If you’re thinking about packing up your brick and mortar business and moving it online, you’re not alone. In fact, total sales for e-commerce businesses continue to increase each year. When you consider the cost of running a retail business, it’s no surprise that more people are closing their business doors and opening new ones online. Opening and running an e-commerce business is no easy feat. But if you have a solid background in sales, a sense of how business works and the dedication to make it work, starting your own e-commerce business could become a reality.

How to Start an E-commerce Business

Starting an e-commerce business begins with defining your niche. In other words, what are going to sell? If you are simply transferring goods from a brick and mortar store to an online business, your niche is already defined. But if this is a new business venture, you need to make sure there is a market for the product or service you plan on selling. Once you have your niche defined, the next step is to come up with a business plan similar to what you would create for a traditional store. The business plan for an e-commerce store helps you establish both short-term and long-term goals.

When the plan is ready, the next step is to build a website. This is a critical step because the website is the first place a potential customer visits. The other part of the website equation has to do with traffic. Gone are the days of “if you build it they will come.” To make money, you have to drive traffic to your website. This can be done, for example, with social media-sponsored posts, advertisements and SEO content.

Before you go live, make sure to have in place a system to take and fill orders. Will you be strictly online or can customers also place orders by phone? What payment methods will you accept? Credit card and PayPal are the most popular online payment methods. What about shipping and a return policy? If you want to have a successful e-commerce business, you need to have fast, affordable shipping options and a reasonable return policy.

E-commerce Platforms for Businesses

The platform you choose for your business has to fit your personal and professional needs. The software keeps your online store running and makes your job managing it a lot easier. That’s why it’s a good idea to spend some time researching available e-commerce platforms. Visit some of your favorite online businesses and learn what systems they use. Contact other e-commerce business owners to ask their opinions on different platforms.

Some of the top e-commerce platforms for business include:

  • Shopify
  • Volusion
  • Sparkpay
  • Symphony
  • Squarespace
  • CommerceHub
  • BigCommerce
  • Wixecommerce
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce

E-commerce Business Examples

The good news about starting an e-commerce business is that you have hundreds of successful examples to model your business after. Of course, the examples you are familiar with range from hugely successful to just starting out. But having a variety of businesses to research will help you define your model. E-commerce businesses can be classified into four categories: B2B, or Business to Business; B2C, or Business to Consumer; C2C, or Consumer to Consumer; and C2B, or Consumer to Business.

Some of the more successful e-commerce businesses include:

  • Wayfair
  • Zappos
  • Warby Parker
  • Fiverr
  • Shuttershock
  • Slack
  • ModCloth
  • BirchBox