A complete guide to building a successful ecommerce store
In this quick start guide, I’ll give you an overview of what’s involved with building a successful ecommerce store.
Before we start you should know that there’s no secret and no guarantee of success. It can be hard work in the beginning but is worth it if it all works out.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is for those that want to build an ecommerce store but don’t know where to start. It’s not for everyone though. It’s for those that want to build a serious business and are willing to put in the work. It’s also for those that realize that there are no guarantees. You can work hard and still fail.
Who is this guide not for?
This guide isn’t for those that expect to make $10,000 in their first month while sipping cocktails at the beach. This is not for those that are planning to buy a Lambo. This is not for anyone afraid of hard work. This is not a get-rich-quick guide. It’s more like a get-rich-slowly-with-the-possibility-of-failure guide.
What qualifies me to give you advice?
That’s an excellent question, so I’m glad you asked it. Years ago, I built a very successful ecommerce company. I built it from scratch with zero cash. I started by dropshipping products on eBay, and later built a website and ordered products in bulk.
I ran the business for three years, making an average of around $100,000 a year profit. I then sold the business for around $250,000 and retired overseas.
I don’t have all the answers though. No-one does. I know what worked for me and I know what didn’t work. I am also well aware that much has changed since I had my store. It’s much tougher these days.
You can read my story about how I built my business below. Read this first. It will give you a good overview of the process.
Ecommerce vs. Dropshipping
This guide covers both the above. Most ecommerce stores buy their products in bulk and hold them in a warehouse. When a customer orders a product, they are then shipped from that warehouse.
Dropshipping means that when you sell a product to a customer, you then order it from your supplier. They then ship it directly to your customer. I some ways this method is easier because you don’t have any upfront costs buying products in bulk. You also don’t need to deal with shipping.
It’s ok to use this method when starting, but I’d aim to transition to a situation where you buy the goods in bulk yourself. It will ensure that your customer gets better service from you. You will be rewarded with extra profits. Don’t opt for the dropshipping model just because you’re too lazy to put in the work.
Whatever you do, don’t dropship products from China to the US. It’s asking for trouble.
Also, see the article below if you want more information on the difference between these two models.
Let’s get started
I think the process of starting an ecommerce store can be broken down into 4 main steps. I’ll go over these 4 steps briefly in this article. Over the coming days, I’ll be publishing more comprehensive articles on each of these steps. I’ll insert links to these articles below.
For now, I want you to have an overview so that you can start thinking about the kind of store you want. Maybe after reading this you’ll decide that it’s too much work. That’s is ok, as I will have saved you both time and money going down a path that’s not for you.
Let me repeat once again that this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. This is a real business that takes real work. There is no guarantee of success. You could lose both time and money. I will however be suggesting ways to conduct each step with the minimum amount of money.
Whatever you do, don’t just go out and buy a bunch of products and hope they will sell. You’re almost guaranteed to lose money.
Let’s start with step 1.
STEP 1 — Choosing A Niche & Products
This is the most important step of all. Get this wrong and you’re on your way to losing money. But also be aware that you rarely get this right the first time. You need to put a lot of effort into this step. It could take days, weeks, or months.
My main suggestion here is not to sell what the masses are selling and what’s available for sale on Amazon. You just won’t be able to compete. Many people want to start by selling clothes, t-shirts, phone cases, etc. While some people can make money selling these, the vast majority of people can’t. They are way too competitive for a beginner.
So what niche to pick? I’d suggest choosing a niche that you have at least some interest in. If you hate golf, there’s simply no point selling golfing products. You won’t understand them, and you won’t be able to answer simple customer queries. Customers will see that you have no interest and won’t buy from you.
For now, spend a few days thinking of suitable niches and products. I will cover this in-depth later. There is a lot to it.
STEP 2 — Test whether your products will sell
So, you’ve chosen a niche and also a few products within that niche. The question you now need to ask is if you’ll be able to sell them at a profit. At this stage, I would avoid the cost and hassle of setting up a website. If the products don’t sell, you’ll need to pick a new niche and then build a new website from scratch.
What I did when I started was to sell on eBay at the beginning. It was only after products sold there that I decided to build a website for the products.
You could try selling your products on eBay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, or other suitable platforms. Different products are suited to different platforms.
If your products sell successfully, you can move on to step 3. If not, head back to step 1 and start again. I did warn that this is hard work.
As with step 1, I’ll discuss this in more depth in a future article.
STEP 3 — Set up your ecommerce store
Now that you’ve chosen a niche and some products, it’s time to build your ecommerce store. Nowadays, there are many options to choose from.
For my next store I plan to use Shopify. IT’s built specifically for ecommerce and is hosted on the Shopify servers. This means that they take care of all the important software updates, while you get on with your job of selling.
You could also use BigCommerce or WordPress (with the WooCommerce plugin). For a beginner, WordPress is more difficult to set up and get a great design. You’ll also have the hassle of updating software, fixing any glitches, etc. That detracts you from your job of selling your products.
As with the previous steps, a comprehensive article is coming soon.
STEP 4 — Advertising your store
By now you have chosen your niche and products, tested that they will sell, and built your store. Next, you need to drive customers to your store. This means advertising.
There are many options for advertising. I used Google AdWords for my store and is what I’d use for any future store. Facebook ads are also very popular these days. You can also advertise on Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms.
I will cover this step in more depth later.
Above I’ve given you the basic steps, but there are also other considerations that are separate from these. They are equally as important though. You need to think about these issues alongside the above steps.
If selling anything, you need to get product liability insurance. This is especially true if you’re selling any products that could potentially harm or injure a customer. If you sold electrical goods that resulted in a customer receiving an electric shock, you could lose everything if you weren’t insured.
You’ll also need an accountant, accounting software, a way to accept credit cards, a shipping account, and most likely an LLC.
More about these later.
I’ll try to cover everything you need to know in the upcoming articles, but I’m sure you’ll still have lots of questions. Feel free to ask me anything related to this and I’ll put together a special FAQ to answer them all.