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4 Things Beginners Should Know About Ecommerce Entrepreneurship

Having a fresh perspective is invaluable. In Okinawan karate, the art of being a beginner is highly valued. In fact, some students study for five or more years to become a black belt. When the black belt is earned, Okinawan karate philosophy says the student is finally able to truly begin his or her training. 

Ecommerce store owners can learn a lot from this framework. Entrepreneurs who are overconfident and lack humility are likely to run into trouble.

This makes sense—it’s hard to learn and grow when you think you’re already the best.  

There’s also a certain beauty in believing that no matter how good you are, you’re always a beginner who can learn new things. 

With this attitude, you can reach your goals  and launch an ecommerce business that stands the test of time. 

1. Understand the How to Set Up Your Ecommerce Business

Before you launch your own ecommerce business, you’ll need to set up a few things.

Using the Small Business Association as a resource at this stage can be very helpful. Begin by creating a business name and registering your company. Visit your state’s website to learn what state-specific requirements are necessary to register a business name.

While researching your state’s requirements, also search for other things you might need. Simply because your store is online doesn’t mean you won’t be required to secure additional state-based seller permits and licenses. 

Small Business Association website image.
(Image Source: Small Business Association)

As soon as you’re registered, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Your EIN will change depending on the type of ecommerce store you own.

For example, entrepreneurs who start sole proprietorships without employees can often use their social security numbers as their EINs. Look on the IRS website for more information. You may want to reach out to a mentor at this point who can further help you navigate the legal side of creating an entity. 

Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform

When your company is officially registered and ready to operate legally, think about the best ecommerce platform to host your company’s online store. There are many ecommerce platforms—like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and WooCommerce—that make it easy to quickly start selling your products.

Before you launch though, make sure you’re committed to your brand’s name. Although finding a new domain might not be too difficult, changing an entire brand can damage company reputation and cause you to lose followers in the future. When you start with a good website name and a smart niche, you’re a step above many other online businesses. 

Then all that’s left from a technical startup standpoint, is building your Ecommerce website using the right platform to power your sales. If you choose to use WordPress (one of the most popular website builders on the market today), just be sure to use the right WP themes that’ll integrate well with your shopping cart and provide a good purchase experience.

2. Learn to Minimize Financial Risk

Creating a strategic business plan is one of the most important tasks you can do as an entrepreneur. 

It’s easy to get excited about an idea and jump in without looking at the entire landscape you’re operating in first. Take a step back and think about what financial opportunities and situations are necessary in order to launch successfully. 

No detail should be overlooked while creating your business plan, even when it comes to things like office space. Instead of starting out with a beautiful office in a great location, save money by renting an affordable spot or joining a coworking community.

You can always come up with creative ways to meet investors and important clients in nice locations. Luckily, with an online store, your shoppers won’t care if you’re based in a garage or a high-rise office with a good view.

Should You Pursue Dropshipping?

Outside of the obvious business money-saving techniques, there are several unique opportunities for online stores to save money. Dropshipping is one strategy that can greatly minimize financial risk. When you don’t have to make a pre-investment in inventory, you can free up capital for other core business developments. 

Graphic explaining dropshipping
(Image Source: Oberlo)

Before you select a drop-shipper, double check their reach and overall business model. You want to make sure your distributor can get products to your customers in a timely fashion. So, if you plan on reaching a global market, your drop-shipper should be set up for worldwide shipping. 

Reduce Churn From the Start

A second ecommerce, money-saving strategy is reducing customer churn from the beginning. It costs five times more to get a new customer than to retain an existing customer. 

Moreover, a recent Oracle survey identified poor customer service as the biggest reasons customers churn. Often, customers will decide to leave as a result of something as simple as not fully understanding how to use a new product feature—and you can get ahead of that potential issue with more thoughtful product education, a concerted effort to proactively reach out to new customers to help with onboarding and even setting up incentives for customers to engage more with your product.

As soon as you launch, dedicate yourself to keeping loyal customers. You want shoppers to continue purchasing from your business as time passes. If you think about reducing customer churn early on, you can save a lot of money in the long run. 

3. Make Doing Business a Breeze

Payment processing efficiency is arguably the most important part of ecommerce entrepreneurship. To accept credit cards online, you must select a solid credit card payment processing service that benefits your customers. You also need to weigh the pros and cons of various payment options before you commit to one strategy. 

If your customers like an online payment method, but its processing fees greatly cut into your profit margin, explore different options. The customer comes first, but there’s a way to balance their payment preferences and keep a healthy bottom line.  

Going International? Be Sure You’re Ready

Recent Internet statistics today show that the average person spends five hours online shopping in a given week. Thus, you’ll want to spend time thinking about the reach of your business and how international customers can also purchase from your store. 

When your brand is ready to expand globally, you don’t want to find that you can’t accommodate the growth because you lack a currency exchange transfer system. Consider the types of money transfer for business you’ll need before you pick an online payment method. 

Plan Ahead for Dealing with Chargebacks

Also, keep in mind that chargebacks can greatly influence your income. If one or more of your customers successfully dispute your charge, you’ll likely be saddled with a chargeback fee. In some cases, a chargeback fee can be around $25. Unfortunately, some customers will dispute your charges even if they are legitimate.

To avoid incredulous chargeback fees, work on preventing them in the first place. 

Graphic depicting chargeback reasons.
(Image Source: Optimum7)

One way to avoid legitimate chargebacks is by creating your website and marketing your products in a very intentional way. When a customer has clear expectations, he or she is less likely to start a chargeback dispute.

Also, record-keeping can help you dismiss many chargebacks. If you can prove your customer ordered and received his or her good from your ecommerce store, you’re likely to win the chargeback dispute and dismiss the associated fee. 

4. Social Media Matters

Social media has a big impact in the ecommerce space. Customers use social media to shop like never before. In fact, around 75% of customers use social media during the buying process. 

Different social channels reach different customers. After you find where your audience spends time online, you can create the necessary social profiles. The next step is to formulate a comprehensive plan with goals and objectives. You can achieve a lot with social media if you have a sound outline in place. 

Make sure to put an emphasis on the visual aspects of your social plan and remember that viewers are more likely to engage with visual content like photos and videos. 

Many consumers—especially millennials—are visual-first buyers, meaning they really care about how your marketing looks. More than half of millennials have eaten or traveled somewhere because of an image or video on social media. 

Infographic depicting the importance of social media for business.
(Image Source: Pryton Technologies)

One of the easiest ways to nail a visual image is with an established or up-and-coming influencer—a social media user who has credibility and an involved audience. 

Experiment with Influencer Marketing

You can hire influencers to promote your ecommerce store through a variety of methods like shoutouts on their social accounts, by guest blogging on their websites, landing features in their YouTube videos, or doing even more hands-on partnerships.

To choose the right influencer, background work is necessary. Make sure the social media star has a following that reflects your target market. Overall, the influencer should also have a reach that supports your bottom line. 

On top of all this, the more an influencer interacts with his or her users, the better. When people engage with the influencer and vice versa, your advertisement will perform better. 

No matter your business, you need to build relationships with your customers outside of using influencers. Social media allows you to have a two-way conversation with your followers. By engaging with your potential and current customers, you’ll build rapport and trust.

With this baseline of communication, it’s easier to advertise to customers and ask them to make purchases. Customers will also appreciate when they can reach you quickly and communicate with you through comments and other social media connection avenues. 

Invest in Social Monitoring

Lastly, consider the conversations people are having about your business over social media. 

Good social monitoring will enable you to improve the reputation and visibility of your company. 

When there’s a social buzz surrounding your store, respond and add to the conversation. Even if the conversation is not positive, you can get involved and turn things around for the better. 

Keep an Open Mind

Lifelong learning, whether in Okinawan karate, academia, or the ecommerce space, is a worthwhile pursuit. As an ecommerce entrepreneur, you’ll be more likely to reach goals and secure customers with your tabula rasa mindset

Of course, being a beginner doesn’t mean you need to shirk conventional wisdom. 

There are tried-and-true steps that can improve your success as an ecommerce entrepreneur. And the four above will help you get you started on your journey. 


Ryan Robinson is a blogger, podcaster, and side project aficionado that teaches more than 400,000 monthly readers how to start a blog and grow a profitable side business at ryrob.com.