The popularity of eCommerce stores has been rapidly rising in the last several years, and it's easy to see why aspiring entrepreneurs would be interested in starting an online store. Online sales represented 16% of total retail sales in the United States in 2019, and that number only continues to rise as many non-essential services remain closed and online shopping becomes even more of a necessity. Online shopping is so popular that stores have difficulty keeping enough stock to keep up with demand, so an eCommerce business is certainly a lucrative idea with the proper execution.
Setting up and running an online storefront won't be an easy road to success, however. Like any with business, you'll need careful planning and proper execution to make your online business dream a reality. Here are some of the most important things to consider.
No business will be successful without knowing who its target market is and planning to reach these customers. The internet is full of options for customers, and it's unlikely that you have the budget to compete with big companies like Amazon, so you'll need to find a niche to establish yourself in. Let's say your business intends to sell dietary supplements. There are several kinds of these like vitamins, nutritional supplements, amino acids, herbal supplements, and weight loss products. Supplements also come in many forms including tablets, capsules, gels, powders, and more. Deciding what kind of products you want to sell will help you find your audience.
The way you market your business will also change depending on your niche. For example, if you're selling supplements meant to increase muscle mass, you'll want to market to fitness enthusiasts. Posting content to fitness blogs or creating workout videos could be good ways to reach this audience.
Building an online business is a serious investment, and there's no single “correct” way to go about it. There are several great business models that can work for you depending on what products and services you're offering. With the dietary supplement example, you'd likely want the traditional B2C retail model where you're selling directly to the consumers of your products. It's always worth bearing in mind, however, that you can always create an online business that sells to other businesses, or you could even trade directly with other consumers.
You'll naturally need a reliable way to get your products to your customers, and it's nest to plan for how you can scale your fulfillment solutions as your business grows. If you're looking to save money in the beginning, you can use a dropshipping service to have your products shipped directly from the manufacturer to your customers. This is a great idea for a dietary supplement company, especially since they generally need to partner with supplement manufacturers anyway to ensure they're meeting Food and Drug Administration guidelines.
Of course, if you'd rather have your own warehouse of products, there are plenty of global fulfillment solutions out there that can work with you and your needs including inventory management, packaging, and shipping. They can expand their services as you need them, so you can always be confident in timely order fulfillment.
It can be easy to forget this when planning an online business, but you still have some of the same legal obligations as a brick and mortar storefront. For one thing, you'll need to obtain a business license. The specific license you'll need depends on your location, but for most online businesses you'll need a seller's permit and a home occupation permit. You also need to get an employer identification number (EIN) for tax purposes, even if you're the only one running your business. Don't put off these requirements because failing to handle them correctly can result in heavy fines. The Small Business Administration offers courses detailing legal requirements for businesses as well as financing options and other resources.