In 2020, the e-commerce market exceeded 100 billion euros. More than 40 million French people have made purchases online. The web, therefore, represents an unavoidable windfall for merchants. But how do you get started? Selling online implies setting up a dedicated structure (company creation, market analysis, product creation, development of digital media) and deploying a relevant acquisition strategy in order to generate traffic and convert clients. Here are all the steps to follow to create an e-commerce business and ensure its growth.
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Selling online: 12 steps to get started
- Assess demand for the product and its target
- Analyze the competition
- Name and register the business
- Design your branding and logo
- Create the product
- Establish costs and manufacturing processes
- Analyze and implement procurement and shipping procedures
- Buy a domain name and create a website
- Develop a marketing strategy to attract and convert customers
- Use social networks
- Launch your online store
- Have good customer service
How to start an online sales business?
An e-commerce business creation project is based on three prerequisites: creating its structure, designing its product, and establishing its marketing strategy.
Assess demand for the product and its target
Just having an idea for a product is not enough to sell it. We have to assess the demand and make sure that it will find a buyer. Even if it is impossible to know in advance the reaction of the market, there is a way to put a maximum of chances on his side: to go through the validation of the “product concept”. It is important to determine the need that the product must meet by answering the following questions:
- Who is the target consumer?
- What are their expectations?
- Why will he buy this product?
- What will he do with it?
This is an essential prerequisite to avoid investing time and resources in an idea that will not sell.
advice : create a persona for your ideal customer profile in order to better understand it.
Analyze the competition
An e-merchant is quite rarely the first to launch a given product on the market. Before creating the conditions for selling online, it is necessary to assess the competition (by identifying the main players in the market) and the potential appeal of the product (in order to determine whether or not there is room for a player additional and, if so, in which niche).
A simple search on Google can identify the main players in a market. Subsequently, tools like SEMrush or SimilarWeb provide relevant data on the performance of their websites (traffic, referral sites or keywords worked).
Name and register the business
To sell online, you have to open a digital store, thus creating a legally viable business. It is then essential to choose a status for the company (sole proprietorship or commercial company – EURL, SARL, SASU or SA) and to register it in the Trade and Companies Register (RCS).
Note that the obligations to be fulfilled change depending on the status selected. For an online store, required to collect personal data, it is also mandatory to register with the CNIL. At the same time, it is a matter of choosing the name of your company, taking care not to duplicate it with another structure.
advice : the Inpi database records availability information.
Design your branding and logo
Creating the logo is an essential step in selling online. It is through this acronym that the company or brand will make itself known and recognized by its customers. It’s about producing a simple, easy-to-remember logo that conveys a general idea.
However, the logo alone is not enough: it is only the first stone in building a brand image. Managing the latter, called branding, consists of creating a communication strategy based on the brand and its reputation. Branding involves developing the visual identity, but also defining the story told to customers.
Create the product
Very many e-merchants choose to create their own products to sell online, whether they are crafts (small-scale production of handmade items) or mass production. In both cases, you have to start by designing and creating the product (s). A good method is to put your ideas on paper and select the most promising, namely: the easiest to set up, the most original, the least expensive in raw materials, the least competitive. A good product idea is one that brings together a maximum of these parameters.
Establish costs and manufacturing processes
Once the product is designed, the manufacturing process and production costs must be established. Three phases are necessary:
- Prototyping, which consists of creating a functional product intended to serve as a sample before mass production.
- Sourcing, which amounts to building your logistics chain by listing the suppliers, activities and resources essential to move from the idea to the finished product as it will be purchased by the customer.
- Cost of Goods Sold Estimation (CRMV) which determines a retail price as well as the gross margin for each copy.
Analyze and implement procurement and shipping procedures
Selling online can be a real challenge: how do you manage your inventory when you don’t have a physical point of sale? There are different solutions:
- Manage your own stock (warehouse, home, physical store).
- Become a distributor (products are stocked by suppliers and sent when ordering).
- Go through an intermediary who takes care of logistics.
Whatever solution is chosen, it is important to ensure that there is always stock (finished products or goods allowing the product to be produced) in order to guarantee shipments to customers in the best conditions. The indication of a delivery deadline is also one of the obligations imposed on e-merchants.
Buy a domain name and create a website
The creation of an online sales site goes through several stages:
- Purchase of a domain name.
- Selection of an extension: .fr, .com, .net.
- Development of the site itself.
- Choice of an online payment gateway (by credit card, via an application such as PayPal, Authorize.net, etc.).
- Site security (display of the famous HTTPS in the URL, regular update of the CMS, etc.).
Develop a marketing strategy to attract and convert customers
A quality product and an attractive and functional website are essential prerequisites for selling online. However, they are not enough to attract and then convert customers. To this end, it is advisable to develop a suitable marketing strategy to promote awareness of your e-commerce site, generate trust and ensure that Internet users purchase and become customers.
For example, by adopting an e-commerce inbound marketing strategy. Such a strategy supposes activating several levers:
- SEO (via a professional blog and the publication of content).
- Digital advertising (Google Ads, banners or social ads).
- Communication on social networks.
Tools like HubSpot can help you set up your levers for action.
advice : To convert more customers to your site, make sure you communicate clearly about securing payment data.
Use social networks
Social networks have become essential for selling online. They allow communication and extend the reach of the marketing strategy. To benefit from this formidable “sounding board”, you have to start by creating accounts on the relevant platforms (rather Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in B2C, rather LinkedIn in B2B). Then, to gain notoriety, it is essential to keep your accounts alive, to promote interactions with the community, to join or lead groups, to offer high added value content, and why not to use advertisements social.
advice : Once your social media strategy is in place and your presence established, it may be worthwhile to use channels such as Instagram Shopping to promote your products and redirect to your website.
Launch your online store
Everything is ready, all you have to do is launch your online store by deploying the actions provided for in the marketing plan. All relevant communication media must participate: e-mailing, publication and dissemination of content on the blog and on social accounts, online advertising. It should be kept in mind that any marketing action must be designed for a specific target resulting from previously created personas, and aim to disseminate a single message. Finally, it is just as important to analyze the results of these actions on a regular basis, and to make the necessary corrections to ensure the growth of the company.
Have good customer service
Consumers expect fluid and transparent communication when ordering online, especially around product delivery. It is therefore essential to communicate regularly with your customers about the different stages, in particular by setting up a marketing automation strategy.
In addition, a customer with a question must be able to find an answer easily and quickly: either by having access to a knowledge base, or through a live chat or an efficient ticketing tool.
To go further, download this free guide to discover trends, best practices and tips applicable to the online sales industry.