If you’re constantly hearing about eCommerce, it’s because it is a fast-growing trend. Recent U.S. Census Bureau figures estimate that U.S. eCommerce sales totaled over 87.5 billion dollars for the third quarter of 2015. That’s more than a 15% increase over the same period of 2014. Other countries also show recent growth in eCommerce sales.

Do you want to join the trend? If so, learn all you can about eCommerce and the steps you need to go through to set up a business online.

Many articles make eCommerce seem easy, and it can be if you do your homework first. But, if you jump into eCommerce without putting much thought into it, you might be setting yourself up for failure.

Remember that eCommerce is a way of doing business. If you want to succeed, you need to treat it like a business. That means following some defined steps like those that I’ll cover in this high-level tutorial.

Are you ready to learn more about eCommerce? Let’s get started.

1. eCommerce Defined

So, what is eCommerce?

Simply defined, eCommerce refers to business transactions conducted through the Internet. Anytime you buy something from an online site, you are participating in eCommerce.

eCommerce can refer to sales of physical products like clothing, books, cosmetics and many other things. It can also refer to digital products such as software, eBooks, and apps. Finally, eCommerce sales also include services such as consulting.

A common misperception is that businesses that market their products through eCommerce don’t have a physical presence. The truth is that many popular retailers have both a brick and mortar store and an eCommerce site. That being said, one of the big advantages to starting an eCommerce business is that you don’t need an offline store to succeed. You just need a product that you can sell online.

2. Decide What Product to Sell

It may seem easy to decide which product to sell, but give it some serious thought. You want to sell a product that sets your eCommerce business up for success.

Here are the four main questions to ask when deciding what to sell:

  1. Can I get the product or the materials to make the product? (If you’re selling a service, ask whether you can perform the service yourself or need to hire others.)
  2. Is the product (or service) expensive to get or produce?
  3. Does somebody want the product or service? (That somebody is your target market.)
  4. Are there companies already providing the product or service?

Now, let’s take a closer look at question three. It’s time to identify your target market.

3. Find Out Who Needs Your Product

For you to sell your product, someone must want it. If there’s no demand for a product, your eCommerce business will have trouble succeeding. Of course, you can try to generate a demand for the product, but that can be difficult to do.

To discover your target market, do some research. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Describe who you think your ideal customer is. Start with a complete description. Include age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, and educational level. The more you know about your potential customers the better you can meet their needs.
  2. Use the search engines. Strategic searches will help you learn about your potential customers. You can find studies and statistics online about many aspects of your ideal customer base, including spending patterns and disposable income.
  3. Use a questionnaire. Gather a focus group that represents your ideal client base. Have them complete a poll or questionnaire about the need for your product or service. Word your questions carefully. Have a goal of what you are trying to learn from the questions.
  4. Release the product on a trial basis. A pre-launch trial release of the product can be a good way to judge whether there is an interest. If you already have a website, make the product available to your current audience before offering it to the public.

4. Set Up Your Web Presence

If you’ve decided to use an existing marketplace to sell your products, set up your vendor account and list your products. Read all user agreements carefully before you establish your account.

If you’ve decided to market your product from your own website, the process is a little more complex. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Get web hosting.
  2. Buy a domain name.
  3. Build and design your site.
  4. Purchase eCommerce software or add a script.
  5. Add web content including product descriptions.

As you can see, setting up your own eCommerce website involves a lot of work. At SmartSeller, you can create your own online store within 5 minutes. We have ready-made professional online store themes, powerful features for online businesses and you can host with our subdomain. 

5. Promote Your Product

Once you’ve got an eCommerce website up and running, you’re ready to start selling your product. You’re not done, however. You need to promote your product to draw customers to your site. Here are several ways to do that:

  1. Leverage an existing customer base. If you have a website or blog, you may already have a mailing list. You can offer your product or services to your mailing list. You can also buy lists, based on demographics, of potential customers.
  2. Advertise. It can be expensive, but if you have the budget for it advertising can be very effective. Consider advertising in both traditional media such as print media, television, and radio as well as online.
  3. Give away trial size samples. Everyone loves free. Samples can help build word-of-mouth about your product. Trial size samples can be an especially effective means of marketing consumable products such as food and beauty items.  
  4. Promote your business through social media. If your business is not already active on social media, establish social media accounts now. Social media shares can play a significant role in the success (or failure) of your eCommerce business.

To reach your goals, use more than one means of promoting your eCommerce business.

It’s also helpful to measure which promotion is most effective. Consider adding a simple question at the end of the checkout process like “how did you hear about us?” And set up your site analytics to track where sales were driven from.