How to Start an Ecommerce Business – The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Ecommerce is growing year on year but Starting an Ecommerce Business can seem quite daunting!

That is why I created this Complete Beginner’s Guide to help you get started on your ecommerce journey the right way, from the initial planning stages to launching your online store.

Before I get into the guide, lets take a quick look at the growth of ecommerce over the last few years, so you can really understand the potential that selling online has:

Ecommerce Sales Growth

I honestly expect that the actual sales figures for 2020 and beyond are going to be considerably higher due to the impact of the global pandemic but even prior to this, you can see how rapidly online sales are predicted to grow over the next few years.

But before you start, I do want to warn you that this is a long guide as I haven’t skimmed over things like many other guides out there. Instead I have gone through all the steps in as much detail as I could, pulling from my own experience of starting, building and running an ecommerce business.

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Step 1: Planning Your Business

Planning Your Ecommerce Business

The first part of any business is the planning stage and this is hugely important but something that is often overlooked, which in many cases is the reason why new businesses fail.

Now, you don’t have to obsess over this and create a bulletproof business plan, but having a good outline for your business will make the process much easier. You can also use this as your own guide that you can refer back to so that you know that you are on track and also what you need to work on next.

For this guide, I am going to focusing on starting a B2C (Business to Customer) ecommerce business. If you want to see what the other types of ecommerce business model are, then check out the FAQ Section at the bottom of this guide.

#1 Choosing an Ecommerce Niche

You probably have a good idea of what you want to sell but when starting out, but it is always better to think bigger than just the product and think about the niche you want your business to be in. There are many benefits to being a niche focused ecommerce business, including:

  1. It is easier to rank in search engines
  2. Reaching your target audience is much easier
  3. You can plan on how you will grow your business by expanding within your chosen niche

Even Amazon, the world’s largest ecommerce business started out within a niche as a book seller and when the business grew, they were able to expand into new areas.

Don’t Chase the Money

This is a big mistake that many people make when they are trying to find the perfect niche. If you are solely focused on finding a niche that will generate you the most profit, then you will probably spend a long time looking and may not even find the perfect, profitable niche.

Yes money is important and you want your business to be profitable and successful but building an ecommerce business purely on financial motive isn’t going to give you the drive to succeed, especially when things get tough.

Building an ecommerce business isn’t easy, it takes a lot of hard work, time and dedication. So you need something to get you out of bed in the morning and give you that determination to give your all for the rest of the day.

Play to Your Strengths

Do you have any hobbies? passions? or areas of expertise?

The reason why I say this, is because it is always better to start a business in an niche you know about or are passionate about. Your passion and knowledge will soon start to show itself in your business, from the way you write your product descriptions and website content to how you answer customer enquiries.

In many cases, it also plays out that you (with your passion and knowledge) are the reason why people want to deal with you and your business. This means that if you do it right, you can build up a loyal customer base and get what every business wants, a word of mouth recommendation!

You are also more likely to continue learning and growing your knowledge so that you and your business are the best that they can be. Many of the small niche business owners that I know, love what they do and it is what gives them that drive to do it day in day out, even when things get a bit tough.

Is There a Market for it? and How Big is it?

The FIRST thing you need to do is to establish whether there is a market out there for your business and also how big that market is.

To find out if there is a market out there, you need to do some research. For this, Google can be your best friend as they have a range of tools that can help you see what people are searching for. Tools such as keyword planner, google suggested searches (the options google show you when you start typing in the search bar) and google related searches (the ones that appear at the bottom of the search page).

Suggested searches and related searches will show you that there are people out there looking for what you are thinking of selling and the keyword planner will give you an idea as to how many people are searching for it. Just be aware that googles numbers aren’t always that accurate!

How Easy is it to Reach your Target Market?

So you have established that there is a market for your niche products/services. Now you need to look at how easy it is to reach that audience.

Once again, Google is your friend as you can type in search queries and check out your competition. How many competitors are there? Are they missing out on opportunities when it comes to digital marketing, social media or SEO?

This may take some time but it is worth the investment. You may see that one or two companies are really strong but everyone else is average at best, if this is the case, then there are opportunities to become at minimum become to second or third best business in the marketplace.

When it comes to reaching your audience, there are so many opportunities out there that the bigger companies are missing. One of the best is to get involved with Facebook groups or forums that are targeted at your chosen niche.

By getting involved, offering great advice and at appropriate times slipping in links to your site and providing members with excellent service, you can soon build up a really good customer base. I have seen this happen many times and have also done it myself.

#2 Choosing Your Products

Once you have decided on which niche you want to go for, you then need to start thinking about your product selection. You may have chosen the perfect niche but if your product selection isn’t right, then you won’t be going anywhere fast!

This is going to be quite a long section as I have split it into two parts:

  1. The different types of products to sell online
  2. How to choose the right products to sell

#1 Types of Ecommerce Products

Physical Products

Choose a Delivery Method

The most commonly sold thing online is physical products and pretty much anything you can think of can be bought or sold online, including:

  • Clothing
  • Watches and Jewellery
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Food
  • Housewares

Many traditional bricks and mortar retailers sell physical products, just like they do in their stores. Many of the larger, well known online retailers such as Amazon and Asos, also sell mainly physical products.

The transaction process for a physical product goes something like this:

The customer adds the item/s they want to their shopping cart, they then go through the checkout process to pay for the goods. The retailer then posts the item out to their customer and once the customer receives the product, the transaction is complete.

Digital Products

With digital products, the retailer doesn’t have to physically stock any products, instead they have a product that can be downloaded once the item has been paid for.

Digital products has seen massive growth over the last few years and many products that were once physical only, such as:

  • Music
  • Films & TV Series
  • Books
  • Games

Are now sold as a digital product and this has been helped by the invention of devices such as the iPod and Amazon Kindle.

The transaction is also much quicker to complete for buyers as they add their selected item/s to their shopping cart, pay for them and they will then be provided a link or file that they can download directly on to their device.

Services

As with digital products, the sale of services online has seen massive growth in the last few years. This is because it has become easier for suppliers to sell services directly to their customers and the variety of services available is impressive, such as:

  • Streaming Services (Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify)
  • SAAS (Shopify, Quickbooks, Google Apps)
  • Consultancy
  • Teaching or Training
  • Virtual Services (Assistant, Proofreading, Editing)

How these services are delivered to the customer very much depends on the service being offered. It may be a log in so that you can access them (Streaming, SAAS) or scheduling a time when they can supply their service to you (Consultancy, Teaching) and these services may not be done online but the transaction of buying the service is.

#2 How to Choose a Product

Choose Your Products

Throughout my time selling online, I noticed that there were two elements that would determine whether or not a product would be successful.

Some simple yet important advice! When you are doing product research, don’t listen to people or ‘guru’s’ who know exactly what will sell! Simply because if they know all this, then why aren’t they keeping that information to themselves and making millions selling them?

The simple answer is, they probably don’t know or they are just trying to sell you something. This is because there are so many different industries and niches, that no-one can know about them all. You are much better off doing research into your market and figure it out for yourself what will sell.

Does the Product Solve a Problem?

This is something you have probably read lots of times when researching how to find products to sell, but it is very true.

I think of this as someone needs something and I can use myself as a good example here. The lighting in my YouTube videos was pretty rubbish as I was using natural daylight and here in the UK, it isn’t exactly a reliable light source! So I needed to buy some lights to improve the quality of my videos and I searched for a product that would solve this problem.

Some of the most successful businesses are built on this principle. A builders merchant is a great example of this as pretty much everything that they sell solves a problem, from building materials to fixtures, fittings and tools. They all solve a problem.

A good way to find products that solve problems is to think about yourself, what problems have you had that you have struggled to find a solution for? You can also extend this to your friends and family and once you have a list of problems, you want to find out if you could design or source a product that would solve them.

You can use this as constant product research as there are always going to be problems that people face and if you can provide a product to solve it, then you have got yourself a business!

Does it Satisfy Someone’s Desire?

The problem is though, that not all product really solve problems and that is why I think there is a second point to this and that is satisfying someone’s desire.

I experienced this first hand as I was a online jewellery retailer for 7 years and while some products solved a problem, the large majority of what I sold really didn’t! That is why desire very much applies to none essential and luxury goods.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Why would someone buy a Ferrari over a Ford Focus?

Because the Ford Focus is actually a better solution for transporting people and goods around, it is easier to get into and has more storage capacity and that is the problem that most people need a car to solve. But what if someone wants to go fast? wants to own an Italian supercar? They don’t need a Ferrari but they want a Ferrari!

Why would someone buy a Rolex Submariner over a digital Casio watch?

If you need something to wear on your wrist and tell you the time, the Casio is actually the better choice as they keep better time than a Rolex. But what if someone wants a Swiss made watch? wants a beautifully designed mechanical movement? They don’t need these things in a watch but they want them!

I hope you understand what I mean now by satisfying someone’s desire and this same can be applied to anything from designer clothing to jewellery to lingerie.

Many luxury brands create the desire for their products in their marketing, they know people don’t need what they are selling but they make people want it. This is the big difference between the two and you have to run your business accordingly, especially your marketing.

There HAS to be a Demand for it!

There is a difference between there being a market for your niche and there being demand for your products. If your products don’t answer one of the two questions above, then there isn’t going to be any demand for it.

You also need to established how big the demand for the products is as well. If the demand is too small, then it might not be economical or profitable for you to stock that particular product.

To find out how much demand there is for the products, you want to go back and do more keyword research. But instead of researching the niche in general, you want to focus it solely on the products and the numbers you see will soon give you a good indication of the level of demand.

You can also use marketplaces such as Ebay and Amazon as part of your research. To do this, search for your the kind of product you are looking at selling and look at the sales history on Ebay and the amount of reviews/questions asked on Amazon. While not the most accurate bit of research, every little bit helps!

Is it Profitable?

There is no point choosing a product to sell if it is not going to be profitable. This is the final part of your product research, the numbers!

When you are figuring out if it will be profitable to sell, you need to factor all related expenses into your calculations. I commonly see people just looking at the gross profit per product (Sale Price – Cost Price) but this is a recipe for failure.

You need to factor in things such as payment gateway fees and the cost of postage & packaging, only then will you get a good idea if it will be profitable. You then need to figure out if the profit margin you are making per product will cover your businesses overheads such as rent, rates, utilities and insurance etc.

To do this you do need to estimate how many sales you will get and it is always best practise to operate on the cautious side and be realistic.

#3 Planning Your Brand

You know the niche you’ll be operating in and the products that you are going to sell, now you need to start thinking about your business and your brand.

Business Name, Logo & Domain Name

The first thing to do is decide on the name of your business and also the logo that you are going to use, this is a pretty important step as this is what you are going to build your business around.

Choosing the right business name is getting more challenging as it is becoming more difficult to find available:

  • Domain names
  • Social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc)

Now I know this might be difficult but if you can, try and come up with a list of names and then use tools like namecheckr.com to see if they are available.

If you find that your desired domain name and social media are available, then it is best practice to get them as soon as you can because if you leave it, someone else may come in and get them.

Once you have your business name sorted out, you want to create a logo for your business so that you can start branding your website, social media, marketing materials and packaging. Fortunately, there are now a great selection of tools such as Canva out there that you can use to design a logo for your business.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is the virtual address of your website, such as ecommerce-gold.com is my websites address.

When it comes to choosing a domain name for your website, there are some guidelines that can help your website chances of success:

  1. Keep it Short – ideally a domain name should be less than 20 characters and less than three words. This just makes it easier for people to remember and reduces the chances of someone typing it incorrectly.
  2. Keep it Simple – very much follows on from point number 1, the simpler the name, the easier it is to remember.
  3. Avoid Hyphens – I know that I have one in my domain name but ideally these should be avoided, especially if the non hyphenated version is an active website.
  4. Use Top Level Domains – a top level domain ends with .com or .org, you can also have top level domains for your country such as .co.uk or .com.au. Going for obscure ones like .business, isn’t really going to help your business so it is best to stick with top level ones.
    • As a side note to this point, if you are targeting a global audience then a .com will be the best option. If you just want to target the country you live in, then opt for the top level domain in your country.

Where to Buy a Domain Name?

To purchase a Domain Name, you need to use a domain name registrar and I would recommend having your domain name and website with different companies as this gives you more control over your website.

Also, when choosing a domain registrar, you want to go with a reputable company and I would generally avoid ones that offer the first year for free or 99¢, this is because they usually have hefty renewal fees and might charge you to move to a new registrar. Two of the companies I recommend are:

  • Namecheap – great for .com domains and you get free whois protection for life (not applicable to all country specific domains)
  • Kualo – my go to for UK domain names, they are reasonably priced but more importantly very transparent, so no hidden charges!

Unique Selling Point (USP)

The next part of planning your brand is what is your businesses USP?

  • What is going to make your business stand out from the crowd?
  • Why should a customer buy from you rather than the next business?
  • What do you do differently from your competition?

Ecommerce is incredibly competitive these days and while there are still many opportunities out there, you do need to know what makes your business special and different to all of your competition and also how you are going to implement it.

There are many ways you can make your business stand out but there has to be something. Most of the ecommerce businesses that fail, do so because they are generic. Some of the things you could do is:

  • Offer a better customer experience
  • Be more ethical or environmentally friendly
  • Use your business to positively impact the community

These are just a couple of ideas that can set your business apart but one thing I wouldn’t recommend as your USP is being the cheapest as it simply isn’t a sustainable business model. The reason is that if your business grows and you incur more overheads, a leaner startup company can easily come in and undercut you and thus what brought you to the dance has gone!

#4 Choosing a Business Model

The next stage of planning is to choose the business model that you are going to operate and for most B2C ecommerce websites it is going to come down to Ecommerce vs Dropshipping and below is a summary of both of these methods.

Ecommerce Business Model

Ecommerce Diagram

The first method is what I call traditional ecommerce and basically follows this process:

  1. You find a supplier for your products, this may be a manufacturer or wholesaler. For some companies this may be a supplier or raw materials that you then make into sellable products (jewellery, clothing etc). A product range is then purchased or made and you physically hold the stock.
  2. You list the products on your own website
  3. You then market these products to potential customers
  4. Customers place orders on your website
  5. You ship orders out to your customers

Obviously, this is a simplified explanation but it should give you an idea of how it operates but there are some pros and cons with this model.

Pros

  • More control over the business
  • Products are generally cheaper when bought in bulk
  • You control shipping times and choice of carrier
  • You have more control over the quality of the products being sold/posted

Cons

  • Larger initial investment required to have a good product range
  • Can be left holding stock if it doesn’t sell
  • Requires hands on management everyday (shipping, returns etc)
  • Scaling the business will incur additional costs (staff, wages etc)

All of the world’s largest ecommerce companies such as Amazon, Asos and Gymshark have all adapted this ecommerce business model. While the initial investment is larger, you do have far more control over all aspects of your business.

Dropshipping Business Model

Dropshipping Diagram

Dropshipping has gained a lot of traction over the past decade due to how easy it is to start this type of business but how does this model operate?

  1. You find a dropshipping supply partner
  2. You list their products on your website, this can be automated or done manually depending on your choice of ecommerce platform and supply partner
  3. You then market the products to potential customers
  4. A customer places an order on your site
  5. You then place an order on your supply partners website, once again this can be done automatically or manually
  6. Your partner will then process, package and ship the product to your customer

On paper, this sounds like the perfect business model but there are some pros and cons that you do need to be aware of:

Pros

  • Lower start up costs
  • Easy to get started
  • No money tied up in stock
  • Can be automated in many ways
  • Can be run from anywhere

Cons

  • Low barrier to entry, which means increased competition
  • Smaller profit margins due to buying products individually
  • No control over shipping or dispatch times
  • No chance to quality control products
  • You may be stuck with returns

For many, dropshipping is a very good way of getting started and learning some of the skills required to run an ecommerce business and it may be an option to become a traditional ecommerce business further down the line.

#5 Miscellaneous Planning

Before you start building your website, there are couple of things you are going to want to think about. I know I have labelled this a miscellaneous but these are actually very important things that you want to get sorted out and many new ecommerce business leave these until the last minute!

Payment Gateways

When you are building an ecommerce website, you want to think about how you are going to get paid as it is kind of important and as with all things ecommerce, there is more than one option out there.

Pay As You Go Payment Processors

Arguably the best option when you are just getting started as you only pay transaction fees when you make a sale, some of these options include:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Amazon Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay (G Pay)

While these payment options do give you more flexibility, they do charge higher transactions fees, usually around 3%, however, some do offer reductions in fees for high volume merchants.

Merchant Account + Payment Gateway

This is the more ‘traditional’ way off accepting payments online and requires you to have a merchant account and a payment gateway. These can either be had separately or combined through your chosen partner, such as:

  • Worldpay
  • Sagepay
  • Barclaycard
  • Global Payments

For new ecommerce websites, these aren’t the best option as they usually have monthly fees ($20+) and long contracts (2-5 years). These should only be considered when you are having higher volumes of sales as they can be quite a lot cheaper in terms of transaction fees.

Shipping Services

How are your products going to get from you to your customer?

Choosing the right shipping service can make running an ecommerce considerably easier and ideally you want it to have:

  • Short delivery times
  • Be reliable
  • Cover lost/damaged parcels
  • Not be too expensive

Many new businesses will automatically go for the cheapest option out there, but there is often a reason why they are the cheapest and it may be at the expensive of quality. A compromise of cost and good service is usually the best option.

Business Policies

If you can already have your policies such as:

  • Payment
  • Delivery
  • Returns
  • Terms and Conditions

All sorted and possibly typed out before you start building your website, it will make it much easier for you to get started as you can simply copy and paste them straight on to your website. Doing these before you start your website, also gives you the chance to get them checked over and make sure that they are legal before your site goes live.

Customer Service

How your customers can contact you? Having a good range of contact information on your site can not only build trust in potential customers but can also increase conversions on your website, options you may want to include are:

  • Email
  • Contact Form
  • Phone Number
  • WhatsApp Number
  • Live Chat

Obviously, you don’t want to be giving out personal contact details but can be very easy to set up contact methods using services like VoIP for phone numbers and Google for email. A cheap phone can also be used for WhatsApp and Live Chat if you are using something like Facebook Messenger.

Step 2: Building an Ecommerce Website

Building an Ecommerce Website

What is an Ecommerce Platform?

An Ecommerce Platform is a piece of software that allows an individual or business to build a website where they can sell products or services to customers or businesses. But there are a few different options you can take when it comes to choosing which software to go for!

Hosted vs Self Hosted Ecommerce?

When it comes to ecommerce platforms, they basically fall into one of the two categories:

  1. Hosted Ecommerce Platforms
  2. Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platforms

There is also a third option, which is to have a website custom built but this isn’t really recommended for someone just starting out. This is more of an option for big ecommerce websites, who have the budget to pay for the development and management.

But what is difference between hosted and self hosted?

Hosted Ecommerce Platforms

Examples:

Shopify
Bigcommerce
EKM

Summary:

A fully hosted ecommerce platform includes hosting, an ecommerce website builder and generally offers users support. This is all included for a monthly price.

Pros:

• No technical knowledge required
• Performance and optimisation are taken care of for you
• Easier to learn for beginners
• Includes support
• Leaves you to focus on marketing, sales and general business aspects

Cons:

• Can be more expensive on a monthly basis
• You are locked in to that platform, moving to another one can be a complex process
• Your site it limited by what the platform allows you to do

Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platforms

Examples:

WooCommerce
Opencart
Prestashop

Summary:

A self-hosted ecommerce platform keeps the hosting and software separate. This means that you need to buy hosting and then install your software of choice.

Pros:

• You own the website
• More flexibility as you have access to the source code
• Can be cheaper on a monthly basis
• Most self-hosted platforms have a large community of developers for themes, plugins and apps

Cons:

• You are responsible for the performance & security of the site
• No dedicated support
• Upfront cost can be quite large (themes, plugins, apps etc)
• Can have a steeper learning curve

How to Choose an Ecommerce Platform?

In order to choose the right ecommerce platform, you need to look at yourself and your business in order to be able to truly identify what you need, such as:

  • Your technical skills
  • How much technical involvement do you want with your site?
  • What features do you need?
  • What is your monthly budget?
  • What payment gateways are you going to be using?
  • Do you need integration with third-party software such as accounting or order management?

Some of these questions, you may not be able to answer until you have been going a few months but having a basic idea of what you need will help you get started. It is also best to try out as many platforms as you can, fortunately most hosted platforms offer a 14 day free trial.

Reading online reviews and comparisons can also be helpful.

A question that is often asked is which is the most popular ecommerce platform, well thanks to the datanyze, I can show you. Now these are the most popular ecommerce platforms for the top 1 million ecommerce websites in the world (as of 30th November 2020).

Popular Ecommerce Platforms

Step 3: Marketing Your Ecommerce Business

Marketing

So you have finished building your online shop!

Now you need to start getting people to visit your new online shop and to do this you need to develop a marketing strategy. Below I will give a short outline of three of the main types of digital marketing that you can use.

When it comes to digital marketing, you may find that there are some elements you can do yourself, whereas it may be more cost effective to employ the services of a digital agency or freelance specialist rather than trying to learn it all yourself.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

The aim of SEO is to get your website ranking well in search engines such as Google or Bing. When you rank well in search engines, you get what is called organic traffic and for online stores, organic traffic is the best kind of traffic as it generally has the best conversion rates.

The main problem with SEO is that it takes a fair bit of work to get your site ranking will and generally takes a long time to see results. However it is a good long term marketing strategy and is definitely something you want to do to your site. But what does SEO consist of? Well there are two main components, onsite and offsite and I will give a quick overview of them both below.

Onsite SEO

Onsite SEO is something you have far more control over as it is all things that you can do on your website. There are three main elements to onsite SEO:

1. Keyword Research

You will hear this a lot when you doing any kind of research into SEO and it is a really important thing to do. The aim of keyword research is to find the right keywords that you want your site to rank for.

When you are just starting out, you want to be aiming for what are known as long tail keywords, which are phrases or questions people type into search engines that are more specific and targeted. Let me give you an example:

  • Diamond Ring is a very broad search term and there could be lots of reasons why they are looking for this, they could be looking at ones for sale, different styles that are available, how much they cost etc. Not only is it a hard search term to rank for but it is also not guaranteed to generate sales
  • 18ct White Gold 1ct Round Diamond Halo Engagement Ring is a far more specific search term and the person is looking for a set of results that perfectly match what they are looking for. There is a good chance that this person is actively looking to buy, so ranking for long tail keywords such as this has a far higher chance of converting into a sale.

That is just an example to show you the difference between a broad search term and a long tail specific search. It will take time doing keyword research and the holy grail is search terms with good monthly volume, usually between 500 and 5000 searches and low competition. Two good tools for this are Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest.

2. Keyword Optimisation

Once you have your keywords that you want to use, you want to optimise your content for those keywords. Now you don’t want to stuff all your content with keywords as not only does make it hard to your visitors to read but you can also be penalised by search engines for doing this.

Instead you want your keywords to appear organically in your content. To do this you need to take time to craft your Product Titles, Descriptions and Alt Image Tags. You want to walk a fine line between being optimised for search engines but also offering you visitors a good user experience.

Outside of your product pages, you can make use of blogs as they are content heavy areas of your site that you can use to get visitors. Lots of online shops make the mistake of using their blog posts as sales pitches, you don’t want to do this, instead use them to answer questions and inform your visitors. Well written and laid out blog posts can be great ways of not only getting more visitors to your site but also turning those visitors into customers by showing your knowledge of your chosen industry.

3. Internal Linking

The next step is to create internal links around your site, this is where you can really take advantage of your blog posts!

As long as you have created blog posts that are relevant to the products you are selling, then you can start linking keywords and images back to products or categories. This has a two benefits for your site, the first is that you are enticing your visitors to click through to your products and the second is that it is easier for websites to crawl and index your site and they can easily follow your links.

Now you don’t want to over do your linking! The main reason is that every page on your site has so much authority, which it passes on to the page it is linked to and the more links you have on a page, the more this authority is diluted between the links. With a new website, try and keep the number of links low so that your website gets the most benefit from them.

There are some other elements to offsite SEO but the most important is backlinks and these are links to your site from other sites.

This is something you have far less control over and the way to increase the number of backlinks organically is to produce really good content that others want to link to and share. Now this can be your product listings or your blog posts, so you want to put effort into them to make them as good as possible to encourage this backlinking.

You can reach out to people in your industry and see if you can come to some type of arrangement so that you either create a guest post or they review your products etc. Always approach this so that both parties get something from the deal, not just you and your website.

What about buying backlinks? This was once a very popular SEO tactic but search engines have become more advanced and they now rank the quality of your backlinks rather than the quantity. Buying backlinks generally gets you a lot of poor quality links for sites with low domain authority and these can have a negative impact on your rankings.

Social Media Marketing

A great way to get your business out there is to use social media, now there are a whole host of options when it comes to platforms you can use such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Lots of marketers say you should be active on every single platform but this can be a waste of time and energy on your part, especially if you are not getting any results.

How do you choose which platform/s to use? Well it takes a little bit of time and research but I have came up with a strategy that you can use to find out which platforms are going to in a relatively short period of time.

This strategy only takes a month but does require consistent work. You want to post the same content to all your chosen social media platforms on a daily basis. Do this for 30 days and then use your websites analytics software to see which platforms generate the most traffic to your website, you will likely see that one or two will perform better than others.

You can then start focusing all your social media marketing attention towards these top two platforms as they are giving you the best ROI (return on investment) in terms of time. It is pointless spending time posting to platforms that aren’t generating you any traffic, it would be better to spend that time growing your audience on the platforms that are working for your business.

I found it good to re-visit this strategy every 6 – 12 months as you can find that your audience has changed or moved to another platform and you want your social media marketing to be adapting with these changes.

Paid Advertising

The quickest way to get visitors to your website is paid advertising, now there are multiple forms of paid advertising such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Sponsored Instagram Posts and Promoted Twitter Posts.

But you do need to know what you are doing as you can quickly burn through your marketing budget if you are running bad ad campaigns. To make your campaigns work for your business, you need to know who your target audience is and how to reach them.

As with all marketing, this takes time and research. If you are planning doing paid advertising, using the social media marketing strategy above can be useful in helping you identify where you want to run ads. But you want to learn how to do them properly before spending all your money with no return!

There are plenty of online courses you can take, that will cover the basics of certain types of advertising but sometimes it can be a better options to use a digital marketing agency as that is what they do on a daily basis. Before signing up with an agency though, always do some research into the company to make sure they are legitimate and also have done good work for others.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Conclusion

I think the fundamental message of this post is that you really do need to do your research before starting an ecommerce business. I did when I started selling online and found products that I sold really well. My best performing ones sold thousands of units.

One thing I will say is that you are never going to get this 100% right, especially when it comes to your product selection. You will always have some dud products but that is retail for you.