According to Statista, e-commerce turnover in England is constantly increasing (more than € 92 billion in 2018). Certainly, customers are buying more and more on the Internet. But you are also (and above all) more and more entrepreneurs to get started in e-commerce …
Some already have the product, others are interested in e-commerce whatever the niche. In both cases, a little reminder about the steps to follow to get started serenely and especially where to start an e-commerce project will not hurt you!
# 1 – Frame your e-commerce project
The first step to create your e-commerce site is that of framing your project.
This is the most important step, and yet it is the one on which most e-tailers skip due to lack of time or skills. To help with setting out the plan for your e-commerce project, you may want to look into websites like https://merchantalternatives.com/reviews/ to check out the available merchant services for your sector so you can make the right choices in getting everything off the ground and functioning how you want it to.
How to choose an interesting sector (or validate that your product meets a demand)
For framing, there are two ways to see things before getting started:
- Either you already have one (or more) product (s) to sell;
- Either you want to get into e-commerce but the niche doesn’t matter to you (this is the case for most dropshippers for example).
But in both cases, it will be necessary to check the size of the market, to determine the potential of your online store.
The only difference is that in the second case you have no preference for a particular niche and can more easily change the market, while in the first you will sometimes have to fight against yourself to accept that not, a sweater in a recycled soda can is not a great product idea for your store.
Start by checking if there is already a demand on your niche using one of the following tools:
- Google Ads Keyword Planner (free);
- Ahref (paid);
- Semrush (paid);
- Ubersuggest (free);
- Google Trends (free).
These tools can help you compare the size of demand in multiple markets, while also looking at the competition already there. Very convenient !
Good to know : You can always decide to launch an innovative product and sell it online, but keep in mind that your acquisition strategy will be totally different (and often more difficult) in a market where demand is not yet explicitly formulated.
Create a business plan
Once the niche has been validated, complete a complete business plan. Do not neglect this step, it is often here that everything will play out.
Make a detailed forecast budget (don’t forget the marketing costs!), There are many models available for free on the web.
Do not forget the logistics costs, the costs of creating your legal structure, the possible development costs or even the costs related to your payment solution or your bank …
Our advice : Chat with other e-tailers who have been there before you, and ask them to detail their main costs.
Don’t forget the specifications
Obviously, if you decide to create your e-commerce site using a service provider, writing specifications is essential.
But even if you have decided to make your e-commerce site yourself, the exercise of the rest is interesting to be sure not to forget anything before starting the creation of your online store.
Many e-merchants before you skip this step, especially when they start alone, and many of them then regret certain choices (technological in particular) that they could have avoided with a good specification.
A specification must include the following:
- Presentation of the project and your competitors;
- Persona (who is the target buyer);
- Site tree structure;
- Products catalogue ;
- Graphic charter (or at least a graphic description of the site);
- Some elements of ergonomics and navigation;
- Objectives (turnover, catalog size, etc.).
Also, don’t forget the key elements of the e-commerce site:
- What will the customer account, product pages and your sales funnel (basket, checkout, etc.) look like?
- What integrations are needed with other tools (billing, emailing, logistics, etc.)?
Once the project is properly framed, you have to move on to choosing the solution to develop your online store.
# 2 – Choose a solution to create your e-commerce site (and / or providers)
As you may have understood, there are 2 ways to create an e-commerce site: alone or accompanied.
Choosing between launching your activity alone or using providers (freelance, agency, etc.) will depend on several criteria:
- Size and complexity of the project : does your site require custom developments? What is the size of the product catalog? What is the scope of the project and how much time do you have to launch it?
- Budget : what is your budget for the development of the site, and for its marketing?
- skills : are you able to create your site yourself using the CMS solution or is it inconceivable for you?
Alone or with help, let’s now go a little more into the details of the solutions available to you to create your site.
Choose a CMS
Reminder : A CMS (Content Management System) is the tool that allows you to create and manage your e-commerce site.
Choosing your CMS is not easy and once again a crucial step.
It’s about choosing a solution that fits your current and future needs and goals. There are two main types of CMS that allow you to create your e-commerce site.
1 / CMS in SaaS
CMS known as “SaaS” (for which you pay a monthly subscription), are the most popular solution for small e-commerce sites, but they are also suitable for larger projects.
- Turnkey tools;
- Accommodation included;
- Configuration of the store within everyone’s reach;
- Easy to use interface;
- Automatic updates;
- Many additional modules available.
Limits side, pay attention to the compatibility of the chosen platform with third-party solutions, as well as the total price. Indeed, if the monthly price of SaaS platforms generally makes it possible to launch at low cost, it is also necessary to include in the calculation the commissions of most of these platforms.
The best known SaaS solution is Shopify, with more than 800,000 e-commerce sites managed worldwide. Also note Oxatis, BigCommerce, Wizishop, or Prestashop Ready (the SaaS version of Prestashop).
Second type of CMS, and in reality the first type that has emerged historically, open-source CMS. It’s downloadable software, and you’re free to host it.
- The price since they are free (although we will see after that it is not that simple);
- Very customizable (including many themes);
- Community of developers well installed (historical solutions).
Limits side, not all solutions are easy to learn, and most require more technical skills than a SaaS solution. You will therefore most of the time need to be accompanied by a freelance or an agency for the creation and configuration of your e-commerce site (and suddenly it’s no longer free …).
The most well-known open-source solutions for e-commerce are Magento, Prestashop, or WooCommerce, but also Joomla, OpenCart, Drupal… You are spoiled for choice.
Develop everything from a blank sheet
As an alternative to open-source CMS or SaaS, some e-merchants start from a blank page and use developers to create 100% personalized online stores. Let’s be clear, this solution, if it is the most “flexible”, is also the one that is going to be the most complex and the most expensive, and therefore seems to us unsuitable for most (future) e-merchants who read us.
# 3 – Provide the legal framework
In addition to choosing your solution, don’t forget the legal framework linked to the launch of your e-commerce store.
Choose your status
Do not imagine starting to sell on your e-commerce store without any legal status, it would be a mistake that you may regret later.
If you are alone in the e-commerce adventure, the self-employed status is the easiest to get started. Creation formalities are inexpensive, and management and accounting are simplified.
Certain limits of this status (VAT exemption, turnover limit, no deduction of charges, unlimited liability) can push you to turn to the EIRL or a SASU or EURL type company statute, or their versions with several partners ( SAS or SARL) if you are in this situation.
Remember the legal obligations
Status is one thing, and meeting legal obligations on your e-commerce store is another.
And the obligations are relatively numerous to protect the buyer:
- Indicate the legal notices;
- Detail the General Conditions of Sale (CGV);
- Declaration to the CNIL;
- Mandatory information to buy it (right of withdrawal, delivery terms and times, means of payment, price, etc.);
- Protection of personal data.
To see in detail the compulsory rules of online sales, go to the official page of the Public Service.
Getting started in e-commerce has never been easier and less expensive. A well framed project, a good forecast and the choice of a suitable solution will allow you to put the odds on your side.