Opening an ecommerce store is easier than ever before. Thanks to intuitive shopping cart platforms and an almost endless array of selling plugins and apps, just about anyone can get started with no technical expertise required. If you’re preparing to open your own storefront in Cyberspace, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before your big launch.
- Consider Your Marketing Needs
Marketing your online store isn’t just a good idea; it’s essential for survival. Consider that in 2013, there were more than 102,000 noteworthy e-commerce stores in the U.S. alone. That number has continued to increase consistently year-over-year. With that in mind, the best thing you can do for your budding ecommerce empire is to hire a knowledgeable SEO consultant and ensure that your store has a chance to compete among the hoards of established competition.
- Consider Whether to Use Your Own Domain or an Existing Platform
One of the first and most crucial decisions that every online seller must make is where to list their goods. Should you use an established platform like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy, or should you build your own store from the ground up on your own domain? Using an existing platform can benefit sellers with minimal time or web development experience, but this approach comes with a number of major drawbacks. For starters, it’s more difficult to carve out your own brand or identity when your business is being managed on someone else’s website. You also have to deal with the fact that every search query will place you write alongside your competition.
Perhaps worst of all, those massive selling platforms can really cut into your profits. Amazon, for example, charges a $39.99 monthly subscription fee for a Professional plan (recommended for anyone selling more than 40 items per month). On top of that, you have to pay referral fees and variable closing fees for every sale.
Your best approach is typically to build your own website and cross-promote some of your products on these larger platforms. That way, you get the best of both worlds without being limited by the larger ecommerce empires.
- Consider Your Legal Needs
Depending on the state in which you transact business, you may need a seller permit or resale license. For instance, in the state of California, anyone who makes three or more sales in the course of a year is legally considered a retailer and is therefore required to obtain a seller permit. To protect your assets, it’s also a good idea to establish your business as a legal business entity like an S-corp, C-corp, or LLC.
In addition, certain types of merchandise — such as medical devices and gun parts — have specific legal restrictions and requirements, so make sure to do your homework and consider all of your legal obligations before opening up shop. This will save you considerable headaches down the line.