Starting an Ecommerce Business in Four Steps

Starting an ecommerce business may sound like a daunting task with lots of unknowns and scary techno-babble but in reality it's fairly simple. In this guide, I will show you some simple steps towards creating a successful ecommerce business.

Step 1. Make sure you put the customer first

Consider this: when you walk into a shop, the first thing you will do is quickly look around to figure out where to go for what you need. Once you're in the right aisle or department you start browsing for the items you need; you look at packaging, pick things up, you think 'how will this look on me', 'what can I make with this'. Once you have made the decision to purchase, you stand patiently in a queue and finally make your purchase and leave. If at any point during this journey you get a bad experience then you are likely to purchase less or walk out without buying anything. That is why all the successful shops and department stores make every effort to ensure a first-class customer experience from the moment you walk through the door to final checkout process.

You need to mimic this level customer experience for your online shop and should pay close attention to how your competitors are doing things (well or badly) both online and offline in real shops. Having the knowledge of how you want to sell your products and services is key to gaining paying customers and building a good reputation within your marketplace.

Step 2. Choose the right developer

There are so many ways to approach web development and getting a company or individual to build something for you can be a mine field. Quite often problems begin due to a lack of a solid brief or technical specification. I have many clients that come to me from other suppliers where problems began due to a lack of communication or the budget being spent on non-essential items that eventually derail the entire process. This isn't good and is entirely avoidable by getting the specifics nailed down from the outset, don't try to shoe-horn in an idea you had at 2am because you think it will make your product better - additional ideas that are outside of the agreed brief or spec should not be forced into the project on a whim as it almost always proves complicated and costly to implement. Instead either halt the project, rewrite the brief and restart the development process or wait until another phase of development - perhaps post launch, phase 2, phase 3, etc.

Choosing the best supplier for your ecommerce store is crucial and you should work with someone who is honest, has broad experience and good reviews, and understands your vision enough to be able to debate the ideas you have at 2am.

Step 3. Choose the best tech for your budget

Many companies will be fixed on a certain software package because it is all they know - that is just bad form. In truth, it doesn't really matter what software you choose as long as it fits your needs now and over the next few years during which time your business will move in various directions and into different markets. You need a technical solution that fits your vision and provides scope for enhancement.

Finding the right technical solution for your business should be open for debate as there are many ways to create a website so keep an open mind and speak to an expert who will embrace your ideas and fine tune them for deployment on the web.

Step 4. Iterate, enhance and profit

The final step is often overlooked and is very important when growing a business - keep moving. Your website is your shop window for your products, don't let it collect dust! Keep it fresh, create new features that engage new and existing customers, think about new markets, affiliations, opportunities to grow. Make sure you work with someone that can help turn the ideas you have at 2am into a success.