In crowded online markets, it takes effort to make an ecommerce business stand out.
Even with a fantastic product, a subpar customer experience leads to frustrated customers and missed sales opportunities. With the help of ecommerce best practices, you can smoothly guide your customers from learning about your brand to checkout — and hopefully turn a site visitor into a lifelong customer. After all, ecommerce is about more than just a product.
The rise of ecommerce businesses
Online purchases exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. People stuck at home spent, on average, 32% more on online purchases in 2020 than they did in 2019. The rapid growth and unbeatable convenience of online shopping paired with millions of people at home led to the perfect storm of booming online retail sales.
Today, ecommerce continues to boom with novel strategies and verticals centered on mobile or social commerce. Social media-based sales alone are set to exceed $56 billion in the U.S. in 2023, doubling pre-pandemic sales.
The rise of ecommerce businesses represents a significant shift in consumer habits that will likely continue. If you’re thinking of joining the wave and starting an online business, incorporate these best practices into your business plan to make sales — and win over consumers — from day one.
Ecommerce business ideas and examples
Ecommerce simply means buying and selling goods and services online — things like technology and makeup, but also homes and cars. You can sell anything there’s a market for. And if a market doesn’t exist, you can create one with a unique product or service.
If you’re thinking of starting a business but aren’t sure what to sell, here are some popular product ideas and why they’re in demand:
- Clothing. Clothing retail continues to evolve online. Now you’ll find everything from major brands at huge retailers to smaller, niche offerings for just about any style.
- Online courses. Hosting online courses is a great way to share knowledge and earn a side income for skilled teachers or experts in a field.
- Secondhand products. If you have an eye for hidden treasures, try finding and selling secondhand items. Used products are affordable, sustainable, and in high demand.
- Handmade personalized gifts. One-of-a-kind handmade items make a great gift. You’ll find no shortage of places to market them, like Etsy.
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10 tips on how to start an ecommerce business
Ecommerce seems simple but has a steep learning curve. Online marketers make it seem as easy as setting up a website and watching your net worth grow while sipping a drink on a beach. But to be successful, you need to know how to create (or source) in-demand products, attract customers, and manage inventory or dropship suppliers. And that’s just scratching the surface.
You also need to focus on marketing, content creation, design and development, customer service, and more. Business owners must juggle lots of roles and tasks to run an ecommerce business.
Here are a few best practices to help you get started.
1. Ask the right questions first
Drill down into key elements about the product or service — its features and benefits, target audience, and unique selling points — to identify early barriers. Understand what the product or service accomplishes or what problem it’s meant to solve.
2. Find where your product fits in the market
Know where your competitors fit in the market and be honest about where you fit on that spectrum. Once you find the differences, lean on them. Make it clear how you stand out from competitors, whether it’s superior quality or a better price point.
3. Choose the right suppliers
Decide whether producing your product or sourcing it from another company will work best for your ecommerce business model. Handmade goods are best produced by a single supplier, while selling phone accessories at volume often requires a factory capable of higher output.
Research potential suppliers and choose ones with good reviews and solid products or materials. Ask for a sample. Check out their competitors. Spend the time here so you don’t disappoint customers with a subpar product.
4. Make a detailed business plan
A business plan should include details about the product, marketing strategies, and financial projections. Putting everything in one place creates a centralized source of truth you can refer to later if you need to pivot to a new strategy or adjust financial projections.
5. Create an engaging website
A website is the face of all ecommerce, so design a user-friendly and engaging page that’s accessible and organized. A successful ecommerce store has high-quality images, clear product descriptions, and an intuitive checkout process.
Around 94% of consumers say that navigation is the most important part of a website, and 83% value good-looking, up-to-date websites. Without clear navigation, potential customers might grow frustrated and leave without making a purchase. Don’t sacrifice functionality for flashy designs that obscure information or interrupt the user flow.
Once you’ve established a basic website, optimize specific elements. Try A/B testing product descriptions, improving the user experience and user interface, and creating content that shows off your product offerings.
6. Stay updated on the best ecommerce tools
Ecommerce tools speed up operations, improve customer satisfaction, and increase the overall efficiency of an online store. If your payment processing system is out of date, for example, it could slow the checkout process to a crawl, leading customers to your competitors.
You should always seek new tools that improve pain points within your business, but don’t fix things that aren’t broken. Your time is better spent elsewhere.
7. Focus on great customer service
Respond to inquiries and resolve them quickly to build customer trust and loyalty. Encourage customers to reach out by offering multiple ways to do so: a chatbot, contact forms, open DMs on social media, or a business phone number they can call or text.
8. Optimize your store
Improve your ecommerce website’s search engine rankings by writing great content and applying search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. Optimize product images and descriptions, improve site navigation, and ensure your site is mobile-friendly to increase your chances of Google indexing and ranking your site.
9. Update your inventory frequently
Add new products regularly to retain existing customers and attract new ones. Don’t forget to remove out-of-stock or past-season items to avoid frustrating your customers interested in unavailable products.
10. Analyze customer behaviors
Once the business is up and running, keep tabs on its progress, traffic, and conversion rates. Customer data helps businesses understand their target demographics and better serve their needs. Track customer interactions, analyze site traffic, and conduct surveys. With that data, you can decide if you need to change your business goals or strategies.
Make a great ecommerce website
A great website is a crucial component of any online business. Learn how to build and optimize your ecommerce website with resources from Webflow.
Learn how to create a website from scratch or get inspired by some of the best ecommerce website templates. Webflow’s intuitive website builder offers a no-code, lightweight solution for your ecommerce business.