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How To Start an Online Retail Business

9 min read

Ecommerce stores are a growing market, and if you’re looking for a way to capitalize on the trend, launching an online retail business is a great option.

So how do you get started? From writing a business plan to promoting your products, here’s how to start an online retail business.

How to sell online
Tips from e-commerce experts for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
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1. Write a Business Plan

Learning how to start an online retail business starts with learning about business plans.

Basically, a business plan keeps your new company on track, providing clear targets and strategies for growth. Plus, if you’re looking for investors, a business plan proves that your company is an investment-worthy venture.

If you already have an in-person retail business, it’s still a good idea to write a business plan for your new online venture. That way, you’ll have a clear idea of how your online business will work with your existing store.

What does a business plan include?

The process of writing your business plan essentially involves brainstorming how your online store will function. Here’s what to think about during your brainstorming session:

Company partnerships

What other businesses will you need to work with to run your online store? This could include website hosts (like Ecwid) and product manufacturers.

Key activities

How will your company get a competitive advantage over other online businesses?

Important resources

What assets do you have access to? Think about start-up money, product patents, and valuable employees.

Customer relations

How are you going to connect with customers? Consider what value your business offers shoppers and how they’ll interact with your online store.

Market segments

Who are you selling to? For existing store owners, this could be different from your physical location’s target demographic.

Sale channels and revenue streams

Probably the most important question — how are you going to make money? Where do your products come from and how do they get to the customer?

Ultimately, a business plan is a roadmap for your company, giving you a path to success. Your business plan is the foundation of your online store, so take time to make it high-quality and fully developed.

Writing a value proposition for your online business

As you write your online store’s business plan, you’ll need something called a value proposition. In short, this is a clear and compelling statement explaining the value your company offers customers.

Now’s not the time to be vague. Value propositions should capture the unique importance of your online business.

  1. Why should customers buy from you instead of the competition?
  2. How is your online store different from other companies?
  3. What makes your online business special?

2. Register Your Business Name

Once you’ve picked a name for your online retail business, it’s time to register with the government. Requirements for business name registration depend on where you’re located and other factors, but for most U.S.-based business owners, you’ll need to tell the government that your company exists and file some paperwork. In some cases, you’ll also need to pay a registration fee — which is usually less than $300.

According to the Small Business Administration, you don’t have to register if you’re using your personal legal name, but it may still be a good idea since there are some tax benefits.

Why you should register your online business with the Federal Government

Registering your business name with the government isn’t as scary as it sounds, and there’s an important reason to do it before you start selling.

When you register, your company will get a federal tax ID. Basically, this ID is how the government identifies your company — so it’s an important part of complying with tax law.

Here’s some of the info you can expect to need during the registration process.

  • The Business’s name
  • The Business’s location
  • Your name

The exact steps for registration will depend on your specific location and company type, but you can learn more about the process and get started on the Small Business Administration’s website.

3. Pick a Web Host

Reading about paperwork isn’t the most exciting part of learning how to start an online retail business, but now that it’s out of the way, it’s time to pick a web host.

What is a web host?

Web hosts are platforms that let you build a website. Sometimes, these platforms offer minimal support and features — meaning you’ll need to build your ecommerce store from scratch. This type of host usually requires some coding abilities.

On the other hand, some web hosts give you access to tools that make it easier to build an ecommerce store. These options, including Ecwid, will give you things like ready-to-go platforms for posting your products, tools to promote your store, and access to analytics that help you understand your ecommerce store’s growth.

What type of web host should you use?

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of choosing a web host, it’s always a good idea to look for an option that doesn’t throw a ton of fees at you while still giving you control over your store’s features and user experience.

4. Connect Your Ventures

If you already operate a brick-and-mortar store, learning how to start an online retail business has the potential to open up new sales channels. Let’s look at two ways to capitalize on the connection between your existing store and an online platform.

Enable local delivery

For businesses like grocery stores or bakeries, letting customers schedule local delivery is a great way to sell perishable foods via the internet. If you use Ecwid, you can set up local delivery services or give customers the option of curbside pickup.

Provide online inventory browsing

This is one of the most helpful aspects of adding an online element to your retail business. By creating product listings, you’ll give internet users the chance to see what you’re selling in-store and online. As a result, your business gets more opportunities to make the sale.

5. Promote Your Online Business

Now that you know how to start an online retail business, it’s time to think about promoting your store.

How do you promote an online store?

Ecommerce is all about using the power of the internet to build a business and make money, so it makes sense to use digital marketing to connect with customers.

Social media marketing. With nearly 3 billion active users each month, Facebook offers a huge audience for your online business. But it doesn’t stop there, using platforms like Instagram and even Snapchat can be a valuable part of connecting with customers.

SEO strategies. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of using keywords and other strategies to increase the number of internet users landing on your website. Since 87% of users in the U.S. browse on more than one device, it’s a good idea to incorporate SEO strategies in your marketing plan.

It’s Time to Start Selling

Ecommerce keeps growing — like, a lot. In 2020, global ecommerce sales reached $4.28 trillion.

That’s trillion with a T.

And that number is expected to pass $5 trillion in 2022, so there’s really never been a better time to start an online business.

Do you want to learn more about launching a retail business?

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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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