How To Start An E-Commerce Platform

Some experts predict that ecommerce will surpass $2 trillion in sales in the next few years - it’s the fastest growing and one of the most valuable industries.

When you can shop online, seamlessly checkout and then conveniently have your favorite pair of jeans, a nice new watch or even a customized computer shipped directly to your doorstep, you might think the process isn’t that complicated.

The steps outlined below will not only ensure you take the quickest and most professional route to get your site up and running, it will also set your marketing and SEO up for future success, which will increase your bottom line. SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It's the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as "organic") search engine results.

One Year SEO Strategy

If you’ve never started an e-commerce store from scratch, it’s impossible to understand how time consuming and detailed the process is. When we look at any ecommerce site, you will never think about the fact that someone had to craft the content and individually load each and every product. Not only that, you also have to negotiate with each manufacturer to be able to list their products online, before the actual listing process even begins.

Below is a list of all the steps we took to get started and successfully build our e commerce site:

1. Purchase a domain name

This is a pretty straightforward process. You need a domain name that will perfectly identify your brand. Don’t over think the process. By using a website like GoDaddy for example, you can purchase a domain name for under $10.00.

2. Find a web developer

This is a crucial component in launching your ecommerce site. If you want to launch your site in a relatively short time span and in a professional manner, make sure to do your vetting when it comes to hiring a developer. Get references from other ecommerce websites the developer has built. Get a timeline for how long they anticipate it will take to launch the site. Make sure they have a graphic design background so they can crop images that will align with your site. Be sure to ask if the developer has experience building sites on the ecommerce platform you choose.

Too often, entrepreneurs move forward with a developer without doing their due diligence in terms of research. Don't let this happen to you, as it can put a halt to your website before you really even get started. If you want to learn more about how long your e-commerce site should take to launch, feel free to contact a web design specialist.

3. Get all the paperwork you need for a legitimate business

Register your business, get a Vendor's License and start looking into legal business issues. You should contact a local attorney to assist in the creation of your business. While it is an upfront cost, it likely will save you significant headache and expense in the future.

According to Alyson Letsky, an attorney at Eastman & Smith Ltd. in Columbus, Ohio, you will first need to strategize and determine the state in which you wish to be domiciled, then check the required filings with that state’s Secretary of State and department of taxation or revenue.

You will need to register the appropriate articles of incorporation or organization with your state’s Secretary of State if you are starting a corporation, nonprofit, limited liability company or professional organization. Additionally, if you will be making taxable sales, you will need to obtain a Seller’s Permit or Vendor’s License

with the appropriate state agency. Many vendors will require that you have this as well before they agree to work with you. If you are starting a nonprofit, check with the state Attorney General’s office to learn what charitable licenses and filings are required. Lastly, you will need the appropriate organizational documents. Contact your attorney for more information, but this is not a step to be skipped or overlooked.

4. Select ecommerce and website hosting platform

To save time and money, select a popular ecommerce platform. I recommend Shopify, WooCommerce or BigCommerce. Most developers are familiar with these, making it easy to integrate plugins, payment processing, etc.

For our skincare ecommerce site, we decided to use WooCommerce because of the WordPress capabilities. We chose WP Engine for the hosting, which costs $29.99 per month and provides a fast and secure hosting solution.

5. Find a theme that matches your e-commerce vision

To save even more time, you can purchase a theme from ThemeForest to find a layout that resembles the look and feel you desire from an ecommerce perspective. ThemeForest has over 28,000 website templates and themes from $2. They are the #1 marketplace for website templates.

Don't reinvent the wheel. Rather than building your site from scratch, download a template from ThemeForest or a similar site. We learned from experience that the customization process can be a very timely and frustrating one. So, if you can find a theme you like, you’ll likely save yourself quite a headache.

6. Take your website live

As soon as you commit to starting your business, take your site live, even before listing any of your products. Have your developer created a homepage, an

“About Us” page and a contact page. It doesn’t have to be beautiful but having a functioning site will be helpful for numerous reasons:

First, it will allow you to establish legitimacy when negotiating deals with vendors. You’ll have more than just an idea. Second, when reaching out to reporters and bloggers, they can see that you have a website and are credible. Third, it will give you a place for all of these sources to link back to your site, which is, of course, key for building SEO.

7. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is one of the greatest tools for PR and SEO any business owner or digital marketer can make use of. It’s free, it generates amazing exposure (if executed properly) and it can really be a game changer (again, if executed properly).

HARO provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage. Sign up and use this resource as much as you can to build credibility and establish media relationships for your site.

When it comes to HARO, there are several key components to executing. The first is timeliness. When a reporter submits a query, they can receive hundreds of pitches in response. Each query has a deadline as well, so making sure you respond immediately, in the morning, afternoon and evening is critical for both reasons.

The second key element is finding a true industry expert with ease of access. Fortunately, we had a dermatologist at our disposal at all times for DermWarehouse. This provided us with an advantage over the thousands of pitches that deal with entrepreneurship (which we still responded to also, but had a lower conversion rate).

If you spend the time and send back two pitches per day for a one-year timespan, you will get tremendous exposure on some of the most popular sites on the web.

This will not only help increase your brand exposure, it will greatly help your SEO as well.

8. PitchBox

Developing relationships with media contacts is very important. This is where Pitchbox comes in. Pitchbox automates the outreach grunt work so you can focus on what you do best -- creating real, person-to-person connections with the people you want to reach. Pitchbox helps scale your outreach efforts. It handles all aspects from prospecting to sending emails to the tracking and managing the workflow.

After PitchBox sends an initial pitch, if someone doesn’t respond, their SaaS software will send a follow-up email based on a timed schedule. You can craft your own emails (both initial and follow-up) so that the message still sounds personal.

Pitchbox starts at $95 for startups and is a great resource to generate high quality relationships. We used this service for vendor outreach and also for media outreach. It saved us an enormous amount of time. If you’re also a Moz user, you can i