This is a guide to setting up a successful eCommerce website. It provides a step-by-step guide as well as the best resources in the industry for starting your site. It will teach you how to:
- Find products to sell
- Create a brand
- Choose the best eCommerce platform
- eCommerce Essentials
- Choose a domain name
- Register your domain from Namecheap
- Set up your hosting from Siteground
- Connect NameCheap to Siteground
- Setup WordPress with a theme (StudioPress is great) and plugins
- Setup WooCommerce
- Get an email for your domain and set up a newsletter
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What Is eCommerce
eCommerce is the buying and selling of products and services using the internet. Instead of leasing and building out a brick and mortar store all you need is web hosting, a WordPress theme, and an eCommerce platform. A lot of people think of eCommerce as a get rich quick scheme, but it’s not. Yes, growth rates can be quicker for eCommerce than for brick and mortar retail but you need to have a great store to make big money in eCommerce.
You can build an online store and scale it much faster than traditional retail but you need to have a plan, and approach your store like you are building a real business. It’s a great industry to get into, and it is going to continue to grow in the future. Global eCommerce sales growth continues to grow at 20% per year. Retail eCommerce sales are predicted to be almost five billion in 2021, and they were only 1.3 billion in 2014. This is a growing industry and it is a great time to build a store whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veteran.
When people talk about eCommerce they are usually referring to the sale of physical products through the internet, but it can be used to refer to any commercial transaction of a good or service that happens online.
5 Ecommerce Business Models
There are five main eCommerce business models. This article will teach you how to do start a successful retail eCommerce with WooCommerce.
Retail: A business selling a product directly to a consumer without using any intermediary such as Amazon.
Dropshipping: A business selling a product to a consumer that is manufactured and shipped by a third party intermediary.
Wholesale: A business selling products in bulk, there may be multiple intermediaries in the supply chain, with the last often being a retailer selling the product directly to a consumer.
Subscription: A scheduled (often weekly or monthly), recurring purchase of a good or service until a subscriber chooses to opt-out. Very common for products such as coffee, razor blades, socks, etc.
Digital Products: A business selling digital products such as software, courses, or other digital goods that can be licensed, or purchased with a one-time fee.
Finding Products To Sell
To create a sustainable eCommerce business you need to eliminate low-margin business models such as dropshipping. Low-margin methods can work and some people make a lot of money using them. However a much better way to create an eCommerce store is through private labeling.
A private label product is manufactured by a contract or third-party manufacturer and sold under a retailer’s brand name.
The value in this form of eCommerce comes from the fact that you are creating a brand with the products you are selling. This is the way you build a real company and create a full-time income and life changing financial freedom. By creating a brand you allow yourself to sell for higher prices than if you were simply doing dropshipping.
This all comes down to the simple math of eCommerce.
Net Profit = Units Sold x Unit Profit
All successful eCommerce business owners know this formula. With dropshipping and retail arbitrage you may have a high units sold but the unit profit is very low. The reason you are going to do private labeling is because you can have a high units solid and high unit profit and therefore a high net profit. You will need to calculate your expense on each unit sold, and this will be different for every person.
You will create a brand selling a few high-margin products to a lot of people. This is the most important thing an eCommerce business owner can remember to guarantee their success.
You need to find products to sell on your WooCommerce store. A lot of people over-complicate this step, what you want to do is take a high-margin, commonly used product and sell it on your eCommerce store. Try to choose a product that will appeal to a wide range of people. I have provided a list of example products you can sell on your store:
– Travel Accessories
– Comfort Items (Bath Bombs, Bath Salts)
– Women’s or Men’s Jewelry
– Automotive Accessories
– LED Lighting
– Phone Accessories
– Kitchen Accessories
– Pet Accessories (Dog Bowls, Chew Toys, etc)
Now you’re probably wondering how much to price a product for. The answer is super simple – price the product around the same price as the product is selling for on Amazon. Most customers check the prices of eCommerce products against the price of products on Amazon, therefore you want your price to be comparable to similar products on Amazon. Since prices are the same and you have created a brilliant brand for your product (you read the branding section, right?) they will choose to buy your product rather than an Amazon listing.
You can always change your prices once your store is established. For now simply make note of the prices of certain products on Amazon.
Sourcing your products:
Time for you to meet your new best friend when sourcing products, Alibaba. Alibaba is the best website for sourcing low price products to sell on your online store, their brand was built around helping wholesalers reach customers around the world.
Go onto the Alibaba website and search for the product you are looking to buy, and see if they can provide the right product for you.
You should order samples of the product before you spend a chunk of cash to make a large order. Make sure the product does what you want to do, and is of sufficient quality. Message a few suppliers and see which ones understand your requirements, see which ones have a low minimum order requirement (important when you are starting a store), and responds to your messages in a timely manner.
If Alibaba does not have the correct product you want to sell on your website you can do some more creating sourcing.
Do some Google searches for the product you want and get in contact with suppliers to determine minimum order requirements, shipping times, etc. Some search queries you can try are:
“Product keyword wholesale”
“Product keyword bulk purchase”
“Product keyword manufacturer”
If you have any questions about products or services you want to sell with eCommerce, do not hesitate to email me at leo(at)incometowealth.com!
Creating A Brand
Branding is arguably the most important part of running a successful eCommerce company. You want to give the impression to your customers and your competitors that you are one of the best companies in your industry. Think about it, why would your customers buy from you if you don’t look like you provide some of the best goods or services in your industry.
You want to get to the point where someone would invest in your eCommerce company solely off the look and feel of your brand that they get from your website and your social media presence. That is the true sign that you have created an incredibly professional looking eCommerce store.
Sign up for all the social media accounts and build a presence that is uniform across all of theme. Have a unique style that matches your products and the style of your website and store. You don’t need to spend hours on social media every day, but you should either hire a virtual assistant to handle your social media marketing or else you should be automating most of it through services such as Hootsuite. You don’t need to signup for every different social media platform that pops up, but you need to at least have the basics: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.
All big brands have styles that their marketing team have created. Marketers create the appearance of a certain style and over time it becomes a reality. You will want to get a high quality logo made, you can make it yourself in Photoshop or Gimp, or get it made by designers from a service such as Fiverr or 99designs. The logo you get made will need to be consistent with the color scheme you use on your website and social media profiles. At first just get a nice logo made, throw it up on your website. Later on you will want to match all your corporate communications to your color scheme (brochures, email newsletters, social media accounts).
Think about the colors and style you want for you brand and then use this for your logo. A couple of good resources to look at are Builder Society Crash Course’s Day 5 – Site Design & Competitor Analysis and How to Build a Brand Bible & Visual Style Guide. Learn from the style, marketing, and social media presence from the brands in your industry. If they are successful companies and have followed a certain marketing plan, smart money would say that plan works.
About Us Page
New customers will want to know more about your company so you should create an easy to find About Us page. People will click on this page to understand more about your company. This is a great place to build trust with your customer and tell them exactly what your company is about. If you are a married couple who loves animals that decided to create an eCommerce store for pet supplies take advantage of this opportunity. Tell your story and include a cute picture of yourself and your pets. Your About Us page is one of the best ways to add a personal touch to your website and build trust & a relationship with your customers.
Choosing An eCommerce Platform
A lot of people get confused about which eCommerce platform to build their store with.
You are spoiled for choice when starting an Ecommerce store and making a choice between all those options is difficult. My recommendation would be to start your store with WooCommerce. WooCommerce is the most complete eCommerce platform you can use to run your online store.
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin that is built for WordPress. It is an open source plugin that integrates with the powerful open source WordPress content management system. Unlike most eCommerce platforms (e.g. Shopify) where the platform owns your store, and you can only use their extensions and customizations because of the open-source nature of WordPress and WooCommerce you can customize your website easily and add functionality with 50,000+ WordPress plugins.
The easy to use WooCommerce interface is one of the greatest strengths of the platform. However in my opinion the single greatest strength is the ability to integrate content and ecommerce. WordPress powers 26% of the web and is the world’s most popular content management system. You can easily build a blog alongside your store and publish great content to help build your brand, get social shares, and SEO benefits.
Many online gurus recommend Shopify so it is something I feel the need to comment on. With Shopify you need to pay to add any features to your store and Shopify owns the platform. If they raise prices or go out of business you can say goodbye to your profits! You give up control of your business to Shopify – the king gives up the keys to the castle.
M.J. Demarco, the author of the Millionaire Fastlane outlines control as one of the five commandments of a Fastlane business. “Fastlaners control their brands, their properties, and their financial plans.” – MJ DeMarco. Stay in control of your eCommerce business and build it with WooCommerce on WordPress.
Contact Information & Communications
A lot of people make the mistake that just because they are an eCommerce store they can get away with not having contact information. You need to have solid contact information and quality customer service but the exact information you need to provide is a point of debate in the eCommerce community. Some people say you need to have a business address and phone number on your website, I think this is unnecessary. No one cares what your physical address is, and a phone number is simply an invitation for unsolicited calls (which would otherwise be customer inquiries over email or social media).
You simply need to have a contact page with an email and social accounts that your company can be reached at. If a customer or potential customer needs to call you, then can give them your phone number through email or one of your social channels. I would recommend you get a second phone number purely for business calls (e.g on Android use Google Voice). The important thing is to be reliable on the channels you claim to be active on (email and social accounts). Also it is incredibly important to have an email that is associated with your brand. DO NOT use a Gmail address for your business email, instead you need to use an email associated with the domain itself. This can easily be done with Siteground, and is covered in the section of this post about creating an email for your domain.
You need to have analytics software from the moment you start to build you website. Analytics programs help you to understand the behavior of the traffic that comes to your website. It will help you understand what traffic sources are converting into customers and email list subscribers. Most importantly as your website grows it will allow you to analyze the historical data and understand the effect of changes you make to your website. Must have analytics programs to signup for are Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Since you are going to be dealing with private data such as credit card information and other sensitive information you need to have solid site security. You need to have SSL enabled and enforced from day 1, this can easily be done from your SiteGround account. The reason this security is so important is because browsers notify their users if a checkout experience is safe or not. For example in Google Chrome there is a green lock when a website is safe and a red caution when a website is not secure. If a customer tries to use a checkout on a website that isn’t secure their browser could prevent them from inputting their credit card information and making a purchase. Make sure you have SSL enabled on your Siteground website account.
Policies & Legal Stuff
Since you are dealing with credit cards and other private information you need to make sure you have policies to protect both yourself and your customer. You need to write legal terms, privacy statements, potentially a cookie statement depending on the country you are doing business in. You should write a FAQ so your customers understand basic things about your company which prevents you from having to deal with unnecessary customer support work. Policy pages for things like returns and taxes are also necessary in the modern eCommerce ecosystem so don’t neglect them.
Too many people place blind trust in the forms the put on they website. You need to double and triple check all the forms you use on your website to ensure they work correctly. Newsletter signup forms, checkout forms, and contact us forms need to work perfectly or else you will lose customers and lose profits. I remember reading a story on a popular online marketing forum about someone who ran $10,000 in Facebook ads in a day to a landing page with a broken checkout button. He lost all the potential customers he had targeted with that advertisement. There is nothing worse than realizing a form on your website hadn’t worked for weeks and thinking about how many sales or newsletter signups you missed out on.
This is something you need to do because your customer automatically expect it from eCommerce merchants. This is a reality you need to accept because customers see shipping charges as extra charges they don’t want to pay. They will gladly pay a certain price but include it in the original product price and make shipping free. The other option is to have free shipping on orders that are over a certain amount e.g. $50+. This way you can give customers an incentive to spend more money at your store and they will get the added bonus of free shipping. Charging for shipping on all orders is one of the biggest rookie mistakes in eCommerce, don’t do it.
Choosing A Domain Name
When you choose a domain name you need to make sure it’s the right one for your website from the start. The worst thing that can happen is putting the work into growing a website and then realizing your domain didn’t fit or was too narrow for your business.
- No numbers or hyphens. The best practice is to not use numbers or hyphens in a domain name. They make it harder to remember and harder for a user to type into their browser.
- Choose a brandable domain. A brandable domain is a domain that you could turn into a real business and brand. Think of the difference between starting a domain called calvinklein.com vs. deluxmenswear.com.
- Stick to .com extension. People choose alternative extensions because the .com version is already taken. If the .com version of a domain you want is taken, you need to choose a different domain name.
To buy your domain name you need to use a registrar. A registrar is a company that is licensed to register and sell domains.
There are a ton of domain registrars on the internet – in my opinion (and many others agree) the best is NameCheap. They have a very simple interface, on their homepage you simply search the domain you want. Add this domain to your cart and then buy it.
NameCheap has competitive prices and 2 key features that are shown in the image below.
- Free WhoisGuard
- Domain Auto-Renew
WhoIs is a free online database where anyone can access information about a website and its owner, whether it be an individual or a company. This information will be stored in current and historical WhoIs records – your name, address, telephone number, email address and physical address.
WhoIsGuard protects this information and Namecheap provides this service for free. The domain auto-renew feature ensures your domain doesn’t expire at the end of one year. This will save you a world of pain and it’s also free. I highly recommend you keep WhoIsGuard and Domain Auto-Renew turned on for the duration of time you have your domain.
Web hosting is the service that makes your website accessible on the World Wide Web. Web hosts provide space on a server for individuals and companies. There are a thousands of hosting companies – it’s incredibly important you choose a reputable company, the best web hosting for beginners is Siteground. They have excellent customer service, a very simple setup interface, and a free SSL certificate (added security) along with other great features.
You will want to use a shared web hosting service. There are different types of hosting and Siteground allows you to upgrade later on if you need more server space. I will explain step by step how to build your website, but if you need assistance the staff at Siteground are great.
Siteground has excellent customer service, if you need help setting up your website or have general questions, they will always be there to help you out.
The Startup plan is the best to start with. Select “Get Started” and you will be redirected to a page to enter the domain you bought from NameCheap. Then on the next page you input your personal and payment information.
Now that you have your domain and hosting, you need to connect them, so that your website works properly.
Connecting Your Domain and Hosting
Connecting your domain and hosting is not hard, but it is venturing into the great unknown for beginners. Now you need to connect your Hosting to your domain. This is the point where many beginners get confused and spend hours trying to figure out what to do. If you follow this guide step by step you should have no issues. If you do get confused, you can reach out to Siteground support staff.
- Log in to your Siteground account and click on the tab called “Manage Account”.
- Click on the tab called “Information & Settings”
- The second option reads “Account DNS” and includes the information about your two nameservers, they should look like this: ns1.siteground###.com & ns2.siteground###.com
- Log in to your Namecheap account and click “Domain List”
- To the right of your domain click click the box that says “Manage”
- The 4th section will say “NameServers”
- Input your information
- On the dropdown bar select “Custom DNS”
- On the two dotted lines below copy and past BOTH your name servers
Now you will need to wait for the name servers to update. This may take up to 48 hours, but usually takes only a few hours. Once the name servers update you will have a fully functioning (albeit empty) website!
Content Management System – WordPress
Now you are going to want to install a content management system (CMS). This CMS will allow you to easily create, add, modify and delete content on your website. I recommend using WordPress, this is the most widely used CMS on the internet and it powers 28% of websites. For a small business or personal website, it is the best and easiest way to create a website.
With Siteground there is a very simple way to install WordPress. Under “MyAccounts” select the orange button that says “Go to cPanel”. Then click on the WordPress icon under the AutoInstallers section.
This is an autoinstaller, but you still must make a few selections. This includes things like your URL structure, site name, site description, username and password. Fill that out and then you can set up an official email for your website/brand.
As with most WordPress plugins, WooCommerce is very easy to install. Here are the official instructions from WooCommerce’s Start with WooCommerce in 5 Steps.
- Create a free account on WooCommerce.com
- Sign-up for an account on WordPress.com and WooCommerce.com
- Select from:
- A pre-installed solution with a trusted host
- Auto-installing WooCommerce if you have a WordPress site already
- Download the zip file and do it yourself
- Download the WooCommerce plugin
- Download the plugin
- Go to your website
- Go to: Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Upload
- Select the downloaded plugin
- Search for the WooCommerce plugin from within your website
- Go to your website
- Go to: Dashboard > Plugins > Add New > Search Plugins
- Search for “WooCommerce”
Choosing A WordPress Theme
The WordPress theme you choose will determine the look of your website. There are professional designers that build WordPress themes for a living. It would be a disservice for me to tell you which theme to pick, however a premium theme will be worth the investment.
You are building an online business so investing $50-$100 on a beautiful web design for your site will be worth it. It will increase the authority of your website, build the trust of your readers, and increase your profits. I have linked to what is in my opinion the best theme company – StudioPress. They create very high-quality themes, I recommend you look at their websites and the themes they have for sale. Take a look at the three StudioPress themes below, they are great options for eCommerce websites.
“If you’re ready for a theme with unlimited ambiance, take a look at Atmosphere Pro. Your visitors will take in all the details — both in your images and your copy — when you use Atmosphere Pro’s wide open spaces and gorgeous contrasts.
Description from the StudioPress website.
” Want a website that’s substantial but simple? Come see the sleek difference that white space and typography make in minimal design with Monochrome Pro. If having a visually strong digital presence and an easy-to-use site are equally important to you, then Monochrome Pro is the Genesis-powered theme you’ve been waiting for.”
Description from the StudioPress website.
“The Perfect Theme for Wellness, Food/Recipe, Fitness and Lifestyle Sites. Choose from flexible image-rich layouts, including full-width sections and archive options that will make your content shine.”
Description from the StudioPress Website
StudioPress themes are built for SEO (search engine optimization), mobile responsive (massively important), and are easily customizable with different layout options. You need to have a well-built WordPress theme because poorly made themes can slow down your website or even inject malicious code that leaves your website vulnerable to hackers.
Setting Up Email On Your Website
You will want to create an email associated with the website you create. This can be easily done with cPanel as well. Under the heading “Mail” click the option called “Email Accounts”. This will bring you to a very simple interface to create an email account. You can then connect it to your primary email address so you can send and receive emails from ONE inbox. This can be more convenient than using multiple inboxes. Simply Google “Connect Siteground email to MyEmailProvider” and include your email service (e.g. Gmail) in the place of MyEmailProvider.
I recommend you choosing one of the following email formats
Continuing Your Education
Your eCommerce education will never end, as your store and profits grow you will always be learning. It’s a good idea to monitor blogs and listen to podcasts to see the trends that are emerging in the industry. These are a collection of blogs and podcasts that can help you learn more about the industry.
Before you start reading these blogs and start listening to these podcasts I want to give you a word of warning. Do not fall into the trap of paralysis by analysis. You need to make an investment into your eCommerce store and signup your domain and hosting before you start reading a ton of information about eCommerce. This guide has enough information to get you started – source some products, figure out your brand name, buy a domain name, buy web hosting.
If you spend money to signup for these services it will ensure you make the right steps to your success. Your pocketbook is already invested so this increases the likelihood of your success, you become accountable after making an investment. This is a psychological phenomena that has been proven time and time again. That being said you can bookmark this page and save these resources to read once you have opened your store and started to make sales.