What I Learned About Running an E-commerce Business for the First Time

Career Development

This post was sponsored by Concordia University, St. Paul

For those of us who remember a time before Amazon Prime, it’s a bit strange to think there was any other way to sell products, without the Internet. If you are of a certain age (like me, 35), you might remember the agony of not knowing if the pair of shoes or book or CD (remember those!) you saw last week was still available and in your size; where your sartorial options were limited to what was still available at The Limited (or to the Delia’s or United Colors of Benetton catalog, if you had a willing parent to order for you) during a visit to an actual mall. 

At times, I marvel that I can scroll on Instagram, see something I like, purchase, and within moments, it’s a done deal.

I pride myself on being a problem-solver. Whether it’s hubris or stubbornness, I am confident that with enough tutorials, online courses, books, or Google searches, I can master anything, or at least know enough to fake it until I need to call a professional. Overall, this strategy has its advantages; however, at times, I wish I had a roadmap for success or a path I could follow. 

I’m working with Concordia University, St. Paul to help you navigate this brave new world of e-commerce with the help of their online degrees in business and marketing.

Though I haven’t taken these programs myself, I *wholeheartedly* wish I had a curriculum like this to help shape my knowledge of setting up and running an online business. Participating in a program such as this might’ve saved a few late (late) nights, indecision, and tears. 

I’ve often heard experience is the best teacher (or for the basics on e-commerce, check out Concordia University’s Beginner’s Guide to E-Commerce) so here are a few things I learned setting Shop Wit & Delight, our e-comm business:

  1. Do your research. I spent the better part of the year before we even launched looking into everything. Who would host our website? Could we build it ourselves? Would we be working with a distribution partner? How about fulfillment? What about shipping? I’ve never sold any physical product before, and even with the help of a few trusted friends, it was a steep learning curve. 
  2. Make a plan (and stick to it!). Once I had done my research it was time to build a roadmap of the execution. It would’ve been really easy to continue researching and theorizing forever, waiting for the perfect time to launch. Knowing that I thrive under deadlines, I set a launch date and shared it with friends, family, and social media. Meaning, I would have to stick with it. 
  3. Start out small. Even though we had a hard launch date, we started off with only a few products that we could stand behind. I have a ton of ideas for products, but the best advice I’ve received is to focus on one thing/product/service at a time. Perfect this, and then move on to exploring the next big thing. We started out selling only stationery when I noticed people commenting more and more on my 100 Days of Creativity, which leads me to. . .
  4. Test, Analyze, Repeat. I lied. This has been the most valuable piece of advice I’ve received. Hard data is your friend. As much as I rely on my instincts for the development of the product and the brand look and feel, it’s hard to argue with sales numbers, pageviews, and conversion rates. Get to know and love the data, it will ensure your business will be around for you to expand your product offering. 
  5. Invest in great partners. We work with an amazing wholesale distributor who has taken some of the burdens off larger partnerships. However, what really matters are the people on the ground – managing the shipping and fulfillment of the product, answering customer service emails, the day-to-day operations. I’ve always believed in working with people who are smarter than me, and in the e-commerce sector, this has been absolutely the case. 
  6. Experiment and have fun. Seems odd to say “have fun” when running a business, but seriously, you can (and should) have fun. If you’ve followed the first five steps, you have built a solid foundation, and there should be room for play. I love brands that try new tactics at marketing or have great products that appeared to be a little risky. What’s the point of being the boss if you don’t get to try new things?

It’s amazing how many opportunities we all have to learn online these days, and I hope it encourages the students in all of us to embrace our love of learning while finding some short cuts to success along the way. After all, there is no need to build your e-comm business the way you did 10 years ago. With programs detailing everything from Business Analytics, Tools and Techniques to Applied Accounting and Finance, the online program’s business and marketing from CSP can help you get started down the right path. The future is bright.

Ready to get started with your own e-comm business, or want to have an overview of what e-comm is? Download Concordia University, St. Paul’s Beginner’s Guide to E-Commerce. For more education on the future of e-commerce and how to navigate this complicated new world, consider an online business degree or online marketing degree. Both programs from CSP feature small class sizes with a personal learning environment.

Do you have an online business? How did you get started? Do you have a business degree? Did you get your roadside MBA like me? What was successful for you?

Ed. note: This post was sponsored by Concordia University, St. Paul. The compensation received in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow for development of additional dynamic content to be produced, unsponsored. Thank you for supporting our partners!

BY Kate Arends - September 25, 2019

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add a comment

  1. Rena

    September 25th, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and I think you can be so proud of you!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  2. What I Learned About Running an E-commerce Business for the First Time – Business Blog

    September 25th, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    […] Continue reading What I Learned About Running an E-commerce Business for the First Time at Wit &… […]

  3. Bonnie

    October 1st, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    Good luck with your project!

  4. Samantha

    October 9th, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    If you need help with inventory management and fulfillment, check out Whitebox! http://www.whitebox.co
    We manage your supply chain for you from the factory to the customers doorstep

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