Tips & Resources

How to Start an eCommerce Store: Step-By-Step Guide

Eli Smith
By Eli Smith
09 August, 2022

Learn how to start an e-commerce site. This 9-step guide will give you helpful tips and ideas to get your site started.

How to Start an eCommerce Store: Step-By-Step Guide

Worldwide eCommerce sales are likely to hit $6 trillion by 2024. What was once a game dominated by big companies is now approachable thanks to powerful entry-level eCommerce tools and strategies. So, if you want to know how to start an eCommerce store in 2022, check out our guide below.

Starting your eCommerce

We’ve broken down the process into nine steps:

  • Finding a product (and niche)
  • Competitive research
  • Choosing a sales platform
  • Picking a business model
  • Finding suppliers
  • Managing shipping
  • Applying for a license (if necessary)
  • Creating internal processes
  • Advertising your products

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of how to approach each step. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an eCommerce veteran, you’ll find tips using the latest eCommerce data.

1.   Find a niche and product

Your goal as a new or experienced seller is to find products with high selling potential. But if you don’t focus on individual niches and products, your strategy will be unfocused and ineffective.

A niche refers to an entire group of products. For example, kitchenware is a niche while a spatula would be a product for that niche.

Having a niche is important because it allows you to focus on the needs of a few potential customers. Creating strategies catered to those customers will let you appeal to them easier.

To find a good niche, here are some excellent research tools:

  • Social media. Sites like Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit are full of people who talk about what they want. Look up trending products in various social media spaces involving eCommerce.
  • Existing eCommerce sites. Sites like Amazon and Walmart have many best-selling pages and trending products. Pay attention to those who win in the long- and short- run. For more information on what works, look closely at customer reviews.
  • Local stores. Your local Walmart (or similar store) will have trending products prominently displayed upfront. You’ll want to supplement this data with other sources for it to be effective.
  • Google Trends. Google’s trend pages lets you see what people search for online over a period. It’s a quick and easy way to use historical data.
  • Analysis tools. Many eCommerce sites like Walmart or Amazon have third-party analysis tools you can use. These tools use data from the platform you can apply to your site or their site.

It’s important to focus on products that meet your needs. As a new seller, an ideal solution would be to look for trending products with long-term potential.

2.   Do competitive research

Competitive research allows you to see how others are performing. When starting an online business, it’s best to know who your competition is before selling.

Ideally, you’ll want to target a low-competition high-demand area. This means you need to look at the current competition and see where their products lack. To do this, you can look at customer reviews and the list of products your competition offers.

Identifying an underserved portion of the niche allows you to find a product to focus on. You’ll also want to see what competitors in your niche do to find success.

Looking at past promotional material and the ways competitors describe their product can help. Your goal is to identify weaknesses in the competition you can exploit.

To do this, address some of the biggest complaints of a product or niche. Presenting your product as a solution to a known problem competitors aren’t addressing can help your eCommerce business grow. 

3.   Choose a platform for selling

Once you know how your products can dominate the market, you need to choose a platform. Often, the platform you choose for selling can change your strategy.

Below are some popular platforms you can use:

  • Amazon is the largest eCommerce platform available, owning about 50% of the market. By making use of third-party analysis tools (like AMZScout), you can shorten your product research process.
  • eBay is an auction-based marketplace you can use today with very little setup. If you want to get the feel of beginning with eCommerce, eBay isn’t a terrible option, but has less traffic than Amazon.
  • You can create your own eCommerce site through online tools like WordPress or Shopify. It’s often great to have a Shopify store in combination with other eCommerce websites, but harder and more expensive to get popular.
  • Social selling is an incredible trend where you sell on sites like Facebook and TikTok. It has the chance to grow your sales numbers by up to 50% if done right. However, you’ll have to increase your ad costs.

These platforms are sales channels. As you get comfortable with eCommerce, it's best to have multiple channels.

4.   Choose a business model

Your business model dictates how you will sell and source your products. Here are your options and some quick pros and cons of each:

  • Private label selling is selling products with your branding manufactured by someone else. Because you build your own brand, it provides greater potential loyalty. However, it requires more upfront investment.
  • Retail arbitrage is buying products from local stores to resell at a markup. It's ideal if you don’t have a lot of starting capital and want to flip a quick profit. However, it requires a lot of time and energy.
  • Online arbitrage is buying products from other eCommerce stores to resell at a markup. Its risks are like retail arbitrage, only with less driving around.
  • Dropshipping is selling products with no management of the quality control, storage, or shipment process. It’s great if you excel at marketing and audience building. However, it’s not ideal if you want a high profit margin.
  • Wholesale is buying bulk-quantity products from existing brands. It requires a lot of upfront capital investment. However, it can create excellent returns if you have established sales channels.

The best business model for you depends on your goals and initial investment. Among these, private label sales typically offer the best long-term potential.

5.   Find suppliers

Once you establish how you want to sell, you need to find product suppliers. Below are different ways you can get find good product suppliers:

  • Aliexpress & Alibaba connect low-cost, overseas product suppliers with you. Buying from these manufacturers allows you to see reviews and ratings of the supplier before you purchase.
  • A Google search for “ ‘business model’ product supplier” can reveal some interesting options. Just be sure to check through third-party sources (like Trustpilot) to be sure you can trust any site you find.
  • Dropshipping suppliers like Oberlo and SaleHoo have a database of other suppliers who use their platform. You pay for the access to these product lineups, providing you an easy source for resale.
  • Wholesale suppliers like DHGate and EK Wholesale provide you databases specific to wholesale needs. You can use these databases to set up regular deals or contact wholesale distributors.

Regardless of the supplier you choose, it’s best to get a product sample before committing. The sample will give you a good idea of product quality, giving you more confidence in your supplier.

In addition, take the time to check public reviews on them. If the company is new, just know you are taking a risk by working with them.

6.   Manage shipping

Shipping ensures you can get products to where they need to go. For business shipping and handling, you have one of two options:

  • Do it yourself through companies like UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL, or your own logistics network
  • Outsource shipping to other companies.

Option one has two levels of DIY, where you handle the packaging and warehousing. However, you’ll hand off the second half to another shipping company. Alternatively, you can build your own shipping network, which is pretty expensive.

Outsourcing is often the best starting point for new sellers. If you sell on Amazon, you can use the Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) service to leverage Amazon’s existing logistics network.

While outsourcing decreases your profits, it’s best to focus on your strengths. Unless your goal is to create an excellent fulfillment network, focus on building your eCommerce store in other ways.

7.   Apply for a license

There are many business licenses that you need to do business online. Below is a quick roundup of what you’ll most likely need:

  • A business operation license and a sales tax license is necessary to start most eCommerce businesses. This applies to most states. You might also need a seller’s permit.
  • An Employee Identification Number (EIN) is necessary if you plan on hiring employees and paying out their taxes properly.
  • A DBA license (Doing Business As License) is ideal if you don’t plan on starting a company, but are opening a business and operating under your name.

Check with your state’s requirements from their official government website to see specific needs.

8.   Set up internal processes

A good business operates like a well-oiled machine. As your eCommerce store grows, you’ll be about to hire and outsource to new employees.

During this process, it’s important that you establish internal business processes for people to follow. That is why TIMIFY is here to help you manage your and your employee’s times effectively.

TIMIFY provides you a simple way for efficient team collaboration and resource management. Through a working system built on TIMIFY, everyone knows what to do with no need for micromanaging.

Ultimately, your goal with any business is to set it up so you don’t have to be involved. By establishing processes and management controls through TIMIFY, you are one step closer to that goal.

9.   Advertise your products

With businesses, it’s easy to set everything up and forget the last step: bringing people to the page. With advertisements, you can do this, but it's tricky to start.

Below are a few advertisement methods you can consider:

  • Amazon, eBay, and other eCommerce marketplaces have internal tools for advertising. PPC, or Pay Per Click, campaigns are ideal, as you only pay if your ad is engaging.
  • Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter remind us of the power of social advertising. Beyond social selling, it’s good to target people where they browse.
  • Google Ads allows you to target specific keywords that people search. If you are on the top of the list of products that meet people’s needs, you’ll get some outstanding exposure.

When you start, it's best to focus on people who already have asked about your product. Retargeting campaigns perform ten times better on average because the customer already has some interest in your product.

You also want to start with many, small ad campaigns with slight variations. A/B testing is where you change a single element between the ads (often the title) to see which is more effective. Doing so allows you to eliminate ads that don’t work.


As eCommerce approaches the $5 trillion mark, now is an excellent time to start a business. Using these tips and steps, you’ll get a good start on creating an effective business.

As your business grows, be sure you have plans for scaling. To aid you in that process, use TIMIFY’s retail management tools to build an effective process.

Eli Smith

About the author

Eli Smith

Eli Smith is a professional eCommerce specialist teaching people how to effectively sell and brand. He has three degrees (including an MBA) in Business Administration and experience across many industries.

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