How to start e-Commerce

Online selling can seem complex if you’ve never done it before, so a key question is how to start e-Commerce? We recommend you understand the key e-Commerce channels first. Then, look at what online shoppers actually want. And finally, make sure your product range is set-up for success when it appears in an online store. 

How to start e-Commerce

The rise in e-commerce has created huge disruption to the traditional retail model. Online shoppers now have access to almost any product they want from anywhere in the world. They have this shopping access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And all they need is an internet connection.

Online shoppers have new expectations on services like delivery, promotions and after-sales support. They have total visibility of your prices and your competitor prices without even having to get up off the sofa.

So, with this background, there are three areas that will help you with how to start e-Commerce.

Understand the main e-Commerce channels. Build your knowledge of what online shoppers want. And get to grips with the basics of how to optimise how your product appears online

Three brains e-Commerce symbolic open shop sign

E-Commerce channels

There are three main types of e-commerce channel for you to consider.

Bricks and Clicks

Bricks and clicks are stores where the seller has physical stores as well as online stores.  These physical retailers extend their reach from a limited physical location by selling the same products online. The most obvious examples of this would be grocery. Most people still go to a grocery store to buy their food products, but almost all grocery retailers now have their own online store.


Breakfast cereal Woolworths online

These stores will take orders to deliver direct with a driver employed by the store. Or increasingly, they will offer ‘click and collect’ where the customer picks up their order from a special area in the store.

Pure Players

Pure Players are stores that only operate online. Often newer to market, they do not carry the overheads required to physically own and operate stores. They often compete either on price or service e.g. speed of delivery.

Amazon have historically been the most famous pure player. You can read our guide to working with online retailers and in particular Amazon in one of our other e-commerce articles. We also recently posted an article on our blog about why working with Amazon can be really challenging.

Amazon logo on phone


A variation on the Pure Player is the marketplace model, where an online host – again, Amazon, but also EBay and in Asia Taobao allow third parties to operate their own stores within the bigger site. Think of this model like the marketplace owner owning the shopping mall and renting out the space to the various store owners within the mall.

Direct to Consumer (D2C)

D2C is the final e-commerce model, where you sell direct. No third retailers involved.

You set up your own online store and all the back-end delivery systems to get the product to the consumer. This is a growing trend for start-ups and bigger organisations. It gives more control over the channel and avoids having to give away margin to third party operators but does bring more complexity.

The online shopper

When you are clear on where people might shop online, your next step is to understand the online shopper more.

You should carry out some market research to online shoppers in your target audience if possible.

What drives them to purchase online?

If you understand what drives their attitudes and behaviours, you are more likely to create an online shopping experiences that leads to purchase. 

Three brains e-Commerce online purchase with credit card

There are many reasons for online shopping. But the three reasons we hear most frequently are :-

  • Ease and convenience – Touching the screen on your phone to order a product is just more convenient than physically visiting a store.
  • Price – For more expensive items, where there can be a range of prices, it is common for online shoppers to research multiple stores or price comparison sites to find the best price.
  • Range – Unlike physical stores where the range on offer can be limited by the amount of physical space available, some online stores are able to offer a wider variety of products.

These three areas should be part of the market research you carry out to understand the opportunity with your target audience. 

You also need to consider how the shopper is going to find the page where your product is featured online. This can be part of your digital media activation plan. The online shopper has a lot of choice when it comes to shopping online, so a key goal if you sell your brand online is to make sure you can get shoppers to visit your product page. No visit = no sale. 

  • Do they search for your product and then find it in the online store? Or do they visit the store first and then find your product?
  • Are they likely to respond to a display or social ad?
  • Have you got existing consumer contact details that you can use to promote your online availability?
  • If you are listed on a larger retailer site, how is the category listed (e.g. alphabetically or by popularity?)

Product pages optimisation

This sounds obvious, but many companies fail to check that their product is displayed properly online.


The expression, a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true when it comes to online selling.  You should make sure that the images you use for your product makes the product look good on a screen. Make sure your product photography is sharp and clear.

Also, bear in mind that most online shopping is now done on mobile phones. Your photography needs to look good on a 6 inch mobile phone screen as well as on shelf. 

Most retail sites will let you show up to half a dozen images. It’s good practice to show the product from multiple angles – front on, side on, from the the back etc. If appropriate, it’s also helpful to show the product ‘in situ’ rather than on a plain background. This helps the consumer imagine it in their own lives.

You also have to think about this online context when you design the packaging itself. You can read more about some of the challenges of packaging development for e-Commerce in this article



You also want to consider the naming of your product online. This makes it easier for consumers to find the right product and for you to get a better chance of ranking on search engines. Include the brand name, the product variety and any defining features and sizes when listing your product online.

So rather than listing your product as let’s say, AnyCo Shampoo, better to list it as AnyCo Ant-Dandruff Shampoo with Mint Shampoo 200ml.

Product description

Consider the description you give your product This most likely will be lifted from the packaging and is designed to persuade the consumer to buy your product. You may actually have space to write more text on a retailer website than you do on packaging.  A good product description would cover key features and benefits and be around 300 words.

For actual examples of product pages, read our review article where we look at what makes a successful product page.

How to start e-Commerce summary

The three key things you need know about how to start e-Commerce.

We recommend you understand the key e-Commerce channels first. Then, focus on the needs of online shoppers in your target audience. And finally, make sure your product range is set-up for success with great photography, naming and product descriptions.

Three-brains and e-Commerce

We have worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience across strategy, working with retailers and building D2C stores. We know how to connect these expertise areas back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. 

If you want to know more about how we can support your e-Commerce to grow your business  through our coaching and consulting services, click the button below to send us a message.

We can coach you to reach the top of your competitive game.