How to start and scale your first e-commerce store?

By Tim Moore
10 Oct 2021

How to start and scale your first e-commerce store?
Building an e-commerce business can take a lot of time and money. Don't let anybody fool you. It is easy. There are many ways to complete this daunting task, but all in all, it will be well worth the effort when you see your business start to grow and profit. If done correctly, you will be able to start and scale your first e-commerce store.

1. What should I sell in my online store to start with?

This is a difficult question to answer without knowing more about the type of items you are already selling, your intended customer base, your experience in business, and other factors. In general, though, it's best to start with an item that you have strong knowledge about and can quickly order from a manufacturer.

If you already have a day job, it makes sense to start with something that keeps your costs low and doesn't need much hands-on time. The following list presents some common types of items people sell in online stores:


Handmade crafts

If you are an artist or craftsperson, this can be a great place to start because you will probably know more about the products than anyone else. You're also very likely to have experience sourcing these items from manufacturers overseas.

It's not always easy, though - there are many stories about individuals who spent months trying to find reliable suppliers only to struggle with quality control later on.

Another option is to outsource production. This has the advantage of not requiring capital to invest in inventory, but you relinquish control of all aspects of the business (more about that later).


Outsourced manufacturing (e.g., dropshipping)

Manufacturers can be great partners because they're experts at what they do and quickly provide product feedback to help keep your business profitable. They typically have experience working with other online retailers, so you'll also gain access to their existing customers.

You'll still need an established online presence, though - people want to ensure the seller is legitimate before purchasing from them. The main risk here is that if you don't monitor the quality of your manufacturers, then they can hijack your store with their items.


Retail arbitrage

This approach involves buying low-cost items locally and selling them online for a profit. These are typical impulse purchases, so people are likely to buy them right away, but you'll need to have enough capital set aside upfront to be able to order in bulk. You can then ship products yourself or use a drop-shipping service like Shopify's own.

The main concern here is that it's challenging to scale up without investing more money into inventory - if you're undercutting the competition too much, then they'll quickly lower prices until your profits disappear. It also requires some physical labor since you may need to make trips to local stores on an ongoing basis.


Wholesale sourcing

Instead of buying products one by one, wholesalers typically purchase in bulk and sell on to other businesses. To find these suppliers, you'll need to know the right trade shows to attend - some people spend years trying to gain access to these events while others hire someone else to do it for them. You can then either approach stores directly or use listing services.

What are the benefits of this type of business? Firstly, they are already established - if you're not well-known yourself, it's unlikely local stores will want to work with you. And secondly, most items they sell are brand new, so there is less chance that customers will be turned off when they receive used goods in the mail.

What are the risks?

First and foremost, there can be a lot of paperwork involved with ordering from wholesalers, which means you'll need to hire someone to help with processing shipments.

And secondly, wholesale suppliers typically don't offer drop-shipping services, so you may end up having to fulfill orders yourself - this isn't always easy if you're running multiple stores at once.


Online arbitrage

People often use the terms retail arbitrage and online arbitrage interchangeably, but they are very different business models. This has the advantage of reducing your inventory costs because you don't need to pay for storage or boxing materials, but it can take longer to complete transactions.

The main challenge here is that the market is more competitive, and shoppers will likely purchase lower-priced goods in cash, so your margins will be much tighter.


2. Should I use Shopify or ClickkFunnel To Build Up My Store?

It's difficult to tell! This is a very challenging question, and you'll need to make some tough decisions before making the final decision of which one you prefer.

It's not like you can only use one, and you'll need to try out both of them before finding out for yourself.

Shopify is a well-known eCommerce platform that lets you create your very own online store with no coding or techy skills needed. It has many features, including 24/7 live support, analytics integration, and easy setup (https://ca.shopify.com/web). However, it does have its downsides, such as the inability to customise it easily without hiring a programmer, which would cost lots of money.

ClickFunnels, on the other hand, also has the benefit of being able to build an automatic funnel from scratch using templates but what sets Clickfunnels apart from everyone else is how easy it is for you to create an entire sales funnel. It has a drag and drop interface, methods of importing contacts from your email campaigns, the ability to create forms automatically, etc. (https://clickfunnels.com/get-started).

However, Clickfunnels doesn't have 24/7 live support or analytics integration if you are looking for this type of feature. I'm afraid ClickFunnels will not be able to satisfy your needs.

Overall, Shopify is a great eCommerce platform for those who are not looking to generate sales with their online store. Clickfunnels, on the other hand, is made mainly for making sales, which means putting your marketing skills to work! We recommend you try them both out before deciding on which one you'd instead use.


3. Do I need inventory, or can I drop-ship products?

The difference between an inventory company and a dropshipping company is that the inventory company houses the items themselves, so they do not need to wait for them to be shipped. In contrast, with drop shipping companies, there is no need to carry an inventory.

An inventory company will warehouse the products themselves, while drop shipping companies will wait for an order to be placed before it is ordered.

The other difference between these two business models is that you don't need your own money to start a physical product business with drop shipping. This can be extremely helpful for cash-strapped but still want to get their feet wet in eCommerce.

Inventory businesses will have high startup costs because you have to buy the product first to sell it later. However, that also means that if you carry popular items, your profits could potentially soar higher than possible with drop shipping.

That being said, there are plenty of inventory companies carrying unwanted products, so they might not have as much demand as a dropshipping business.

Inventory companies have a bit more of a leg-up in the sense that instead of waiting for someone to order an item, you already have it and can ship it out as soon as you get the order.

This lets inventory companies make sales even if they don't have any new traffic, which every eCommerce company wants. Dropshipping companies will need to gain their traffic/customers before they can make sales because, without any customers, there's no traffic to send them an order and thus no way to earn money.

Thus with drop shipping, your cash flow comes from what you've done in marketing and driving traffic versus having the product right away, like an inventory business model.

Both models require an upfront investment to get started, but it is much easier with drop shipping because you don't need any money for inventory. Inventory companies can generate cash faster than drop shippers; however, if the company is carrying products that are not popular/in-demand, they might be stuck with an inventory of products that no one wants or needs.

This means that you could lose money with this model unless your marketing game is strong enough to find customers who want these unpopular items.


4. Should I use organic or paid social media platforms to promote my business?

It depends. If your social media platform is only about selling your products and services, you might want to use organic to increase engagement and drive leads. For example, YouTube. If you're in the business of public speaking and getting in front of an audience, then paid platforms will be more beneficial for your business. Paid social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will target your audience more accurately than organic.

Organic can be better if your social media site is focused on engagement rather than sales. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are very successful paid platforms for increasing engagement with your business. However, some other less popular social media sites might be the best choice to increase awareness of your product or services when organic is better. For example, Snapchat can help you get in front of a younger demographic who may not already know about you. They usually aren't receptive to traditional ads such as TV commercials.

On the flip side, Paid social media can be good if you are trying to get in front of a specific audience. For example, if you're selling children's products, you'll want to find social media platforms with an older demographic that is typically more parent-heavy. Paid social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will allow you to target your ad specifically for this demographic.

I would recommend the combined use of organic and paid because it can impact your business the most. Organic helps by increasing engagement but doesn't drive sales like paid since users don't expect ads on TV or other traditional mediums. On the other hand, paid is suitable for driving sales, but it doesn't engage users as organic does. Each compensates for each other's weakness


5. What is omnichannel, and how can I benefit from it to start selling online maximise my sales?

Omnichannel is integrated coordination of customer’s experience across physical stores, online, and mobile. For the business owner, this means that they can monitor their customers’ behavior while shopping in any channel.

The benefits of selling on all channels include increases in conversion rates, time spent on site increases, shares increase, emails increase, and referrals increase.

Your business can benefit from selling on all channels by increasing your time spent on site, sharing the product/brand, increasing conversion rate, email sign-ups, and referral.

To start selling on multiple channels online, develop a responsive website that reflects your brand. Make it easy for customers to click through to buy offline. Buy link should be enough for people to go back into their store or physical catalogs etc. If you cannot do this, you can also provide an eCommerce platform to order online. You can use programs like Shopify or BigCommerce for this purpose.

Secondly, if you already have a solid social media presence, ensure that the virtual world reflects your store's physical appearance. For example, online stores must have a strategic social media management plan to communicate with their customers relevantly. In addition, you should run contests with rewards for shared posts and provide promotions with links back to your website.

Thirdly, invest in digital marketing using different channels such as AHREFS, Google Adwords, etc. Such tools will help increase your online presence and reach a broader customer base which potentially increases sales.

Fourthly, use bulk email campaigns that will help increase emails signups and referrals from friends or family members who liked what they saw on your page or website. You can also use square images of products so people can easily share.

Finally, use CRM (Customer relationship management) tools to manage contacts and efficiently follow-up on your leads. This would help you understand how the customers find out about your brand to target them even more effectively. You can use Hubspot or Ontraport for this purpose.

Overall, implementing omnichannel marketing will benefit your business by increasing your time spent on site, shares increase, emails signups, and referrals.


Great! Now that you have all of the tips for successfully launching your store, marketing your product, and scaling your e-commerce business, it's time to get started. We're here to help you every step of the way - from

  • Brainstorming ideas and getting feedback on them with our team of experts;
  • Drafting an in-depth strategy for your existing store to help you hit 6, 7, 8 & 9 figures, Period;
  • Building your first e-com business from zero to hero on a Done-For-You Ecommerce basis as well as marketizing it, so it starts making a profit (not just sales), guaranteed.

Let us know what we can do for you today, and we'll start working together right away.