Starting an eCommerce Business From Scratch

With the constant growth of the Internet, it has allowed trade opportunities to be more accessible to everyone. Earlier, starting a new business was an enormous job, especially in sourcing the funds for the business. Business owners quit their existing jobs, obtained a loan from the bank before they began to make any money. It is no wonder that more that 50% of them did not succeed. Presently trade opportunities are easily accessible to anyone prepared to invest their time and try to learn all they can about ecommerce. You can establish an ecommerce business with nominal funds and almost no risk at all.

Studies show that about 70% of shoppers perform some sort of research on products online before purchasing them. Savvy shoppers would rather prefer online shopping than actually going out and searching for what they need one store after another. When they shop online they can easily research and compare products, read reviews and select a trustworthy and best rated online retailer with best pricing.

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Whether you aspire to become one of those successful and well-known online retailers or just have a profitable ecommerce site that supplements your income, you need to educate yourself about all of the necessary steps you need to take to start an online business.

Below are a few steps that will help you get your ecommerce business started.

Find Your Niche
The most important step in starting your personal ecommerce business is finding your place. Take a look at what interests you and you will find achievable business projects. You can also think about starting a business that is related to your existing occupation. For instance, as an automobile mechanic you may be familiar with automotive spare parts and how to get hold of them. You may possibly start an automotive spare part business. Your acquaintances and knowledge in the industry will help you in your business venture.

Research the Demand
Once you have some possible business projects running in your mind, it is your responsibility to study the demand in that field. If you are planning to open your business and start selling products, you need to get an idea of the market situation, of how much of the products or services you are making are already available. As you start a new business, you may not be able to generate the demand that is required for the product you are marketing to make a huge profit; therefore the articles that you are marketing should already be in the area of demand.

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Scope out Your Soon-To-Be Competitors
Before you finally decide on the business project, research your potential competitors. You must visit and know your competitor’s websites thoroughly. Spend some quality time researching all that they deal in, by doing this you will have a plan of the kind of competition you have. You need to understand clearly, that the website you create for your business must be just as professional or superior than their website. The following are some of the things you need to look for:

o Professional Look & Feel
o Products and Services
o Search Engine Ranking
o Page Rank (Available on the Google Tool Bar)
o Keywords
o Back Links (how many sites link to them)

Establish a Business Entity
Next, in order for you to start conducting your business, you need to create a unique business unit and acquire a sales tax ID. At the register office they will check if the name you have selected is already in use or not. If it is in use you will have to use another name. Having one or two options before you start is a good idea.

Open a Business Bank Account
Once you have been registered as the owner of a genuine business, you need to open a bank account specifically for your business with one of the banks in your city. Take your documents to the bank and open a business account. Most banks offer a variety of business accounts. Choose one carefully, the one the best meets your needs. It’s usually best to start with the least expensive account because it could be a while before you start getting an income. Some banks require you to wait a specified amount of time after the court documents are filed before opening a business bank account. These rules are in order to help prevent fraud. Check with your bank to obtain waiting period information.

Choose a Domain Name
As you are waiting for your bank account to be active, you can start creating the website for your business. Firstly you need to register the domain name, search for domain names that end with “.com” as these are the best option. Try to incorporate one or more target keywords, for example, if you are starting an automotive spare part business, choose a name with the word automotive or automobile, such as automotivepoint.com or vehicleparts.com.

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Create Your Website
One of the main ingredients to a successful ecommerce business is having a specifically designed website. The business website will probably be the only idea your visitors will ever have in connection with your business. Providentially today, it is not necessary for you to be a high tech programmer in order to create a good website. There are web designing companies that design and sell custom made website templates, or you can have a custom made website. It is advisable to invest a bit of money for a custom made professional website. After all it is your business that you are projecting through the website, so it should speak of quality. You must get a good website template with many pages and custom images. Most templates can be customized with simple HTML editors and an easy graphics program. Templates can be edited without having to invest a lot of time and energy into learning how to write code for web pages.

Open Source Solution
If you are interested in Open Source software then you can go in for Oscommerce, the open source e-commerce solution provider. It is released under the GNU General Public License. They offer everything that you will require for launching and running a successful ecommerce based website. It handles the customer order, product catalog etc., by using administration tools that are easy to install and configure according to your business requirements. Your domain hosting should support PHP & SQL. That is the only requirement you will have to meet.

Paid ecommerce Solutions
You can alternatively opt for paid e-commerce solutions; Yahoo Store is one solution provider. You need to pay a reasonable amount of money to start with Yahoo store but the quality of service offered by Yahoo is great and it is worth the investment. They have ready-to-setup ecommerce solutions from designing the store, adding the products and setting up payment methods

Host Your Website
Once that is settled, you will need to ensure that your website content targets specific keywords. You can do this by writing articles, reviews about products, comparison of different products and a thorough description of the products. Do not repeat the same keywords too often. This makes the text hard to read. After your website has been designed, you must find a web hosting service to host the website on to their server. The web hosting company should also provide custom email accounts along with the domain name. Specific email addresses based on the domain name are very essential for a professional business website. Your website files can be easily uploaded with a simple FTP program. Normally the hosting company’s technical support personnel can help you to upload your files and launch your website.

Implement a Shopping Cart
Every ecommerce website must have a shopping cart. There are many options when looking for a shopping cart to choose from:

Merchant Services
For your online ecommerce business website you need to have a merchant account. This is a bank account will allow your business to accept credit card transactions; this of course will be conducted via a secure encrypted connection. In the event you do not have a merchant account, it is still possible to use the merchant service shopping cart account but this will cost you a bit more.

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Hosted Shopping Cart
If your business has just a small turnover and does not have the funds to install your own ‘fully integrated shopping cart’, then you can opt for the hosted shopping cart as this is an equally good option. The hosted shopping cart is comparable to the merchant services as they also offer you an administrative interface so that you can enter your own customized products, pricing and shipping options that you offer from your business.

Fully Integrated Shopping Carts
If you have a business that is ‘booming’ then you will be able to opt for the fully integrated shopping cart. The fully integrated shopping cart is a better option if your business is generating a considerable amount of income. The fully integrated shopping cart as the name states can be integrated to have the same style and look as your website. The fully integrated shopping cart will also include features that are not available in the other shopping carts; you will be able to offer discounts and a variety of other features. You will also be able to notify customers about availability of stock and the various shipping methods that are available for the customer to choose from. Furthermore the customer will be able to check all these without creating an account.

Many ecommerce businesses make the error of using PayPal to accept payments; this immediately shows customers that the business is small and un-professional. An acceptable substitute to PayPal is the ‘remotely hosted shopping cart’. This type of shopping cart will take the trouble of maintaining the credit card numbers and transfer the task to another company. These shopping carts can be designed to integrate with your website. In reality, your customers will not notice they have left your website to complete an order. As your prospective customer clicks on the ‘Buy Now’ button, they are transferred to the ‘remote shopping cart’ to enter their personal details and complete the transaction.