How to Begin
an E-commerce Store
By this point in your planning, you should have decided upon your niche, researched your keywords (determining the demand for your proposed product) and assessed your competition. If you’re not to that point, yet, you might want to read about how to start an online business and what your first steps should be, again…and follow those steps.
Checking Your Product’s Suitability for Online Sales:
There are a series of questions you ought to be answer affirmatively in order to determine if your product is a good one for you to sell online. Here they are:
- Are consumers of this product willing to make a purchase decision based upon variables other than price? Remember that the Internet is a highly price competitive venue.
- Are those other variables such that you can be competitive? If one of the variables is service, will you be able to provide better service than the competitors? If originality or uniqueness is important to the consumer, will you be able to convince the online public that your product has those characteristics? Etc.
- Can you deliver the product to the consumer in an efficient, convenient and price competitive manner.
- Is your product available to you at reasonable terms? That’s what the next section concerns.
Unless you are the manufacturer, you need to find sources for the product(s) you plan to sell.
One of the worst ways to find products is to do an Internet search for “wholesalers.” If you try that technique, you will probably end up paying a middle-man far too much. True wholesalers may not have an online presence, or, more likely, they don’t spend any time trying to get their sites to show up near the top of the search engine results.
Of course there are genuine wholesalers, but many of them are unwilling to sell in small quantities, and others will not sell to you unless you already have an established track record. Fortunately there are solutions.
One solution is to contact the manufacturer of a product you would like to sell and ask their sales manager for the contact information of their wholesalers.
If you’re trying to start-up with a few products, it might be worth paying an e-commerce consulting company a small fee to find product sources for you. In the long run, getting your products at the most competitive price is going to save you far more than the consultants will charge. This is a service that our company provides. It is described elsewhere in this site among our “Business Services.”
If you plan to have multiple product lines, it is worth considering getting a membership to a product sourcing cooperative.
Shipping or Drop Shipping (Dropshipping):
If you want to house your own inventory and ship it yourself, you can consult the major shippers to find the one best for you (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.). You may discover that your choice of carrier may differ with the type of order. For small, light items, I find that USPS is the least expensive and quite reliable. For heavier shipments or for items that require special handling, one of the others will work better.
Another option is to use a drop shipper, which is alternative to the traditional method of you storing the inventory and doing your own packaging, shipping, etc.