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A Step-By-Step Guide to Starting an Online Business in 2021

November 22, 2021

12 Min Read
starting-an-ecommerce-business

According to eMarketer, the global ecommerce industry is expected to grow more than USD 4 trillion by 2021. You must grab a piece of this pie by starting an online business as soon as possible. If you don’t have an online business up and running in this digital era, you’re missing out on massive profits.

Needless to mention, starting an online business takes a lot of time and effort. Various procedures and decisions come together to generate a fruitful income stream. This step-by-step guide on how to start an online business will answer most of your questions and you’ll leave with a clear set of mind.

Moreover, there are many tips and tricks mentioned throughout the article that will allow you to bag in larger profits, especially during the high-converting online sales seasons. Let’s begin!

How to start an online business?

First things first, starting an online business requires a solid workable plan. You must know exactly what product or service you want to sell. Also, you must understand your buyer personas to sell your product or service to effectively. There are many strategies you can implement before you start selling your products online.

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To start an online business, you must:

#1 Choose Your Niche

When you’re planning to start an online business, it’s better to remain niche-specific. You cannot expect to sell everything and gain massive profits. Many online businesses offer hundreds of products and dozens of categories with no real focus on being niche-specific. You cannot become the next Amazon or Best Buy overnight unless you have a massive investment at your disposal. Until then, it is the  best option to focus on your niche to run a successful online business.

The first major step is  identifying other successful online businesses that are already having a presence in the industry you wish to be a part of. To start an online business, go for the niche that isn’t overly-crowded. You must also ensure that you have a healthy competition, since the absence of competitors usually indicates that there is no market for your product or service. More importantly, skip anything that is dominated by giant brands.

Confused between Ecommerce or E-commerce? Learn the difference here

#2 Select a Business Model

Now that you’ve decided on which product or service to sell, you must come up with a business model to start an online business. Remember, there is no single business structure that works best for everyone. Therefore,  evaluate everything and select a business model after thorough consideration. It is also important to choose a business structure if you want to get serious about your business and protect it, there are many options for this such as a corporation. One of the best options would be to start an LLC. You can find the details of this process at bestllcservices.co.

For instance, if you desire to earn profits without managing inventory or investing heavily, dropshipping is your answer. It is a smart, cost-effective choice that fits well when it comes to starting an online business.

If you desire to have a warehouse where you can stock inventory, you will be investing more up-front while working on a wholesaling or warehousing business model.

If you’re interested in selling a unique product that only you can offer, you can sell it under your brand’s umbrella. To do so, you will have to become a part of the white labeling or manufacturing business model.

And then there is a  subscription model. This is where you curate a set of products or services to be delivered at regular intervals to your subscribed customers.

#3 Starting an Online Business 

To start an online business, you must consider a few fundamental requirements. Let’s go through them one by one.

Step 1: Selecting A Name

The name of your online business and your website does not have to be identical, but keeping them consistent is highly recommended. Ensure that your brand’s name fits your niche and is simple enough for your online prospects to judge what your brand is selling.

Step 2: Get a Logo

You don’t need to fret over it too much. Do  ensure that it is not similar to the logo of your competitors. As long as you have a simple yet attractive logo, you’re good to start an online business.

Step 3: Register Your Business

Once you have a name and logo for your online business, it is time to get it registered. The registration  will allow you to enjoy many legal protections alongside other perks. Don’t skip it!

Step 4: Apply for Licenses and Permits

Running an online business does not exclude you from business licenses or permits. Check your country’s laws to see what kind  of sales tax licenses or business licenses you must have to start an online business.

Step 5: Visualization

Start with identifying your brand’s persona. You must focus on becoming a brand that connects with its  customer personas. Classification of customer personas makes launching an online business much easier.

Choose the colors you want your brand to represent; the types of content you’ll use to promote your products or the fonts you’ll use throughout your website. Hire a professional if your budget allows you to, it will create a stronger impact. If not, feel free to run things manually. However, keep things consistent.

For instance, if your product is for professional businesswomen, you might want to avoid girly colors as you’re catering to a mature audience. Understanding your buyer persona is important. It’s what will lead your brand to achieve greater success.

Step 6: Find the Right Vendors

There is a fierce competition going on when it comes to selling products online. It’s in your best interest to find reliable vendors who can offer quality products at reasonable prices. Also, ensure they won’t compromise on your delivery deadlines. Take your time to search and evaluate different vendors until you find the right ones to start your online business with.

A few things to remember:

  • Create attractive landing pages
  • Sell high converting products
  • Write captivating product descriptions
  • Always showcase your products in HD

#4 Choosing the Right Online Business Platform

Many entrepreneurs tend to make a crucial mistake by opting for an ecommerce platform that’s not ideal for their business model. There are various aspects you must evaluate before choosing an ecommerce platform.

The wrong ecommerce platform not only creates trouble in the future, but it also affects the on-going operations significantly. There are many online business platforms you can choose from. However, in my opinion, the top five  ecommerce platforms in 2021 are:

  1. WooCommerce
  2. Magento
  3. Shopify
  4. BigCommerce
  5. Prestashop

Gain valuable insights into the market share of these leading ecommerce platforms. In this article, I will show you how to setup an online store on WooCommerce and start your online business with a leading ecommerce platform.

How Much Does an Ecommerce Website Cost in 2021?

#5 How to Setup an Online Store Using  WooCommerce

Setting up a WooCommerce store obviously requires you to install the WooCommerce plugin first. Once you have it, you will see  a welcome message on the Dashboard saying, “Welcome to WooCommerce – You’re almost ready to start selling 🙂”.

Click on “Run the Setup Wizard”. This is the easiest method to setting up a WooCommerce store. By any chance, if you accidentally click on “Skip Setup”, you can still run the Setup Wizard by navigating to  WooCommerce > Help > Setup Wizard. Let’s take a look at the process of setting up your online store on WooCommerce.

#1 Store Setup

You can set up the location of your online business here. You must also define the currency you’ll be dealing in and the type of product you wish to sell.

#2 Payment Setup

Payment setup is an important step, so tread carefully. Since WooCommerce accepts both offline as well as online payments, you can choose your payment processor here. I recommend adding Stripe and PayPal to get started with. However, you can always add other modes  of payment.

#3 Shipping

If you wish to sell your product(s) globally, you can choose your Shipping Zones and define the Shipping Costs. Also, here’s where you can  set up the parameters for your product’s weight and dimensions.

#4 Recommended

You can avail amazing recommended free apps for your online business. Depending on your requirements, toggle the most appropriate option to enable or disable them.

#5 Activate

At the time of activation, you have a choice to use Jetpack. This WordPress plugin ensures security, performance, and website management with ease. It also offers various significant aspects like automated taxes and discounted shipping labels. Nonetheless, if you prefer to skip it, you can, as it won’t have any direct implication on launching your online store on WooCommerce.

#6 Ready!

Congratulations! You have successfully launched your WooCommerce online business and you’re now ready to start selling your products. Simply click on “Create a Product” to start adding the products to your online store.

#6 Adding Products to Your Online Store

Before you begin selling your products via your WooCommerce online store, you must evaluate the essentials. It is important to learn the basics of WooCommerce by discovering the product categories, attributes, and types.

Product Category

Product categories help you group your products. For instance, “clothing”, “sportswear” or “sleepwear” are product categories. They allow your online visitors to quickly find the products in the same category. Feel free to create as many product categories as you wish, and change them at any time you want.

Product Labels

Product labels help you to filter your products as per their size, color, or type. You can create custom labels like “fabric” if you’re selling clothes or “taste” if you’re selling food products. Product labels help online customers to choose their desired products with ease. You can also assign product labels independently to each product or set up a generic label for the entire web page.

Product Data

WooCommerce saves you time by offering predefined types of products. For instance:

  • Simple: Shipped without any options. For instance, a physical book
  • Grouped: A group of similar products. For instance, a dozen pair of glasses
  • External/Affiliation: The product is advertised on your website, but is sold elsewhere
  • Variable: These products have varying attributes  like size, color, weight, etc. For instance, clothes.
  • Virtual: These are products that do not require shipping. For instance, services.
  • Downloadable: These are the products you can download from the website. For instance, songs, pictures, videos, ebooks, etc.

Add Products to Your WooCommerce Store

With so many products, it can be confusing to add a new product to your WooCommerce store. Nonetheless. adding products to your WooCommerce store is no rocket science.

To get started, go to Products > Add New

Write the title of your product along with its description. The product description presents  the most important and relevant information about the product.

General

You can set the price of your product in the General section. You can also set up a promotional price or even schedule sales dates.

Inventory

The Inventory section helps you organize Stock Management Unit (SKU). You can select whether a particular  product is in stock or out of stock. You can also check out the ‘sell individually’ option that allows you to sell only one item at a time.

Shipping

The Shipping section deals with delivery and logistics operations .You can provide the dimensions, weight and delivery class of your products.

Linked Products

This section allows you to link and market related products to the customer. You can effectively promote your product by upselling or cross-selling it with other products.

Attributes

This section allows you to add product attributes. For instance, if you’re selling t-shirts of various colors, you can specify the colors here.

Advanced

The Advanced section allows you to enable or disable notifications. It also lets you create purchase notes for your customers. You can also specify the order in the menu, and choose custom order positions for your product.

Once you’re done with the aforementioned Product Data, you’re ready to publish your product!

#7 Target The Right Audience

When you start an online business, there’s no guarantee that your potential customers will find you right away. Therefore, you must  market your products effectively. You can do so by optimizing your website as per the latest Search Engine Optimization (SEO) standards. It’s important!

The keyword-stuffing days are long gone, but SEO is still alive and doing well. You must keep keywords or search terms in focus for each landing page of your online store. You must put your keywords in your URLs as well as in your landing pages, blogs and ad campaigns. All you need to make an effort to  drive traffic to your website.

Starting an online business demands a well-thought finance plan. You must invest wisely when it comes to online marketing. You can subscribe to various marketing newsletters, listen to different digital marketing podcasts and keep a bird’s eye view  on the industry. It is essential to learn actionable marketing strategies to make your online store successful in the long run. .

There are a lot of factors you must  consider in order to attract the right audience. You can sponsor content on third-party platforms or use the power of social media which works like a charm. Also, PPC ad campaigns can help you increase your conversions.

You must monitor which marketing campaigns are driving traffic to your website. If marketing your brand seems overwhelming, you can always hire a professional team to do it for you.

#8 Scaling Your Online Business

Starting an online business is not an easy task, however, scaling an online business is rather a big and different task altogether. It becomes a hassle for many online entrepreneurs after they start an online store. Once your brand starts growing, you’ll probably see an increase in sales. Regardless, don’t consider that as a success just yet.

You don’t want to end up with a high demand for your products with little to no way to meet it. To meet your customers’ demands that come with an expanded brand presence, you must be ready to expand your operations.

Don’t stress about it. Start with keeping a bird’s eye view on your Ecommerce Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The more in-depth statistics you can measure, the more data you’ll have that will help you make important business decisions.

Monitoring how these KPIs change over time when you tinker with them, it will allow you to develop a winning online marketing strategy. It will help you make better decisions concerning branding and scaling your online business.

Moreover, you can choose from must-have WooCommerce plugins that can help you alter the look or feel of your online store. You can also conveniently automate processes with different  plugins. These extensions and plugins for WooCommerce help you build an efficient online store.

Best Time to Start an Online Business

By now, you understand that starting an online business can be a rough patch if you don’t play your cards right. For instance, entering into the right market at the right time is essential as it creates all the difference. However, what is the right time to enter the ecommerce landscape? The answer is NOW!

Fun Fact: The ecommerce industry will result in a global revenue of more than $4 trillion by the end of 2021 – eMarketer.

Keeping the ecommerce growth statistics in focus, there are two best times to enter the ecommerce space and reap massive profits. They are:

1) The Back to School Season

This is the 2nd largest online sales season in the world. It begins in late July and lasts until mid-September. The back-to-school retailers offer a variety of products that parents buy for their kids. On average, 29 million households from the USA participated in the shopping spree with an average spend of $510 per household in 2018.

The market size of back-to-school sales season is estimated at a whopping $27.6 billion. That’s a huge market to cater to with your online store.

2) The Holiday Sales Season

The holiday sales season is the largest online sales season in the world. It begins in October and culminates with New Year celebrations.

You can offer exclusive deals for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and New Year during the Holiday Sales Season. The sales during this season in 2017 increased by 17.8% whereas it will further grow by almost 15% – 17% in 2018. According to eMarketer, the retail industry (in-store+online) of the US will grow by 3.8% in 2018 to $691.9 billion.

Undoubtedly, the holiday sales season is the best time for you to enter the online marketplace. You can  reap higher profits with ease as everybody is in search of the best promotional deals they can get their hands on.

Time-Sensitive Promotions Work Like a Charm!

Many online campaigns make sense only during the holiday season. You have one shot to execute them perfectly. To help you in this regard, here’s an ecommerce store survival checklist for the Holiday Season.

There is  no need to take the pressure. It doesn’t matter whether you offer a flash sale or a holiday gift guide promotion, you’ll have a larger ecommerce target audience to interact with during the holiday season. Take advantage of it.

You can also  take this opportunity to define your brand. Work on strategies that will allow you to stand out from the crowd. Any efforts that you make during the holiday season towards refining your brand, you can carry them  into the following year.

Are You Ready Your Start an Online Store?

Whether you choose to enter the market with the back-to-school sales season or the big holiday sales season, you must optimize your website at least 30 days before any shopping season begins.

It will give you enough time to consider effective marketing strategies and identify gaps. For instance, it is a great idea to repackage your website into a theme-based ecommerce store during the sales season. It increases conversions.

If you intend to enter the market with the holiday sales season, feel free to go ahead. Give your best. Unfortunately, if you are unable to extract massive profits, don’t worry. You have a whole year to overcome the struggles you have endured, and make a comeback in the next holiday sales season stronger than ever.

So what are you waiting for? Start an online store today and work your way to garner massive profits by expanding your online presence to the right people.

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Reza Merchant

Reza Merchant is a Foodie by passion and a Digital Marketer by profession. He enjoys creating digital content for various platforms and aspires to be the change he wants to see in this world.

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