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Retail eCommerce has grown rapidly over the past decade, thanks to widespread internet accessibility and the global acceptance of online shopping among consumers. Analysts predict retail eCommerce sales will reach $8.1 trillion by 2026, up from $5.2 trillion in 2021.

If you plan to explore this lucrative market sector by launching an online store, there’s no better time than now. But, starting an eCommerce business involves more than just a digital storefront. You need a business plan that outlines a clear path to success and profitability.

This guide explores how to make an eCommerce business plan for your startup. Plus, we’ll provide great templates, so you don’t have to write your business plan from scratch.

What is an eCommerce business plan?

An eCommerce business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines your business idea, objectives, the obstacles you may face and the strategies needed to succeed in the digital marketplace.

It’s essentially a blueprint for your eCommerce success. Just like a recipe book guides you when cooking a meal, your business plan should steer your activities when launching and running an eCommerce business.

The primary difference here would be that rather than following a guide written by someone else, you’re the creator of this recipe.

Why you need a business plan for your eCommerce startup

Five reasons why your eCommerce startup needs a business plan.

If you’re launching a small business, you may wonder if it’s necessary to write a business plan. After all, these businesses are supposed to be easy to set up.

While an eCommerce startup has fewer barriers to entry than a large corporation, a business plan is still a valuable part of launching your new venture.

Here are five ways you can benefit from an eCommerce business plan.

Improve your knowledge of the market

Market research is an essential part of every business plan. It allows you to make data-driven decisions by analyzing market dynamics and understanding the needs of your audience.

This research will help you answer questions like:

  • What is the market size for the products or services you want to sell?
  • What is your marketing strategy for attracting potential customers?
  • Who are the key players in that market?
  • What factors affect the demand and supply of the product or service you intend to sell?
  • What kind of risks will affect your success in your chosen niche?

By answering these questions, you’ll better understand the market conditions you’ll be facing, which determines the viability of your new business idea.

Scope out the competition

Most business owners only analyze direct competitors. But understanding your indirect competitors is just as important.

While direct competitors offer similar products and services as you, indirect competitors may have different offerings but still compete with you for customers and market share.

For example, if you sell ceiling fans, a company that sells air conditioners would be your indirect competitor.

A business plan will help you identify these companies, understand their strengths and weaknesses and proactively develop strategies to outsmart them.

Understand your business’s financial requirements

One common story new entrepreneurs tell is that they never expected launching a new business to be so expensive. Financial planning is a core component of an eCommerce business plan, and it can help you avoid making these kinds of statements as a new business owner.

A comprehensive business plan gives you a reasonable estimate of how much you’ll need to get your business off the ground. This reduces the likelihood of you running out of startup funds and shutting down operations.

Seek funding opportunities

When raising funds for your eCommerce business venture, a business plan is an essential tool for attracting potential investors. You can use it to demonstrate your understanding of what you intend to sell, the market conditions and all the different factors that may influence your business.

A detailed business plan will also give investors an idea of when they’ll start seeing returns if they invest in your eCommerce business.

Create an effective business strategy

A business plan for your eCommerce startup is a roadmap to get you from idea to implementation.

It outlines detailed steps for each stage of your online business and estimates how long each phase will take. You’ll need to describe potential challenges that may prevent you from achieving your business goals and how to overcome them.

A comprehensive business plan covers every aspect of running your business, from the research phase to customer retention and everything in between, helping you develop effective strategies that drive business growth.

How to make an eCommerce business plan

How to make an eCommerce business plan in eight steps.

Most eCommerce business plans follow similar templates. What makes yours stand out is the uniqueness of your products or services, the quality of your market research data and the strategies you’ll employ to attract customers.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a business plan for your eCommerce startup:

1. Write an executive summary

While this is the first section that appears in a business plan, it’s usually the last section to be drafted. That’s because it summarizes other parts of your eCommerce business plan. You need to have completed other sections to write an executive summary that properly captures your entire plan.

The goal of the executive summary is to introduce readers to the core concepts of your business plan. It should include a brief overview of your business, goals, product offerings, industry analysis, target market and sales strategy.

You typically don’t need to go into too much detail here but should provide enough information to demonstrate the viability of your business.

2. Outline your business profile

Here, you have an opportunity to share your company overview, including its name, legal structure, history and value proposition.

The three most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship: A business owned and operated by one person.
  • Partnership: A business owned and operated by two or more people.
  • Corporation: Ownership and control is split between shareholders and board members.

If you’re starting a new business, this would be the perfect opportunity to establish your brand identity. Also, outline your mission statement, state your organizational objectives and choose a business model.

Here are the four main eCommerce business models:

  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) model: Companies sell products and services directly to end users.
  • Business-to-business (B2B) model: Companies offer services directly to other businesses instead of consumers.
  • Consumer-to-consumer (C2C) model: This involves peer-to-peer marketplaces that facilitate transactions between consumers.
  • Consumer-to-business (C2B) model: Consumers sell products and services to businesses.
The four main eCommerce business models.

Your business profile should also include your company description, where you outline your management team and key stakeholders. This demonstrates your expertise in your industry, making it easier for potential investors and business partners to trust you.

A SWOT analysis is another key element of your business profile. It reveals the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business. By understanding your business’s position in the marketplace, you can make rational decisions and gain a competitive advantage.

SWOT analysis is an essential part of an eCommerce business plan.

3. Describe your products and services

The goal of this section is to answer one simple question: What products or services will you sell to customers?

When answering this question, provide enough information to show that your product or service satisfies real market needs and isn’t just a whim.

Describe your products and services when writing your eCommerce business plan.

Describe the features and benefits of each product or service you want to sell. Explain why you selected it and what makes it different from similar offerings. What problem will your products solve, and what gaps will your services fill?

Draft a plan for sourcing these products. Options here include in-house production or outsourcing.

When describing your products line, you also need to draft a pricing plan, which includes the strategies and models you plan to use. This gives stakeholders and partners a clear picture of your offerings.

4. Conduct market analysis

Conduct in-depth research to understand the market demand for your product and determine how your eCommerce business will fit in.

Market research helps you know your customers, identify your competitors and create a personalized shopping experience. Plus, you can also identify new opportunities that increase sales and revenue.

Benefits of market research for your business.

Here are key components to include in this section of your business plan:

  • Market overview: This is a description of your chosen market segment. Here, you need to define your total addressable market (TAM), which means the size of the market you want to serve.
  • Industry trends: Identify key trends that provide historical context and projections for future market performance.
  • Customer analysis: Research your ideal customers to discover demographic and statistical data, as well as their interests, pain points and shopping behaviors.
  • Competitive analysis: Describe your direct and indirect competitors, their strengths, weaknesses and strategies. This analysis should cover both online and offline competitors.
  • Keyword research: Analyze keywords related to your products and services. This helps you optimize your marketing efforts and reach targeted audiences.

5. Create your operations plan

The previous sections focused on validating your business idea. Starting from your operations plan, the following sections are all about turning that idea into a functioning business.

The operations plan section is where you provide actual steps for getting your eCommerce startup off the ground.

A comprehensive operations plan provides answers to these questions:

  • What are the requirements for creating, packaging and storing your products?
  • What personnel do you need to launch your business and keep it running?
  • Which web hosting platform will you use for your eCommerce website?
  • What eCommerce payment options will your website use?
  • What service providers will you use for the different aspects of your operations, like customer support, marketing automation, order fulfillment, taxes and customer relationship management?
  • What factors will likely affect your operations, and how will you respond to them?
  • What are the timelines for reaching each milestone?

By answering these questions, you’ll create detailed guidelines for running a successful eCommerce startup.

6. Outline your marketing plan

Now that you’ve created a solid operations plan, you need to decide how to attract customers to your eCommerce store.

Creating a marketing plan relies on an in-depth understanding of your customer segment. The insights you’ve gleaned from your market research stage will enable you to create buyer personas so you can develop a winning marketing strategy.

Digital marketing strategies include:

  • Pay-per-click advertising: In this advertising model, you run ad campaigns and pay a certain amount whenever someone clicks on your ads.
  • Social media marketing: This involves using popular social networks to promote your brand and engage with your customers.
  • Influencer marketing: You strike a partnership with social media influencers who recommend your products and services to their followers.
  • Affiliate marketing: This involves partnering with other businesses or individuals (known as affiliates) to promote your brand and earn commissions on each sale they generate.
  • Search engine optimization: SEO involves driving traffic to your webpages by increasing your rankings in search results pages (SERPs). It involves the use of relevant keywords and a combination of other traffic-generating techniques.
  • Content marketing: This involves creating high-quality content (e.g., blog posts) that attracts your target audience and drives conversions.

While you can opt for either free or paid marketing channels, a combination of both will give you the best of both worlds — you get to reach your target customers wherever they are.

7. Make financial projections

Financial projections show how soon your business will become profitable. This section of your business plan typically includes estimates for capital expenditure, operating expenses and revenue forecasts. It also includes income statements and cash flow statements.

All figures must be based on realistic assumptions that factor in market conditions and historical data. Break down your projections into time segments (e.g., annually or biennially). This, combined with your implementation timeline, will provide some context for your business cash flow.

8. Write an appendix

While this section is optional, it adds value to your eCommerce business plan. An appendix provides an opportunity to include information that doesn’t exactly fit the context of other sections of your business plan.

Your appendix can include:

  • Definitions of terminology.
  • Charts and diagrams from research data.
  • Links to reference materials.
  • Abbreviations.
  • Detailed spreadsheets for financial projections.

Including these details in the main section of your eCommerce business plan may interrupt the flow of information. Instead, provide links to the appendix so readers can find additional context to support the information in the main section.

eCommerce business plan templates

With the step-by-step tutorial provided above, you can create a detailed eCommerce business plan from scratch.

But to speed up the writing process, a business plan template acts as a foundation to build a comprehensive plan that outlines your objectives, strategies and financial projections.

Here are some eCommerce business plan templates for use:

  • PandaDoc has a free business plan template created specifically for eCommerce businesses.
  • Wise Business Plans has several templates customized for different business ideas.
  • Bplans provides editable templates with sample data from fictional companies to show what a finalized version of your plan should look like.

Final thoughts: How to write a business plan for your eCommerce startup

A great business plan does more than provide a strategy for running your eCommerce startup. It also demonstrates the feasibility of your business, helping investors make informed decisions.

The process of writing and researching your business plan will broaden your knowledge about your chosen industry and how to become successful as an entrepreneur. So before you launch your eCommerce company, spend some time creating a business plan for it.

Once you’re done planning your eCommerce startup, it’s time to breathe life into your business idea with a professional website. Bluehost offers affordable WooCommerce hosting that allows you to manage inventory, accept online payments securely and keep track of website analytics.

Choose a WooCommerce hosting plan to kickstart your online business.

How to write an eCommerce business plan: FAQs

How long does it take to write an eCommerce business plan?

The time it’ll take to write an eCommerce business plan depends on several factors like the scope of your business, the amount of research you’ll do and how detailed you want the plan to be.

And with software that offers editable ecommerce business plan templates, you can write one in as little as one day.

Can I change my business plan?

A business plan is a living document, so it needs to be updated as your business evolves. Reasons to update your business plan include significant changes in the market, new product ideas, new growth opportunities and changes in your financial projections.

Who is the business plan for?

Your business plan is mainly for you and the shareholders of your business. It provides investors with all the information they need to make informed investment decisions. A business plan also helps lenders assess the financial viability of your business and determine if you’re eligible for a business loan.

Can I create a business plan by myself?

Yes, you can create a business plan all by yourself. Templates and guides like this one can make the process easier to complete by providing instructions to help you understand the different sections.

However, for complex business ideas that require more detailed information, consult with experts in various fields to ensure you’re making accurate projections and providing relevant information.

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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