Jul 5, 2022

How To Set Up An Ecommerce Business

When setting up an ecommerce business, you can get caught up in the excitement of launching a new venture, and fail to do the necessary groundwork. There have been many cases of ‘bricks and mortar’ brands that sought to transition to an online model, but they underestimated the amount of effort required. Remember, it’s not just a case of setting up a website, linking to PayPal, and starting to sell!

The COVID-19 pandemic saw many companies taking their business online in order to survive. However, setting up an online business requires careful planning and a clear understanding of what platforms to use and how to ensure operational efficiency. Then, once your business is up and running, you have to consider how to market it to attract customers and drive sales!

This article will cover the following areas to help you set up a successful business online.

  • Planning your ecommerce business
  • Setting up your ecommerce store
  • Operating your ecommerce store
  • Marketing your ecommerce store

So, let's dive in and see what's involved. 

Planning your eCommerce Business

When planning your ecommerce website, you need to consider many factors, including the potential pitfalls and which ecommerce model works best for you.

1. Considerations


The first question you need to ask is: Are you a business that plans to sell exclusively to online channels? If so, do you have the infrastructure in place to make this happen smoothly?

You have to consider:

  • How do we buy our product/s for e-commerce?
  • Where do we store our product/s?
  • What content do we need to encourage people to buy it?
  • When we get a sale, how do we deliver the product to the customers?

Be ready to put in place an efficient stock management system to deal with the amount of business that your ecommerce company will attract.


Are you starting out as a new company, or are you transitioning a traditional business to the online space? If you already have a bricks-and-mortar business, you should have built up some brand credibility and have an existing customer base to build on.

Consider how your physical store can support your ecommerce store. Perhaps your store could offer a click-and-collect service for online purchases? Or maybe customers will see a product in your store, but wait until later (when they get paid, for example) to purchase it online. In these cases, both the physical and ecommerce stores are supporting your brand.


Your physical and online stores don’t need to be mutually exclusive. By combining your online and offline presence, you can offer a more holistic and focused customer experience that aligns with their purchasing habits.

2. Pitfalls

Let’s now consider some of the pitfalls you might encounter.

Use of existing resources

Your existing resources may determine the type of ecommerce business you can launch. For example, if you’re a pet store, you're not going to be able to sell certain types of your products, such as birds, online! Similarly, you may find it difficult to bring your consultancy business online. So carefully consider whether your business is even suitable for ecommerce.

Lack of understanding of business models

The ecommerce space uses several business models that are very different from traditional business models. (These are outlined later.)

If you don’t understand what business model works best for you, your ecommerce business is likely to falter.

Lack of insight into capital investment

Many people underestimate the amount of money needed to set up an ecommerce business. Among the costs you’ll have to consider are:

  • Website development
  • Content creation
  • Payment gateways
  • Logistics partners
  • Project management
  • Legal support

Be sure to research the business models and choose one that is most likely to give you the best return on investment.

3. Setting objectives

When setting off on your ecommerce journey, make sure you’re clear about your objectives. Are you going to be manufacturing your products, or will you be selling someone else’s products? What are the pros and cons of each approach?

  • Manufacturing: When you manufacture the products, you retain ownership of them, leading to a great emotional investment in the business. However, stock ownership involves considerable risk, especially if you fail to sell!
  • Drop shipping: With drop shipping, the risks are reduced because you don’t own the stock. But this also means that you are at the mercy of your suppliers, and supply prices could suddenly change.

Uncover opportunities

As with any business venture, an ecommerce business requires careful and clear-sighted planning. Remember, just because you love your product doesn’t mean that everyone is going to love it. Here are some steps to help you uncover opportunities for your business.

Identify and watch your competition

Google is your friend for doing research. Are there other people in the industry selling similar products? How do they do it? How do they engage with the market? And how are you going to do it differently?

Find out about their product offering, their price range, and communication and social media strategies. Subscribe to their mailing list and follow their social media pages. You can get very detailed by using a competitor analysis tracker.

Follow industry trends

Where do you fit into the market? What value do you bring to the industry? To understand this, you must follow industry trends and know what’s happening in your market. This will enable you to offer a better product or service than your competitors.

Set up social listening and alerts

By paying attention to the market, you can find out what people are saying about your brand, your competitors, and the wider industry. Social listening will enable you to monitor the brand conversations. And alerts, such as Google alerts, will ensure you don’t miss out on any new trends or developments. You’ll be in tune with the real-time movements of the market.

Setting up your ecommerce store

Let’s now consider the different elements of an ecommerce website, and then look at some popular ecommerce platforms.

Website elements

Most e-commerce websites share several common elements.

  • Home page - This is your online 'store front', a place for you to showcase your brand and entice visitors to explore your website further (and hopefully purchase products).
  • Category pages - Category pages make it easier for visitors to find the product they’re looking for. Carefully organized category pages can greatly enhance the customer experience and encourage cross-selling and impulse purchases.
  • Product pages - Your aim here is to drive conversions.
  • Shopping cart - The shopping cart enables customers to start their conversion and can give you useful insights into customers’ experiences. If customers decide not to proceed to checkout or they remove an item from the cart, explore how you can reduce your cart abandonment rates.
  • Checkout - Customer experience becomes very important here. Ensure that your purchase process is clear and simple. If the purchase experience is frustrating, customers are likely to leave the website.
  • Navigation, site search, and filters - As well as these specific pages, you should consider general elements of your ecommerce website. These include navigation, site search, and filters. Make the customer journey as simple as possible. Remember that some potential customers may have diverse needs so ensure you learn about the principles of digital accessibility.

What are the main ecommerce platforms?

Now that you know the common elements, let’s look at some specific ecommerce platforms in more detail.



Shopify is a very good platform for anyone who's looking to set up an e-commerce offering fairly quickly and optimize their online business. It's generally suitable for small to medium-sized organizations.

Here are the main characteristics of Shopify:

  • Set up: Shopify has a very quick and easy setup. You can start with the basic package of $29 a month.
  • Technology: In general, you should have no technology worries, because it is a secure and reliable platform.
  • Support: In addition to robust community support, you can avail of customer support, even at that $29 price point.
  • Customizable: You can set up a pre-built site using optimized themes, or you can customize it to your specific needs, adding apps and additional functionality.
  • SEO: Shopify has good SEO features, and other marketing integrations.
  • Abandoned checkout recovery: Abandoned checkout recovery is automatically built into Shopify. So once someone enters the checkout, and they put their email address in the first field, anytime they abandon after that, you can send them an email
  • Payment gateways: Shopify integrates with many payment gateways. You can get paid through PayPal, Stripe, and so on.

Bear in mind: The prices really go up when you start getting into the larger enterprise-level offerings.



There are many compelling reasons to use WooCommerce, but perhaps the biggest attraction is that it’s essentially free.

Here are the main characteristics of WooCommerce:

  • Open source: WooCommerce is WordPress's offering, so it's free and open-source. You can simply add a WooCommerce widget to your WordPress site to manage your ecommerce.
  • Customizable: It has all the customizable features you associate with WordPress.
  • Easy to use: Anyone familiar with WordPress will find it easy to set up a WooCommerce website.
  • Optimized for mobile: If your target audience predominantly buys via mobile, you need to ensure your site is optimized for mobile.
  • SEO: You can optimize your website for search engines.
  • Support: You have access to WordPress community support.
  • Marketing: It's really good for content marketing simply because WordPress is so good at content marketing and blogs.
  • Integrated gateways: Like Shopify, WooCommerce integrates with many payment gateways.

Bear in mind: You do have to pay for additional features, such as widgets and plugins.


Wix website builder
Wix website builder

A Wix ecommerce site can certainly get you started on your global ecommerce journey. Its ease of use makes it ideal for beginners.

Here are the main characteristics of Wix:

  • Suitable for beginners: Wix is a relatively easy ecommerce website to set up. It has limited stock tracking functionality, which makes it suitable for small businesses starting out.
  • Inexpensive: It's relatively inexpensive – between $17 and $25 a month.
  • Easy to use: The website's much easier to build than some other platforms. You can simply drag and drop elements around it.
  • Widgets: You can extend the functionality of the site by adding different widgets and features.
  • Templates: There are many designs and templates to choose from
  • Integrated gateways: Like Shopify and WooCommerce, Wix integrates with many payment gateways.

Bear in mind: Depending on the amount of functionality and widgets you add, it can be slower than other ecommerce platforms.



Here are the main characteristics of Squarespace:

  • Design: It enables you to design excellent websites, using simple drag-and-drop functionality.
  • Price: It’s a bit more expensive than other platforms at €24 to €36 a month.
  • SEO: It enables you to optimize your website for search engines.
  • Support: It offers good customer support and website uptime.
  • Payment gateways: Like other platforms, it integrates with several payment gateways.
  • Abandoned checkout recovery: You can email customers who don’t complete their purchase.

Squarespace is a more expensive entry-level option, but it does enable you to create very impressive websites.

Bear in mind: You have to pay extra for additional functionality, such as abandoned checkout recovery.

Magento (Adobe Commerce)


Although Magento is more expensive than the other options, it does have a powerful, agile, and flexible ecommerce experience.

Here are the main characteristics of Magento:

  • Enterprise level: The previous platforms listed are all essentially entry-level options. Magento is an enterprise-level e-commerce offering.
  • Advanced tasks: It is code-heavy and enables you to do advanced tasks, such as integrations with warehouses, stock tracking, taxes, delivery and so on.
  • International selling: You can sell internationally on Magento, because you can have different language stores with different language setups with different prices and so on.
  • Secure hosting: Magento requires secure hosting, which is an additional cost.
  • Design: Although Magento offers many design templates, customizing them requires a Magento developer, which can be expensive.
  • Payment gateways: Like other platforms, it integrates with several payment gateways.

Bear in mind: For the majority of people, Magento is probably just a little bit out of reach. It is generally suitable only for enterprise-level e-commerce organizations doing around €50,000 in business a month.

Product or service?

The platform you choose may also depend on whether you are selling a service or a product.

  • If you're selling a product, any of the main platforms should meet your needs. Shopify is particularly good for product-based businesses.
  • If you're selling a service, WooCommerce is a good option because it enables you to show the value of your service, using compelling content and attractive imagery.
  • If you’re a large enterprise, Magento is your best option, whether you’re selling a product or service.

Operating your eCommerce store

Having set up your ecommerce platform, you now need to consider your operations. These enable you to get your ecommerce store up and running.

Note: Although marketing may seem to be the fun part of running an ecommerce store, you must not neglect your planning operations. No amount of clever marketing can compensate for poor planning!


Generally, you have three options for warehousing: self-managed, outsourced, or drop shipping. Self-managed offers you the most control but may bring the most risk.


Consider how you are going to package your products. What will people see when they receive your product? Does the packaging reinforce your brand, or undermine it? Does it enhance the customer experience? Add a personal note or consider unboxing, both of which can help build up User-Generated Content (UGC).

Other considerations

  • Costs: Keep a close eye on your costs. Buying materials and stock is a costly exercise, and prices can fluctuate unexpectedly.
  • Legal controls: Be mindful of the legal aspects of buying, storing, and selling stock, such as stock ownership, damage, and delays. If necessary, get legal advice.
  • Delivery logistics: Different options are available for ‘last-mile logistics’, including super-fast carriers (airlines), inexpensive carriers (ships), and signature-required postage.
  • Season factors: Some businesses are affected by seasonal factors, so you may need more stock or staff at different times of the year.

Marketing your ecommerce store

Marketing your ecommerce business involves:

  1. Building the brand: Content marketing, social media, and PR enable you to let people know about your brand.
  2. Driving sales: SEO, paid search, affiliate marketing, analytics, and so on can all help you to build your ecommerce business.
  3. Retaining customers: Strategies such as email marketing, coupons, retargeting, and loyalty programs enable you to retain customers.

1. Build the brand

To build the brand, you must engage with customers at the top of the sales funnel. You can do this using channels such as social media  (which has become a key part of any ecommerce strategy), PR, and content marketing. Position your brand as being important to customers, aligning with their values and needs. When people search online, they are asking a question. Position your brand as the answer to their question!

Keep in mind the costs, though! Use metrics to ensure you’re getting a good return on investment for your social media and content marketing spend. You might look at:

  • Reach and frequency: How many people saw your content and how often did they view it?
  • Engaged audience growth: Is your engaged audience growing? Are you seeing repeat visitors and repeat purchases?
  • Change in brand search: Are more people suddenly searching for you? Have you recently launched a high-profile campaign, for example?

2. Drive sales

When you start noticing more traffic coming in from organic search, consider investing small amounts in paid search. You might focus on your brand name in one campaign and on keywords in other sets of campaigns. There are still people looking for your product or service, even before your brand is established.

You can drive sales using:

  • Paid search (PPC – cost per click)
  • Affiliates
  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • CSEs (comparison shopping engines)
  • Amazon
  • Live chat
  • Media budgets and ad spends
  • Merchandising and placement of products
  • Data analytics

Start off small, and then grow your budget. You could consider splitting your marketing budget like this:

  • 20% to 30% on brand building and awareness
  • 70% to 80% on sales channels, such as SEO, PPC, affiliates, and so on

If you want to know whether your ecommerce business is successful, you need a single source of truth. This is why metrics and analytics are so important to your business. All the traffic that goes to your website needs to be managed in one system, such as Google Analytics.

3. Retain customers

You can use several strategies to retain customers:

  • Email marketing: The email channel - now more important than ever due to the demise of third-party cookies, email being the original first-party data – is ideal for building a personal relationship with customers.
  • Coupons: You can give them coupons once you have the necessary consent to email them.
  • Loyalty programs: Reward customer loyalty. (Make sure you can legally re-engage with past purchasers.)
  • Discounts: You can reward customers with special discounts, early offers and so on.
  • Exclusive content: Reward customers with exclusive content. And try to build a culture of getting customers to actively review your products, become brand advocates, and create UGC.

If you can delight customers with a unique customer experience, you can build a loyal following of brand advocates who will help you promote your business.  For all of these it’s important to understand the principles of data privacy.

Social commerce

Social commerce has become an important element of any ecommerce strategy. Customers are increasingly using social media channels to research products and also buy directly from brands’ social pages. It's a channel that's on the rise for driving sales and revenue, so consider looking at your most active social media platform/s to see if you can optimize it to drive sales.  

This article was adapted from our webinar on Setting up an ECommerce Business. Watch the full webinar here.  

Use ecommerce to drive leads and revenue

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Cathal Melinn
Cathal Melinn

Cathal Melinn is a well-known Digital Marketing Director, commercial analyst, and eommerce specialist with over 15 years’ experience.

Cathal is a respected international conference speaker, course lecturer, and digital trainer. He specializes in driving complete understanding from students across a number of digital marketing disciplines including: paid and organic search (PPC and SEO), analytics, strategy and planning, social media, reporting, and optimization. Cathal works with digital professionals in over 80 countries and teaches at all levels of experience from beginner to advanced.

Alongside his training and course work, Cathal runs his own digital marketing agency and is considered an analytics and revenue-generating guru - at enterprise level. He has extensive local and international experience working with top B2B and B2C brands across multiple industries.

Over his career, Cathal has worked client-side too, with digital marketing agencies and media owners, for brands including HSBC, Amazon, Apple, Red Bull, Dell, Vodafone, Compare the Market, Aer Lingus, and Expedia.

He can be reached on LinkedIn here.

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