9 steps to launch an ecommerce store
As shoppers continue to buy products online, more business owners are shifting to ecommerce. With over 70% of American consumers shopping electronically at least once a month, it’s never been more important to understand how to connect with your audience online.
If you’re new to the digital space, you might not be familiar with how to launch an ecommerce store. But you don’t want to miss out on new audiences and business opportunities. You need to learn how to launch your own ecommerce store.
This guide will help you do just that, with helpful steps from start to finish, plus tips for post-launch store management.
We’ll cover the nine steps to launching an ecommerce store:
- Pick a niche and define your audience
- Choose your product and set up an online store
- Create your brand name and assets
- Choose an ecommerce platform
- Build, design, and optimize your site
- Connect a payment gateway
- Register your business and choose a business structure
- Prep your store for launch
- Market your ecommerce store
We’ll also discuss:
- Importance of an ecommerce store
- Frequently asked questions
- How to launch an online store with future-proof commerce technology
Importance of an ecommerce store
Whether your business is entirely digital or has a brick-and-mortar retail component, online stores offer a range of benefits including:
- Expanded reach. With an online store, you can sell to customers worldwide, even if your physical business operations are limited to a certain region.
- Greater availability. An online store makes your business available to customers at all times. Consumers everywhere can purchase your products and services 24/7/365.
- Fewer upfront costs. Online stores have reduced upfront costs compared to brick-and-mortar stores. You don’t need to lease retail space or warehouses, or spend money on other major expenses like utilities.
- More manageability. With the aid of automation tools and artificial intelligence, you can manage online business in a streamlined fashion. An ecommerce store acts as the control center for your entire business, allowing you to manage everything from inventory to marketing, so you have all the tools needed to sell online and provide customer support.
- Lower staffing costs. Employment costs are typically lower because your primary staffing needs will likely be limited to customer relations, marketing, and order processing.
While developing an ecommerce business might take a little upfront work, it’s a great way to future-proof your operation, reduce costs, and connect with more shoppers. Follow this nine-step process to build a thriving online store.
1. Pick a niche and define your audience
You first need to choose your niche — the area your business will focus on. Since the digital market is so diverse, it’s important to research ecommerce niches so you can have a specific focus. For example, you’ll need to build a different type of store if you’re selling wedding-related items as opposed to operating in the automotive space.
This process involves several key considerations, such as:
- Profitability. It’s important to assess how much opportunity exists in the area you’re considering. Avoid targeting a market already saturated with competitors.
- Searchability. Avoid targeting nascent market segments. Newly emergent trends might create opportunities for online sellers in the short term — but if they fade, you’ll be out of business. Instead, look for a marketplace that’s underserved and offers an opportunity for consistent, long-term growth.
- Passion. The niche you choose should reflect your experience and knowledge in a given industry. If you love doing home improvement, a store related to construction might work well. If you’re passionate about gardening, you could sell consumers everything they need to create a home garden or cater to landscaping businesses.
Once you choose a niche, you’ll need to define your target audience. Part of refining your ecommerce plan for an online store is to analyze your target market and understand which customers you want to reach with an online platform. Knowing your ideal audience helps you find new customers and attract interested buyers, resulting in higher conversion rates and more sales. As a new ecommerce entrepreneur, consider the following points:
- Demographics. Your shoppers’ age, career, education, marital status, and gender identity can play a role in what they expect from your store. For example, a single college student likely has different interests compared to a middle-aged career professional.
- Location. Determine where the customers you want to sell to are located. It’s generally best to start small as a new ecommerce store. Target shoppers in your region or country first before potentially expanding to international audiences.
- Interests. Shoppers’ interests often relate to their buying habits. For example, an avid outdoors enthusiast might shop for camping gear, while a fashionista might look for the latest summer outfits. By understanding your audience’s interests, you can position your brand on social media and other online platforms to appeal to hobbyists.
2. Choose your product and set up an online store
Once you’ve chosen your niche and identified your core audience, it’s time to choose a product and set up your online store. First, ensure the products you sell will interest your audience.
One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is finding profitable products to sell. You don’t want to sell a product that’s too expensive or that no one is searching for. You also need to be able to store and ship the items. It isn’t always easy, but you can find profitable products to sell by:
- Appealing to enthusiastic hobbyists. The more specific your niche, the more likely you are to build a small but loyal following. Look into niche hobbies like crafting, dancing, gardening, bookbinding, jewelry making, and more.
- Going with your personal passion. You’re already an expert at your hobbies, so capitalize on that expertise. Create an ecommerce store tailored to your personal passion by selling products associated with your favorite hobbies, whether that’s pet care products or camera gear.
- Capitalizing on trends early. Selling in-demand products early on can help you gain more market share, avoid competition, and be viewed as an authority. Look for trends on platforms like Reddit or TikTok to discover in-demand products.
- Observing online marketplaces. For more product ideas, check Amazon, eBay, and Walmart to see which products are selling well.
Once you know which products you want to sell, it’s time to determine how you want to distribute them. Ask yourself whether you’ll maintain your own physical inventory and ship items or if you’ll use a solution like dropshipping, which can help grow your brand more quickly without as much upfront investment in inventory storage and management.
With manufacturing, you work with a factory to create the products. This is ideal if you have a unique product idea that will require more effort and resources. You’ll need to find a factory and a warehouse and logistics partner to store and ship the goods.
As a reseller, you become an authorized ecommerce store for an established brand. You need to follow the reseller’s rules, which often include pricing restrictions and brand guidelines. The upside is that you’re selling a product with proven demand, so this can be a great way to launch a reputable store. However, you still need to manage storage and shipping.
In the dropshipping model, you work with a dropshipping provider to pick, pack, and ship products as customers order them. You don’t need to store inventory, and you only pay for products when someone makes a purchase. This makes dropshipping the fastest and most affordable way to launch an ecommerce store. You don’t need money upfront, but you will pay higher fees to the dropshipping provider in exchange for their service.
Once you know how you want to store and fulfill inventory, it’s time to add the products to your website. First, photograph the items and set up your product listings. Ensure the photos are high quality — use Portrait Mode if you’re snapping photos with your phone. There are affordable options to get your products photographed professionally or to capture studio-quality images right from your phone.
Options like Square Online allow users to create, edit, and manage product listings, set up item types, and manage inventory easily. Add buy buttons, pricing information, and customer review features to make the purchase process easy. And don’t forget to write searchengine-optimized product descriptions to help you bring in more customers.
3. Create your brand name and assets
You’ll need to choose a brand name for your business and register a domain for it before launching your online store. Names and assets like logos can seem overwhelming, but they don’t have to be hard.
Make sure your name is unique and — if you can do so naturally — try to include a relevant word or phrase that resonates with your target demographic. This will naturally improve your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Avoid words that are subject to spelling variations between different regions. For example, if you intend to sell to customers in the United Kingdom and the United States, using the word “center” in your brand could be tricky since it’s spelled “centre” in the UK.
Additionally, steer clear of names that are similar to those of existing companies, which could result in potential legal trouble. If you’re unsure whether the name you’re considering is available for use, seek out legal counsel. You can wade through name ideas by going to a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy, and searching for available website domains.
You also need to pick a color palette, tagline, logo, and packaging for your brand and products. To create these brand assets, use a site like Adobe Express to browse dozens of free and easy-to-customize logo templates or hire someone to do it for you from a freelance platform such as Fiverr or 99Designs.
4. Choose an ecommerce platform
Next, you need to choose an ecommerce platform that will allow you to build and manage your online store. This isn’t the first step because you want to choose a platform with options that match your niche, audience, and aesthetic — and that can manage and distribute your products the way you want.
When choosing your ecommerce software, consider some key features, including:
- Web hosting. Assess whether the platform gives you the option to host your website on the cloud or if it requires you to set up and manage your own server.
- Omnichannel support. Your ecommerce platform should let you deliver a consistent shopping experience across customers’ devices, whether it’s a computer, phone, or tablet. For example, go with a system that keeps the same items in the customer’s shopping cart — even if they switch from a laptop to a smartphone.
- Reporting and analytics. To be successful, you need to measure your results. Look for an ecommerce solution that offers features for tracking sales and analyzing conversion rates.
- Personalization. Consider that 44% of buyers are likely to become repeat customers if their experience is personalized. An ecommerce platform should be able to deliver targeted content to customers that personalizes their shopping experience from start to finish.
- Friction-free checkout. Checkout is a major pain point for consumers, so they’ll appreciate anything that streamlines this process. Give customers the option of purchasing items instantly from your store so they can skip the full checkout process.
- Usability. Test out a few ecommerce platforms to find an option that’s intuitive and easy for you to use. The smaller the learning curve, the quicker you can start earning revenue and seeing growth.
- Accessible customer support. Look for an ecommerce solution that offers customer service specific to your needs. That might mean opting for a provider that delivers phone and chat support or even 24/7 availability.
5. Build, design, and optimize your site
As long as you have an ecommerce platform, setting up an online store doesn’t require any special technical skills. You can simply select a template, customize it, and launch your site. But there are several factors you must address to ensure your website’s content is correctly displayed and populated.
Create an account and build your site
Once you’ve chosen an ecommerce platform, the next step is to create an account and start building your online store. While the steps will depend on what platform you’re using and your unique business needs and type, they typically will include the following:
- Create an account with the provider.
- Set up a domain name for your online store, which your provider will usually offer.
- Select a template or theme.
- Add your business name and logo.
- Customize your homepage and other webpages.
- Add your products and create listings.
- Set up a payment processor.
- Configure tax and shipping settings.
Choose a theme
The bones of your site are there, and now it’s time to flesh it out. Instead of building a website from scratch, use a ready-made theme from your ecommerce provider. Consider the style and built-in features of each theme — as well as its price — to choose the best option for your products.
Your branding should also be consistent across your site. Use the same fonts, colors, imagery, and logos everywhere. If a customer switches from a PC to a smartphone, your site should still look the same. You don’t want customers to think they’ve mistakenly navigated to a different site because the theme or branding of one page is different from that of another.
Optimize your site
This step helps with visibility by bringing in more website visitors. It’s also crucial if you want to be found on search engines like Google. One important consideration is ensuring that your website content is SEO-friendly. Identify high-quality keywords customers might use to search for items you sell and place these keywords naturally throughout your site, in page titles and content. Be sure to also include keywords in your header tags, meta descriptions, and images.
6. Connect a payment gateway
At this stage, you’ll decide on payment methods and how you, as a store owner, will be paid. Most ecommerce platforms allow for online payments with built-in, PCI-compliant transaction processing through tools like PayPal and Stripe.
Many customers today prefer to pay digitally, so accepting digital payment methods can boost your chances of making an online sale. For example, WooCommerce gives sellers access to multiple payment gateways including PayPal and simple bank transfers. Regardless of which ecommerce platform you’re using, you can easily set up different payment options by toggling your account settings.
To get more value from your payment gateways, be sure to simplify the checkout process as much as possible. Opting for payment options like PayPal or Apple Pay can help shoppers skip the step where they type in their credit card information, which can reduce the chances of cart abandonment.
7. Register your business and choose a business structure
This step is about making your new business legal so you can build a professional relationship with customers. As a small business, it’s possible to register your business name only with your local or state government, which cuts down on the complexity of this step.
- There are lots of benefits to registering your business, including:
- Potentially receiving a lower tax bill
- Securing business funding more easily
- Creating a retirement plan
- Separating your company’s credit rating from your personal credit score
Consider how you want to set up your business structure. Depending on your needs and goals, you’ll likely need to register an ecommerce business as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation.
This is the simplest way to structure your business. Sole proprietorships aren’t incorporated, which means there’s no legal distinction between you and your business.
A limited liability company separates you from your business and allows the latter to be taxed as a corporation. However, it’s easier to manage than a corporation, which often comes with annual requirements.
Under a corporate structure, you have limited personal liability in the business. This is generally what small businesses register as, since it protects your personal assets if your company is ever sued. However, corporations come with formal requirements, so make sure this is a fit for how you want to run your business.
8. Prep your store for launch
Now that you’ve done the bulk of the work, it’s time to prepare your store for launch. Follow this process to get your store ready for launch:
- Add a custom domain. If it wasn’t included in your ecommerce platform subscription, make sure to buy a custom website domain for your business. This can help with both SEO ranking and branding for your new business.
- Install relevant sales channels. If you plan on selling via eBay, Amazon, or Walmart, you may need to integrate these sales channels with your website.
- Set up your store for marketing. We’ll cover marketing in the next step, but at this stage you need to prepare your site for marketing success. Install tracking codes for your marketing analytics so you can see what’s working and what needs to be adjusted.
- Integrate your store with social media platforms. Connect your store with Facebook and Instagram so shoppers can buy your products on their social media apps.
- Set up shipping, pickup, and delivery. Decide how you will ship products to your customers, and ensure that this solution connects with the back end of your website.
9. Market your ecommerce store
- Marketing should be an ongoing effort for any online store. While marketing is different for every business, setting up a solid foundation is important. The fundamentals of nearly every ecommerce marketing strategy include the following:
- Drive traffic to get your first sales. Paid ads, influencer partnerships, affiliates, SEO, email marketing, and organic content marketing can drive more traffic.
- Use analytics to learn from your traffic. You don’t need to check your ecommerce website analytics every day, but check them once a week at least.
- Optimize your store according to findings. After you collect a few weeks’ worth of data, you’ll see patterns emerge. For example, if the bounce rate on certain pages is unusually high, you might need to change your site settings or refresh the page layout.
Frequently asked questions
- What are some easy businesses to start?
Ecommerce stores are relatively easy to launch. Simply sign up for an ecommerce platform, choose your products, and start selling.
- How much does it cost to start an online store?
If you choose a dropshipping model, it can cost $0 to start an online store. You may need to pay a small subscription fee to an ecommerce platform to create an online store or purchase a domain, which usually costs $30 to $150, depending on the setup.
- Where can I get products for my online store?
You can manufacture your own items at a factory, but the quickest way to source ecommerce products is by becoming a certified reseller or a dropshipper.
- Where can I sell products online?
You can sell products on your own website via social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, or on platforms like Amazon, eBay, or Walmart.
- How can I create an online store without inventory?
Become a dropshipper. You only pay for products when customers place an order, and your provider will manage the storing, picking, packing, and shipping on your behalf.
- What are the most important sections that my online store should have?
Your online store needs a home page, a contact page, an FAQ page, product pages, a checkout page, and a page detailing your terms of service.
- How can I manage shipping costs and taxes for my online store?
Your ecommerce platform should offer shipping options and calculators, and some even have state and federal tax calculators.
Launch an online store with future-proof commerce technology
More than half of consumers today shop online, so it’s vital for businesses to meet customers where they are. Choosing the right ecommerce platform makes a world of difference in getting your online store off the ground.
You know what steps are needed to launch an ecommerce store — now make sure you have the right tools to simplify the process.
Adobe Commerce is the world’s leading digital commerce solution for merchants and brands. It’s more than a flexible shopping cart system — it’s the building block for business growth. Manage multiple global stores and brands all from one platform, and deliver frictionless customer experiences across digital touchpoints, including web, mobile, and marketplace.