Start an ecommerce business

Start an ecommerce business in 2022

Ecommerce business is a business model where buyers and sellers exchange goods and services with consumers over the internet. Here’s how to launch your ecommerce business and reaching millions of online shoppers.
team reviewing business analytics

What is an ecommerce business?

Ecommerce business is a business model where buyers and sellers exchange goods and services with consumers over the internet. Two common types are Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) ecommerce. B2B sellers focus on selling products that other businesses may need, while B2C focuses on selling products to shoppers (or the end customer).

8 key steps to launch your ecommerce business

Ecommerce businesses are booming. In 2020, more than 200,000 selling partners from around the world began selling in Amazon stores in the U.S. This represents a 45% increase over the previous year. If you’re starting from scratch, here are key steps to tackle, plus we’ll get into a lot more detail below.
  1. Research your business idea to come up with a product that will meet a customer need.
  2. Validate your product idea by talking to potential customers.
  3. Consider how you will sell and ship your product to online customers (11 tips for choosing the right product).
  4. Source products by procuring inventory or manufacturing your own.
  5. Select online selling channels, which may include Amazon, your own website, or both.
  6. Build your online storefront and add products.
  7. Prepare an ecommerce fulfillment strategy to deliver orders to customers.
  8. Attract customers with ecommerce marketing and promotions, and other ways to grow your business.
Small businesses graph showing growth earnings in sales on Amazon

Starting an ecommerce business can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be.

Yes, there are a lot of considerations, but you’ve got this. As you’ll soon see, many online businesses started out small, selling just one or two products online and growing from there.

If you’re thinking of starting your own ecommerce store, or you’re looking for tips and ideas to grow from brick-and-mortar to digital, this guide (and checklist) is for you.

Starting an ecommerce business from scratch
Running your online business
Marketing and product promotion
Ecommerce business FAQs
Example of an Amazon storefront using Amazon Stores

How Anker grew from a side business into a global brand

Did you know Anker Technologies, the worldwide provider of phone chargers and power banks, started as a small ecommerce business in Amazon stores? Steven Yang and his wife initially ran a dropshipping business that sparked the idea of selling portable charging devices; this became Anker. As sales took off, the couple went full-time with their business. Today, Anker is a global enterprise.
cork board with product ideas pinned to it

How to start an ecommerce business from scratch

Here’s how to go from dreaming about your million-dollar idea to running your own ecommerce store.

Step 1: Research your business idea

Before you start building a store, research your business plan to help make choices quickly and efficiently. There are several ways sellers decide what products to sell or build. Here are some common decisions to make when trying to start your ecommerce business.

Find a pain point or challenge worth solving

Finding a problem to solve for a specific audience is crucial for successful ventures. Some ideas—however innovative—can fail when they don’t have customers to support them.

What problem or challenge are you seeking to solve? Who feels that pain point the most? Who would be most excited about solving this challenge?

For example, do you seek to make high quality kitchen utensils? Then people who enjoy cooking meals might be loyal customers. Are you selling thicker and more durable yoga mats? Then yoga practitioners and instructors might be your best advocates and fans.

Think of the challenge your product may meet. Identify the users who will truly appreciate what you’re trying to create, and keep them top-of-mind. This will guide your priorities.

Be observant to find great product ideas

You don’t have to go far to find a good product idea. Oftentimes people sell to a familiar group because it is a lot easier to spot problems and pinpoint needs quickly. Think about your own interests to identify product opportunities for people with similar interests or hobbies.

Questions to ask yourself when looking for product ideas

The easiest place to start researching your business idea is within your immediate surroundings. Find out the goals, aspirations, or challenges of people around you, then find products to help them. By being observant, you can come up with ideas for your business that you can then research online.
  • What pain points or problems do you have that you wish to solve?
  • What flaws or complaints do you have with products you currently use?
  • What trends have you noticed in the world that you can capitalize on?
  • What comments do you hear from friends or family members around products they use?
  • What activities do you enjoy doing? What products would help improve those activities?

Use keyword research tools to spot trends and opportunities

When it comes to selling online, your passion will not necessarily translate to success. You need to figure out whether customers want the product. Use online tools like Google Trends to research trending products, look up questions customers may have, and determine what their current solutions are. Take a look at the Amazon Best Sellers list to spot niche product opportunities.

The product already exists, now what?

If your idea or product is already on the market, don’t worry: You have a couple of options. Namely, you might be able to offer the same product at a more competitive price point, or provide a better alternative product. Plus, the fact that the product is already out there is validation of market potential—that’s a good sign!

Read customer reviews of the existing products to find out where your competitors fall short. Tally the complaints and look for patterns. Next, do your research and figure out how much it might cost to solve the issue.
woman and man looking at product

Step 2: Validating your product idea

The more time you put into validating the product, the better your chances of succeeding. Once you've pinpointed your business idea, research how similar products perform and what potential customers might be looking for.

Talk to potential customers to validate your idea

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to figure out whether your idea is worth pursuing is to talk to people. Once you've identified a problem worth solving, talk to people who feel the pain point or frustration the most.

Reach out to a small group of people to understand if they face the problem you’re trying to solve, and find out how they currently deal with this challenge.

Offer to buy 5-10 people a cup of coffee in exchange for 30 minutes of their time. Use your meeting to talk about the challenge and see if the pain point is something they would pay money to solve, or if it doesn’t bother them much. Avoid bringing up the product you have in mind, as this may influence the answers you get. Instead, focus on how they feel about the challenge, how they currently deal with it, and whether they would pay to solve the problem. If so, how much would they be willing to pay? Asking these questions can help you figure out if there might be an audience for the product.

11 tips for choosing the right product to sell online

Although you can sell almost anything in Amazon stores, a good place for an aspiring ecommerce store owner to start is with products that:
  1. Are easy to package and ship
  2. Have branding potential
  3. Are affordable for customers
  4. Have a long shelf life
Products that may be difficult for a new entrepreneur to sell are:
  1. Food and perishables
  2. Products with a low profit margin
  3. Heavy or bulky items, or products that are expensive to ship
  4. Highly competitive products (check the amount of customer reviews)
  5. Complex items or electronic products
Products to avoid are:
  1. Patented or trademarked products (unless you own the patent/trademark or are certified as a reseller)
  2. Restricted products. Depending on the selling channels you use, there may be restrictions on the types of products you can sell. It’s a good idea to check the restricted products list before you start buying inventory to make sure you won’t run into any unexpected challenges.

Help protect your brand with Amazon Brand Registry

Prevent the unauthorized use of your brand through Amazon Brand Registry. This program is built for entrepreneurs who have an existing trademark or patent. It includes access to tools that enable you to better represent a brand and find and report violations.

Step 3: Sourcing your products

Once you’ve figured out what you will sell, and who the products will serve, the next step is to find the right source for the products.

Good products will help your new online business thrive. The key is not only choosing the right product, but also the right source for products. Here are a few options for sourcing ecommerce products.

Resell existing products

Reselling is a popular choice for Amazon selling partners, as it can be cost efficient and relatively easy to get started. Online directories and listings can help you find suppliers for products. You will need to contact the vendor, order products, and ship them to your business or storage location. Then, ship them out to customers once the products sell. Finding and building relationships with suppliers can not only lead to more affordable procurement, it can also secure a steady supply chain for your business in the future.

Create or build products

Building products gives you control over quality and design. However, this method may be hard to scale up. Some sellers prefer to create small batches of handmade products. This helps keep operations manageable. Given the perceived higher quality of handmade products, this option also allows sellers to price products at a premium.

If this is the route for you, explore artisanal or custom ecommerce selling options like Amazon Handmade.

Work with a manufacturer

Working directly with a manufacturer to build products can give you higher potential for growth, but it’s also the hardest path for a new seller to take. It will take time and funding to find the right manufacturer, work with them to build prototypes to your specifications, and eventually make your first order. Once you’ve built a new product, you will have the potential to create a distinctive brand that will help you stand out from the competition.

Step 4: Choosing an online selling channel

You have many options for selling products online. Set up a website and host a branded ecommerce store on your own domain name, or sell products on an existing ecommerce website like Amazon—or choose to do both!

Setting up your own domain and ecommerce website

Efforts like search engine optimization, social media marketing, or online advertising can help drive traffic, but will require time and resources. You’ll also need a process for handling orders and fulfillment once orders start coming in. This can be challenging to take on while trying to run your business.

Selling on an existing ecommerce website

Using an existing selling website that already has traffic can help you start successfully selling online sooner. Plus, this strategy gives you a chance to learn about what works for sellers, get reviews, and generate revenue before investing in your own website.

Selling on an existing website also eliminates the risk in investing too much time and money on a product before you’ve built a customer base. Existing ecommerce websites will typically have brand or market awareness and initiatives to drive traffic.
A man looking at a computer screen showing an online store on amazon.com for the fashion brand New Republic

Selling in Amazon stores

Amazon is a powerful channel in terms of reach, with over 300 million customers worldwide. Amazon’s suite of tools can help new and existing business owners reach those customers with its product-focused infrastructure.

Benefits of selling on Amazon for new and existing ecommerce businesses include:
  • Speed: Get a store up and running quickly thanks to the minimal work involved in setting up the store.
  • Scalability and efficiency: Selling in Amazon stores frees you up to create and sell great products—you don't have to solve every business problem. Use Amazon’s infrastructure, tools, and customer reach to grow your business.
  • Reach: A listing in Amazon stores has the potential to reach more than 300 million active customer accounts.
  • Ecommerce support: Use Amazon’s tools for processing payments, collecting reviews, running promotions, and even A/B testing of product pages at scale.
  • Community: Learn how to succeed in online selling through Seller University, a free online tutorial, and plug into a community of driven entrepreneurs through Seller Forums, an online discussion board for Amazon sellers. These resources can be a valuable source of information for troubleshooting and support for your business.
  • Built-in SEO: Amazon product pages are built to serve search engines the right content and show up competitively in search results. When you launch products in Amazon stores with well-written product pages, you’ll be primed to rank competitively for the keywords and product searches relevant to your brand.
  • Market awareness: Customers come to Amazon to shop for products. That’s why it’s the go-to for product search.
If you’re new to ecommerce, you may want to start small and scale up. Selling on your own domain might allow you to customize your entire website and online experience, but this takes work and you’ll have to compete on the internet to get customers to your store.

If you already have an ecommerce store but want to drive more traffic, selling in Amazon’s store can help you get products in front of even more potential customers, expanding your brand visibility and reach.

You can choose to start selling in Amazon stores and add another ecommerce channel after you grow your business. Amazon is a piece of many online business strategies, but it doesn't have to be the only piece.

Step 5: Setting up your online store

Once you’ve figured out what to sell and who you’ll sell to, it’s time to get your business up and running.

Choosing a business name

Your business name will represent your brand, so choose something memorable and simple for customers to type and recall.

If you have a clear idea of what you’re going to sell, brainstorm names by looking at other brands in your industry. Or, a name might pop into your mind immediately. While it may work for rock stars, it’s best to avoid numbers and complicated symbols. Keep the brand name simple and easy to pronounce.

Branding will help an ecommerce store stand out in the market. It’s important to create a memorable impression that will attract repeat customers. You don’t want the product to get lost in a sea of competitors without distinct characteristics.

Building your online storefront

A great way to validate your business idea is to start taking orders. The sooner you start, the better! Here are tips to help you build a store effectively.

Creating competitive product listings

Product descriptions are what customers will read to decide if the product will fit their needs. Write a thorough description and include everything the potential buyer needs to know to make an informed decision.

Incomplete or inaccurate descriptions may lead to complaints, increase returns, and hurt your reputation, so be thorough, clear and upfront. However, descriptions don’t have to be dry. Put yourself in customers’ shoes and come up with fun and engaging descriptions of how they can use the products.
man scanning a bar code on a box

Launching and running your online business

Once you’ve set up an online store, it’s time to take care of running your business. You can create a good online experience in a number of ways. Having accurate product descriptions, a fast checkout experience, timely delivery, and an easy returns process is a great start. A good amount of reviews from other shoppers will go far, too.

Ecommerce fulfillment: storing, shipping, and returns

How will you store, ship, and handle returns for products? When you start building your online business, create a process for handling shipping and returns. To keep things simple, it might be best to find a space that is accessible and cost-effective to store and ship products. Some sellers use a place in their home (such as a garage) to store products. As your business grows, you may consider using third-party fulfillment to help you store, package, and ship products.

Did you know you can store and sell products through Fulfillment by Amazon?

Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon service allows sellers to store products in Amazon’s warehouse and enjoy the benefits of offering Prime members fast, convenient delivery options. As one example, third-party sellers sold more than 700 million items in Amazon’s U.S. store that shipped with Prime Free One-Day Delivery or faster in 2019.

Capture and show reviews

Reviews can be a powerful ecommerce tool. Ideally, try to display reviews so they’ll be visible to search engines like Google, as well as customers who are shopping for products like the ones you offer.

Amazon automatically requests customer reviews on behalf of online sellers because reviews can have a positive impact on future sales. Brand owners selling in Amazon stores can also use a tool like Amazon Vine to get feedback on new products through a pool of Amazon Vine reviewers.

Vine reviewers are Amazon customers with a reputation (according to other shoppers) for leaving helpful product reviews. Through the Vine program, vendors send a free product to a selection of Vine reviewers in exchange for a review. When you’re starting a new branded product, these reviews can help drive initial sales. This in turn can help future customers make informed buying decisions.
Amazon product reviews are the single most important input to our new product development process. We make sure our new products start from the need that customers express.
Steven YangAnker Technology

Track business performance with ecommerce analytics

Analytics lets you see how website visitors are interacting with a store and products. Commonly, online selling channels have ecommerce analytics built into a dashboard or have an option to install a third-party analytics program.

No matter what solution you choose, check ecommerce analytics periodically to manage inventory. Analytics is also where you can evaluate account performance by tracking orders, assessing customer service and returns, running promotions and advertising, and beyond.

Once you get familiar with a store’s analytics, you’ll be able to understand how visitors interact with a store. Looking at a store’s analytics reports will also give you great information on how to diagnose and troubleshoot issues in the online shopping experience.

If you’re a registered brand owner selling in Amazon stores, Brand Analytics gives you access to advanced reporting such as:
  • Products winning the most clicks and conversions on strategic search terms
  • Products or brands that customers are reordering
  • Top products most commonly purchased alongside specific products
  • Breakdowns of customers by age, income, education, gender, and marital status
Man leading a business meeting about building an online store

Ecommerce marketing and product promotion

Ecommerce marketing is vital to helping you start and grow your business. Running marketing and promotional campaigns will help you reach a broader audience no matter which selling channel you use.

There are so many channels available to promote products, choosing one can feel overwhelming. Here is a brief introduction on each of the options available to ecommerce businesses.
If people can’t find your product, they’re not going to be able to buy your product.
Ryan MulvanyQuiverr

Advertising and promoting your online storefront

Online store owners are able to run advertising campaigns in Amazon stores to get in front of the right shoppers. The following options all help to get the product in front of as many people as possible:
  • Sponsored products show up within Amazon product listing pages and can give new products a boost in visibility to Amazon’s 300 million shoppers.
  • Sponsored brands (available to brand owners) show a headline, logo, and up to three products at the top of a product search results page.
  • Lightning deals and coupons drive immediate sales and boost viability, especially when you’re trying to boost awareness of your brand.
  • Advertising can turbocharge product sales by encouraging reviews and driving sales from interested shoppers.

Optimizing user experience with A/B testing

What will appeal to customers? What titles or descriptions will catch the attention of buyers? A/B testing allows you to try out different value propositions and offers to find the best combination for products. For registered brand owners, Amazon's new A/B testing capabilities in the Manage Your Experiments tool allows you to run experiments on product pages to find out what content will drive the most sales. This can help you figure out the right combinations of titles, images, descriptions, and bullet points to help convert customers quickly.

Did you know?

Amazon has a Seller Central Partner Network

Amazon's Seller Partner Network has trusted vendors to help you with the finer points of running your business? You can use vendors to help with creating product pages, accounting, advertising, and more.

Social media marketing

Given the vast amount of consumers who frequent social media websites, adding one or two social media channels to promotions and outreach can help drive brand and product awareness. To make the most of your time and effort, build a social media strategy for how you will promote your business, engage with social media users, court social influencers, and post content. Start with a plan to set yourself up for success.

Launch an ecommerce business in Amazon stores

Since 2000, independent sellers and brand owners have used Amazon to help their business grow. Amazon is powered through individuals and small businesses that take advantage of the scale and diversity of the audience Amazon stores attract. The Selling Central Partner Network is built to help individual sellers give customers the widest shopping selection possible.

Ecommerce business FAQs

Is it too late to start an ecommerce business?
No, it’s not too late to start an ecommerce business. As consumers become more comfortable with buying products online, the ecommerce industry is forecast to continue growing.

Don’t be intimidated to create or build an online store. Start by testing the waters in Amazon stores to find out if your idea has potential—after all, access to millions of online shoppers can give you a lot of opportunities to interact with potential customers and adjust product offers, pricing, or descriptions quickly.
How profitable is ecommerce?
Statistics show ecommerce business continues to grow year-over-year. For aspiring entrepreneurs and growing businesses, ecommerce can be a very profitable model to adapt either as the sole focus of your business or as an additional selling channel.
What is B2B Ecommerce?
B2B sellers focus on selling products other businesses may need. Often, this could include hardware, software, and office supplies. While the potential pool of customers may be smaller than in the case of a business that sells to consumers, the average order tends to be larger: B2B sellers commonly benefit from a larger order value per purchase.
What is B2C Ecommerce?
B2C sellers focus on selling products to the end customer. They evaluate the pricing, marketing, and shipping of the product to incentivize product sales. While in the end customers may not buy in bulk the way a business does, the volume of the audience makes up for the fact that each sale is smaller by comparison.
Is Amazon B2B or B2C?
It’s both. While Amazon is typically thought of as a B2C channel, over 1 million businesses source their products through our stores, including 80 of the top Fortune 100 companies. If you are a B2B vendor, adding Amazon to your selling strategy can help you reach a wide pool of business buyers.

Businesses of all sizes—from sole proprietorships to large enterprises, government organizations, schools, and healthcare organizations—find the products they need on Amazon Business.
What is A/B testing?
A/B testing enables you to determine what user experience will help convert more customers. A/B testing involves running two variations of a web page at the same time to measure which one performs best. Eligible brand owners can A/B test the content on their Amazon product detail pages, and will soon be able to test different product titles and feature bullets.
What is search engine optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic (non-paid) search engine results. People use search engines to find what they are looking for online. Many factors go into SEO, but here are the three fundamental aspects your online business should have:
  • Content that search bots can process—mainly, words and images.
  • A website experience that loads quickly on both desktop and mobile so search bots can access and find content that will help search engine users.
  • Authority—your domain is not spammy and does not include spammy content. Your website has a good reputation, with other websites pointing to it, validating its credibility.

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