E-commerce sales are estimated at around £260bn a year in the UK alone
E-commerce sales are estimated at around £260bn a year in the UK alone
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How to Start an E-Commerce Business

E-commerce sales are skyrocketing. With relatively easy and low-cost entry, now’s the time to explore the world of e-commerce for your next business venture.

In the UK alone, e-commerce sales are estimated at around £260bn a year, as more and more people opt to do their shopping online. Clearly, the market is good. But that also means there’s already plenty of competition. We gather some steps you can take to make your e-commerce a success.

Take time to research… everything

In starting a new business, it’s hard to do too much research. When it comes to e-commerce specifically, there’s plenty of business to be had, but that has made for stiff competition.

If you’re looking into e-commerce, you probably already have a product in mind. In the research phase, you’ll inevitably find others in e-commerce selling comparable products. That shouldn’t discourage you, though. If anything, it confirms there is a market for what you’re selling. The task, now, is to set your business apart.

Take the aspects you admire in your competition as inspiration, and rethink what you perceive to be their weakest attributes. Conducting thorough market research is an obligatory step. Get to know your potential customers, and your competition, and get to know them well. Prepare yourself for success by knowing exactly what you’re up against.

Build your website

In e-commerce, your website is everything. It’s your shop, your storefront, your customer service, and presentation, rolled into one. Just as you’d go to great pains to rent or purchase a real storefront that is ideal for your business, you’ll want to dedicate a ton of attention to your e-shop, from its domain name to its checkout experience.

Find and purchase the right domain

Starting at the beginning, you’ll first want to register a domain name. A domain name should accurately reflect your business and be easy to remember. Ideally, it will be or include the name of your company. Purchase a domain name as soon as possible to get at least a placeholder up to build expectations, perhaps with an option for visitors to input their email address and receive updates on launch.

Contract a web hosting provider

A website host is essential to getting a website out. Most opt to lease a hosting space from a provider. Otherwise, you’ll have to manage your web hosting yourself, which will require some serious technical know-how and equipment. For that reason, if you’re not much of a tech person, it’s best to lease hosting space in the beginning and reserve the possibility to manage it yourself once you scale up.

One thing to keep in mind when seeking a provider is that some lack compatibility with specific shopping cart software, an essential component of your e-commerce site. For that reason, it’s best to research providers at the same time as shopping cart options.

Shopping cart software and site design

Your website should be designed to move the user from the browsing of items to the shopping cart to checkout seamlessly. If you’re just entering the market, it will be most convenient to buy pre-made shopping cart software.

Starting out in e-commerce retail, your website design might very well be your most significant cost. You can, however, find simple and functional pre-made designs with a lower price tag.

Whatever you decide on, your website should prioritize user (that is, shopper) experience. Monitor your site to see if people leave without completing a purchase or have trouble moving from the cart to checkout. Details in user experience can have large cumulative effects when dealing with any decent volume of web traffic.

Get the word out

Now your site exists. Now you just need to get people to go there. Your best bet is Search Engine Optimisation, or “SEO”. SEO essentially involves tweaking your site and its text so that your website comes up in search engines. When someone searches for your product in the UK, you’ll want your website to be one of the first results. This won’t happen immediately, but that’s the goal.

What you can do immediately is create social media accounts that showcase your products and direct to your site. It’s also worth exploring offering your products on highly trafficked third-party e-commerce sites. Success on those sites can help get your brand name out to your potential clientele. Once they’re familiar, they’ll be pleased to find the same products for sale on your site with a discount equal to the commission of those third-party sites.

As always, talking to people – and, if you’re looking to get into wholesale, to businesses specifically – is the best way to make connections and expand your business opportunities.

 Many entrepreneurs take advantage of the tax benefits for commercial vehicles to invest in a van they can also use as a personal vehicle
Many entrepreneurs take advantage of the tax benefits for commercial vehicles to invest in a van they can also use as a personal vehicle

Breaking into wholesale

Wholesale e-commerce can be a far more profitable venture than retail e-commerce, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Wholesale consists of selling products in bulk to retailers, who then sell the products on to consumers. While wholesale may classically be associated with moving up the e-commerce food chain, it is possible to start with that goal in mind.

In wholesale, you sell each product at a lower price, but in bulk. That makes it necessary to enforce a minimum order rule, requiring businesses to indeed buy in large quantities. Some wholesale e-commerce business even choose to implement tiered advanced wholesale pricing, meaning the greater bulk of the order, the greater each individual unit is discounted.

Logistics

Wholesale does, however, require significant scaling. While your direct-to-customer e-commerce logistics model may just consist of you packing your products at home and dropping them in the post, wholesale delivery requires a higher level of coordination.

This can quickly become very expensive, so e-commerce wholesalers will often choose to operate their own shipping vans. A transport van allows entrepreneurs to make multiple deliveries to shops on a daily basis, without paying for logistics services.

While large products or shipments may require higher-capacity transport, like the Renault Master or Renault Trafic, one-person operations often choose to use a combination vehicle. Many entrepreneurs take advantage of the tax benefits for commercial vehicles to invest in a two-in-one use van that they can also use as their personal vehicle. For urban use, the all-electric Kangoo Z.E. 33 is ideal.