There’s no denying that eCommerce has gone from strength to strength. While large brands are struggling to keep real-world locations open, e-tailers are breaking revenue records. The pandemic did drive more consumers online, but the shift started before that. It’s likely to continue long after the pandemic ends.
The good news is that running an eCommerce business from home is not only possible but also relatively easy to do. So, if you’re dreaming of a side hustle, read on. Let’s take a closer look at how to start an eCommerce business at home and how Saltbox can assist you in your business’ development.
Running an eCommerce Business From Home: Find a Niche
The first thing you need to do when you think about getting into eCommerce at home is to think about your niche to build your brand around. A niche is basically a detailed category. So, for instance, you might focus specifically on high-end handbags, or modern computer and tablet bags and pouches.
Choosing one niche for your products and site makes it easier to brand and market your business, which is a huge part of running an eCommerce business from home. Yes, big companies like Amazon do everything, but until you’re earning Amazon-sized revenues, sticking to a narrow focus for your new eCommerce at home business is the easiest way to start!
Brainstorm a few ideas for things that you know are in demand. They might be items for babies or kids, pet products or wedding dresses. Whatever it is that you’re thinking about using to launch your
eCommerce at home empire, write them down – but don’t decide just yet!
How to Start an eCommerce Warehouse Shipping Process: Find Suppliers
This might surprise you, but one of the hardest things you will do while launching an eCommerce at home business is to find suppliers. You might think it’ll be easy to just call up some local wholesalers, fill in a credit card authorization and start setting up your store. Actually, many wholesalers don’t supply people who don’t have a real-world presence – like a storefront.
Which is why we said don’t decide just yet. You first need to make sure you can get the products you
want to sell. Do this before you proceed with any of the other steps below about how to start an eCommerce business from home. That way you won’t spend a lot of time and money only to find you can’t source the products you want to sell!
Research the Market
Once you’ve narrowed down one or two products that might be a good fit for your eCommerce at home venture, the next step is to research the market. Evaluate each idea, and ask yourself:
- How in demand the items are
- How much people spend on that kind of product every year
- How much competition there is in real life and online
- How well established your competition is
Ideally, you will find that one product type stands out from the others. It’s in high demand, people spend a lot on it, and there isn’t too much competition. If there is competition, they’re not too well established, and you can see ways to compete and gain some of their customers for your store.
Once you’ve found a product type that checks most of those boxes, it’s time to move on to the action phase of our “how to start an eCommerce business from home” guide.
Secure Your Product
To have an eCommerce at home store, you need something to sell in it. So, it’s time to secure the products you will sell.
In some cases, you might need to buy products upfront, particularly if the seller has minimum order quantities – which many do! However, you might be able to find a supplier who offers low or no minimum quantity orders. Or you might even get lucky and find a supplier who will drop ship products for you.
Dropshipping is a type of fulfillment where the manufacturer or a wholesaler ships your product directly to your customer, with your invoice and no paperwork indicating they sent it. It’s a great way to get started in eCommerce, but it’s hard to find good dropship suppliers, products tend to cost more, and if you are shipping from a foreign supplier, shipping costs and customs duties might kill your business before it ever gets started.
For any product under your unique brand (e.g. one that you are not simply re-selling), you will also want to get a Universal Product Code (UPS), a barcode used for tracking products at point of sale. You can purchase UPCs from vendors like GS1 or SingleUPC.
How to Start an eCommerce Warehouse Shipping Process: Storage, Warehousing and Fulfillment
While you might be able to find drop shippers who can supply one or two products, chances are you still need to find somewhere to store your products. You might ask yourself how to start eCommerce warehouse shipping
, what are all the options, and many other related questions.
The truth is, while you can start an eCommerce store from home, most people don’t have the room to store the products they will sell. So, you may consider a warehouse or a fulfillment provider like Saltbox to help receive, store, and even pack and ship your orders. Saltbox has helped many businesses set up operations before they even launched online and assisted them throughout their successful expansion.
For small companies wondering how to start an eCommerce warehouse, flexibility is crucial since you may not have full visibility into the size you might need 6 months from now. While traditional warehouses often require year-long leases for many thousands of square feet of space, providers like Saltbox offer smaller warehouse spaces (anywhere from 60 - 5,000 square feet) without long term commitments. This will allow you to remain nimble and scale up and down as you need.
Additionally, Saltbox’s co-warehousing spaces can flex up and down based on your need, so no matter whether you need 100 square feet or 2,000, we’ve got you covered! Plus, we’ll even receive the inventory on your behalf so you don’t have to wait around for shipments to arrive. And you always have access to our onsite flex storage if you need space outside your suite. Our spaces are secure and accessible 24/7, so you can rest easy that your product is in good hands.
How to Start an eCommerce Business from Home: Create Your Business
Now that you know what you are going to sell, where to get it and where to store it, it’s time to start working on the business. At this point, you will note that you haven’t named your business or worked on branding, built a website, and so on. We’re about to get to that in this guide to how to start an eCommerce business from home.
Start writing down ideas and thoughts that you can use to create a business and marketing plan. But you can also take real-world steps towards setting up your business. Think of it as a “how to start an eCommerce business from home” all in one boot camp!
You’ve finally reached the point where you’re going to name your eCommerce at home business!
There’s no point doing this sooner if you don’t know what kind or product you want to sell and are not sure if you can get the items you want to market. But now that you know, you can start working on a name! Since your business is going to be online, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a brandable name. We suggest doing the following:
- Think of as many words and phrases as possible that you might search to find that product online
- Use keyword research tools to find out which phrases are searched most often, such as SEMrush and Keywords Everywhere
- Try to use those words and phrases in your business name
- Make sure your business name is available – you’ll need to be able to buy that domain to start your business
- If you can’t find one domain, try another such as .com, .us, .co, or .io to name a few examples
- Don’t use any clever spellings or weird words – plain English words are easier to market online
- Keep working through possibilities until you find a business name that’s searched often, that’s closely related to your product, and that is available to register as your domain name
- You can use words like warehouse, store, or factory to add to your core keywords to make it easier to find an available domain, such as brandnamewarehousing.com.
Once you’ve found the right name, make sure you register the domain with Google. Good names get snapped up quickly, so you want to register it right away.
After you’ve got the business domain name secured for your eCommerce at home business, register the business name with the local authority too. Local authority is the authority that your business achieves in the SERP that is related to a specific location. You’ll notice that this is after registering the domain – that’s because domain names are a lot harder to secure! You want to be sure you can get the one you want before you commit to a business name.
Design Your Brand
A big part of the very first version of your business plan for your eCommerce at home business will be how to market it. A big part of that will be your branding. So, you will want to:
- Design a logo or have one designed
- Choose your brand colors
- Select brand fonts
- Start creating a brand personality
- Create mood boards and other visual items to communicate your brand
Your brand needs to speak to the people you want to sell to, so spend some time researching what they like, what matters to them, and the kind of “feeling” their favorite brands have.
Develop Buyer Personas and Write Your Marketing Plan
Buyer personas are fictionalized versions of your ideal customers. The people you want to reach and market to.
They define the gender, age, socio-economic situation, education, and family type for each type of target customer. You might even focus on people in a particular type of job, or with specific interests.
Once you know who you are selling to, you need to work out how you will reach them. This might include:
- A pre-launch plan for your site
- PPC and other paid ad options
- Reaching out to influencers that your target customers follow
- Free samples
- Coupons and launch deals
- An email newsletter with deals and special offers
Write down how you plan to speak to your target customers, how much you will spend on marketing, how often you plan to reach out via various marketing channels, and anything else marketing-related you can
Running an eCommerce Business From Home: The Importance of Marketing Channels
While you’re working on your business plan, it’s a good idea to start setting up your marketing channels.
When you’re building an online business, a big part of that will probably be social media. In fact, social media will probably be how you market, sell and deliver customer service, so you want to be as contactable as possible.
Set up accounts on your chosen social networks using your business name as the handle, and make sure you add your branding to each page.
Consider signing up for marketing automation tools too. When you’re running an eCommerce business from home, at least at first, you might not have too much money to spend on marketing help. So, anything you can do to automate and speed up the process will help a lot while you’re getting used to selling, shipping, and managing your business.
Set Up Your Website
The next thing on your business set-up to-do list is to set up your website. There are several ways you can do this.
Hiring a web designer to set up a custom site is one option. But this can take a long time and be very costly. Or you could try to do it yourself on a platform like WordPress, but if you’re not already a web developer, you might struggle to get it all done.
There are also dedicated eCommerce platforms that are easy to set up with a drag and drop interface and intuitive tools such as BigCommerce and Shopify. Specific steps for setting up your website will then be provided after signing up for one of these platforms. Alternatively, you could always reach out to a website development agency to assist with this process. BigCommerce and Shopify are great if you plan to manage your own webstore too, which most people do when they first start working out how to start an eCommerce business from home.
Get Security Locked Down
Your eCommerce business from home will need to keep customers safe, so you need to make this a priority. You can help to ensure their safety by using a third-party payment processor (which we’ll get to a little later) but also make sure that you set up an SSL certificate for your site. This stands for Secure Socket Layer, and it’s encryption for your site. When you visit a site that has a padlock in the browser title bar, it’s because the site has SSL enabled.
Don’t Forget SEO!
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is all about how your site is indexed, searched, and found online. You want to target the right keywords, create linkable content, and make sure your site is technically set up for optimal discoverability.
SEO can be quite tricky, so if you’re not using a site builder and you don’t know what you’re doing, you might need to hire a company or freelancer to take care of this for you.
Images and Descriptions
The next step in how to start an eCommerce business from home is to create images and descriptions. These are crucially important. Most online shoppers say that images and reviews are their top decision-making tools, while search engines will rank websites with great descriptions higher.
Here are a few tips to get this right:
- Make sure your products are well lit and on a neutral background
- Take pictures from multiple angles, and of the outside and inside of any item. Be careful using product photography that isn’t your own, as this can result in copyright issues.
- Consider making a video of the item in use
- Never reuse product descriptions from suppliers – the duplicate content will hurt your site and theirs!
- Write descriptions that are keyword rich but still useful and interesting to read
- Include a list of features
- Include specifications such as sizes, weight, and other details
- If you have more than one color or size of an item, include pictures and descriptions of all the options
Great content on your eCommerce site is one of the most time-consuming parts of setting up a new eCommerce business. It can also be quite costly if you hire freelancers to take pictures and write descriptions. But this will be what sells your products – so you don’t want to cut corners here! One of the benefits of being at Saltbox is an onsite a photo studio to take product pictures with a variety of backgrounds whenever you need.
Set Up Policies
It’s important to have these publicly available on your website, so that your customers can see everything they need to make informed decisions. If you don’t have these documents, it might be grounds for chargebacks if a customer complains, so make sure they are there and regularly updated!
Choose a Payment Processor
Before you can sell on your webstore, you need to have a method of processing payments.
A quick and easy way to get going here if you are only selling online is to set up a webstore through a provider with an integrated payment processor, like Shopify.
Alternatively, you could collect credit card information and process payments manually, but that becomes far too much work very quickly! So, you will want to use a company like PayPal, Stripe, Block (fka Square) to process payments for your business.
Most also offer APIs and other tools to integrate them into your site, so when someone checks out, they can choose a payment processor and be automatically redirected to the payment processor to complete the transaction. They’re then transferred back to your site to complete the sale.
Payment processors offer different services and charges per transaction. They might only work in certain countries too. So, you will need to do your research before you’re ready to sign up!
Most web designers will be able to integrate any payment processor into your site, or if you’re using a site builder or platform, there will be options to integrate a variety of options yourself. Keep in mind that payment processing is subject to data security compliance to ensure consumer data protection in credit card transactions, and you should confirm that your setup is PCI (payment card industry) compliant.
Help and Support With Testing
Once you’ve got here, you’ve probably got a site that’s mostly built, looks great and is functional. But you still need to test it!
Ask people you know to see if they can find their way around easily and set up a testing payment processing tool so you can see what happens when you make a sale.
Make sure that any transactions and orders on your site are sending the correct email notifications to
you. Check that your payment processors and shipping options are redirecting properly.
Pricing Your Products
As you’re getting your business set up and building your website, you also need to price your products.
There’s a good chance your suppliers have to give you pricing that is sold direct from their warehouse or retail location, so you will have to consider a variety of factors into this calculation, such as:
- Packaging for your products
- The time you take to package and ship it
- Your overhead costs (such as shipping and insurance costs)
- Any shipping or customs costs you will pay
- Exchange rates, if your supplier is in a different country with a different currency
- Return and refund costs
- Payment transaction fees and marketplace fees
There are more things you might need to build into your pricing, but those are some of the basics. It can be tricky to get this right at first, so try to find sites that sell similar products, and see what they are typically charging for the items you will sell in your eCommerce at home store.
Shipping and Handling Process
When it comes to the question of how to start an eCommerce business from home, one of the biggest hurdles is shipping. You’ll have to know the weight and dimensions of each product. If you plan to use large shipping companies, you will need to create a developer account, set up an API, and integrate it with your website.
You’ll have to buy and store packaging materials too and make sure you have shipping labels ready when you get an order. Then you’ll need to work out how often you will send out shipments, how to send tracking information, and more. Finally, you will have to physically go to the post office to drop off your packages to be shipped to your customers.
Partner With Saltbox To Boost Your eCommerce Efforts
This probably looks like a very long list of things to do in your quest to figure out how to start an eCommerce business from home, and it is. It’s not even the full list of everything you’ll do to get there!
The good news is that there are a few ways to get some assistance while you’re finding your feet and getting set up.
At Saltbox, we help businesses launch, grow and scale by making the hardest parts of running an eCommerce business easy. Our warehouse suites flex up and down with your needs, we receive inventory on your behalf, offer daily onsite shipment pickups by UPS, FedEx and USPS, and give you access to all the equipment you need to operate. When you’re ready, we also offer on-demand labor and fulfillment, so you can focus on other parts of your business like sales & marketing, customer service, and product development.
We’ve helped hundreds of businesses launch, grow and scale, and we work with companies of all sizes to find the right solution for their workflow. If you’re working to launch your eCommerce empire, check