How to start an e-commerce business in 6 steps

Have an idea for an online store? The initial steps matter.

We’re reader-supported and may be paid when you visit links to partner sites. We don’t compare all products in the market, but we’re working on it!

Starting an e-commerce business is hard work. But put in the right steps at the beginning and you'll reap the rewards.

To help you get off to the right start, we've put together a guide for starting an e-commerce business. From the initial research stages to attracting your very first customers, follow these steps to help get your ecommerce business off to a profitable start. Plus, I've included a bonus tip at the end of this guide that is one of my go-to marketing strategies.

1. Do your research

You might think you know a bit about the market you're going into but you need to do your research. Don't speculate. Before you can decide on what you are going to sell online, get to know the various business models available. Here are some of the potential avenues available:

  • Dropshipping model. This is good if you have the space for it and want to turn a profit without having to invest much at the beginning.
  • Wholesale or warehouse model. This requires more upfront investment, but much bigger returns if things go to plan.
  • White labeling and manufacturing. This is more for those with a product idea - someone who wants to sell under their own brand.
  • Subscriptions. This is when you create a product range, or a single product, that is delivered at specific times to your subscribed customers.

2. Find your niche

There's no point having a bunch of random products on your site. You can't sell everything; you're never going to be Amazon or Catch. So make sure your site has a clear focus. Have an audience in mind and cater to them, not everyone.

Choosing your niche is the most important step in any business, including online ones. Use other successful companies as a reference point to help you get started. If you've identified a gap in the market, great - but be wary that this sometimes means there's no demand. And don't be afraid to go very specific - it generally means you'll have less competition.

Some handy tips - pick a niche that does well on social media and pick a product category with at least 1000 keywords. If you take advantage of some affiliate marketing opportunities, shipping will be less of a concern, which is helpful when you're first getting started and trying to make a profit.

3. Establish your brand

Before you start looking for products to sell, think about your brand. Aside from a few friends, nobody is going to buy from you if they don't know who they are buying from.

Trust is a big part of any online business. People want to know what you're about. That means projecting a clear and consistent brand image. Who are you and what does your ecommerce business stand for? Are you ethical or sustainable, or is your business more about affordability and convenience? These are the questions you need to ask yourself and clearly display. Take your time and get your brand image right from the beginning.

4. Register your e-commerce business

You'll need to choose a business name, register your company and give your store a name. Get an Australian Business Number (ABN) and scout out suitable vendors. Don't compromise on quality here. Find a business who will work for you in the long-run - think scalable from the beginning. Now is the time to build a strong foundation.

5. Create your online store

For the more creatively inclined, this is where you get to be most creative. You'll need a logo and you'll need to decide on the colours of your brand, fonts and imagery you'll use going forward. The most important thing is consistency at this stage, so take your time and create something you'll be happy with in the future. If design isn't really your thing, and you want it left to a professional, think about reaching out to a marketing firm to create a design brief.

6. Attract customers

A common way to attract customers is through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This means keeping keywords and common search terms on every face of your site, including in URLS and in any ad campaigns you run.

The most successful e-commerce websites are the ones that invest a lot in online marketing. But not all of us have the funds to do this. The only other substitute is hard work. Invest some time in digital marketing websites, podcasts and newsletters to learn the tricks of the trade.

Launching a social media campaign and running a giveaway is a really good way to attract customers quickly. It's also just a great way to increase your brand presence and visibility.

My tip: Email subscribers

No matter what and how you decide to sell, my first step is to create an email list. Place an opt-in freebie on your website, launch a social media campaign to gain subscribers, or host a giveaway where the entry 'fee' is your customer's email address.

Running a giveaway is my go-to marketing tactic to get traffic and subscribers quickly. Giveaways have the added benefit of increasing your brand presence and product visibility.

More guides on Finder

  • Square vs Stripe

    Discover how Square and Stripe can help you process your business payments.

  • Square vs Shopify

    We compare two of the leading merchant services on the market: Square and Shopify.

  • Square vs PayPal

    Both Square and PayPal are popular choices, but which payment processor is best for your business needs?

  • Square Payments & Payroll review Australia

    Square offers simple ways for businesses to accept card payments, along with a range of other services including payroll.

  • Sell on Squarespace

    In this expert review you'll find out exactly what Squarespace can offer you, how much a monthly subscription costs and how this website-building platform stacks up against its competitors.

  • BigCommerce vs. 3dcart vs. Shopify

    Need help building an e-commerce store? We compare Bigcommerce, 3dcart and Shopify to help you choose the best one for your needs.

  • E-commerce

    Compare e-commerce platform options by feature, support and selling channel.

  • Selling on Bonanza vs eBay

    We compare Bonanza and eBay side by side to find out which ecommerce marketplace has the lowest fees, most buyers and best features for sellers.

  • Selling on Shopify vs Etsy

    This guide for online sellers compares Shopify and Etsy side by side to find out which platform is easiest to use and offers the best value for money.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.
Go to site