The ultimate guide to ecommerce

The first ecommerce sale was made in 1994 … and can you imagine what it was?

It was a sting CD.

Dan Kohn, a 21-year-old who ran a website called NetMarket, sold Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales CD to a friend who bought it with his credit card for $ 12.48 plus shipping. This exchange is what we know today as e-commerce: selling services and goods over the Internet.

E-commerce has come a long way since 1994 and is growing as more and more shoppers use devices and computers as primary tools for discovering and buying new products.

Let’s take a closer look at ecommerce and its associated growth trends, as well as some basic tips to get you started.

Guide to e-commerce

This section explains the many benefits of ecommerce, key ecommerce trends, types of ecommerce, and sales tax.

Advantages of e-commerce

E-commerce is not a trend and it won’t go away anytime soon. Why? Selling goods and services on the Internet greatly benefits both the seller and the buyer.

Advantages for the buyer::

  • Convenience
  • Faster and easier transactions
  • Informed purchase decisions
  • Easier price and product comparisons
  • Improved delivery process
  • Targeted communication

Advantages for the seller::

  • Lower overhead costs due to the elimination of stationary locations
  • The ability to sell goods around the clock (compared to traditional opening hours)
  • Ability to reach customers beyond geographic location
  • More control over the sales process and tracking, especially if there is a portal that manages POS (point of sale).
  • Higher visibility for potential customers through SEO
  • More control over labor costs and inventory management

E-commerce trends

The biggest trend in e-commerce right now is growth – and that growth extends far and wide.

1. US e-commerce growth

E-commerce has seen tremendous growth in the US over the past 10 years. In fact, U.S. Department of Commerce data shows U.S. ecommerce sales grew faster than since 2011, accounting for 49% of total retail sales growth. This growth trend is not slowing down either. According to Statista data, online retail sales of physical goods in the US are projected to reach nearly $ 476.5 billion in 2024.

2. Global e-commerce growth

Global e-commerce is also growing rapidly. Emarketer trending data suggests retail ecommerce sales could top $ 4.058 trillion as early as 2020. As more and more customers are searching for products across borders and in international marketplaces, there has been an increase in e-commerce sales worldwide.

3. Ecommerce growth by category

ComScore data shows that there are some industries where retail e-commerce growth is changing rapidly. Jewelry and watches topped the growth table with growth of 39% (as of 2016), followed by furniture, appliances and equipment (26%) and video games / accessories (24%).

Finally, let’s look at the three types of ecommerce.

Types of e-commerce

  1. Business to Business (B2B)
  2. Business to Consumer (B2C)
  3. Consumer to consumer (C2C)

There are three classifications of e-commerce. The classification depends on who is selling to whom.

1. Business to Business (B2B)

Goods and services are sold by one company to another. For example, HubSpot offers products for other companies that want to grow better.

2. Business to Consumer (B2C)

A company sells to a customer. This is one of the most common types of e-commerce. An example would be an online clothing store or the online segment of a popular brick and mortar store like Walmart or Target.

3. Consumer to consumer (C2C)

As you may have guessed, consumers sell directly to consumers through online marketplaces. Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon are examples of C2C e-commerce.

Sales tax for your online shop

Now you might be concerned about how sales tax should be included in your online sales. Let’s look at a breakdown of sales tax by state. There are five states that currently do not have sales tax: Delaware, Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire, and Alaska.

Sales tax by federal state


tax rate

























































New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


new York


North Carolina


North Dakota










Rhode Island


South carolina


South Dakota














West Virginia








Source: Based on 2018 data. For current prices, see the state treasury.

Now that we’ve covered some ecommerce basics, let’s look at the steps you should consider when starting an online business.

How to Start an Ecommerce Business

  1. Evaluate the audience and demand for a product.
  2. Research the competition.
  3. Research business models and sales strategies.
  4. Name and register your company.
  5. Set up your branding and design a logo.
  6. Build your product.
  7. Determine the manufacturing costs and processes.
  8. Researching and setting up shipping and fulfillment processes.
  9. Buy a url and build your website.
  10. Develop a marketing plan to attract and convert customers.
  11. Secure social profiles and build a fan base.
  12. Start your online shop.

Keep the following ecommerce marketing and website best practices in mind as you go through the above steps and set up your online store.

Ecommerce Marketing Best Practices

What Do You Need To Know About Marketing For An Ecommerce Business? Below are some best practices that you can use to accelerate your efforts.

1. Test social media ads.

With 1.18 billion active users per day, Facebook has a huge audience to tap into. Consider targeting your audience with social media posts and videos, and experiment to find out what works best and increases sales and revenue.

2. Collect email addresses and stay in touch.

Current data shows that three-quarters of companies believe email marketing offers “great” to “good” ROI. By collecting on-site email addresses and asking customers to choose to receive future communications from you, you can give visitors a reason to come back to your ecommerce website about offers, sales, VIP discounts, and more to return.

3. Use personalization to customize offers / messages.

Personalization is more important than ever for online shoppers. Research shows that 74% of online consumers are frustrated with websites when they see offers, ads, and promotions that have nothing to do with their interests.

Make sure to use personalized product suggestions, personalize your email marketing efforts, and in general try to make each customer feel like they’re just talking to him or her.

4. Collect feedback through surveys.

The best way to keep their finger on the pulse of the times your audience wants is to ask them. Use online surveys to get feedback on anything from the product to your marketing efforts to customer service interactions.

5. Choose an ecommerce software that can meet your needs and goals.

You may be wondering how to make sure you are choosing the right ecommerce software for your business. Here are some tips.

How to choose the best ecommerce software

When looking for the best ecommerce platform and software, e.g. B. an ecommerce website builder to meet your needs there are many factors to consider. Search:

      • Topics and customization options: You should be able to customize pre-made themes that you can use to personalize and add a company’s branding.
      • Adaptation of the domain name: Make sure you can get a custom domain name and url (so you don’t have to include the platform name in your website url).
      • Expert, 24/7 support: Take the time to explore the platform’s service in detail. If an emergency arises later, you want to be sure that you will receive fast and reliable support shortly.
      • Flexible payment options: Customers today want to pay in a variety of ways – from credit cards to digital wallets and beyond. Look for an ecommerce software solution that is flexible enough to support a wide variety of secure payment options.
      • Multiple language skills: Your customers may be from all over the world, so you need to be able to speak their language. It’s a good idea to work with a tool that supports many different languages.

6. Follow the best practices for your website.

When you’re ready to build an inbound ecommerce website, there are a few best practices that you should follow to help you get results out of your time and effort.

Pick a mobile friendly theme and customize it.

BrightEdge data shows that more than half (57%) of web traffic is now coming from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. So it is important to use a mobile-friendly theme when building your ecommerce website.

Ecommerce platforms let you browse a selection of free and premium themes (all of which are optimized for mobile devices) and find one that works best for your needs. Plus: From there, you can customize the website’s theme using templates. By adding your color scheme and branding elements (such as your logo), you can make your ecommerce website 100% bespoke.

Take a look at this example of a Shopify template:

Example of a Shopify mobile friendly ecommerce website theme template


Optimize for the web.

Web optimization encompasses a wide range of strategies and tactics that can be used to convert more website visitors into customers. However, let’s focus on two in particular:

      • Write compelling product descriptions. Use compelling copywriting triggers to get your product descriptions on sale. That means using psychological tactics like fear of missing out, reciprocity, exclusivity, and more – all of which encourage website visitors to buy (and buy NOW).
      • Add beautiful product pictures. When it comes to marketing, graphics are extremely important – especially for online shoppers who cannot see or touch products before purchasing. In addition to static product images, add context by incorporating images of models using the product and videos that give customers a 360-degree view.

Create a great customer experience.

Research has shown that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the main differentiator in sales. Hence, it is important to focus on creating an immersive customer experience across all the different touchpoints of your brand.

A few ideas to get you started:

      • Add an FAQ page. By answering frequently asked questions on your ecommerce website, potential customers can quickly and easily find the information they need to make a purchase.
      • Reduce the image size for fast loading times. Survey data shows that more than half of website visitors expect a page to load in less than two seconds. After more than three seconds, they will leave the page (and probably won’t come back). Reduce the size of your images on site so they load quickly.
      • Leverage user-generated content. Adding user-generated content (think customer reviews, social media images, and testimonials) to your ecommerce website means adding elements of social evidence – which can improve the overall buying experience for customers.

Next, let’s go over the ways you can increase your ecommerce sales.

How to Increase Ecommerce Sales

In the US alone, e-commerce sales are $ 130 billion per quarter, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all retail sales (and the number is growing worldwide). That’s a lot of people looking for products and services online.

Whenever you are building an ecommerce business, you need to develop a strategy to increase sales and get a piece of it. You don’t have an ecommerce business without customers. Consider this section one of the most important sections in this article. Let’s cover some of the ways that you can increase your ecommerce sales.

1. Hook interested parties into the consideration phase.

If you are just trying to reach potential buyers at their decision-making stage, you are too late. Conversely, if you provide relevant content during the awareness phase and don’t follow up on it, you run the risk of them forgetting you as it moves down the buyer’s path.

It’s also important to remember that people can go through buying cycles and switch between phases before committing to a product or service. Once you’ve connected a prospect to your content, keep them informed and send them content that fits their current stage. Your goal should be to narrow down potential purchases.

2. Use paid targeting to outperform your competitors.

There’s a reason websites like Google Shopping are so lucrative – they work. Search engines return billions of results every day, and many of those results are related to products and services like yours. The problem is the competition. When done right, paid advertising can position your ecommerce store in front of the right audience and ahead of your competition.

3. Get some information (or provide it) before they leave your website.

Not everyone who visits your ecommerce store is ready to buy – hire them anyway. Think about why someone would visit a page and ricochet (they may be considering options or finding your product too expensive or wanting to make a more informed decision).

Whatever the reason, your job is to provide them with something that will keep you updated as they continue their search. Ideally, you would gather some lead information, but at least provide them with something useful to help them find.

4. Invest in reintegrating cart abandoners.

Leaving the shopping cart is inevitable, but not irrevocable. Sometimes users just need a nudge to get back to their cart through either remarketing or a simple email reminder. Before you reach out to us, however, there are some of the most common reasons potential customers are abandoning their carts in the first place.

5. Remember to incorporate social.

Don’t underestimate the power of social media in selling online. Instagram reports that 60% of people find products on social networks, which makes sense when integrating shoppable content. Meet your prospects where they are and eliminate buying friction by leading them to a sale seamlessly.

Examples of inspiring Shopify ecommerce stores

Not sure what your ecommerce store should look like? Here are some examples of inspiring stores to help you get your creative wheels rolling.

1. Tattly

tattly example of inspiring Shopify ecommerce stores

Since Tattly is offering a product that is very visual, they went for a theme that was focused on photos. This way new visitors can quickly familiarize themselves with the product offering and there are also several different avenues for deeper product exploration.

2. Graydon skin care

graydon skin care example of inspiring Shopify ecommerce stores

Graydon Skincare uses a website layout with a large rotating header image that helps get a feel for the brand and product. The pictures show different products being sold by the brand and the easy navigation from above makes it easy for customers to quickly find what they are looking for.

3. 18Wait

18 Waiting times Example of inspiring Shopify e-commerce stores

18Waits also uses large rotating photos on their ecommerce store homepage – but sometimes they incorporate these into promotional offers. This helps shoppers imagine how they are wearing the product while enticing them to consider a special sale. Overall, the theme they use is pretty minimal, which puts the emphasis on photography.

4. Simple tiger

easy tiger example of inspiring Shopify e-commerce stores

Speaking of minimal … Easy Tiger brings minimal design to the extreme. With a clean white background and no annoying design elements, the focus is on your products. The red text also appears on the screen, making it easier to read and consume.

5. BluKicks

blukicks example of inspiring Shopify e-commerce stores

BluKicks also uses an image-oriented approach on its homepage with quick navigation to product types. The lifestyle images they highlight here give buyers a certain feeling – and reinforce the beach charm of their product.

The future of e-commerce

Sales tax is a hot topic in the news right now – and the Supreme Court may be making changes to ecommerce retailer policy. Stay up to date on the latest laws and regulations.

The future of e-commerce is bright. With the right strategy and tools, starting an online business can be easier than you ever imagined. Tap the audience of dedicated online shoppers and grab your piece of the growing ecommerce pie.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for completeness.

New call to action

Originally published March 9, 2021 6:28:32 PM, updated March 9, 2021

Don’t forget to share this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *