The onset of a new year is often the time when you might start to re-evaluate your current situation, whether it’s regarding your personal or professional life and start thinking about ways in which you can make changes. I know a lot of my eTail Hub readers are keen to find out more about how to start an eCommerce business so that’s what I want to talk about today.

It’s quite strange that so many of us feel that we must wait until a specific time – for example January 1st – in order to make a decision and take action, but this is what tends to happen, and at this time of year, my inbox starts to fill up with questions on the theme of how to start an eCommerce business:

  • “Where do I start?”
  • “Should I build a website straight away?”
  • “Is it best to start selling on eBay before any other site?”
  • “Can I start by selling on Amazon?”

These are just examples of the typical questions I receive – and they are all very good questions as for a newbie, it is difficult to understand or indeed decide where to begin when you’re looking at how to start an eCommerce business – should it be eBay, Amazon or building a webstore?

So, for those of you who have already asked – and for those of you who are contemplating asking (as I am certain there are many of you!) today I’m going to give you some guidance.

Now obviously there is no exact ‘one size fits all’ answer to this theme! Everyone’s personal circumstances are different and so launching a business – and the best way forward – is going to vary depending on you.

How to start an eCommerce business the right way: the 4 pillars of success

You’ll need to consider how much experience you have – in other words are you a complete newbie or do you have some online selling experience? Also, the amount of capital you have to invest. Do you have a very low amount to invest to get started or do you have a higher level of funds available?

When you’re looking at how to start an eCommerce business think about the goal you are seeking to achieve. Are you looking to earn a part-time income to supplement your current earnings or do you want your business to be full time?

And finally, the amount of hours you have available. Do you have unlimited time in which to work on your business or are you working around a current full or part time job?

So, let’s take these considerations one at a time.

1. Experience

If you are completely new to selling online then eBay should be your first step. eBay is the most simple venue to start selling on. It’s got 24/7 traffic so a ready made audience for you to put your products in front of and it’s relatively easy to get some practice in by selling used items that you no longer require before you start sourcing products to resell professionally. You’ll learn as you go this way.

Alternatively, Amazon can be used as a starting point – again it’s relatively easy to list an item, however it’s more difficult to advertise used items on Amazon therefore the sales may not come so quickly and you won’t get the benefit of experience.

It’s not advisable to leap straight in and build a stand alone webstore. The reason being that you will have to create, not only your store, but you will also need to find customers and drive them to your site – in other words you’ll need to market and promote your site. This takes time, knowledge and effort and with no experience is the hard route to take!

So, if you’re a newbie, my advice when you’re thinking about how to start an eCommerce business is to start with eBay, then add Amazon, then build your own webstore – in that order.

2. Capital

This is the amount of money you have available to invest in your new venture – including setting up and buying your stock. So if you are a newbie on a very small budget, eBay is once again going to be the best place to start.

You can list small quantities, test products easily and re-invest your profit, gradually building up the amount of items you have available for sale. It’s easy to ‘start small and build’ here as opposed to Amazon or your own webstore where you’ll need to purchase larger quantities of products to actually get started.

On Amazon you’ll also need an Amazon Pro account which currently costs £25.00+VAT per month.

With a very small budget it’s unlikely you’ll have enough to invest in building a webstore straight from the off and apart from that, there’s really no point in opening a webstore and then adding just one product!

So, if you’re a newbie on a budget, once again start with eBay. If you have more than a few hundred pounds available, consider Amazon.

3. Goals

As a newbie looking at how to start an eCommerce business you may not know where your journey will take you. But it’s always advisable to have a goal in mind – something to aim for.

If you’re looking to earn a few extra pounds a month to help with little luxuries or extras then once again eBay is the place to be. In fact you could quite easily stick with eBay only and never expand to Amazon or your own webstore if you didn’t want to as eBay sales could provide for you quite comfortably.

However, if your long term aim is how to start an eCommerce business full time then you should start with eBay, then add Amazon and then build your own webstore. This way you’ll be diversifying and so reaching more customers, spreading your risk and maximizing your profits.

Ultimately though you should still start with eBay!

4. Hours

It’s likely that currently you have a full time job or other commitments right now so your time may be limited. If that’s the case then you should get started with either eBay or Amazon as these two venues are fairly simple to get started with and so will be less time-consuming for you.

Building a web store is time-consuming (even using software such as Shopify) and it’s easy to spend hours trying to get your design exactly right, forgetting that you haven’t even got any products to stock yet – and of course that means no sales and wasted time. Generally, getting your first sale from your webstore will take far longer than getting your first sale on eBay or Amazon.

So, for time deprived newbies, once again eBay comes out on top.

There’s an obvious pattern here as you can see, with eBay coming out as the best place to start for newbies looking at how to start an eCommerce business, followed by Amazon and then finally building a webstore.

In fact, beginning with eBay is the very advice I’ve given for years. Start with eBay as you can potentially get a listing up there in a matter of a couple of hours from scratch. Then progress to Amazon when you have some experience of selling online. Once you are confident with your approach and your products, you can then move on to the more advanced stage of setting up a webstore.

This makes sense as you’ll already have your eBay and Amazon listings up and running and making a profit, allowing you time to concentrate on building a store and importantly marketing it. It’s the most logical way to approach a start-up too.

As I’ve said, there isn’t a single, precise answer to ‘where should I start’ as the exact formula will differ depending on your own circumstances, but in most cases for newbies, the eBay, Amazon, webstore approach will work the best.

Now, go make a decision and get ready to get started!