like.
Here’s an example from Klaviyo;
Getting Started Handbook – Guide to an Abandoned Cart Flow
Getting Started with Klaviyo YouTube Playlist – (over 2.5 hours of detailed training)
Now before you go about creating all your campaigns and emails you’ll want to ensure your email provider is installed inside of Shopify.
Simply follow the instructions for adding an app as I explained above and install your email platform. This will ensure that your abandoned cart emails, product purchased emails and any other pop-ups, newsletters or discount flows you create all connect with your email platform.
So that’s a rough overview of the technical aspect of setting up your emails which albeit tough to get your head around, for the most part, you’ll be able to follow detailed help docs & videos to help you get started.
If you’re really struggling, I highly recommend outsourcing your email funnel setup. It can very quickly get quite complex with all the different flows and campaigns and assigning that part of your online business to a specialist will free you up to start to promote your products and make some sales!
Crafting Your Email Content
The challenge comes with what to write in your emails! This now requires your creativity.
What do you say when someone abandons your cart? ‘Oi! Come back!!!‘
Or after someone leaves their name and email? ‘Thanks, here’s a discount code.‘
To give you some inspiration here is the copy for the abandoned cart emails we sent out (note the gaps after the words, ‘you have left in your shopping cart’, Klaviyo & Shopify work together to show the products left in the cart. Clever eh!;
So what should you be sending & when?
Ecommerce Business Email Campaigns
Here’s a general guide which should be used as just that, ‘a general guide’. This is not set in stone and you need to create email flows which work for you and your brand.
1. Newsletter & Discount Code Flow
Email 1 (Immediately) – Thanks so much for requesting a code, here it is and here are some fab things you might like to look at on our store.
Email 2 (Day 2) – Your discount code is expiring (if it is of course), or don’t forget your discount code, here are our latest releases / check out our latest product.
Email 3 (Day 3) – – Your discount code is expiring today (if it is of course), or last reminder about your discount code, here’s why our product is so awesome
Ongoing emails – depending on the type of email (see types of emails section below), probably once a week ongoing.
2. Abandoned Cart Flow
Email 1 (Immediately) – Hey! You left these, just bringing your attention in case you got distracted (see my examples above)
Email 2 (24 hrs later) – Just in case you were called away, making it easy for you to come back just click here to grab your cart items.
Email 3 (24hrs later) – One more reminder about your cart items and our site wide discount (if you have one), here’s why you’ll love shopping with us.
3. Post Purchase Campaign
Email 1 (Immediately) – Thank you for purchasing, you are awesome!
Email 2 (Day 2) – Your brand story (plus links back to the site – on every email by the way)
Email 3 (Day 4) – A useful, informative, educational or entertaining email / piece of content
Email 4 (Day 6) – Another useful, informative, educational or entertaining email / piece of content
Email 5 (Day 7) – Yet another useful, informative, educational or entertaining email / piece of content
Follow up emails depending on your shipping times might then be emails asking for a review, an Instagram pic of the customer using the product etc.
What are all the types of emails you could send out to your customers following up from your initial welcome campaigns?
Truly you are limited only by your imagination, but here’s some ideas for you;
- Brand story emails, how it came about, what inspires you, how you select new products etc
- Inspirational emails, making your customers feel great
- Educational emails, teaching your customers something that’s valuable and relevant
- Entertaining emails, making your customers laugh or take note
- Sales emails, highlighting specific products
- Promotional emails, offering discounts & special offers
- User generated content emails, asking the customer to submit a video or pic
- Engagement emails, encouraging customers to engage on social platforms
- Survey emails, getting customers feedback & ideas
- Topical emails, discussing what’s happening in the world and how your product helps
More Email Resources
Before you get caught up in bells and whistles and creating amazing campaigns and flows and spending hours trying to design the perfect email template, content outweighs design every single time and good content done now is better than perfect content done six months from now.
Get your three main flows up and running, no fancy design, no perfectly created email, just up and running and ready in their most basic form.
Once your site is live and you’re starting to make sales, make it a project to head back in and spend more time improving and perfecting your emails.
Here is a fabulous video and a very detailed walk through of a post purchase campaign by Ezra Firestone creator of the 8 figure brand Boom by Cindy Joseph.
Purchase notification in Shopify
Ok so before we move on from email funnels, I would advise that you amend the ‘Order Confirmation Notification’ section in the backend of Shopify.
Head to ‘Settings’ and click ‘Notifications’.
By now you should have added your logo and colours.
Click on the very top notification ‘Order Confirmation’
You’ll notice that the text is very bland and impersonal.
As you’re sending a post-purchase email from your main email account you don’t need to go too mad here, just literally add a line to make the email a little friendlier or more relevant to your brand.
Fan-bloomin-tastic my friend! You are an absolute superstar!
That was definitely a tough part but here you are on the other side with your main email flows setup.
This is such a fundamental part of building a profitable online store and a long term successful ecommerce business.
So next we’ll create the little discount pop-ups that entice the visitor to leave you their name and email address and make sure our newsletter sign up works!
Adding Lead Generation Pop Ups
When you go to leave this page you may be greeted by a big pop up on the screen asking you to leave your name and email address in exchange for my Free Ebook.
If you don’t see it, here’s what it looks like;
So this is what I mean by pop up on your online store.
Here is the one I used for my Legends Not Ladies ecommerce business.
Please note you don’t have to include a place for people to leave their email address.
This fab example from Printfuls article – 40 Website Popup Ideas to Steal For Your Online Store shows how Dodo case gives you an option to use a discount code within 30 minutes (in which case you’d get the persons email address anyway as they will buy something), or get a code emailed to you for later use.
So how do we go about setting one of these things up Jo?
Well, it’s actually surprisingly easy, once again made so by people far cleverer than I, who sit about all day dreaming up amazing apps that make our lives so much easier!
What pop up app should we use?
My faves include Just Uno & the Privy app, both of which I have used.
I have to be honest, I’m a simplicity girl, I don’t like stuff with too many bells and whistles, it makes life so complicated, so for Legends I used Privy. Free, quick & easy!
Now we’re talking!
So as per with all Shopify apps, you’ll need to install the Privy App to your site. (See Adding the App section above).
Once installed, you’ll create an account on Privy and be taken to the Privy dashboard.
From there you will create your popup.
Here’s a quick & informative video showing you how to set up a basic popup campaign using Privy;
If you want to create something a bit fancier however, you can add a spinning wheel as your pop up of choice.
I used to have one of these for our first ecommerce store and it converted pretty well from memory, although they’ve been a bit overused now.
But if you want something fun, then why not!
Here’s a video showing you just how to create one of these in Privy;
Coupon Codes & Connecting to Your Email Provider
So these are great videos but they do seem to have left out how you create coupon codes & connect to your main email account.
(Please note this section won’t make too much sense without watching the above video and trying it out for yourself. So if you’re just reading and not doing, you may want to skip ahead).
It’s actually super simple in the Privy app for the basic pop up.
You simply click on ‘Coupons’ at the top of the dashboard. Click ‘Shopify Create coupons that sync with your store’ & ‘Master Coupon’ and add in the name of your coupon.
Then set your coupon rules, i.e., ‘percentage, fixed amount etc’ and add in your value and the coupon schedule.
This will automatically sync with your Shopify store and create the discount code within the ‘Discount Codes’ section of your Shopify store.
For the spinning wheel, my advice would be to go into the discount codes section of Shopify first and create the relevant codes for each spin, then use the hardcoded version as he shows in the video using the same names as the codes you created in Shopify.
Here’s how to create discount codes inside of Shopify, which is good to know anyway as you can use them all over the place not just inside Privy! 😁
If the spinning wheel option is a bit too much to take in right now, just start with a basic pop up and put a note somewhere to come back to it at another time (or rope in a more techie type friend to give you a hand).
I strongly recommend when faced with tough techie type jobs, invite a good buddy over for a few glasses of wine one night and try to figure it out together. At the very least the task will become a source of great laughs! 😂
Connecting to Your Email Provider
The first video above does actually show how to do this but I did just want to make it clear so you understand.
You should by now have your email provider account and your first flows setup including your discount code flow. (If you don’t have this particular flow set up yet, don’t worry too much as the first email with the code comes from Privy anyway!)
So you’ll want to make sure the app is connected to your email provider so at the very least any visitors are signed up to the correct list for you to nurture and send information too when you’re ready.
To do this you’ll need to have your email provider set up in the backend of your apps section of your Shopify account.
Please see the section on adding your email app & connecting your email provider with Shopify above and be sure to get this set up first.
Then as you create your form in Privy, when you get to the section ‘Automation’, click ‘+ New Rule’.
Then sync to your email provider on Shopify and select the list you want people who sign up for a discount code to be added to.
Whoohooo! That’s your pop up setup!
So now you have your pop up configured it’s time to add an upsell app.
This is hugely important particularly for Print on Demand ecommerce stores. Your margins are tight so if you can encourage the same customer to purchase multiple items, then your profitability will increase.
As with all apps for Shopify there is a multitude of choice and its tough deciding which one is the best to use.
However, we used an app called Reconvert.
Here is a great video walking you through exactly how to use it;
Another option although certainly not the cheapest option out there is Zipify One Click Upsell by Ezra Firestone.
Years ago when building the ecommerce store to accompany our Amazon brand this was the upsell app I used.
It was hugely effective and when I launch the YLB online store I will seriously consider using this app, but as I said it’s quite a chunk of change, so you may want to choose a cheaper or free version to get you off the ground and switch to this when you’re making sales.
Here is a great video of Ezra walking you through a holiday campaign including his one-click upsell and sales funnel.
You really couldn’t get a better example of how to create a sales funnel and upsell than this;
However, don’t get overwhelmed! At this stage in the game, you’re not creating any big sales funnels, you’ll just want to add some upsell products.
Get It Done Then Get It Right (again)
Upsells are important particularly if you’re going down the Print on Demand route, however, getting your ecommerce store live is more important.
So if this is going to hold you up, leave it for now and come back to it. It’s something you can add at a later stage, although I urge you not to leave it too long as having one customer buy multiple products is a game-changer!
Going Live with Your Ecommerce Business
Whoop whoop! You are almost ready to go live my friend!
Be sure to have a bottle of champers at the ready.
Here’s what you should have in place by today;
- A visible list of your mission & company values to guide you as you grow your online business.
- A visible picture and description of your ideal customer
- Your ecommerce store setup with your logo, images, products, product descriptions, prices, sale prices, coupon codes, trust badges, pop up & upsells all ready to go.
- Emails created and ready to go.
- Pop ups and upsells in place (although you can totally go live without these and set them up later)
If you have all that in place, here are two things left to do. One is that you need to make sure that you have a backup of all the assets you’ve uploaded and created thus far. From content to photos – all of it matters – make sure you have them organized and stored in a proper backup solution so that no matter what happens, you’ll always have the data with you. After that, it’s time to do a test sale.
Here’s how to do it if you’ve enabled Shopify Payments
Here’s how to do it, if you’re not using Shopify payments.
Personally, for ease, I would pick the ‘test with a real transaction’ option.
Or you could make a real sale & send your product to yourself or a family member to monitor how the whole sales process works.
Now is also a good time to send a couple of products to friends or colleagues to get some early reviews. We’ll talk more about attracting reviews shortly. But the earlier you can start to line up getting some reviews, the better!
That’s it! If the test sale works and all is good and well, you can now push the ‘Go Live’ button. Pop the cork, pour a glass and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Your ecommerce business is live!
Now the hard work really starts.
Promoting Your Ecommerce Business and Building an Audience
Something you’ll want to start working on as soon as possible to get your e commerce business off the ground, is getting rave reviews for all of your products on your site.
Reviews are going to be vital for increasing your add to carts and sales.
As I’ve previously highlighted, people will trust a review from a fellow customer before they’ll trust anything that you as the online business owner will say about your superb and unmissable products!
There are a multitude of e commerce site review apps and platforms on the web today, but for me there is one outstanding winner!
When I first started building our ecommerce store a few years back to run alongside our Amazon ecommerce business, I tested many review sites and had lots of demo calls with companies selling their services. I was quoted anything from $5000 up to $16000 a year!
I was convinced I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for within my price range, which was next to nothing as a new online store. Then I came across an app called Judge.me (not an affiliate link)
They did everything the more expensive apps did and more, but for only $15 / month.
I have no idea why the huge price difference but I have never had any technical issues or challenges with Judge.me and they have been nothing short of excellent. So when setting up your ecommerce store, this is the app I highly recommend.
Here’s a video showing how to to set it up on your ecommerce store in under 2 minutes;
Once you’ve installed it, it’s very user intuitive and you’ll have no problem working your way through it customizing all the buttons and colours etc.
They also have fantastic help documentation and second to none customer service so I promise you, you’re in great hands!
How to start getting reviews when you haven’t sold any products yet?
This is where family & friends come in!
Get your product out to anyone you know who will be happy to come and leave you a review on your ecommerce store to get you started.
And if you happen to be setting your e commerce store up after having received reviews for your product on other platforms like Amazon etc, then you can import those reviews straight into your online store using judge.me!
If you’re on any groups in FB or in conversations with people on Insta, there’s nothing stopping you from sending out a few ‘review’ products, with the deal being they get the product free for a review.
This isn’t Amazon my friend, there are no rules on getting reviews or the threat of them being removed! So get out there and tout your products far and wide.
Just be sure to get honest reviews from people who have actually tried your product. That’s just good ethics.
Now it’s time to get your products out into the webosphere and start generating some sales!
My recommendation is to start with…..
Influencer marketing is an extremely powerful strategy to help you showcase and sell products to a much wider audience.
Having your product recommended by a respected influencer will without doubt speed up the rate at which you can attract new customers to your e commerce business and serve more people.
These days influencer marketing has become an industry in its own right.
In fact over the last few years the influencer marketing industry has doubled!
$15 billion!!! That’s crazy numbers and just shows how much as consumers we’re influenced by our friends, peers and the people we follow!
This means that rather than just sending out a DM to someone who likely gets a million DM’s a day, companies specifically to put influencers and brands together have been formed.
I daresay they’re not cheap, but if you have a growing ecommerce business and you’re making sales and want to take it to the next level then this may be the route for you!
Here is a list of 23 Instagram Influencer Marketing Agencies from the folks over at Influencer Marketing Hub
However, when you’re just starting out, working with an agency might prove a little too pricey, so you’re going to have to hustle for a bit and make contact with potential collaborators directly.
Which I might add is infinitely easier if you have a quality product you’re willing to send out for free!
This was actually our ‘secret sauce’ when we started our Amazon ecommerce business. We emailed hundreds and hundreds of bloggers and youtubers asking if they’d be willing to have a look at our product and if they liked it, would be happy to review it on their site / channel.
This resulted in a lot of quality clicks from outside of Amazon and high conversion to buy rates, which in turn boosted our ranking on Amazon.
You can apply exactly the same strategy to your own ecommerce business. Here’s how I’d go about it today;
1. Create a spreadsheet of the top 50 – 100 influencers you’d love to approach.
- Who are the influencers in your niche / industry?
- Who’s creating great content?
- Who are your customers following?
- Who are your customers engaging with?
- Who holds great values that you can align with?
- Who tends to promote and champion other brands/content?
These don’t all have to be the top influencers with millions of fans & followers. Fine if you want to include some of those folks for when you’re reaching dizzying heights, but you can also start with the next rung up from you and the next rung up from them.
Make a list of 50 – 100 (or more) influencers who fit with your brand & niche.
Add them to a spreadsheet detailing who they are, the best place to find them, any contact details you can find for them, how big their audience is and any relevant comments for your reference.
2. Contact as many as you can afford to send your product to directly, asking if you can send them a free product to look at.
And if they happen to love it (which you’re sure they will), whether they’d then mention it, demonstrate it or recommend it to their audience.
Expect to hear; nothing from a large percentage, a lot of No’s, and a lot of ‘Yep, here’s our rate card’ from others.
It’s a soul sucking process, but when you’re bootstrapping an online business, the hard work needs to be done!
3. Now get on their radar!
It does not matter which online business model you start and grow, people will always do business with people they like, know and trust.
I’m not talking about who you buy your toothpaste from, I’m talking about collaborations, partnerships and giving each other a leg up.
The best way to develop relationships is to develop them!
Make a list of the people you would LOVE to get to review/recommend your product and start to follow them, like their posts, leave comments, share them with your friends and followers.
In fact sharing their content is a great way to start to get to know people. But don’t just hit the share button, be creative! Here are some great ways to share other people’s content in such a way they can’t help but notice;
- Share and add your own commentary as to why this post struck a chord with you or why you wanted to share it.
- Link to other people’s content on your blog, in your emails, on your own posts on social media to add further insights to whatever conversation you’re having.
- Create regular roundup posts of people to follow and why and include them.
- Invite them onto a FB Live, a podcast or a video interview to introduce them to your audience.
- Send them a link to a post you recently wrote featuring them and telling them why or if you’re a product creator, send them a free product just to try out, and give you feedback.
- Try if you can to get to networking events where you can meet people face to face and form relationships
- Remember they’re human just like you and me. What do they need/want and how can you help them get it?
Here is a great article from our good friend Brian Dean from Backlinko on Blogger Outreach
I love his example of “Send an ‘I Love Your Blog’ email!
Notice how he’s not asking for anything. Just making contact and getting on the radar.
He’s also written a superb guide for connecting with bloggers and influencers via email outreach.
This is clearly more from a digital marketing and blogging perspective, but the premise is the same no matter whether you’re selling digital products or physical products on your ecommerce platform.
If you want to delve deeper here is an ultimate guide to Ecommerce Influencer Marketing by the folks over at Volusion (ecommerce software providers).
Here are 10 fab examples of influencer marketing campaigns which I hope will spark your imagination and help to sell products!
Subaru’s goal is to get the millennial buyer’s attention, they used Devin Graham, a Youtube influencer, to publish a video of him and his friends while taking turns on a slip and slide (while on a parachute) that propelled them off a 500 foot drop. Subaru’s #MeetAnOwner campaign was employed to increase brand awareness and for Instagram users to follow the campaign and showcase their own Subaru car.
@Coola the makers of healthy sun care products enlisted the help of @peachymama to showcase their new Sun Silk Creme product. @peachymama is a growing account with 11.9k followers showing that you don’t have to only approach mega influencers to get your products seen!
3. Ideal of Sweden & Glacial
For world water day 2020, fashion phone accessory brand Ideal of Sweden partnered with Glacial the makers of fashionable, sustainable water bottles to ‘celebrate nature and move towards a more sustainable approach to consumption and promote the shift towards multi-use plastics.‘
Here you can see them utilising the power of Instagram influencers by creating their own hashtag #yellowforchange, which engaged people who use their products and love them and creating paid partnerships with specific influencers.
Lyft provides more than 1 million rides a day, partnered with over 1,000 influencers all across the spectrum, from celebrities to macros to micros. This includes Chicago’s Baderbrau Brewing marketing a beer that lets people request discounted rides. The 12-ounce cans will each feature a discount code that users can enter into the Lyft app as they request a car. The goal was to make it seem like everyone was taking Lyft.
Walmart is a multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores that started in 1969. They needed a way to change their image and boost awareness targeting younger internet users using Instagram. Walmart launched the #FightHunger campaign as a way to team up with users to give back to their communities. This campaign worked because they got 89k engagements in one month and donated over 1million meals.
Now that many of us have 10mp (and 12) in our pockets, Canon needed to seek out the photography enthusiasts. They partnered with photographers with high-engagement as well as bloggers who rely on photography to entice their followers. Canon had to make sure that when the best photos made their rounds on Instagram, there was a #canonusa hashtag next to them. And now there are almost 3 million posts on Instagram using their hashtag!
7. Daniel Wellington
By using minimalist designs, Daniel Wellington creates watches that can be sold to a younger generation of consumers. DW uses influencer marketing as its ONLY form of marketing. Everything you see is a real photo of a real person wearing a Daniel Wellington watch, using the hashtag #dwpickoftheday. This works because it helps cut marketing costs.
Aerie is an apparel, underwear and swimwear company who celebrate women of all shapes & sizes. They engage in multiple campaigns to promote women’s health and awareness to body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Here they are being showcased by one of my favourite Instagrammers & entrepreneurs Jenna Kutcher who has over 900k followers on IG. Note the link to their IG account and the personalised hashtag #aeriereal
9. American Express
American Express is a multinational financial services corporation. Amex reached out to influencers who flaunted a luxurious and lavish life. Influencers used #AmexPlatinum and #AmexLife hashtags barely mentioning any of the perks of having the card. They simply shared high-quality images of their luxurious lifestyle and associated their ability to live that way using Amex.
Pepsi have used influencer marketing with style for years. Michael Jackson anyone?
But did you know that Pepsi collaborated with Instagram? Using hashtag #summergram, Instagram together with Pepsi, brought to Pepsi’s consumers the latest technology. The campaign used unique graphics on more than 200 million Pepsi bottles. Those who purchased just had to scan their bottle to unlock a Pepsi-branded reality filter to use in their Instagram story. This is a brilliant idea, modern and easily catches the attention of the younger generations who use Instagram a lot.
Clearly the influencer marketing model has evolved over the last few years, certainly since I started online.
But it doesn’t have to be big and scary.
You’re more likely to have to pay for editorial coverage or someone showcasing your product these days, so bear that in mind, but it doesn’t mean the old traditional route of creating great relationships and doing reciprocal promotions is over.
Keep your mindset open, be inclusive, network, create relationships and focus on building a long term brand with your customers your primary focal point and you’re sure to succeed!
User Generated Content
Another route for quickly promoting your e commerce business is to garner the most powerful marketing medium out there.
Word of mouth!
User generated content is exactly what it says it is. Content generated by customers, your audience or users of your product or service.
It is absolutely invaluable, creating trust for your brand that you will never be able to create on your own!
Think about when you are considering a purchase. Who do you trust more, the company selling or a friend who recently bought the same thing?
What you’re looking for is solicited & unsolicited reviews, pictures & conversations on social media of people who have purchased your products.
An ecommerce brand that’s absolutely got this down is ‘Live a Great Story‘
They sell t-shirts, stickers, accessories etc all with the words ‘Live a Great Story’. Their entire brand is based on people buying their products and taking pictures of themselves ‘living a great story’!
One of the best examples of user generated content and viral sharing I have ever seen.
So how can you encourage your users to share pictures of themselves with your products?
1. Firstly make it super easy for people to share content on the social networks and create your own custom and easy to remember / use hashtag.
2. Then ask your customers to share photos of themselves using your products or talking about you!
When they first buy, in one of your follow up emails, ask them that if they love the product or service you’d love them to share a photo tagging your social media account as they do!
Perhaps you’ll offer a discount code on further purchases or instant access to a loyalty club, or something that’s not on offer elsewhere as an incentive.
But simply asking is a very powerful way of getting what you want in life!
3. Run a giveaway with the entry requirement being to take a photo with one of your products or talking about your service to enter and tag you in the photo.
Host it on your own ecommerce business website as a never ending weekly giveaway for the best photo!
4. As soon as you get some photos, you need to showcase them on your e commerce website and across social media and even include them in the email you send out asking new purchasers to do the same.
Social proof is a powerful thing.
5. Post your reviews. When a customer leaves a review on your site, simply screenshot it and post it on your social networks.
6. Support a cause. Single Grain gave a fab example on their post 8 Ways to Encourage More User Generated Content.
Aerie, a lingerie & sleepwear brand ran a campaign “pledging $1 to the National Eating Disorder Association for every Instagram user that posted an unedited photo of themselves wearing a bathing suit.
What a great way to raise brand awareness, support a worthwhile cause and empower their customers all at the same time!
Here are some more great examples of brands who leveraged user generated content to further their reach;
Starbucks hold contests like the #RedCupContest to incentivize their customers to participate online for a reward. Users will have to buy a red cup first and take a picture.
Travelex launched a 12-month photo contest campaign, and used unique hashtags each month to encourage their fans to participate.
Dove is well known for using real women in their ads and campaigns but an impromptu shout out by a singing legend is above and beyond!
Here singer Anastacia changes her ‘Outta Love’ lyrics to ‘I’m Outta Dove’ in her bathroom while quarantining during the current health crisis.
Now there’s an impactful piece of User Generated content if I ever saw it!
4. Amy Porterfield & Marie Forleo
User generated content is just as effective for a digital or service based brand, as demonstrated by these two pros!
Here Amy Porterfield is promoting Marie Forleo’s upcoming B-School via a treasure hunt for a signed copy of Marie’s new book ‘Everything is Figureoutable’.
Winners will upload a photo of themselves with the book & tagging Amy & Marie in the process.
What a fun way to get some exposure and to promote a quality brand as an affiliate!
Ok so this was a one off (to date), but here is my good friend Dan from @wanderingworthy, promoting me on his story!
That is all user generated content is. Someone who knows you and your brand, likes you & your brand, and wants to talk about you and your brand.
Who says it can’t be fun! 🙂
How to Start a User Generated Campaign for Your Own Ecommerce Business
When just starting out the best way to get a user generated content campaign off the ground is to call on family, friends or people you’ve met and networked within Facebook groups or on Insta.
Ask a select group if you can send them one of your products for free whether it be physical or digital and if they would then take a photo of themselves wearing or using it.
It will only take a few photos for you to start getting the ball rolling!
So start today, get some messages out to family & friends right now, offering a free product or consult for a photo and a review!
One of the fastest ways to kick start your ecommerce business and start to sell products is by advertising it!
There are a multitude of available options for you including FB & IG Ads, Pinterest, YouTube, Google PPC etc.
Now hold on before you let out a big sigh, resolute that paid ads are not for you because they’re;
With the help of some amazing online resources and a good friend of mine I’m going to attempt to break it down into manageable chunks for you.
I suggest a super nice starter campaign on Facebook for only $5 just to get you warmed up to the idea and then when you’re ready you can ramp that up a little.
Slow & steady wins the race in my opinion.
1. You may not yet have an FB business account setup so please watch the video below and follow the step by step instructions to set up the Business Manager and your Facebook Ad Account. Thanks to Ben Heath for an awesome video!
2. With your new shiny account ready to go before we even think about setting up our ad, we need to create our Facebook pixel which we can then add to our website or online store to track the actions of the people who visit.
This way we can track visits, activity on the site, add to carts & purchases on an ecommerce store, create lookalike audiences and all sorts of super helpful information to ensure we can create highly targeted campaigns.
Here is a great video from a chap called Jason Wardrop who explains exactly what a pixel is and how to create it inside your ads account;
Once you have your pixel set up and can access the ID or the code you have a couple of choices.
- You can install an app or plugin which has been designed to make it easy for you to install the pixel on your site. There is a multitude available to you for whatever platform you may be hosting your site including Shopify, WordPress, Wix etc. Just google ‘FB Pixel app for X (your platform of choice)’
- You can ask someone you know who is ‘techier’ than you are to help you out or hire someone from Upwork or Fiverr,com to install the pixel for you using the code.
- Or as Jason said you can reach out to the support or help desk of whatever platform you’re using to see if they can help you install the pixel.
3. All done? You’re awesome! Now let’s create our first ad!
Here my good friend and community member Mike Lawson recorded a fab video walking you through exactly how to create your first campaign.
Please note he used an example from my Legends not Ladies ecommerce store, but the process is the same no matter your online business model.
You can use this to advertise your landing page, a blog post, a video you’ve created, a product you want to showcase, anything!
Take it away Mike;
SEO is a long term organic strategy which is worth putting some time and effort into learning the basics.
Many e commerce business owners skip SEO and go straight for ads, due to the time it takes to rank a website and the amount of content required.
However, if you’re looking for a long term, powerful and extremely cost effective marketing strategy SEO is your model! Plus if you’re already an online business owner and have been blogging for some time, perhaps your strategy will be to add your own ecommerce business to your already ranking website!
Whatever your strategy, here’s my keyword research tips for beginners to get you started.
I think that’s got you covered for now.
You can pick and choose which strategies you want to focus on, just remember you can’t do everything alone.
When starting an ecommerce business, you may want to get your head around how some of these work and even have a go at mastering them, but eventually, you will have to choose between being a content creator, an operator, a marketer or a CEO.
If your plan is to eventually outsource FB Ads or Google Ads, just learn the basics to get you started but don’t get too wrapped up in the detail. Focus on what you’re good at and when you start to make sales you can begin to outsource the rest.
I highly recommend as soon as possible you start a content marketing campaign for your brand.
If you’re looking to grow your ecommerce business long term and create a profitable online store then at the very least you should have a blog running alongside your ecommerce platform, a presence on social media and a lead generation funnel and email nurture sequence.
Of course, you can continue to run ads if they’re profitable and market via influencers and potential customers, but imagine if along the way you also delivered fantastic, valuable, educational or entertaining content and had a steady stream of quality, organic traffic.
Some phenomenal examples of e commerce brands who deliver amazing content include;
Hardly a mention of an unhealthy sugary drink!
Hardly a mention of a trainer or a t-shirt!
YouTuber turned huge makeup brand!
How could you create incredible content, dominate the social networks or search engines with your brand and sell products?
Here’s what I recently advised my husband to do for his crystal water bottle ecommerce brand;
- Start a blog targeting all his main search term keywords on google.
- Ensure the blog posts are valuable and meet the readers’ needs.
- Outreach and get spots guest posting on blogs that resonate with his niche – yoga, meditation, crystal healing, Reiki, etc, linking back to the content and product pages on his site.
- Start a Pinterest account and post about the blog posts, youtube videos (we have a lady who specialises on crystal healing making videos for us), product pages etc regularly.
- SEO the youtube videos so he starts to rank for his main keywords on youtube.
- Offer two free crystal healing ebooks in exchange for an email address to build a list of people who are most likely to buy one of our products.
He could take it even further by;
- Creating a Facebook community of people interested in crystals and crystal healing.
- Start an Instagram account and repurpose the youtube videos as IGTV videos, or create stories, IG lives etc.
- Start a podcast interviewing some of the top experts or people who have changed their lives through crystal healing. He could even extract the audio from the youtube videos and upload that as podcast episodes.
- Turn all the blog posts into a book and publish on Kindle.
And loads more!
There is no end to content marketing, it can be a lot of fun and help create an extremely profitable online store.
Last but not least there’s nothing like a good promo to get the sales reeling in!
There are so many different types of promos you could run, but we’ll get to that, let’s start with when you can run a special promotion to your ecommerce store;
- Black Friday / Cyber Monday
- Valentines Day
- In fact any big sporting event
- 4th July
- Any topical event – Election Day / Impeachment Day / Brexit / Megxit
- Your birthday
- Your Mum’s birthday
- Your dog’s birthday
- Weekend sale
Hee Hee, I think you get the point. 😂
There are the obvious winners, but essentially you can run a promotion whenever you darn well please!
So what kind of promos can you run?
Well here’s the folks at The Good.com with not one, not two, but 78 ideas for promotions!
Some of my favourites include;
- Product giveaway with a coupon code for all those who didn’t win
- A 3 day flash sale
- An automatic discount (a beautiful feature in Shopify which allows you to create an automatic discount on all or specific products/collections which is automatically calculated at checkout)
- 2 for 1 deal
- Free + Shipping deal
In fact, let’s look at some awesome promo examples so you can see some of these suggestions in action!
1. Muffin Sisters
The Muffin Sisters sell beautiful baby & kids goods inspired by African Culture. Here’s their latest IG giveaway, note how this will increase their follower account (follow us), their engagement (comment) and their brand awareness (tag a friend, share on your story).
Nice I might do something similar myself!
2. Ancient Ways Botanicals
Here Ancient Ways Botanicals are using ‘Upviral’ created by the fabulous Wilco de Kriej to generate leads via a very generous gift card giveaway!
Ketonia is using Gleam.io for their giveaway which is a fab platform for running contests & giveaways. The bottom section allocates points for actions you take and can include all sorts of actions such as visiting your IG or FB page, signing up to your newsletter, referring friends etc.
4. Man Of Steel
Warner Bros. Man of Steel’s Facebook Contest was a photo contest. Participants simply had to upload a photo of themselves showing how they were the biggest fan of all things Superman. The weekly winner’s photo was featured on their Facebook page as the “Fan of the week”. What I like about this campaign is that it was predicated on ‘user generated content’ which we talked about a couple of days ago. That would mean that fans would share with friends and so on, helping the word spread fast!
5. Similar to Muffin Sisters, Book Prunelle is running an IG giveaway to increase followers, engagement and brand awareness. How could you do something similar in your ecommerce business?
Do not be afraid to run a good promo. Everyone loves a sale and the more fun you can make it, the better!
So spend some time dreaming up reasons for giving your audience a bargain of a lifetime (always ensuring your promos are profitable of course) and enjoy getting the word out about your products! 🙂
So by now, you should have had….
Your First Sale
Your first sale! Whoop Whoop!!!
First thing to do is dance around the room to your favourite tune!
Then when the dust has settled, just go through the sale making sure everything looks good. Has the first email been sent out, is the product in process, does everything look like it worked?
If so well done my friend, your journey has begun! 🙂
I actually had my first sale on Legends Not Ladies within about 48 hours of my first Facebook ad.
That’s how fast it can happen if you have a unique product and target the right market.
I’m not going to say my stuff started to fly off the shelves at that point as that would be a gross misrepresentation of the truth, but I went on to make $550 worth of sales over my little Black Friday campaign before my credit card decided it didn’t like the charges coming from that little known social media platform Facebook and stopped payments.
At that point I decided not to restart the ads as although I was making sales, I was losing money and the whole thing needed far more time and attention than I had at that moment. See my ‘here’s what I should have done’ lessons in my ‘ecom experiment’ post.
But what if you’ve been working hard to create your ecommerce business from scratch, creating lots of content, testing some ads, seeing lots of engagement on your posts and conversations, but no sales?
It could be any number of things along your funnel from your copy to your product to the checkout page. Let’s look at some obvious ones;
1. Product! Are you selling a quality, preferably unique product that meets a need of your ideal customer?
If you’re simply out there flogging the latest best-seller on Amazon, chances are you’re competing with thousands of other e commerce sellers, many of whom with deeper pockets than you or I.
As much as you possibly can, ensure your product or your brand is totally unique to you, making it stand out from your competition.
2. Your sales page (otherwise known as your product page on the ecommerce platform Shopify). Are you using big, clear attractive images? Have you got a creative description with a call to action? Have you got a video? Is your Add to cart button clearly visible? Do you have trust buttons etc?
3. Your checkout page. Do you have the relevant trust buttons etc? Is everything working ok? Have you run a test sale?
4. Your target market. Have you clearly identified who you’re targeting and why? Are you speaking in a way that resonates with them? Are you providing value or fun in your copy or ads which then encourages them to learn more or click through to your product?
If you have all of those confidently in place, then you really should be making a sale or two fairly quickly off the bat, however if that’s not the case a great resource for you to gather non biased external feedback on your site, your designs, your products and your sales funnel is to use a platform called helpfull.com.
Helpfull specializes in getting real-time feedback from 1000’s of people with a demographic of your choosing.
You simply create a survey around the items you want feedback for. So it might be your print on demand t-shirt designs, it could be your product listings, perhaps it’s your logo’s or brand design.
You choose what you need feedback on and create a survey accordingly.
You then choose how many people you want to target and the specific demographics. For example you might want to target 500 women in the US, between the ages of 36 – 55, interested in cooking, who are Amazon members. It’s that granular.
Then away you go! Your survey is sent out and not only do you get a full report once the survey is complete, you can even watch in real time, as if this was a post on a social media platform.
Except the people responding are very specifically, precisely the demographic you want to target with your products.
Be aware though that it can take time for sales to materialize.
It can take 6 – 8 touches to generate a viable sales lead, so you need to be out there telling the world about your awesome products as much as you can!
So that about wraps up this guide on starting and growing your own ecommerce business. I do hope it has proved useful.
The best way to use this article is to bookmark it on your browser so you can come back to it time and again as you go through building and growing your ecommerce store.
Thanks for reading, do come and join our FB Community if you have any questions or would like to hang out and network with like-minded individuals all on a similar journey!
Good luck with your ecommerce store, I can’t wait to see what you’re going to be selling!
How to Start an Ecommerce Business in 2023 – FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)
How much does it cost to start an ecommerce business?
If you’re already running a hosted blog, you could add the woopress ecommerce plugin for free to start advertising your products or use the Shopify lite plan at only $9 a month. If you’re starting an ecommerce store from scratch and want to use Shopify their basic plan is $29 a month.
Can I start an ecommerce business for free?
Essentially yes. See above.
Is starting an ecommerce business profitable?
Ecommerce businesses on the whole are very profitable, however it’s also a highly competitive market. Differentiating your ecommerce store by creating a strong brand and researching quality products is essential.
Should I start an ecommerce business?
The e commerce business model is a fantastic lifestyle business model, allowing you to build an online business you can run from anywhere in the world. As such I highly recommend starting an ecommerce business if you have an idea for a product you’d love to sell online and would like to have your own online store. Please note however, as with any online business venture, it is hard work to get off the ground and will take commitment and focus.
What are some examples of successful ecommerce websites?
I’ve listed some above in my section on choosing your ecommerce business niche, however here are a few more;
- Warby Parker – Glasses
- Underwater Audio – Self explanatory
- Bonobos – Mens clothes
- Shien – Womens Clothing
- Birchbox – Beauty
What are some ecommerce business ideas?
There are literally thousands of paths you could go down here, but here are some of the biggest ecommerce business niches;
- Beauty & Skincare
- Home Office Equipment
- Health Products
- Pet Products
- Mens Grooming
- Home Gym & Fitness Equipment
- Eco Friendly Products
- Plus Sized Clothing
- Gardening Products
- Survival Products
Do I need a business plan to start an ecommerce business?
You do not need a business plan to start an ecommerce business, unless you’re planning to get funding from a bank or financial institution who will insist on a detailed business plan. If you’re planning on growing your ecommerce business as a lifestyle business I don’t recommend looking for external funding at this stage. Instead bootstrap your business and grow while generating income elsewhere.
What is the best ecommerce platform?
In my experience Shopify has everything you need to start a profitable online store. However some of the other best ecommerce platforms include; Woocommerce, Magento, bigcommerce.
How do I start an ecommerce business with no money?
If I didn’t have a bean to invest, I’d start with a print on demand site like Redbubble or Zazzle. I’d create designs in Canva.com and add my designs to the range of products available on Redbubble and Zazzle. I’d then build an audience, probably on TikTok or Instagram these days, and start to talk about and promote my products, find some Instagram shopping influencers who can also talk about them and grow my sales until I could afford to start my own ecommerce store!
How do I start an ecommerce business from scratch?
Choose the ecommerce business model you’d like to start, pick the best ecommerce platform, decide your online store niche, find profitable products to sell online, create your brand and business name, design & build your ecommerce platform, add your products, launch and promote your ecommerce store, build an audience and grow your sales over time.
An online catalog creator is a great solution to create an impressive catalog that can be sent directly to your audience if you have an email list but no time to build an ecommerce store.
How do I Start an Ecommerce Business and Travel the World?
I’ve been traveling the world since 2010 with my family and am currently based in Phuket, Thailand. I’ve built ecommerce businesses on Shopify, Amazon & Etsy, I’ve sold online courses, membership sites, been an affiliate marketer, a niche site blogger, a writer, a podcaster and everything in between.
Whether you build an ecommerce business from scratch, start an information based business, or mix and match online business models, starting an online lifestyle business gives you the freedom to work from anywhere in the world.