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MyOwnBusiness Institute

Small Business Ecommerce: Starting Your Business


Ecommerce is the sale of products and services over the internet, and the fastest growing segment of our economy. Many entrepreneurs who create an online presence for their business may also sell their products or services online in an ecommerce model. Ecommerce allows even the smallest business to reach a large (or global!) audience with minimal cost. In this session, you will learn if ecommerce is right for your business, how to collect payments from your online customers, how to set up an ecommerce website, and how to sell through different channels.

  • Ecommerce Overview
    • What is ecommerce?
    • Ecommerce business considerations
    • Is an ecommerce website right for your business?
    • The four segments of ecommerce
    • Ecommerce business models
  • Money Transactions
    • Cost considerations
    • Online payment transactions
    • Alternative methods of payments
    • Security standards
    • Plan for growth
  • Setting up an Ecommerce Website
    • Setting up a business website
    • Adding ecommerce capabilities
  • Selling Through Multiple Online Channels
    • Single channel, multichannel or omnichannel strategies
    • Selling on social media platforms
    • Marketplaces
  • Top Ten Do's and Don'ts
  • Business Resources

What is ecommerce?

Ecommerce is the sale of products and services over the internet. Ecommerce has been gaining rapid momentum around the world, providing entrepreneurs opportunities beyond traditional brick-and mortar businesses. Businesses that operate and sell products or services from a physical location like a store, building, or warehouse are known as “brick-and-mortar” businesses. Many brick-and-mortar businesses add ecommerce offerings to capture sales from online shoppers. However, ecommerce makes it possible to sell products and services even if you don’t have a store or physical location.

Ecommerce is the fastest growing segment of our economy; in 2020, e-retail sales accounted for 14% of all retail sales around the globe and these figures are expected to keep growing and reach 22% by 2023. By 2040, around 95% of all purchases are expected to be via ecommerce. Shopping on mobile devices is expected to drive this continuous growth as smartphones continue to expand into untapped markets and consumers become more dependent on mobile capabilities. It is expected that mobile ecommerce retail sales will reach $3.5 trillion by 2021.

Ecommerce gives entrepreneurs opportunities to sell their products, goods, or services digitally, and, depending on the product, for minimal cost. Online sales of products or services can generate revenue that can sustain a business in the long term.

Websites alone are not ecommerce. Many entrepreneurs may create a website for their business to have an online presence, or use social media marketing through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and others. These online tools are powerful marketing vehicles which allow businesses to build awareness for their products and services. When businesses use these online platforms to conduct sales and transactions, such as through a shopping cart or accepting online payments, then these tools create the ecommerce model for your business.

Ecommerce business considerations

Below are key questions to consider before pursuing an ecommerce business. Some of these you have considered when deciding on your business in a previous session.

  • Will you be selling products or services?
  • If you’re selling products, are they physical or digital?
  • Will you make the products or buy and resell them?
  • Where will you source your products and inventory?
  • Consider your business model—will you offer single products, packages, subscriptions, or something else?
  • How will you sell your products (on what platform)?
  • How will you accept payments?
  • How will you get your products or services to your customers (order fulfillments)?
  • What will your startup costs look like?
  • Are there legal or other regulations on your product or service that you need to keep in mind? (Visit the Licenses and Permits session for more information.)     

Is an ecommerce website right for your business?

Much depends on the nature of your business, but in today’s climate, most likely the answer is yes!

Websites such as have an established place in the market, and their sheer size, name recognition, and the relationship of trust they have with their customers allows them to dominate this market with good pricing (due to economies of scale) and remarkable customer loyalty. So creating an ecommerce offering in and of itself is not a guarantee of business success.

However, there are several ways to reach new customers, offer them something with a unique value proposition, and build an ongoing relationship. Trust will become the cornerstone of building your e-business. As Warren Buffett has said, "If you don't know jewelry, know your jeweler."

A website doesn't need to exist solely to sell your product online. It could supplement the sales of your already established retail store. If you sell a unique product, such as custom embroidered linens or gourmet chocolates, you might find success reaching others around the country (or the world, for that matter) who do not have access to these products in their own towns.

Today, ecommerce is not limited to just selling physical products; you can sell services, software, or digital products.

Services: As the name suggests, this is a type of business where what you are selling is a service. This can include website design, freelance copywriting, accounting, social media management, legal advice, online tutoring, virtual assistants, and the list goes on. There are different ways to offer your services, such as through a list of individually priced offerings, in packages priced at different tiers. For example, you could offer your most popular service as a stand-alone as well as part of a package to create awareness and interest in the other services included in the package. So the way you bundle your offerings is something to think about as you set up your business.

Software: Ecommerce businesses can also sell software, a digital program that can be downloaded to a customer’s computer or mobile device. The software could be anything from calendar scheduling to grammar checking to specialized photo-editing tools, to name just a few of many ideas. If you have a technical background in programming and development, you could create a software product and sell it online. You could also hire a developer to build your idea for you - which can be costly, but worth the investment. Keep in mind that you may have ongoing iterations and development down the road where you’ll need your developer's support. Be sure to include these expenses when you are budgeting out the execution of your software idea.

Digital products: Digital products have become a popular add-on or supplement to enhance service-based businesses. These digital products could include online courses, (built on platforms such as Teachable or Kajabi, for example), video tutorials, digital books (i.e. meal plans), templates (such as web design templates), printable signs and decor, and industry-specific knowledge sold as kits, information sheets, or reports in downloadable form.

Simply having an ecommerce website will not assure you of being able to compete favorably with large established competitors. They already have the inventory, delivery, and marketing systems in place; and they can deliver the orders just as cheaply as (or more cheaply than) you can. Yet, the beauty of the internet is that it provides a global audience of potential customers and it never closes.

Your customers will have access to information about your business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can add pictures, audio, video, news, and so much more. Your customer will even be able to buy from you 24 hours a day. There are ways to digitally advertise your business to get the word out. So, your website address should be promoted everywhere including your email signature, social media profiles, marketing collateral, sales forms, and advertisements.

If you plan to do business abroad, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of international trade outlined in our Global Expansion session in the Business Expansion course, and make sure you understand any applicable rules and regulations.

The four segments of ecommerce

There are four types of ecommerce you should be familiar with.

Business to Consumer (B2c): The B2c sector is what most people think of when they imagine an ecommerce business. Similar to the traditional retail model where a business sells to individuals, a B2c business sells to individuals through online interactions rather than in a physical store. The “c” in B2c is lowercase when referring to an ecommerce business versus the B2C which is the traditional retail approach.

Business to Business (B2B): A B2B model focuses on providing products or services from one business to another. While many businesses in this sector are service providers, you’ll find software companies, office furniture and supply companies, document hosting companies, and numerous other ecommerce business models under this heading. These businesses typically have custom, large-scale or enterprise ecommerce software platforms that work directly with other businesses in a closed environment. A B2B ecommerce business may require more money to start, depending on the nature of the business and any costs required for staff, facilities, management, maintenance, etc. (known as “overhead” costs).

Consumer to Consumer (C2C): C2C ecommerce is where one consumer can trade, buy, or sell items to another consumer online. These transactions are typically facilitated by a third party site such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy, referred to as a marketplace. The marketplace gives vendors a place online to sell to a group of customers and takes a small cut or commission for bringing the parties together.

Consumer to Business (C2B): An emerging ecommerce model where a consumer or end user provides a product, service, or value to an organization is known as C2B. Examples of this include influencer marketing or machine learning, where consumer behavioral insights can dictate product development. Reverse auctions, service provisioning or freelancing platform sites (like Upwork or Freelancer), and several common blog monetization strategies like affiliate marketing or Google Ads also fall under this segment. Affiliate marketing is where a person or group (the "affiliate") earns a commission by promoting or marketing a product or service. 

It is important to understand what segment you are in because it will change the way you market your site and interact with your customer.

Ecommerce business models

There are several different ecommerce business models if you plan to sell a product. If you’re thinking about selling physical products, you’ll need to consider how to handle inventory management, sourcing products, and order fulfillment. For example, where will you keep your inventory? Some may not be thrilled by the idea of having their garage full of boxes. Who will be your source for inventory, or products that you sell? How will you fulfill orders? Will you pack each order and bring it to the post office? Have you considered packing supplies and other fulfillment costs, including your time, in your estimates?

Here are some ways entrepreneurs support their ecommerce businesses:

Warehousing: The simplest and most straight-forward ecommerce business model is one where the business owner sells a product or service online, then provides that product or service to the customer. You are doing it yourself as a business owner; you manage and perform every step of the sales and fulfillment process. In this model, you need to maintain inventory for products, packaging, and everything needed to complete the whole process. You might be warehousing your products in your garage or spare room, or own or rent space in a building that is specifically designed for storage.

Depending on your product, “warehousing” may require quite a bit of capital to set up and maintain - you’ll need to manage inventory and stock, have temperature controls (if applicable), keep track of customer orders and shipping information, acquire or rent equipment to move products, install security to protect stored products, and potentially invest in the warehouse space itself.

Drop shipping: A product fulfillment method where a business doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock, but hires a supplier to fulfill orders is called drop shipping. When a customer purchases a product from your business or online store, someone else prepares the order and ships it directly to the customer. You may be purchasing the product from another seller, such as a wholesaler or manufacturer, and this could be the organization drop shipping to your customer. This frees you from managing inventory, keeping or “warehousing” stock, or dealing with packaging. It’s important to consider that if your seller, wholesaler, or manufacturer is slow, product quality is lower than expected, or there are problems with the order, you (as the “storefront”) are still responsible for the outcome. Be sure to formalize in writing service level agreements (SLAs) with any providers to ensure all parties understand the timing and quality standards for all orders.

Private labeling: If you have an idea for a product but don’t have the means to build it on your own, private labeling may be an option. Entrepreneurs can hire a manufacturer to create a product based upon plans, designs, or a prototype. This manufacturer could then ship directly to the consumer, to a storefront,or to a marketplace like Amazon. The startup costs can be less than building and shipping the product yourself, and if you’re interested in potentially opening your own production facilities later, this is a good way to test a new product or concept.

White labeling: White labeling is similar to private labeling, except that you are branding an existing product. You choose a product that is already successfully sold by another company, that also offers white label options. You design your packaging and label, and sell the product. This is common in the beauty and wellness industries, but more difficult to encounter in other niches. One recent example is hand sanitizer. Many stores have begun selling hand sanitizer under their own brand. These products were likely purchased without branding, and the selling companies add their logos and brands. It’s important to consider that in a white labeling model, you are often required to purchase a certain quantity of the product. Whether or not you are able to sell enough to make a profit is up to you.

Subscriptions: A subscription ecommerce model is when a business offers a product or service on a repeating or ongoing basis for a fee rather than (or in addition to) offering a single or one-time purchase option. One of the most popular examples is California-based Dollar Shave Club, which delivers razors and other personal grooming products to its customers. Other examples of subscription businesses are Stitch Fix, Blue Apron, and Nature Box, as well as exercise or cooking classes provided online. Subscription businesses offer two key benefits: a relatively reliable income stream and an established customer base. These existing customers are an opportunity for growth as they may be interested in additional products or services to add to their subscription, and they may also be encouraged to tell others about the business.

There are a few different ways to complete money transactions online. If you already have an established website that your clients know, you will probably want to keep it and can add on an ecommerce solution. If you do not have an ecommerce website, you may consider building one using a major website builder platform like Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace, or a plugin such as WooCommerce which can be used on Wordpress. Many of these platforms can help you manage an ecommerce website with little to no web design experience needed, and often have payment processing systems that will handle money transactions already integrated. Well regarded online payment processing companies include Stripe, Square, Braintree, and PayPal, to name a few.

Online marketplace sites such as Amazon, Etsy, and Google might also offer additional ways to sell your products or services online, separate from your ecommerce website. These platforms often charge a fee, take a percentage, or require minimum orders or commitments. Be sure to understand the terms of engaging before you sign any agreements. Marketplaces are discussed more later.

Cost considerations

There are costs to consider when creating an ecommerce business. First, there are costs associated with your website platform (including domain name and hosting fees). There are also payment processing fees, sales taxes, order fulfillment expenses, and shipping costs, to name a few. You will also want to take into consideration costs associated with your return policies.

Payment processors, such as those mentioned above, may require business owners to maintain a deposit account with a minimum amount to cover customer returns, or chargebacks and warranty claims, if applicable. These organizations may also hold money for a period of time (a “guarantee period”) before dispersing to you. Be mindful of these rules and the limited cash flow you might have until you can overcome these guarantee periods.

For online orders and shipping, you should check with your State Board of Equalization Office to determine the appropriate sales tax. The IRS "Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center" provides valuable information and links regarding taxes.

If you are in the United States, keep in mind that each state may have different regulations regarding tax law, prohibited items, and customer warranty requirements.

Be sure to include estimated costs, including time and materials, to fulfill your orders. If you are using a drop shipping provider, understand how costs might change with quantities and other requirements.

Will you offer free shipping or charge customers for shipping? Will returns have free shipping or will customers pay to send items back? It’s helpful to include estimated shipping on your ecommerce site so customers can factor this expense into their purchases.

Online payment transactions

Consider the types of payments you would accept. Some options include credit cards, PayPal, ACH (Automated Clearing House) transfers/eChecks, and Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency, which is less common but emerging. Credit cards and PayPal remain the most common methods of payment today. Business owners can work directly with these providers to set up payment processing for a business. Be sure you understand any and all fees or requirements before committing to a payment method.

A few helpful terms to understand the nuts and bolts of online payment transactions:

Merchant account: A type of business bank that allows a business to accept and process electronic payment card transactions. It is where the payment coming from the customer goes to first before you can transfer it to your business bank account. If you already have a brick-and-mortar shop, you may be familiar with having a merchant account.

Payment processor: A front-end technology used to accept debit or credit card purchases from customers. This includes physical card-reading devices along with the “checkout” (or payment processing) portals used to enter credit card information to make a purchase. Once the transaction is approved, it connects the issuing bank with your merchant account to transfer the funds.

Payment gateway: Related to the payment processor, a payment gateway is a secure technology that authorizes the transaction, to ensure you’ll get paid. Once authorized, the payment processor will connect your bank with your merchant account to transfer the funds to your business bank account.

Payment processing companies such as Stripe or Braintree bundle a merchant account with a payment gateway, making it more convenient for new merchants - once payments have cleared, they can just be transferred to your business bank account.

Most ecommerce website platforms such as Shopify or Etsy have integrated payment processing systems all in one place, or options to choose third-party providers.

Always consider the types of goods or services you sell, whether you plan to sell domestically or abroad, and understand the associated fees of your business model to determine the best payment processing platform for your business.

Alternative methods of online payments

Besides the most common method of online payments, credit cards or PayPal, some payment processing companies support Bitcoin, AMEX, Android Pay, or Apple Pay. There are additional methods such as Affirm or AfterPay allowing a customer to make monthly payments on a product.

Check to see if and how some of these alternative methods can be implemented through your website platform. While methods such as Bitcoin sound cutting edge, for new business owners starting with standard credit card payments and PayPal may be a better path.

Security standards

It is crucial that your ecommerce website is secure and meets all compliance standards to keep your customer’s sensitive data protected during transactions. It is mandatory that your website is PCI Compliant. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a security standard for organizations that handle credit and debit card information, and is designed to ensure that all businesses that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. The PCI DSS is managed by the PCI SSC (PCI Security Standards Council), a global organization formed by major credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. Business owners are responsible for enforcing their own compliance.

Most ecommerce website builders such as Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace already meet PCI-DSS compliance so it is a good idea to consider these platforms to set up your online shop. Always check to ensure that whatever platform you use, it meets these necessary security requirements.

Plan for growth

In addition to considering issues such as taxes, security, cost, regulations, and reliability in relation to the regions where you will be selling and shipping, you should also consider the potential for growth. If your site becomes popular, your ecommerce system will need to be scalable to that growth, and your hosting provider and website platform will need to have capabilities to support more traffic. Be sure you understand the scalability and costs of your website providers. The next section, Setting Up an Ecommerce Website, will offer more information regarding setting up your website for success.

You may choose to create a website for your business to build an online presence as part of your marketing efforts. If you decide to sell your product or service online as well, you will need an ecommerce website, a site that can accept orders and process payments. If you do not want to build your own ecommerce site, consider hiring and/or consulting with an experienced web designer or firm to set an ecommerce website up for you. Their experience can often save you time, money, and unnecessary aggravation.

Setting up a business website

Below is a brief summary and overview of steps to set up a general website.

  1. Registering your domain name. Each website has its own unique name, such as or This is your "domain name." Domain names typically end in “.com,” “.org,” “.biz,” “.edu,” or others. You will need to decide on and purchase your domain name for your business. Be sure to conduct a search in advance to ensure your intended domain is not being used and is not copyrighted. It’s helpful to choose something easy to remember and spell.

  1. Hosting your website. Purchasing a domain name does not mean you have a website, but it is the first step in setting one up. Next you need a place (typically a physical or virtual server) for your website to reside. Many business owners lease hosting space through a web hosting provider. Some larger companies may build their own platforms or networks to host online content and sites. For an ecommerce website, a more robust hosting plan would be necessary. Shop around for different hosting providers and do some research to find the best one to fit your needs.

  1. Securing your website. Website pages secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate are those branded with the “HTTPS” in their URL address rather than just “HTTP.” An SSL certificate is a type of digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and is used to secure and encrypt sensitive information like credit cards, usernames, passwords, and other private data sent over the Internet. SSL certificates verify that the website is who it claims to be, and that the web service host is the owner of the domain.

    It is very important for an ecommerce website to have an SSL certificate to create trust with users and ensure their information is safe, so they can securely make a purchase online through your website. Most hosting companies offer SSL certificates that you can purchase for your domain for a relatively small fee. Do not skip this step!

  1. Building and designing your website. You will need to decide whether to build your own website or hire a web developer. Both options have their pros and cons. There are a variety of website builder tools on the market that can provide templates or “drag-and-drop” functionality to make it easier for non-technical people to create websites. There are even options to add “shopping carts” to support ecommerce sites. (Some examples of website builders/tools include: Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress/WooCommerce, Google Sites and Weebly.) However, if you want a more customizable look and user experience or if you have a complicated design or sales model, you may wish to hire a web developer. In today’s gig economy, it can be easy to hire a freelance web designer to help build a website. If you plan to include ecommerce, be sure to hire someone with experience in this specific area. Also know exactly what the terms are, for example, how many revisions are included, who will publish the website, who will make changes or complete future updates, who will fix problems, etc.

  1. Ensuring mobility. Be sure your website is user friendly on mobile devices as well as desktops and tablets. Customers are shopping on all their devices, so you want to provide a good experience no matter where they are viewing from.

Adding ecommerce capabilities

You can either add ecommerce capabilities to an existing website or build the capabilities into your website when you create it. As mentioned above, many web builder tools will offer a shopping cart option, providing a way for visitors to select and purchase products or services. A professional ecommerce web designer can also help set up your website for transactions. There are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • How easy is it for customers to choose and “cart” items? Can they change their minds easily?
  • Does the shopping cart provide an estimate for tax based upon region, or how will you manage tax?
  • How will you process payments?
  • Is the checkout process fast, easy, and secure?
  • How are orders confirmed?
  • How will you manage returns?

Before you get started, consider the following questions:

  • What types of customers will you attract?
  • How will these customers interact with your website?
  • What are your competitors doing on their websites? What do your potential customers like and dislike about your competitor’s sites (use this time to do some research on your competitors and check reviews).
  • How many sales do you expect to make each month from just your website?
  • If you’re just starting out, it may be easier to start with the basics and expand on website features and functionality later. What additions would you add once your basic website is set up?

Besides on your ecommerce website, there are other sales channels which can give you opportunities to reach more potential customers. These include marketplaces such as Amazon or Etsy, and social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Single channel, multichannel, or omnichannel strategies

When starting your own business you may want to create a channel strategy. A “channel” refers to a specific customer group. A channel strategy is helpful to reach and communicate more directly with different customer groups.

There are many ways you can share your product or service with your audience. In most cases a new business owner will start with a single channel approach.

Single channel: A single channel approach is where business owners sell their products or services in one channel. For most new business owners this single channel would be their website or one marketplace.

Example: Perhaps your cost versus benefits analysis shows that Etsy is the right marketplace for your business, especially as it is just starting out. You may consider other marketplaces or having a website later, but you decide that Etsy is fine to start.

Multichannel: A many channel approach, multichannel strategy means selling your products or services on more than one platform or channel. Customers may prefer one channel over another, so to get the most exposure for your product or service, you could sell through several channels. These platforms/channels are treated as independent from one another and each channel exists as a separate purchase opportunity.

Example: You may have your ecommerce website as one channel where customers can engage and shop as well as a Facebook page, and an Amazon page. While customers look at each of these three separately and independently of one another, the experience and branding should be consistent across all platforms.

Omnichannel: Omnichannel is an integrated channel approach that is typically set up and managed through a professional marketing agency or ecommerce technology expert. An omnichannel strategy allows you to build upon a single customer experience with repeated online advertising on various channels.

Example: A customer may visit your website and engage with it but not make a purchase. Later, this customer receives a series of ads related to the product of interest that are “pushed” to them via Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube (staggered so they aren’t bothersome). So the customer experience was on your website, and the advertising followed on multiple channels. Further strategies for pushing ads through multiple channels persists if there is no engagement, and the tactics are dictated by each of the potential customer’s behavior or interaction within and between channels. The customer’s behavior alters and customizes the experience.

Each strategy can be effective for the right business, and the one you choose depends on your resources, capabilities, and flexibility. When just starting out, it might be better to start with a single channel experience before adding an additional channel or tying them all together into an omnichannel experience. As mentioned, it is advised to consult a marketing professional when deciding and implementing your sales channel strategy.

Selling on social media platforms

You can sell products directly through social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, which can be an effective way to reach more potential customers through compelling, visual imagery.

Selling on social media can be as simple as posting a photo of your product with a message instructing viewers how to purchase. For example, an entrepreneur may wish to sell cloth masks made at home. This business owner can post a photo of the masks or fabrics with the caption, “DM to purchase.” Then interested customers can make arrangements through direct messaging to complete the transaction. This works well for local transactions especially, where products can be picked up or delivered in person.

If you would like to sell as part of a social media marketplace, the first step is to sign up your business using Facebook Business Manager. This powerful platform allows you to house your Instagram, Product Catalog, Facebook page, Ad account, and website pixel all in one place. Adding a website pixel helps you track customer engagement on your site by collecting data.

In order to sell on Facebook and Instagram, you need to add your products to Facebook Catalog by connecting your online store, uploading a spreadsheet (.csv), or adding them one at a time. You may refer to this step-by-step guide to create your first catalog.

Social media tools such as SproutSocial and Planoly can help with the planning of your sales tactics through these media outlets. Always create a strategy first before aimlessly posting with tags to your products. Depending on your level of engagement, social media marketing can be very time consuming. Consider hiring a social media management expert to develop, execute, and manage your advertising and tactics.


In addition to your ecommerce website, you may consider selling your product on marketplaces such as Amazon, Shopify, or Etsy. If you are looking to be noticed more in the international space, you might also consider Alibaba or others. No two sites are the same and no two sites will sell to the same market and customer. It is important to research all marketplaces and watch your sales and traffic carefully. You’ll want to be quick to identify problems with marketing and product and be willing to change and adapt quickly.

Keep in mind that even though you are using a third party website to sell your products you should keep the same customer service experience and branding (such as product descriptions, company information, logos, colors, imagery, etc.) consistent with your main website. This will help your brand presence.

How to get started

To sell on marketplace sites, you will need to register and verify your identity. Registration is a quick and easy process. Verification will be a little more involved, but is a necessary process to ensure that these marketplaces remain safe and secure. Once you have completed these two steps, you will have a "Seller's Account" and will be able to start listing your items for sale.

Be sure to understand the costs involved in selling on a marketplace site. There could be commission fees, annual membership fees, restocking fees, etc.

It is important to also protect your identity. If you will be selling out of your home office to start with, it is advisable to get a P.O. box (P.O. boxes are available for annual rental at the post office and UPS Stores also have them) so that you can easily ship and receive shipments.

Listing basics

  • Write a good titles and description. This is essential. Take pictures when possible.
  • Specify what payment methods you will accept, and your return policy.
  • Focus on order fulfillment- this is the key to maintaining your online brand. Manage orders by giving up-to-date shipping information. There are applications that can help you do this.
  • Don’t forget about customer service. Make sure to be available to answer questions and respond to issues. Give expectations for return calls/emails when customers have questions.



  1. Use an ecommerce strategy to sell your products or services to a larger audience online for minimal cost.
    1. Decide whether you will sell a physical product, digital product, or a service.
    2. Decide what type of ecommerce model you will have: warehousing, drop ship, private or white labeling, or subscription.
    3. When setting up your business website, register your domain name, choose a hosting provider, and purchase an SSL certificate for additional security.
    4. Consider all the costs when setting up an ecommerce business.
    5. Check with your State Board of Equalization Office or local government office to determine appropriate sales tax, and understand the rules and regulations for international ecommerce if you plan to sell globally.
    6. Understand all the requirements and fees associated with any payment processing vendor or tool before signing up.
    7. Ensure your website is PCI Compliant to protect your customers’ sensitive data.
    8. Check all views of your website to make sure customers have an equally good experience on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.
    9. Maintain your brand across all ecommerce channels by including your logo, using the same messaging, and having a consistent “look and feel.”


    1. Assume an ecommerce website will assure you of competing favorably with large, established competitors.
    2. Skip adding an SSL certificate to your website, consumers know an “HTTPS” site is more secure than an “HTTP” site.
    3. Begin selling products online without first planning how you will accept payments and fulfill orders.
    4. Limit exposure for your ecommerce website. Include your website on all your marketing and communications.
    5. Pursue a B2B ecommerce strategy if your customers are consumers rather than businesses
    6. Leave out important costs when planning your ecommerce business. Be sure to include time, materials, fees, vendor charges, and costs for every step of the process.
    7. Perform all the steps of the ecommerce process yourself if it’s more cost effective to hire a drop ship vendor to fulfill your orders.
    8. Put your customers’ sensitive data at risk by failing to meet PCI Compliance standards on your website.
    9. Assume tax and shipping costs are the same everywhere. Be sure to know rates, rules, and regulations for domestic and international ecommerce transactions
    10. Forget to plan for growth. Will your hosting provider scale to match traffic increases?


    If you are writing your business plan while reviewing this material, take a moment now to include any information about your business related to this session. MOBI’s free Business Plan Template and other worksheets, checklists, and templates are available for you to download. Just visit the list of MOBI Resource Documents on the Resources & Tools page of our website.

    Here are some key terms and definitions used in this session or related to this session:

    Term Definition
    ACH (Automated Clearing House) A secure and electronic network used for processing various financial transactions, such as direct deposits, bill payments, and funds transfers, between financial institutions within the U.S.
    Affiliate Marketing A performance-based marketing strategy where a person or group (the "affiliate") earns a commission by promoting or marketing a product or service.
    B2B Business-to-business is a market segment where products or services are provided from one business to another.
    B2c Business to Consumer, referring to an e-commerce market segment. B2C, with a capital "C" refers to the same model in a traditional retail model.
    Brick-and-Mortar Businesses that operate and sell products or services from a physical location like a store, building, or warehouse are known as “brick-and-mortar” businesses.
    C2B An emerging e-commerce market segment is where a consumer or end user provides a product, service, or value to an organization.
    C2C Consumer to Consumer, a market segment where one consumer can trade, buy, or sell items to another consumer online.
    Channel A specific customer group.
    Collateral (with regard to marketing) The collection of materials and content used to support and promote a brand, product, or service.
    Domain Name A domain name is a user-friendly web address that serves as the digital location where websites can be found on the internet, typically ending in ".com", ".org," ".net," etc.
    Drop Shipping Drop shipping is a product fulfillment method in which a business doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock, but rather hires a supplier to fulfill orders.
    Ecommerce The buying and selling of goods and services over the internet, or online. Also known as electronic commerce.
    Influencer Marketing Influencer marketing is a strategy in which brands collaborate with individuals (influencers) who have a dedicated and engaged online following to promote products or services to a specific target audience.
    Marketplace An online platform or website where multiple sellers or vendors offer their products to a wide range of customers. The marketplace often takes a small cut or commission for bringing the parties together.
    Merchant Account A type of business bank that allows a business to accept and process electronic payment card transactions.
    Overhead Expenses to operate your business like rent, telephone, marketing, utilities, etc. Overhead expenses are often just referred to as "overhead" and typically include fixed costs and perhaps other costs.
    Payment Gateway Related to the payment processor, a payment gateway is a secure technology that authorizes the transaction, to ensure you’ll get paid.
    Payment Processor A payment processor is a tool that helps businesses take debit or credit card payments from customers.
    PCI Compliant Short for PCI DSS compliant, PCI compliant means that an organization or business adheres to the security standards and practices established by the Payment Card Industry to protect sensitive credit card and payment information.
    PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) A security standard for organizations that handle credit and debit card information, and is designed to ensure that all businesses that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.
    PCI SSC (PCI Security Standards Council) A global organization formed by major credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. Business owners are responsible for enforcing their own compliance
    Private labeling If you have an idea for a product but don’t have the means to build it on your own, a private labeling business model may be an option. Entrepreneurs can hire a manufacturer to create a product based upon plans, designs, or a prototype. This manufacturer could then ship directly to the consumer, to a storefront, or to a marketplace like Amazon.
    Reverse Auction A reverse auction is a purchasing process in which multiple sellers compete to win a contract by offering increasingly lower prices for their goods or services, with the buyer selecting the most favorable bid.

    Service Provisioning The process of making services, such as internet access, cloud computing, and telecommunications, available to users or clients, including the setup, configuration, and delivery of those services.
    SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate An SSL certificate is a type of digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and is used to secure and encrypt sensitive information like credit cards, usernames, passwords, and other private data sent over the internet
    Subscriptions Subscriptions are an e-commerce model in which a business offers a product or service on a repeating or ongoing basis for a fee rather than, or in addition to, offering a single or one-time purchase option.
    Warehousing Warehousing is one of the simplest and most straightforward e-commerce business models in which the business owner sells a product or service online, then provides that product or service to the customer.
    Website pixel An invisible code placed on a website by the website owner or administrator to track user actions and collect data, helping advertisers measure the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.
    White Labeling An e-commerce business model is similar to private labeling, except that you are branding an existing product.
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    Featured Video: Websites Need a Value Proposition & Call-to-Action originally appeared on BusinessTown