I started my eCommerce store in 2016. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about running a business, let alone an online one – until that point, I’d pursued a career in criminology. The experience of starting and growing an eCommerce business has taught me many things, but there are a few key lessons that would have seriously helped me when I was starting my journey. So, if you’re looking to start an eCommerce business in 2022, here are five things you should know first.

Growth is slow; patience is essential

I’m by no means a naturally patient person. Parents say having kids makes them patient, even if they were the least patient people before becoming a parent. I can confirm that having your own business (which is a lot like having a child) does the same thing. Being patient is important because growing a business takes time, especially when you’re completely new to the game. The competition in the online world is tough. It’s now estimated that there are more than 20 million ecommerce websites live on the internet. This means it will take time for you to stand out from the crowd and get discovered.

When you’re new to business and/or eCommerce, there’s a whole process of trial and error that can’t be avoided. Even if you research the best practices and try to learn from others’ mistakes, there will still be a discovery journey of learning what works for you and your unique business. It took me a couple of years to understand all the different parts that go into running an online business and then a couple more trying to get good at each of them. The importance of patience is that having high or unreasonable expectations will only lead to disappointment. Too many people think they can launch an online store and see results almost overnight, which means so many people get disheartened and give up quickly. If you expect the process to be a long one of learning and growth, you’re far more likely to stay in the game for the long haul – and to reap the rewards for doing so.

Passion is key

People who see eCommerce as a means of making quick or easy money lack one important thing: passion. To build a sustainable business, you need to have a personal investment and drive behind it. Passion helps when you feel disheartened about slow growth and makes it less likely you’ll give up – you have a vision that you want to see through, no matter how long it takes. Passion is also helpful for growing and improving your business, as you’re more motivated to put in the effort it takes to have a successful business.

I started Sassy Organics because of my passion for organic products and natural living. After battling some serious health issues in 2012, I discovered the restorative powers of organics and became so passionate about sharing these benefits with others. So much so, I started my own business that would make accessing better products easier and more accessible. It’s my passion for the products and for helping others lead more considered and healthier lives that has helped me get through even the toughest business challenges.

Be open to learning (and making mistakes)

A growth mindset means believing that our talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies and help from others – as opposed to just being innate. A growth mindset is essential to running your own business, eCommerce or physical. Why? Because there is always learning to be done. I started with no prior experience in running a business, packing and sending parcels, customer service or online tools like websites and social media. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today if I didn’t believe that I could learn, and get good at all those things.

You have to be open to learning new things when you’re getting a business off the ground. But you also have to be open to not knowing and to make mistakes. There are things I did in the early years that I would do differently today knowing what I now know. When we get disheartened by our mistakes or lack of knowledge in a certain area, we’re more likely to give up. That’s why it’s important to stay open to the process and see each mistake as an opportunity to learn and do better next time. 

You’ll need to master the tools of the trade

Speaking of learning, there are a few eCommerce essentials you should know about when starting your online store. Firstly, it’s important that you research your eCommerce platform – where your site/shop will be built and hosted. You should also check the availability of the domain name you want (usually your business name). You’ll also need to research and compare the shipping providers in your area – some things to consider here are the cost-effectiveness, the pricing, and the customer service standards.

Another essential part of an eCommerce site is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is key to getting your business discovered online – it covers everything from ranking in the search engine results pages to getting links back to your site from other domains. Of course, social media and content marketing like blogs and videos are also key to getting your business discovered online and to driving traffic to your store. My tip is to start with the basics of each and focus on the most important elements first like setting up your site, ensuring it’s running smoothly and then driving traffic to your store.

There are lots of good resources out there for learning these tools and techniques. YouTube is a great place to start as it’s free. But you also might like to try LinkedIn Learning. Certain software like the social media software Later and SEO software SEMrush also have educational content that helps you upskill and improve.

Build a brand that’s your own

An eCommerce store, although not physical, still needs its own brand and unique selling points (USP). You might hear this referred to as a ‘niche’. Having a niche, or your own unique slice of the market, helps you stand out from the crowd and gives customers a reason to choose you over another store. Your brand is about more than your USP or niche though – it’s also about personality.  Knowing who your business is, is just as important as knowing what it is.

With a brand personality, story and USP, you’re ready to confidently share your business with the world and show customers what makes you worth choosing over your competition. And, of course, being online it’s even more important you have identifiable and coherent brand colours, a logo and slogan that you stick to on all the ‘touchpoints’ of your business – website, email, social media and physical marketing material. This will help you gain more brand recognisability over time.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my journey with Sassy Organics – it’s been a very rewarding and life-changing experience (and it’s by no means over!) If you’re considering starting an eCommerce site, you should! Just remember to be patient, stay passionate and be open to the journey of learning and failing. I wish anyone who’s starting their own business the best of luck along their journey.