How to Start an Ecommerce Business

The future of ecommerce is incredibly bright. But, learning how to start an ecommerce business is intimidating. It requires hard work and demands many steps and decisions that need to come together at the right time.

To help, we’ve put together a comprehensive blueprint on the best way to start an ecommerce business, compiled from Shopify’s best content. These blog posts, guides, and videos have been organized based on the most important tasks you’ll face when researching, launching, and growing a profitable ecommerce business.

I. Choosing a product

Finding a product to sell

The first step in how to start an ecommerce business is knowing what products you want to sell online, wholesale, or direct-to-consumer. This often is the most challenging part when you start an ecommerce business. In this section, we’ll highlight strategies you can use to find product opportunities, explore the best places to look for business ideas, and finally, look at trending products to consider.

Evaluating your idea

The best way to start ecommerce business is to make sure you’re set up from success even before launch. So once you have a product idea in mind, how do you know if it will sell? In this section, we’ll cover a few approaches that active entrepreneurs have used to validate their product ideas and potential market.


Obtaining your product

After landing on a strong product idea, your next step in how to start ecommerce businesses is figuring out where and how you’re going to obtain your products. The next four posts cover the various methods for acquiring your products, along with the pros and cons of each model.

Sell your retail products online Many independent retailers face a challenging road ahead. Shifting your brick-and-mortar business online can help you weather this storm, generate cash flow, and build a more resilient business.

II. Research and prepare

Research your competition

You’ve found your product, evaluated its potential, and sourced a supplier—now it’s time for the next phase of how to start your own ecommerce business. You’ll need to thoroughly research your competition so you know what you’re up against and how you can differentiate your business from theirs.

Writing a business plan

With your competitive research complete, it’s time to write your business plan to help start your own ecommerce business. A business plan is a roadmap that helps bring your ideas and thoughts together. A business plan is vital in determining what to prioritize, avoiding common business mistakes, and how to effectively reach new customers.

🎯 TIP: If you’re interested in writing a business plan but turned off by stodgy paperwork, we’ve developed a sample business plan template that you’ll actually use. Thousands of people have made a copy to repurpose for their own plan, and it’s completely free to use.

III. Setting up your business

Start your ecommerce business by setting up an online store

Naming your business

Aside from figuring out what to sell when starting an ecommerce company, another challenging decision is determining your business or brand name and deciding on a domain name. These tips will help you tackle these important tasks.

Creating a logo

Once you’ve selected a memorable name and registered a corresponding domain, it’s time to craft a simple logo. In these resources for how to set up an ecommerce business, we’ll show you several options for creating a great logo for your new business.

Learn more: From a logo maker and business name generator to gift certificate templates and a discount calculator, Shopify offers free marketing tools to help run your business.

Understanding search engine optimization (SEO)

You’re almost ready to begin building your ecommerce business. However, before you jump into it, you should understand the basics of SEO so you can properly structure your site and pages for Google and other search engines.

Free Download: SEO Checklist

Want to rank higher in search results? Get access to our free, checklist on search engine optimization.

Building your store

With a better understanding of search engines, it’s time to build out your store. There are many crucial elements to consider in this step of how to start an ecommerce business. Below, we’ve listed our essential reads to help you build high-converting product pages, write captivating product descriptions, shoot beautiful product photography, choose your ecommerce color palette, and much more.

Don’t forget, if you run into any problems getting your store set up, one of the best ways to start ecommerce business is to hire help from Shopify Experts. If you need help setting up your store or stocking inventory, and are looking for a way to fund your business, check this guide on how to get a business loan to help you get started.

Choosing your sales channels

Once you’re really ready to figure out how to start ecommerce, you’ll need to choose sales channels where they already shop. The right mix of sales channels will depend on your products and your target customers, but there are a number of great options that can complement and support your self-hosted store.

  • Etsy and Shopify: How Three Makers Used Both to Grow Their Businesses
  • Selling on eBay: How One Business Finds New Customers 

IV. Preparing to launch

As you prepare for the launch of your new business, you need to figure out how to run an ecommerce business. To start, there are several shipping and fulfillment elements you need to prepare for. In this section, we’ve curated a few comprehensive guides on how to determine your shipping strategy.

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Shipping and Fulfillment
  • How Do I Price and Implement a Strategy to Handle Returns?
  • How to Reduce Shipping Costs as a Small Ecommerce Store

It’s also a good idea to define your key performance indicators up front so, once you launch, you know what measures of success to track.

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