Do you want to start an e-commerce company from scratch? Or you need a sample e-commerce business plan template? If YES, then i advice you read on.
An e-commerce business is one that exists solely online, without a physical component—unlike a brick-and-mortar business, which exists as a physical store.
E-commerce businesses are becoming more popular because consumers now prefer to buy products and services they need online, without having to the leave the comfort of their homes. This explains why many brick and mortar businesses are setting up their e-commerce departments.
Whether you are looking to start a business that sells merchandise or services online such as consulting, then consider setting it based on the e-commerce model. Aside that e-commerce now attracts more consumers, it requires much less upfront investment.
One of the reasons why many people balk at the e-commerce idea is the widespread myth that it’s complex and expensive. But with the more-than-countable e-commerce solutions and services available online, setting up an e-commerce business is so easy, you can even handle it yourself. Here are the steps involved in setting up a successful e-commerce business:
Starting an E-commerce Company – Sample Business Plan Template
1. Define your products or services
Your first step towards starting a successful e-commerce business is to define your niche. That is, you need to figure out what you are going to sell, how, and to whom. When starting out, you should focus on only a few products or services, as you will have a defined target market that way. Details of your products or services and other important aspects of your business will go into your business plan. Here is a sample e-commerce business plan template to help you get started.
2. Obtain funding
Your next step is to get the funding required to get your e-commerce business up and running. If you cannot afford to provide all of startup costs from your personal savings, then you should consider taking a private loan from a friend, relative, or other individuals you know. Alternatively, you can present your business idea to an angel investor who might provide you with the funding you need. You can also obtain a bank loan or apply for a small business grant.
It is recommended that you start with interest-free options. Only when those are not available should you start considering a loan that attracts interest.
3. Find a reliable e-commerce hosting service
To run your e-commerce business effectively you need to purchase a hosting plan from a reliable e-commerce hosting service provider. This is the company that will host your e-commerce website on its servers. Most hosting companies offer a range of plans and packages that come at different prices.
You should choose a hosting package that is tailored specifically to e-commerce websites and can support all the features you need on your website as well as your bandwidth requirements. Examples of reputable hosting service providers include Hostgator, Bluehost, 1&1 Internet, Arvixe, Inmotion Hosting, and GoDaddy.
4. Create your e-commerce website
There are many ready-to-install e-commerce scripts and shopping cart software packages available in the market like WordPress. With these, you can set up your own e-commerce website even if you have no knowledge of web design and programming.
Before setting up your e-commerce website, you need to create a plan that outlines what you need and expect. Draw a plan of your navigation structure and decide how and where each added tool and feature will fit in. The process of setting up your e-commerce website can be very time-consuming, so it is advisable to hire the services of a seasoned website designer or programmer.
5. Set up a merchant and a gateway account
You will need a merchant account for accepting credit card payments on your e-commerce website. You can register for one with your bank. You will also need a gateway merchant account for linking customers’ credit cards with your merchant accounts, transferring requests, and authorizing transactions.
6. Hire employees
If you are planning to sell physical products, you will need to hire employees to handle the shipping and delivery process. You might also need to hire an accountant to handle orders and financing. Although you can handle some tasks yourself, hire employees for the most demanding tasks, so that you can concentrate on the most important aspects of the business, such as customer services.
7. Market your business
There is a lot competition out there. And the only way to attract attention to your new e-commerce business is to market it aggressively. To do this, you need an e-commerce marketing plan. Adopt and implement a wide range of online marketing strategies including search engine optimization, paid advertising, affiliate marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing.
Notwithstanding that your e-commerce business is web-based, offline marketing strategies could also be effective. Examples include newspaper and magazine adverts, souvenirs, handbills and flyers, and so on.
How to Setup an E-commerce Website from Scratch
An e-commerce website is a special type of website designed for showcasing retail products and accepting payments for them from buyers. It usually has a shopping cart, and it requires at least one payment method to be able to accept payments online.
Having an e-commerce website is a must for businesses today because most buyers now prefer to shopping online, so they don’t have to leave the comfort of their homes to buy whatever they need. So, if you have a retail business, you need an e-commerce website for selling your products to customers who prefer to shop online.
Setting up your e-commerce website is something you can handle yourself, especially if your business sells few products. With the tons of available out-of-the-box e-commerce solutions now available, anyone can set up an e-commerce website without necessarily being a web programmer or developer.
If you are looking to set up an e-commerce website for your business, here are the steps you need to follow.
a. Obtain a shopping cart software program
To make your e-commerce site run effectively, you need a shopping cart software package or service. This will allow you to take orders, calculate shipping and sales tax, send order notifications, and handle other important aspects of your e-commerce site.
There are many shopping cart software packages available in the market, and their prices range from free to hundreds of dollars. Some are available as standalone programs, while others come as add-on features offered by some web hosting services.
Most of the standard e-commerce software services, such as GoEcart.com, 1shoppingcart.com, and ShopSite.com cost between $29 and $79 per month, depending on the features you opt for. Be sure to research the shopping cart software to learn which ones are best suited for your e-commerce needs and will integrate with your desired payment method.
b. Choose a payment method
After choosing a suitable shopping cart software program or service, your next step is to obtain an internet merchant account from your bank. This will allow you to accept credit card payments online. If your bank turns you down for any reason, try other banks. Or you can use a credit card processing company, instead.
In addition to your internet merchant account, you will need a payment gateway account, which hooks into both your customer’s credit card account and your internet merchant account. This gateway account verifies information, transfers requests, and authorizes credit card in real time. Popular examples include Authorize.net, Verisign, and Cybersource.
Because some customers are more comfortable paying with PayPal, you will need to also integrate that method to avoid losing some business. To offer PayPal as a payment option, you need to have a PayPal account. Setting up the account is free, but PayPal charges 2.9 percent plus 30 cents for every transaction under $3,000. The company also offers a product called PayPal Websites Payments Pro, which offers basic shopping cart functionality and costs $20 per month plus transaction fees.
c. Purchase a hosting plan
You need to host your e-commerce site, and using a web-hosting service is your best bet. Examples of the most commonly recommended web hosting companies for e-commerce sites include Hostgator, 1&1 Internet, Yahoo!, Verio, Hostway, and Interland.
Aside your monthly payment for the hosting service, you will also need to pay around $10 a year for domain name registration a little monthly fee for custom email accounts.
It’s highly recommended that you go with the web hosting service provider and plan recommended by your shopping cart software. This will prevent you website from crashing or coming up with other problems due to incompatibility.
d. Customize your shopping cart software
Your next step is to start tweaking your shopping cart program. Upload your company logo and other graphics that make up your brand. Be sure to choose the right colors as this plays a major role in user experience.
Upload photographs of your products. Also, create slideshows for showcasing your products on the site’s home page. By seamlessly changing photos of your products at short intervals, the slideshow can display multiple products to customers without them having to browse through your site to find them.
In addition, since search engines can help you attract traffic consistently, you need to write your product descriptions and optimize them for search engine key words and phrases. This will increase your site’s ranking in search engine results, so customers can easily see your site when they search for products you sell. Ensure that your content reads smoothly and sounds compelling, as it needs to create an instant mental picture of your product for your potential customer.
e. Test, test, and test
After tweaking your e-commerce site to your standards, test every aspect of the site to ensure that they are working effectively. You don’t want to lose some business because potential customers are having problems with some of your site’s features.
If you discover any problems during the testing phase, correct them and test again to ensure that everything is working fine. Once you have completed the testing process, then your e-commerce site is good to go. Start your marketing campaigns and start selling your products online.