In this, the final instalment of our series ‘Start Your Own Online Store’, were going to show you how to press the Startbutton on your ecommerce business. Its time to market your site and products, so that you can bring in traffic, drive customers toward your platform and make sales. This is known as the ‘conversion funnel’, which is the flow of a customer from their arrival at your site, to making a purchase – something we all want, of course.

If you are just coming across this series now, please check out all the stories – from choosing products, to setting up platforms, to shipping – elsewhere on this site. Or read the first one here and follow the links back through to this article.

Step 1: Know your customer

Knowing – and understanding – who your potential customers are is crucial to ecommerce, because all your efforts now will be hyper-focused on reaching these prospects and converting them into buyers. 

You must know:

  • Who they are
  • Where they are
  • What they care about in relation to your product
  • What problem they have that your product will solve
  • Where they get their product information

Although you may already have identified your broader target audience, you now need to get much more specific and create customer personas, also known as avatars. Though you might be tempted to skip this step, it is always worth doing as it will be invaluable for your digital marketing.

To start the process, spend some time researching your target audience. Check out social media groups, the comments sections of relevant blogs and product reviews on competitor websites.

Your objective is to gather as much information as possible, and use it to build customer personas of your own.

Create your own customer personas or avatars. Outline your targeted customer’s basic demographics, what they care about, and what they like/dislike about competitor brands. What are their passions? Which media and social channels they use the most and what problems they might have that your products can solve?


Step 2: Know your competitors

Theres absolutely no need to feel threatened by competitors, even if they have been around for a while and are much more established. Your challenge is to differentiate your business – to make it stand out. This is known as finding your Unique Selling Proposition, or ‘USP’.

If you know what, how, and where a competitor is gaining sales, youll be able to position yourself against them, highlighting the benefits that you offer that will appeal to the customer in a way that your competitor does not. 

In other words, you need to find and fill the gaps in the market that others havent seen.

Review the closest competitors that are selling to your target customers, including their websites and their social media. Study how they present their brand and how they pitch their products to their customers. Study your notes to see where you can differentiate yourself to attract customers to your platform. This will be your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP.

Step 3: Create your digital marketing plan

A marketing plan is a roadmap to keep you focused on achieving your goals. All effective marketing plans begin with a SMART goal. In other words, your goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Related.

For example, if your objective is to make sales, a SMART goal: 

“I will achieve 20 sales in the first month through social media ads.”

It’s time to set your first ecommerce goal. What is your primary objective? Do you want to reach a certain amount of traffic? Revenue? Do you want brand awareness? Write down your business goal, and make sure it is a SMART one. Remember to be realistic about what you can achieve with your resources within your set time frame.

Decide on your strategies

Now that youve set your goal, you must define what your path – your strategy – will be to get there. 

Some examples of online strategies include:

  • Build brand exposure and reach
  • Build a community of enthusiastic customers and fans of my business
  • Use video to grab attention and differentiate my brand from competitors

Conduct research online into the different types of strategies that you can employ to reach your goal, and create a shortlist of those that are possible for you, given your budget, time and skill set.

Pick your tactics

Tactics are how you execute your strategies, and they can be free or paid. 

Which social media or digital marketing channels do you think will be most effective in marketing your ecommerce store online?

Your marketing budget will determine which tactics youll be able to employ.

Examples of paid tactics include:

  • Advertising on social media channels and search engines
  • Paying for sponsored posts with social media influencers
  • Product giveaways and free samples

Examples of free tactics include:

  • Using SEO keyword research on your website to generate organic, unpaid traffic
  • Soliciting email addresses sign ups and creating your own monthly email newsletter
  • Creating your own branded social media pages, building a following and promoting your brand platform on them with regular posts
  • Posting regular content on your websites blog and promoting it on social media


Step 4: Set your budget

Now that you have a marketing plan, how much can you spend on it? 

If you have some capital set aside for a marketing budget, your goal, strategies and tactics will help you figure out where to spend it. 

If you dont have a marketing budget, there are still plenty of clever, free ways to get your brand out there until you can set aside some cash for digital marketing.


  1. Get to grips with online data analytics and use these to measure the effectiveness of your digital marketing tactics.
  2. Don’t be stubborn. Be adaptable. It is perfectly okay to change your mind and shift tactics at any time. When something isnt working, stop spending on it. 
  3. When something does work – shift your budget and double-down on the winning tactic!

Once you have a marketing budget, set up a spreadsheet and allocate what you want to spend and where. You may choose to focus only on social media ads, or you could prefer a broader strategy that also includes influencer marketing and search engine or product ads. Either way, be sure to keep an eye on your marketing spend and review its effectiveness regularly – if it doesnt work, stop spending on it and try something else.


By now you should have all the tools you need to create and build your own online retail platform, convert customers and earn revenue.

But you needn’t stop here. There are many, many other ways to sell products and services and make money online. 

The future of commerce is definitely digital, so do your research and embrace it any way you can.

Best of luck.