How to Write an Ecommerce Business Plan [Examples & Template]

Kayla Carmicheal

Published: January 11, 2024

If you have a promising idea for an online e-commerce business , it’s important to create an e-commerce business plan to ensure your vision has enough stock to be profitable.

business planning in e commerce

Having a business plan for your online store will help you define your target market, establish your monthly and quarterly sales goals, and increase the likelihood of long-term e-commerce success.

In this post, we’ll go over an online store business plan and how you can create one for your e-commerce startup. Let’s get started.

→ Download Now: Free Business Plan Template

What is an e-commerce business plan?

An e-commerce business plan is a document that outlines your business and its goals, analyzes your industry and competitors, and identifies the resources needed to execute your plan. It also lists the e-commerce retailers you’ll use to distribute your products and the marketing strategies you’ll use to drive sales.

Whether a company operates as a startup or has years of operations and growth under its belt, an e-commerce business plan is essential for evaluating a business and determining areas of improvement.

An e-commerce business plan is essential, with increasing numbers of shoppers conducting business online. It's estimated this number has reached over 2 billion . An e-commerce business plan keeps you organized and is useful when seeking investors who need to understand your company.

So, let’s dive into some examples of e-commerce business plans and what goes into writing one using our free template .

business planning in e commerce

Free Business Plan Template

The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.

  • Outline your idea.
  • Pitch to investors.
  • Secure funding.
  • Get to work!

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

E-commerce Business Plan Template

business planning in e commerce

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How to Start an E-Commerce Business in 2023: A Step-by-Step Guide

Rosalie Murphy

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Table of Contents

1. Define your e-commerce business idea

2. set up your business, 3. source or develop your products, 4. set up your e-commerce website, 5. figure out order fulfillment, 6. market your e-commerce business, how much does it cost to start an e-commerce business, tips for starting an e-commerce business .

An e-commerce business sells goods, services and funds over the internet. Starting an e-commerce business is a lot like starting any company: You’ll need to create a business plan, get licenses and permits and set up dedicated finances. You’ll also need to choose an e-commerce website builder , source your products and market to online customers.

Follow these six steps to get your e-commerce business up and running.


The first step in starting any business is to hone your idea. Online business ideas can include selling physical or digital products as well as professional services. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to define your e-commerce business model and write a business plan that outlines your niche.

During this process, you’ll start to ask a lot of questions: How will you get your products or services to your customers? What sort of licenses or permits do you need? How much will it cost to get your business up and running — and how will you foot that bill? Your business plan should answer these questions and provide a road map for the coming months.

More resources to help shape your idea:

What is e-commerce? Understanding how it works  

Our picks for the best business plan software

Can your business idea actually make money?

Once you've solidified your e-commerce business idea, the next step is to set your company up for success.


This includes back-office steps like:

Choosing a business structure . There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these entity types, so talking to an attorney may be helpful as you choose the one that’s right for you.

Naming your business. Consult your local secretary of state's website as well as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure that you're not choosing a name that belongs to another company. Check to see if your potential business domain name is available as well.

Applying for an employer identification number (EIN) . You can get an EIN from the IRS for free online or by mail, fax or phone. Not all businesses need an EIN, but having one can help you separate your personal and business finances.

Opening a business checking account . NerdWallet recommends all business owners have a dedicated bank account for their business.

Getting licenses and permits your city or state requires. This probably includes a business license, and if you perform services, you may also need an occupational license. Check your state or local government website for requirements for your area.

Answers as you set up your business:

Do you need a business license to sell online?

What’s the difference between an LLC and a sole proprietorship?

Our picks for the best free business checking accounts

Next, you'll need to source the products you're going to sell. If you’re selling physical products, you may need to make them yourself or work with a manufacturer.

A key decision at this point: Are you going to order products in bulk and keep inventory in stock? If so, you’ll need to think about storage space and raising capital to order goods upfront. However, you’ll have the power to ship items yourself.

Other businesses choose to rely on dropshipping , in which products are manufactured or sourced at the time the order is placed. In general, dropshipping may keep your overhead costs lower, but it can be more difficult to manage since inventory levels and shipping will be out of your hands.

Other options for sourcing e-commerce products include:

White-labeling, or ordering items in bulk from a manufacturer and then branding them with your company’s identity.

Print-on-demand, or paying a third party to print your company’s designs on merchandise like T-shirts, mugs and posters. Print-on-demand normally functions like dropshipping, in that a customer places their order, then the manufacturer creates the product and ships it directly to the customer.

Retail arbitrage, or buying discounted items from retail sellers and listing them in your own store at a markup. 

If you're selling professional services, you might just have to describe and list what you offer on your business website. Still, you’ll need to figure out how much to charge and decide how many clients you can see each day or week.

More to help you develop products:

16 e-commerce business ideas

How to find products to sell on Amazon

How to make money on Shopify

Your e-commerce website will be your storefront. It’s where your customers will learn about you and your business, browse your products and make purchases.

The easiest way to set up a website is to use an online store builder . These platforms can walk you through the process of launching your website, from buying a domain name to managing your inventory to taking credit card payments.

Popular e-commerce website builders include Shopify , Squarespace , Square Online and BigCommerce .

If you’re a very small business or just experimenting with online sales, a free e-commerce website builder may be a good place to start. But to list unlimited products and access more robust suites of tools — which can help with things like shipping label printing, order management and sales analytics — you’ll typically need to spring for a subscription.

In general, many online store builders should be simple enough for someone without web development experience to navigate. But most offer the option to pay a professional designer or developer if you don’t want to build the website on your own.

The best e-commerce platform for you fits into your budget and is appropriate for your skill level.

Choosing the right website builder:

Our picks for the best e-commerce website builders

Wix vs. Squarespace: Head-to-head comparison

Shopify vs. Square Online: Head-to-head comparison

Order fulfillment is the process of getting customers’ purchases in their hands.

Most e-commerce website builders offer shipping label printing, which is the first step in the fulfillment process. Some also offer the ability to add shipping costs onto customers’ orders at checkout.

If you choose to handle order fulfillment yourself, research shipping rates so you have a sense of how much it’ll cost. Look for an online store builder that can help make the shipping process easier or research shipping software providers like Shippo .

Note, too, that e-commerce may connect you to customers across the world. If there are places you’re not willing to ship to, make that clear on your website.

If you don’t want to manage order fulfillment, you can outsource it to an e-commerce fulfillment center or use a service like Fulfillment by Amazon. Fees for fulfillment services vary depending on the size of your products, how far they’re traveling and how much you’re shipping.

More to help you manage orders and inventory:

Our picks for the best inventory management software

What is just-in-time inventory?

Shipping services that integrate with WooCommerce

Now that you've started your online store , you're ready to start serving customers — as long as they can find your products.

Your small-business marketing strategy might include:

Omnichannel commerce , in which you list your products on third-party marketplaces like Amazon and Instagram. Some e-commerce website builders can help facilitate this.

Influencer marketing, in which you pay popular social media creators to plug your products. 

Social media content or paid social media ads.

Optimizing your business website for search engines.

Sending email campaigns to past and future customers.

Many e-commerce website builders include some marketing features, which can help you do things like create social media ads or send emails to customers when they’ve abandoned their carts.

But if you want to develop more sophisticated campaigns, consider investing in marketing software . These tools can help you create email templates and campaigns, text customers, keep track of how individual customers are responding to your emails and more.

More help with marketing:

20 free marketing ideas for small businesses

Online marketing strategies and tips

Content marketing for small businesses

The cost of starting an e-commerce business can vary widely depending on what you’re planning to sell and in what volume. Your expenses may include:

Your e-commerce website. Subscription plans for online store builders generally start around $25 to $30 per month when billed annually. You may also need to spring for a domain name if your e-commerce website builder doesn’t include one — and make note of annual fees to keep your URL registered. 

Payment processing fees. In general, the company that provides your payment processing will take a cut of around 3% from each online sale. 

Stocking up. If you plan to order inventory in bulk, be prepared for significant upfront costs — even before you’ve started generating revenue. Inventory financing may be able to help you bridge the gap.

Order fulfillment. In general, you’ll pay a third-party service to fulfill each order, with rates varying depending on item size and weight. The more customers buy at once, the less you’ll have to pay per item. Order fulfillment services may also include warehousing, for which you’ll pay a per-item storage cost. 

Warehousing. If you’re buying more inventory than you can keep in your home or garage but not using an order fulfillment service that provides storage, you may need to spring for warehouse space of your own.

General costs of running a business. These could include monthly or annual fees for accounting software , business insurance , any employees or contractors you plan to hire and more. You may also need to set aside money for small-business taxes .

As with launching any business, starting an e-commerce business can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips for managing the transition.

1. Start simple

If you’re not certain e-commerce is the right path for you, set up an online store with low overhead first. This may mean starting with the free version of an e-commerce website builder, ordering a small amount of inventory or selling only one or two types of products. 

Starting small can limit how much startup funding you need and make it easier to pivot if your first idea doesn’t land. As your business starts to get traction, you can trade up to a more robust e-commerce platform and expand your product line.

2. Cultivate a loyal customer base

Your e-commerce business needs customers who appreciate your products enough to buy them more than once and, ideally, customers who will promote them to their networks.

Establishing a strong brand presence on social media can help you build a following. But the more information you can gather from your customers, the more you can market directly to them, whether that means creating an email marketing campaign, sending discount codes through text message or letting them know where your booth will be at an event in their region.

3. Invest in multichannel selling

Loyal customers may be willing to visit your website frequently. But to reach new ones, you might have to meet them where they are — which might be on Amazon, Instagram, TikTok or elsewhere. Start with the platforms where your customers are most likely to be, launch those integrations and then see how they perform. You can add platforms later if they fit into your business strategy. 

Keep in mind that selling in person is a channel, too. Craft fairs, local shops and industry or trade events may help you connect with new customers while generating some revenue.

A version of this article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

On a similar note...

How to Make an Ecommerce Business Plan for Your Startup

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Darren DeMatas

January 30, 2024


In addition to receiving commissions generated through affiliate marketing, we are able to fund our independent research and reviews at no extra cost to our readers. Learn more.

So you’ve decided that you want to quit your day job and start your very own ecommerce empire. That’s great!

But before you become the next Jeff Bezos  (and definitely before you quit your job!), it’s worth spending some time thinking about a business plan. In this article, we’ll dive into the key elements of an ecommerce business plan, which is very different than writing traditional business plans.

Ecommerce Business Plan 2020

Why You Should Create a Business Plan

We know that starting an ecommerce business is exciting, and it can be tempting to jump right in without constructing a business plan. READ: PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.

If you haven’t put your ideas, questions and concerns on paper, then you haven’t given your business model enough thought .

Taking the time to write a business plan might seem like a lot of work, but it can save you a lot of time and money in the long run by better preparing you for potential challenges and opportunities that you’ll face as a first-time entrepreneur. Think of it as a roadmap for your new business venture.

It’s exciting to start your own ecommerce business. However, you want to be well prepared and not jump into anything without having a solid, foolproof ecommerce business plan in place.

After all, you wouldn’t jump out of a plane without a parachute, so why start a business without a safety device in place? That safety device is your business plan.

Quote 5 Jeff Bezos Retail Is Details

The business plan is the brainstorming process that ensures your concept and goals are realistic.

This is more than just mental notes. True business plans take your ideas , questions, and concerns and put those in writing.

As you start creating your business plan, you’ll soon understand that it’s more than a single piece of paper with handwritten details on it. It’s a clearly constructed format of how your business will be created, how it will operate, and what you hope the future holds in terms of a successful ecommerce business.

When you write your business plan, be sure to have a target audience in mind. Are you going to look for investors or put a Kickstarter campaign into motion and use this as your descriptive platform? If so, make sure that your business plan contains everything the audience would want to know about your business (and more!). Many traditional funding solutions require a business plan in order to give you capital. However, there are alternative solutions, such as  Payability  that specialize in ecommerce and don’t require credit checks, a business plan, or any complicated paperwork. They can also get you approved in as little as 24 hours.

When your business plan is completed, you should have achieved the following goals:

  • Knowledge:  A greater sense of knowledge of the business aspects.
  • Resources:  The resources you’re going to need to make your business successful, such as partners, money, employees, etc.
  • Road Map: Have clear set goals to take you from the very beginning of your business and onward.
  • Viability: In other words, is your business possible? Will you have enough profit margins to keep the doors open long-term?

Now that you know why you should create a business plan, it’s time to move on to how you can create your business plan and get started putting your ecommerce business into motion.

How to Start an Ecommerce Business Plan

At the very beginning of the planning stages, it’s a good idea to develop a framework for your business model. This business model will continue to evolve as you create each section of your ecommerce business plan, so don’t strive for a perfect completed plan on the first try. You will be making tweaks to the plan of certain steps along the way.

There are many ways to sell products online and different business models  to pursue. Research and learn from successful ecommerce business examples in the market. The exact business model you follow will be one that makes the most sense with your resources, skills, and interests.

In order to create the best online business plan with your product in mind, you need to figure out the following things:

What are you selling?

The first step to creating an online business is to learn the absolute basics of what you can sell.

  • Physical products: Clothing , shoes, home goods
  • Digital products: Software as a Service products, ecourses, ebooks
  • Services: Consulting services, home cleaning

Who are you selling to?

  • Business-to-Business (B2B): You are selling to organizations, corporations, and non-profits rather than individual customers
  • Business to Consumer (B2C): This means you are selling to individual consumers rather than businesses
  • Marketplace: You are acting as a middleman by bringing businesses and (B2B or B2C) customers to one website.

How are you sourcing your product?

  • Manufacture in-house: You make your product or service in-house
  • Third-party manufacturer: You outsource the manufacturing of your product or service to a third-party manufacturer
  • Dropship: You partner with a dropship manufacturer. Basically, this means that they make your product, package it and ship it directly to your customer while your company handles the entire customer relationship.
  • Wholesale : You buy goods or services from other companies in bulk and re-sell those products on your online store

Additional References

  • Entrepreneurship: Business & Marketing Plans
  • Small Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurship Resources
  • Business Plan Resources

Executive Summary

Ecommerce Business Plan Template Executive Summary

The executive summary will be written according to your goals, and it’s recommended that this is done at the very end of your business plan completion. This will ensure that you include all of the important factors about your business and present your ideas in a concise and complete way.

Some of the features you’ll include in the executive summary include information showing that you’ve done your research, you have concrete sales forecasts, and the main details about your brand.

Business Model

When you’re figuring out your business model, you have to consider four different areas:

  • Monetization strategy
  • Product/industry
  • Target market
  • Sales channel

Monetization Strategy

The monetization strategy delves into the methods you are going to use to sell your products.

This strategy will look at different product monetization methods, including white label, private label , affiliate marketing, wholesale, dropshipping, and even selling ads.


The product industry section is where you summarize your main niche.

For example, “Vegan Skincare Products.”

Target Market

In the target market section, you will write a sentence or so on who your target market, or ideal customer, is in the community.

If you’re selling vegan skincare products, your target customers might be women who embrace the vegan lifestyle and use natural skincare products in their daily beauty regimen.

Sales Channel

The sales channel refers to where you’re going to sell your products.

For example, you might be selling your products on your own website, and this should be entered in this section.

Business Overview

Ecommerce Business Plan Template Company Overview

This next section covers your company overview.

This section of your business plan will cover various features of your company, including the following:

  • Company type
  • Domain name
  • Value proposition
  • Brand traits

The brand name section lists your business name or brand name.

This is an extremely important aspect of your business plan as it’s what will set the tone for everything that follows.

Pick a brand name that’s simple yet unique and is something that can be used in a wordplay manner, if desired, but not pun-worthy.

Company Type

The company is how your business operates. For example, you might label your business as an LLC, S-corporation, sole proprietor, or some other type of business organization.

The best way to determine how you should categorize your company is to speak to your accountant. There are various tax and legal aspects to forming your business in a certain way.

Speak with the professionals in the company and corporation formation field to determine how to label your company and which company type best benefits your business in a variety of ways.

Domain Name

This section is where you list your domain name.

Choose a domain name that is memorable and embraces the overall traits and features of your business.

And, when choosing a domain name, be sure to think of SEO aspects when doing so. You’ll find out just how much all of these things tie together and ensure a frequently-visited website is the end result.

Keep in mind that with ecommerce, the domain name is just as important as the brand name. Maybe even more so!

Value Proposition

A value proposition is a short, crisp statement that will gauge how clear your idea is. Write this section as if you had one minute to explain your business to a potential investor or customer and then practice it over and over again.

The value proposition can be used on your ecommerce store as your company description.

Here’s a good example: Say you’re looking to start a hiking company called Atlas Hiking Co. which sells premium performance hiking shirts. A possible company description could be the following:

Atlas Hiking Co. is a lifestyle hiking company that produces high-performance hiking shirts for outdoor lovers. Our proprietary SPF40 fabric is one of the lightest fabrics on the market, providing mountain lovers with maximum comfort, both from a breathability and sun-protection standpoint. Our product is made in the U.S.A. and a portion of our profits are donated to preserve national parks around the country.

Pay special attention to all the sensory words !

The mission statement in your business plan is the “why” of it all.

For example, why you started the business, why you are selling the products you are selling, etc., can all be added to this section of your business plan.

You can make this portion as simple or detailed as you like. Just make sure to properly and clearly explain your business mission.

The vision part of the business plan is your “how” in the grand scheme of things. It is the dream you have for your company and the path you’re going to take to realize that dream.

When you write the vision portion of the business plan, think long-term. What are you hoping to achieve, not just in the near future but for the long haul of the life of your business?

Look into the future and plan out where you see your business in 5, 10, even 20 years from now.

This will help you construct the rest of your business plan if you know where you want your business to head, now and in the future.

Brand Traits

The brand traits section is a short section in your company overview.

Basically, in the brand traits section you’re going to want to list three to five words that describe your brand.

Think of your brand personality and describe it using a few separate powerful words.

The personnel section lists all individuals, including yourself, who will be involved in the daily operations of your business. You can create a separate section for a full operations plan or add that later.

Some business owners choose to handle all duties on their own or with a partner, while others will hire individuals to fill the following roles:

  • CEO (usually the business owner)
  • Management team
  • Customer service/logistics
  • PR/Social media specialist
  • SEO manager
  • Advertising manager

Competitive Market Analysis

Competitive Market Analysis

Here’s a fact you can bank on: there has never been a successful e-commerce entrepreneur that didn’t understand his/her target market cold.

That’s why this section is one of the most important in the entire business plan. It will force you to understand the industry in which you operate, the overall industry analysis and outlook, the existing competition, and your target customer demographic.

Market Segment

The market segment portion of the business plan will help you to put your ideas down on paper, make them more focused, and get your team together.

This area will include your niche selection, target market, and competitive analysis.

Niche Selection

The niche section  provides an overview of your niche, why you selected it, whether there’s a micro niche included, and the type of niche you’ve chosen.

The purpose of this section is to crystalize the ideas that you have and make sure they are understandable and viable.

The target market section covers an overview of your target market plus describes your market segments.

Ask yourself who your  target customer  is (population size, age, geography, education, ethnicity, income level) and consider whether consumers are comfortable with buying your product category online.

When listing the target market information, make sure to mention your target audience size as this is important for ensuring that your audience will be adequately covered.

Facebook Audience Size

Competitive Analysis

With the competitive analysis portion of your market analysis, you want to list your market leader and direct and indirect competitors.

After you mention who these entities are, you need to list the characteristics of each one, such as domain name, business model, monthly traffic, and pricing range.

However, before you even get started in writing this section, you need to spend several hours researching your target market.

Here are some of the most efficient ways to research a particular market:

Industry reports

Google is your best friend. Look for any recent industry reports on your market of choice. This will give you a good sense of how much growth the industry is experiencing, why this growth is happening, and what are the largest customer segments. In our example of Atlas Hiking Co., we should research the outdoor apparel market.

Outdoor apparel kids hiking hiking gear Google search Trends worldwide 2004-present

Let’s say that through our research of the outdoor apparel industry, we discovered that there was a huge boom in youth hiking apparel. Perhaps parents were increasingly concerned about their kids’ exposure to UV rays while hiking, so they began to spend more money on their kids. We could use this valuable information to guide our business strategy.

There’s only so much you can read online. Go to a nearby store that sells similar products to yours and interview the store representative. The store rep has interacted with hundreds of interested customers, which can lead to thousands of valuable insights! It’s amazing how these insights can translate into a meaningful business opportunity.

Here’s an example:

If I were going into Billy’s Outdoor Store to research the outdoor apparel market, I would probably ask Billy the following:

  • What are your best-selling products?
  • What are your worst-selling products?
  • Find products similar to yours and ask the representative his/her favorite features on products similar to yours.
  • How much are customers generally willing to spend on these types of products?
  • Do customers make repeat orders of any of these products?
  • Do you get a lot of customers that are looking to buy last-minute hiking gear before they go on a hike?


Create an Excel spreadsheet of all of your competitors. In your spreadsheet, you should have the following columns:

  • Competitor Name
  • Price point
  • Product Description
  • Key Features (e.g., fabric, waterproof, slim fit, etc.)

What is the competition missing? Is there a gap in the offering? Where you can add some additional value?

After conducting the competitor analysis, Atlas Hiking Co. might find that the competition’s hiking shirts offer very few features at a low price point, but no one offers a luxury hiking shirt with additional features at a higher price point.

This is just an example of the types of insights one can gain from market research which can drastically alter your business model.

Keyword Research

By using Google’s keyword planner  and trends pages, you can get a good sense of how in demand your product is and whether it’s trending upward or downward. Google is great for a general idea, just don’t bank on it.

Some other keyword tools you can use for keyword research include Ahrefs, JungleScout, and Viral Launch. Check out this list  for more ideas.

Trade shows

Are there nearby trade shows that you can go to? Again, creating connections with other people in your industry is a surefire shortcut to countless hours of reading on the internet. Trade shows are also a great opportunity to talk to competitors, meet manufacturers, and better understand where things are heading in your industry.

Once you finish researching the relevant industry, you should summarize your findings by answering the following questions:

General Industry

  • How big is the overall industry?
  • How big is the specific sub-industry in which you intend to operate?
  • Where has most of the historic growth in the market come from?
  • Why is this the right time to enter this market?
  • What are the sub-segments that are poised for future growth (e.g., youth apparel)?
  • How crowded is the product category with competition?
  • How is your competition distributing its product (online, retail, wholesale, etc.)?
  • What’s missing from the competition’s product offering?

Products and Offers

Ecommerce Business Plan Template Products and Offers

So we know we want to sell hiking shirts, but how do you research specific products?

But for some of us, we’re not quite sure what we should sell. To succeed in online retail, you need a product that is trending upwards in a growing niche.

Different types of products

Some of the different types of products include the following:

  • Convenience products: Frequent purchase products, little effort on buying
  • Shopping products: Less frequently purchased in between purchases, little more effort and planning, shop around
  • Specialty products: Strong brand preference and loyalty, will buy no matter what the price

The various types of niches include the following:

  • Hobby niches
  • Lifestyle niches
  • Problem niches
  • Weird/embarrassing niches

Existing products

Come up with detailed specifications for each product or service you intend to sell. If it’s a hiking shirt we’re selling, we would want to have:

  • Detailed sketches of the shirt
  • Fabric weight, materials, type
  • Key features (e.g., pre-shrunk, water-proof, SPF 40)

Future product pipeline

What are other products that you have in the pipeline? Perhaps once you’ve successfully sold hiking shirts, you’re able to leverage your manufacturing relationships to provide hiking socks and shorts. Include that information in this section.

The products and services section will cover the various selling categories of items.

These product offerings will include the following:

  • Core product

Each product group will have its own purpose in your sales catalog. For example, tripwire is the product that brings customers to your ecommerce store or online marketplaces  while the core product is your main seller.

Knowing what products you’ll include within each section allows you to have a firm grasp on what your main product will be and how the other types of products will work alongside your main product.

This section will also cover the search volume and Amazon pricing range.

You’ll need to calculate your true costs. You have to make sure you don’t overestimate your margins.

To tabulate your total true costs, you need to write down the costs in the following areas:

  • Target price
  • Supplier cost of the product
  • Total cost per unit
  • Net profit per unit
  • Profit margin per unit

Once you complete the pricing portion, you’ll have everything on one sheet and readily accessible whenever you need it.

Marketing Plan and Operations

Ecommerce Business Plan Template Marketing

So, now you’ve concluded that you have a great business idea, and it’s in a growing market. That’s fantastic – but how are you going to drive traffic to your ecommerce website and get customers to buy it ? And how much can you afford to spend on your product?

Marketing  is everything. It’s important that your marketing efforts match your business model.

If you have a website and no marketing, your site won’t have any visitors. With no visitors, you will make no sales. Then how do you grow and sell your ecommerce business (if that’s your long-term goal)? Even with the best possible products, nobody will buy them if they aren’t directed to them in some way.

In order to come up with a marketing strategy, you need to first know your customer inside out. You should be able to answer such questions as:

  • How old is your customer?
  • Where does your customer live?
  • What is the population of your customer base?
  • What is their education level?
  • What is their income level?
  • What are your customer’s pain points?

With so many channels to reach your customer, which one is best for you?

Once we know pretty much everything there is to know about our target customer, we can shift focus to our marketing strategy. You want to choose marketing strategies that equal positive conversion rates. What channels should you use to grab the attention of your customer demographic? Some of the key marketing channels include:

Paid Marketing

  • Pay-per-click – this online marketing typically involves using Google Shopping campaigns  and managing a product data feed.
  • Affiliate sales networks – Allowing other blogs and websites to sell your product for a cut of the revenue. List the different affiliate sale networks that you plan to promote through.
  • Facebook ads ⎯ Ads posted on Facebook to draw in buyers through social media means.
  • Influencer marketing ⎯ Hiring industry influencers to get the word out about your product through their social media platforms and contacts.

Organic Marketing

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram , Pinterest, etc.): What is your strategy for social media, and where will you dedicate your attention?
  • Search Engine Optimization : Create and promote awesome content so people find your product organically through search.
  • Content marketing: Figure out how you’ll use content marketing in your business. Consider various article topics that will persuade your target audience to buy your products.
  • Blogger networks: could be organic or paid through affiliate sale programs.
  • Key bloggers: Develop a list of the key bloggers in your product category. For Atlas Hiking Co., this might be an influencer that blogs about the best hiking trails in America.

Finding the optimal mix of these advertising tools depends 100% on your customer segment as well as your product type. For example, a SaaS product targeting millennials will require an entirely different marketing strategy than an e-commerce physical product targeting baby boomers. Perhaps that should be a post on its own for another day!

How much should you spend to acquire a customer?

In order to understand this, we need first to discuss a concept known as customer lifetime value or LTV. In essence, this is a formula that helps you better understand how much an average customer will spend over time.

Here’s  a good read on how to calculate LTV.

It’s important to remember that for new businesses, you don’t have a lot of data on customer purchase habits so it’s a good idea to be more conservative with your assumptions in calculating LTV.

Let’s say, for Atlas Hiking Co., I determine that the average LTV per customer is $300. This means that over time, the average customer will spend $300. Let’s say, on average, if I receive $300 in revenue, $100 of that will translate to gross profit before I factor in my marketing costs (basically, I’m just subtracting the cost of making the shirts).

Knowing that my gross profit is $100 per shirt is a critical piece of information because it tells me that I can spend up to $100 in marketing to acquire a customer and still be profitable!

Some of the marketing options include social media marketing and content marketing.

Think about your business model and then line up your marketing budget. Your marketing budget may include the following items:

  • Sales/branded content
  • SEO/blog content
  • Facebook/Instagram ads
  • Influencer marketing
  • Marketing tools
  • Niche advertising

Choosing The Right Technology

With so much technology and SaaS products out there, it’s important to understand the various moving parts and diagram how they all integrate with one another.

Some of the different elements include:

  • Shopping Cart Platforms  – e.g., Shopify , BigCommerce , WooCommerce , or any open-source platform
  • Hosting – Nexcess , BigScoots , Kinsta , WPX
  • Payment Processo r – e.g., Stripe, Paypal
  • Fulfillment Center – e.g., Amazon, ShipBob
  • Apps – e.g., Zipify, BuildWooFunnels, Gelato
  • Accounting & Taxes  – e.g., Quicken, Xero
  • Marketing Automation – e.g., Klaviyo , Mailchimp
  • Marketing Tools – e.g.  Buzzstream, Ahrefs
  • Customer Loyalty Programs  – e.g., Antavo, Smile

Come up with a detailed list of the different products and services you need to run your business as well as the monthly and per-transaction cost of each of them. This will be important in understanding the impact of these services on your margins.

Matching your business model to your technology is essential, too. Certain website platforms are better suited for specific sales models.

Email marketing is another type of technology that should be carefully considered and matched up correctly with your business model.

Keep in mind that it takes, on average, 6-7 interactions with a brand before someone makes a purchase, so you need to keep using technology to get them back to your website.

As you explore the technology options and find out ways to draw potential customers in and keep them happy while they’re there, here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • What you say about yourself and your products with your website content
  • How you respond to questions on live chat and email support
  • How to make use of chatbots
  • How you connect on social media
  • The information you send through email marketing
  • What bloggers and influencers say about your brand
  • How existing customers review your company
  • How you advertise
  • How you establish loyalty beyond sales

After you figure out your technology methods, you have to come up with a technology budget.

The business plan must also include the operations side of things. Determine who will be your manufacturer, secondary manufacturer, and shipping and fulfillment  provider.

When looking at supply chain costs and options, ShipBob  is an ecommerce fulfillment provider you can consider.

Financial Plan

Ecommerce Business Plan Template - Financial Plan

When figuring out your financial plan, evaluating and pinpointing your startup costs  is essential.

The focus of the financial plan is how long it will take for you to make your money back. You also need to figure out if you need a business loan .

Traffic and conversion rates will help you determine how long it will be until you start making money back.

You’ll also want to use an income statement to detail financial information.

This section is used for financial projections, such as forecasting sales, expenses, and net income of the business. Ideally, you’ll want to create a monthly Excel balance sheet showing the following:

  • Projected revenue:  First, come up with your projected number of units sold and then come up with your projected revenue (Projected Revenue = # of Units Sold * Average Sales Price).
  • Fixed expenses:   these are expenses that are fixed no matter how much you sell. Typically, these relate to monthly SaaS subscriptions, employee salaries, or rent.
  • Variable expenses  – these expenses change in direct proportion to how much you sell. Common examples include the cost of goods sold and credit card payment processing fees.

This helps business owners better understand what they need to achieve to hit their profit goals. In reality, projections are usually always off the mark, but it’s good to give yourself some measurable goals to strive for.

This section should aim to answer the following questions about your product offering:

  • How much product do you need to sell per year to meet your income goals for the business?
  • What are the margins on your product? If you sell one hiking shirt for $50, how much do you make after paying your supplier, employees, and marketing costs?
  • What is the lifetime value of a customer?
  • How much can you spend to acquire customers? If you conservatively project that the average customer will spend $300 over time on your shirts, then you can afford to spend an amount less than $300 to acquire that customer using the paid marketing channels described previously.
  • Do you have any big capital expenditures early on that would require you to need to bring in investors?
  • Can you improve gross margins by making bigger orders from your suppliers?

There are various acquisition channels that will help your traffic to convert including:

Your revenue plan will contain a 12-month revenue forecast plan to help you map out each month of earnings.

There are different business earning models you can go through to determine how much you can make with your business.

You want to calculate how much traffic costs. This all depends on the methods you use to gain traffic to your site.

As you determine what your profit might be with your ecommerce business  or ecommerce businesses, there are certain math formulas to use:

  • The profit equation
  • Break-even analysis
  • Units needed to achieve the profit target

You should also consider how you will use fintech companies in your ecommerce business.

What are the key elements of an ecommerce business plan?

The main components of an eCommerce business plan include the executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management structure, product line or service, marketing and sales strategy, financial projections, and funding request, if applicable.

How do I create a budget for my ecommerce business?

Start by estimating your initial startup costs and ongoing expenses. Consider costs like website development, inventory, marketing, shipping, taxes, and any necessary licenses or permits. It’s also important to factor in a contingency plan for unexpected costs.

How do I find the right product to sell?

Research is fundamental. Look at market trends, customer needs, and competitor products. Use tools like Google Trends or social media platforms to understand what customers are currently interested in. Always consider your passion and knowledge about the product too, as this can drive your business forward.

How can I differentiate my product from competitors?

Differentiation can come from unique product features, superior customer service, better pricing, or a compelling brand story. Understand what your competitors offer and how you can do it differently or better.

Wrapping Up Your Business Plan

Careful planning is crucial to get your e-commerce business from the planning phase to the launch phase and to ensure its successful future.

Going through the exercise of writing a business plan will cement your own understanding of your business and your market. It will also position you to take advantage of lucrative opportunities while mitigating harmful threats to your business down the line.

Your turn! Have you written a business plan for your online store? Do you have anything to add? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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How to Write an eCommerce Business Plan + Template

Two female and two male entrepreneurs working in a small office on taking and fulfilling online orders. One is reviewing their business plan to see if their eCommerce site is on track.

Noah Parsons

10 min. read

Updated November 13, 2023

Free Download:  Sample eCommerce Business Plan Templates

If you’re starting an online eCommerce business , it’s tempting to dive right in and set up your digital shop. After all, eCommerce businesses are often less expensive to start than physical businesses and the risk may seem lower. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There’s still risk involved and money you may lose if you don’t start your business the right way.

So if you want your business to be successful you’ll want to start with a business plan first. Not having a business plan is one of the primary reasons businesses fail and it’s an easy first step that you can start for free.

Businesses that do take the time to plan are actually proven to be significantly more successful than those that don’t.

  • Why write an eCommerce business plan?

If you’re looking for funding from investors for your eCommerce business, you’ll definitely need a business plan. But, business plans aren’t just for entrepreneurs who are looking to raise money for their business. There are many other reasons why you should consider writing a plan.

  • Strategy. Writing your plan down will help you clarify your business strategy and figure out key aspects of how your business will run. You’ll think about your marketing plan, fulfillment, sales strategies, and more.
  • Test ideas. Business plans can help you figure out if an idea will work. A plan will help you figure out which ideas will be profitable and which will struggle to make money.
  • Know your numbers. Developing your financial plan as part of your business plan will help you understand what it’s really going to take to start an online business. Running the numbers will help you determine profitability and what it will take to get your business up and running.
  • Market research. Your business plan will help you answer questions about who your customers are and how you can best get your product in front of them.
  • Marketing and advertising. Getting your eCommerce business running online is just the first step. Now you need to bring customers to your website . Having a plan and knowing how much it will cost you before your start will improve your chances of success.
  • Business plan competitions. An often overlooked way of getting money for your eCommerce business is business plan competitions. There are thousands of them every year that include cash prizes. With a solid business plan, it’s usually free to enter.

A business plan can help you develop your strategy, test your idea , figure out how much money you’ll need to get up and running and identify potential roadblocks. It’s a critical step that will ensure that you don’t waste time or money as you get your business off the ground.

  • How to write an eCommerce business plan

Every business plan follows a fairly standard format, but for eCommerce you will need some extra detail in the marketing and fulfillment sections. Here’s an outline of what you should include. 

If you’re ready to get started you can also download a free template for your eCommerce business plan .

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

Executive summary.

Every business plan needs an executive summary . Usually, you write the summary last, after you’ve fleshed out all the details of your plan. The executive summary isn’t a repeat of the full plan—it’s really just a brief outline that should be 1-2 pages at the most. 

When you’re getting introductions to investors, you’ll probably just share your executive summary to start, and then share the full plan if an investor is interested. 

Your executive summary should summarize your vision for your online business, the products you’ll be selling, a short description of your target market , and highlights of your management team and financials. If you did a market analysis, don’t get into tons of detail, but cover enough that a casual reader will understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

Opportunity: Problem and Solution

The first chapter of your eCommerce business plan describes your opportunity. That’s a description of the business you are building and the problem you are solving for customers. 

Every business needs to solve a problem for customers. For your business to stand out and be successful, you’ll ideally fill a gap that other companies haven’t filled yet. 

Even if you’re selling the same types of products as other companies, your eCommerce business could offer a better shopping experience, lower prices, or better customer service. The problem you are solving then is that customers can’t get good customer service or low prices from other companies in your industry. They will come to you, instead, because you do offer those things.

You can also solve problems for customers by offering a product they’ve never seen before. Perhaps you’ve developed a new line of kitchen utensils that are designed for older hands and wrists. Or maybe you’ve invented a new line of soap that is more sustainable than traditional hand soap.

Target Market

Arguably, the target market section of your eCommerce business plan is one of the most important components. Your target market describes the types of customers you hope to attract. Trying to please everyone is bound to be a failure—instead, focus on a specific group of people or type of person and build from there.

For example, maybe you’re trying to sell to young professionals who value good design. Or, maybe you’re targeting new families who are looking for sustainably made, affordable kids toys.

When you’re writing the target market section of your business you’ll describe exactly who your ideal customer is, what their demographics are, and how large your target market is.

There are a lot of details that you can include in your target market section of your eCommerce business plan, and we’ve got a great article that covers everything you might want to include .

Marketing and Advertising

For an eCommerce business, getting the word out about your business is critical. Unlike a physical storefront that potential customers might walk or drive by, an online store needs to figure out how to get customers to its virtual doors.

In the marketing and advertising chapter of your business plan, you’ll want to detail your marketing plan for your business – how are you going to get customers’ attention? How will they know you exist?

Here are a few tactics you may want to consider:

  • Content marketing. Start writing blog posts that your potential customers may find interesting so that you can attract prospects to your business. Also, consider guest posting on other blogs that your potential customers might read.
  • Social media. These days, most consumers expect that the companies they shop at will have some form of social media presence. Pick the networks that you plan to be active on and determine a strategy that will engage your potential customers.
  • Traditional PR. Traditional PR isn’t dead. If you can get popular publications to cover your company launch and your products, you’ll be able to drive new customers to your door.
  • Advertising. Online advertising will almost certainly be in your plans. The good thing about online advertising is that you can measure its effectiveness and fine-tune things as you go. Depending on your business and how much cash you have on hand, you may consider traditional off-line advertising as well.
  • Email marketing. For many eCommerce businesses, email is a core strategy for driving sales. If you have a content marketing plan, you can use that content to drive email subscriptions. You can also offer deals to build your email list, such as free shipping or discounts on orders.

Successful eCommerce businesses are all about ensuring that their operations are running smoothly and efficiently. Use your business plan as your chance to figure out what your operations plans are ahead of time before you jump in and get started. This is where many businesses can get tripped up, so taking the time to get your operations set up properly is worth the up-front investment of time.

Areas you’ll want to cover include:

  • Locations. Even though your business may be online, you’ll still need to run the business from somewhere. Perhaps you can run the business entirely remotely, but potentially you may need some office space for employees or warehouse space for product storage. Think about where these locations are located and what it will cost to keep them running.
  • Suppliers. You’ll need suppliers for raw materials if you’re making products and you will also need suppliers if you are reselling products. Use your plan to figure out who you’re going to work with, what their purchase terms are, and what kind of delivery timeframes they can provide for you.
  • Production. If you’re assembling raw materials into products, you’ll need to know how and where you will be producing your products.
  • Storage & fulfillment. If you’re not drop-shipping from products from a supplier, you’ll need to store and ship your own products. Your business plan should detail where and how storage and fulfillment will take place and what the costs will be. Don’t forget to think through how you’ll handle returns and exchanges.
  • Technology & payment processors. All eCommerce businesses need technology to function. You’ll want to think about the platform you’ll use for your online store, what functionality you need, and how you’ll accept payments. 

Company & Management

This chapter of your eCommerce business plan describes the structure of your business and who is running it. If you’re going into business with other people, you should establish a partnership agreement. Your plan will need to explain how your business is structured and who owns what portions of the business. 

You’ll also want to include a company description that includes details on the management team and the highlights from their resumes. Potential investors will be looking for experienced owners and managers to get an eCommerce business up and running, so this section of the plan should explain why your team is qualified to build the business into a success.

If you aren’t looking for outside investment, this section of your eCommerce business plan is still important. You should think about the different positions you’ll need to fill and who is going to do each job in the business. Even if you don’t plan on hiring employees right away, having a plan for who you’re going to hire and when will be enormously helpful when the time comes.

Financial Plan

Finally, your eCommerce business plan will need to include a financial plan . Investors will want to see a sales forecast , income statement (also called profit and loss statement), cash flow statement , and a balance sheet. If you use a tool like LivePlan , you’ll be able to build out your financial forecasts relatively quickly, even if you don’t have experience with business numbers.

Even if you’re not working with investors or getting a bank loan, you should run your numbers. This is arguably the most important part of your business plan. You need to know if the numbers work for your business based on your forecasted sales and planned expenses . 

It’s much better to find out if you need to make changes to your business model while it’s all just an idea on paper rather than a business that you’ve already invested money in.

If you need additional help, we’ve created a guide to creating the financial statements you need to include in your business plan .

  • Ecommerce business plan templates and examples

If you want to see how other eCommerce businesses have created their plans, check out our free library of eCommerce business plans . You can download all of them in Word format so you can jump-start your own business plan.

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See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

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Creating a Stellar Ecommerce Business Plan for Your Online Store

Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform

For years, you’ve purchased items from online businesses or marketplaces like Etsy, eBay and Amazon and thought to yourself, “I could do something like this, too.”

Starting your own ecommerce business may seem intimidating — writing a business plan, even more so.

However, a business plan allows you to validate your business idea, assess your financial position and create a concrete action plan for how you’ll deliver a product from the original source to the end consumer.

In other words, while the business plan might seem like it’s ultimately meant for other people’s benefit — potential investors, business partners or well-meaning family members who keep pestering you to write one — in reality, the business plan benefits you, the business owner, the most.

You’ll shape the vision and mission for your business and map out how you’ll get there. One study by Harvard Business Review found that entrepreneurs who write a formal business plan are 16% more likely to achieve viability than those who don’t.

An ecommerce business plan is a document that outlines your business purpose and goals, analyzes your industry and competitors and identifies the resources needed to execute your plan.

For example, which suppliers will you work with? What types of products will you stock? Who is your ideal buyer? How will you advertise your business? Can you afford to provide free shipping and still make a profit?

Here’s a step-by-step primer on how to write a business plan for your ecommerce store, what elements to include and how to use your own business plan to increase your chance of success.

How to Create An Ecommerce Business Plan

Business plans help entrepreneurs maintain focus on their goals and shape the day-to-day running of a new business. The key elements of an ecommerce business plan template describe blueprints for growth, projected timelines and financial goals — clarifying topics like cash flow, expenses, marketing tools and distribution channels.

Draft an executive summary.

An executive summary provides a concise rundown of the key points in your business plan. In short, it should summarize your chosen industry, business purpose, competitors, business goals and financial position. Executive summaries average 1-3 pages and are ideally under two pages.

What does your business do?

Explain the raison d’être for your startup. What problem will you solve for your customers? Who is the target audience? Where do you want your business to be in one, five, or 10 years?

Here are the main elements of an executive summary:

The problem statement or business opportunity : Describe a pain point or gap in the market that you are uniquely qualified to fill. (“As someone who used to own a convenience store, I heard many of my customers complain about the lack of healthy food options while traveling domestically.”)

Your business idea : State how you plan to approach the problem (“XYZ is a ready-to-eat meal company that lets travelers order and pack healthy meals ahead of trips so they can avoid eating fast food.”)

Company history : Describe what milestones you have achieved. Are you already working with suppliers? What is your current revenue? (“In 2021, XYZ fulfilled over 10,000 orders, generating $150,000 in revenue.”)

Industry and market analysis : Outline the trends in the market that affect your business, market size, and demand for your product. (“In 2022, the global health and wellness food market was valued at $841 billion and is projected to increase to one trillion by 2026.”)

Competition : Explain who your competitors are, outline their strengths and weaknesses, and make it clear how you will differentiate.

Timeline for key milestones : Project when you plan to achieve goals like breaking even, launching an IPO, or other key milestones.

Financial plan (if you are seeking funding from investors or banks).

What goals does your business want to achieve?

Set short- and long-term goals for your business, such as achieving a certain amount of revenue or testing a new product idea. Business goals can be general and high-level or they can focus on specific, measurable actions (SMART goals).

The most realistic goal-setting approach is to set short-term goals as stepping stones to your long-term goals. For example, your short-term goal to decrease website bounce rate by 25% within 12 weeks might help you reach the long-term goal of growing conversions by 50% within one year.

Timeframes for short-term goals can range from a few hours to a year, while long-term goals generally take 1-5 years to achieve.

What products do you sell?

Outline your product offerings and specify where you’ll source each item. Some ecommerce businesses manufacture products in-house. Others work with wholesalers, manufacturers or print-on-demand businesses to resell their products.

Curate a tight product line that demonstrates your value proposition. Why should someone buy from your online store rather than another brand? Why would someone choose your products over a substitute if you don't produce goods in-house?

Ecommerce companies sell three types of products: goods, services and digital products. Tell your readers what you intend to sell and why. List each item and its purpose. For each, you want to answer the question “why?” Why are you choosing to offer these specific products and services? How do you plan on fulfilling orders?

If you’re offering a service, explain what you do and where. Are you local? Do you travel to your customers? Will you partner with similar service providers in other areas?

How will customers access the item if you're offering a digital product? Will they download software or education videos from your site? Will they pay a subscription or usage-based fee? What about licensing requirements? Mention intellectual property ownership (if applicable) including trademarks, patents and copyrights.

Who is your audience?

Describe your ideal customer. Define your product or service from their point of view. What problems does your product solve for them? What benefits or features do customers look for when shopping for that product type?

Create customer profiles that summarize your target audience in terms of demographics (age, location, gender, etc) and psychographics (pain points, interests, buying patterns). Consider creating customer segments based on shared characteristics if you cater to a wide audience.

Demographic data should include the following points:

Education level.

Relationship status.


Meanwhile, discover your target customer’s motivations, needs and wants as much as possible. Psychographic data should include the following points:

Where are you going to sell your products?

Outline your sales channels, both future and existing. For example, your main point-of-sale might be your ecommerce site. Be sure to include stats on site traffic and conversions so readers know how your site is performing.

Still, you might also offer your products online on marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Etsy. Explain how each of these channels is performing and how you’re optimizing them for product discoverability and conversions (eg: following SEO best practices, using high-quality images, highlighting user-generated content).

Identify your company overview.

Tell your brand's story , its purpose, and how the company was founded. In addition to the company description, provide details on how you currently run the business. List your business partners and employees and describe the business's legal structure.

The best brand names are memorable and communicate the essence of your business. Brand names gain icon status because they represent an excellent product or service, so don’t obsess over it.

That said, the right brand name can be your brand’s most valuable asset, driving differentiation and speeding acceptance. In fact, 71% of consumers prefer to buy from brands they recognize.

If you’re struggling to come up with a name, try using an online brand name generator as a jumping-off point. Remember, you’re not locked into a single brand name forever.

Business structure

Describe the legal structure of your business. Is it a sole proprietorship, LLC, an S-Corp or a partnership? Consider speaking to an accountant if you’re not sure. Who is in charge of the business? List founders and officers and their contributions (both capital and expertise) to the company. Who works for the company? Include an org chart that illustrates who currently works for the business and the roles you plan to hire for . List their responsibilities, salaries and terms of employment (freelance, full-time, part-time).[

Your business structure]( ) affects how much you pay in taxes, your ability to raise money, the paperwork you must file and your personal liability in the event of business bankruptcy, so this information is important to lenders. Also mention if you have filed or plan to file for any applicable licenses or permits.

Domain name

Register a unique domain name for your business. A catchy brand name is essential because the domain is less likely to have been claimed by another business. Keep your domain name as short as possible and ensure it includes your brand name for SEO purposes.

Your mission describes the fundamental purpose of your business. It should tell people why the business exists and how it benefits its customers. For example, LinkedIn’s mission statement is “connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful.”

However, be careful not to exaggerate. An overly aspirational mission statement is disingenuous and wishy-washy — no single corporation or small business will single-handedly “change the world.”

A vision statement is a declaration of what you want your business to achieve in the future by fulfilling its purpose. It describes your company’s “why,” while the mission statement describes the “who” and “what” of the business.

Your vision statement should define your values as a business (eg: reducing waste generated by single-use toiletries) and future goals (achieving a zero-waste world by implementing a circular economy).

Background information

Tell the story of how you conceived your business idea. Say you’re a former school teacher who discovered your artistic flair from making handmade pottery in your garage on weekends. Describe how your business has grown and changed since you first started it.

Your team and key people

List the key personnel in your company. Aside from the founders and executive team, who keeps the business running each day? Here are a few examples:

Company owner — that’s probably you.

CEO — that’s probably also you.

Management team.

Customer service manager.

Logistics manager.

PR and social media specialist.

Advertising manager.

SEO manager.


Conduct market research.

Ecommerce businesses face intense competition and are liable to market disruptions because they rely on third parties (suppliers, shipping companies, wholesalers) to deliver a product or service. Knowing the market in and out will help you build a more resilient business.

A market analysis considers your ideal customer (their purchase habits and behaviors), competitors (their strengths and weaknesses), market conditions (industry trends and long-term outlook), and how your business fits into this landscape.

The point of a target market analysis is to:

Identify the most and least valuable markets.

Develop buyer personas.

Find gaps in the market to fill.

Assess the viability of a product or service.

Improve business strategy .

Market opportunities

The first step to identifying your target market is determining your total addressable market (TAM) — the maximum market size for your product or service. Who are your customers? What are their demographic and psychographic traits? When and how often will they buy your product?

The best way to obtain a high-level overview of your customer base is to consult your social media and web analytics. These dashboards show where your customers live, their age, gender, general interests and more. You can also use U.S. Census Bureau data to pad up this information.

Competitive analysis

Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your current and potential competitors. First, find out who your direct and indirect competitors are. You can perform a Google search of businesses that sell similar products or scope out rivals in your local area.

Here’s what you need to know about your competitors:

What markets and segments they serve.

What benefits they offer.

Why their customers buy from them.

Details of products and services, including pricing and promotional strategies.

Search for publicly available information about your competitors. Aside from that, do some of your own primary research. Visit their website and complete an order or visit their physical outlet.

Next, analyze the information. Is there a segment of the market your competition has overlooked? Is there a product they don’t supply? Did you have a bad customer experience when you walked into the store?

Detail your competitive advantage in your business plan. Don’t just list things that your competitors do — that’s not analysis. The competitive analysis section aims to persuade the reader that you are knowledgeable about the competition and that your business idea has a significant advantage over the competition.

Products and services

List the products and services you provide and how customers will access them. If you’re selling digital products, will customers have to stream or download the content? Do they pay a subscription fee to access a content platform or do they pay for each individual content piece? If you’re providing a service, will you provide it on physical premises or will you travel to customers’ homes? Will you sell physical products in a physical store or online? What is your website like? List each product, including a short product description and pricing information.

Develop a marketing plan.

You need a go-to-market strategy if you haven’t already launched your business. How will you spread the word about your business? How and where will you advertise and what is your budget? If you run social media ads, for example, what platforms will you use and who is your target audience? Will you do content marketing and SEO? A thorough marketing plan answers all of these important questions.

Marketing channels

Define which channels match your consumer demographic. Do your potential customers spend time on Facebook or do they prefer YouTube? First, figure out where your potential customers are. Next, create attention-grabbing marketing strategies and use them to reach your customer base.

Paid marketing channels

PPC advertising : Advertise on Google’s search engine and pay only once someone clicks on your ad. You can bid for ad placement in the search engine’s sponsored links when someone searches a keyword related to your business offering.

Affiliate marketing : Embed links to another business’s products in your content and receive a commission when someone makes a purchase using your unique affiliate link.

Social media ads : Run paid ads on social media apps and platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to reach targeted audiences. Ads can use different creatives such as images, videos and GIFs.

Influencer marketing : Work with a popular influencer who will promote your products to their followers. Influencers are paid based on conversions or reach.

Organic marketing channels

Brands must use an organic marketing strategy to build brand awareness and engagement and drive website traffic.

Examples include:

Search engine optimization (SEO) : Optimize your website, web pages and blog posts for maximum discoverability on search engines. This involves doing keyword research for your industry, creating high-quality content that attracts and converts and using keywords in the right places.

Social media posts : Organic social media posts build brand awareness and humanize the brand by providing a behind-the-scenes look at the company and allowing you to share engaging visual content to inspire, educate and entertain.

Blogger networks : Collaborating with trusted bloggers on link exchanges can help you build website backlinks, improving your search engine ranking.

Content marketing : Organic content includes blog posts, white papers, SEO pages, and more. This gives you content to post on social media and improves the discoverability of your website. Websites that publish high-quality content consistently rank higher in search results.

Email marketing : Create email templates for new and potential customers, cart abandonment, promotions and announcements and more.

Logistics and Operations plan

This portion of the business plan covers what you physically need to run your ecommerce company. Basically, it outlines how you’ll manage the flow of goods from the supplier (you or a third party) to the consumer. You cannot start a business without an established supply chain.

Your logistics and operations plan should cover the following:

Suppliers : Where do your raw materials or products come from? Do you work with a manufacturer who produces your product idea or are you reselling products from a supplier, wholesaler or distributor? What is the minimum order value? Do they require payment upfront or after the sale? Do you have a backup supplier in case demand spikes or there is a problem with fulfillment?

Production : Will you create your own products or use a third-party manufacturer or dropshipping company? If you’re creating your own products, where will this be done? What assets and equipment do you need? What are your operating costs?

Shipping and fulfillment : Outline how the product will reach the end consumer. How long will it take you to pack and ship products to customers? Will you use a third-party shipper? Will you ship internationally?

Inventory : How much inventory will you keep on hand and where will you put it? How will you track incoming and outgoing inventory? Do you need warehouse storage space?

Establish a financial plan.

The financial section of your business plan is where you prove the feasibility of your business idea and calculate your startup costs. It includes financial projections and statements that show your business’s current financial position and project where you hope to be in the future. This is one of the essential components of the business plan, particularly if you are seeking investment funding, a bank loan or a business partner.

Income statement

In this document, you’ll forecast the company’s revenues and expenses during a particular period. Total revenue is the sum of both operating and non-operating revenues while total expenses include those incurred by primary and secondary activities.

If you subtract your expenses from your revenue sources, you’ll come up with your bottom line (profit or loss).

Balance sheet

A balance sheet helps you calculate how much equity you have in your business. It summarizes your company’s assets (what you own), your liabilities (what you owe) and equity (money invested into the business plus profits).

A balance sheet enables you to calculate your net worth. All of your assets (machinery, inventory, business premises, etc.) go in a column on the left and your liabilities (accounts and wages payable, business loan repayments, business credit card payments, taxes) go in a column on the right. If you subtract your liabilities from your assets, you get your business’ shareholder equity.

Cash-flow statement

This document shows how much cash is generated and spent over a time period. Cash flow determines whether your business is primarily gaining or losing money. Positive cash flow and profit margins are important because it enables your business to repay bank loans, purchase commodities and keep the lights on.

How to Increase Ecommerce Sales

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The Final Word

Writing a comprehensive business plan is crucial not only for staying on track in the first year or so after launching your business but also for securing funding, finding a business partner and evaluating the viability of your business idea.

FAQs About Ecommerce Business Plans

Who needs an ecommerce business plan, what are the benefits of creating a business plan, how do i start an ecommerce business with no money, browse additional resources.

Hey there! Free trials are available for Standard and Essentials plans. Start for free today.

Develop an Effective E‑Commerce Business Plan

Discover the key elements of a successful e‑commerce business plan. Drive sales and achieve goals with a strategic roadmap in place.

Developing an effective e-commerce business plan is critical for any entrepreneur looking to establish and grow a successful online store. A business plan serves as a roadmap for your e-commerce business, outlining your goals, strategies, and the necessary steps to achieve them.

Understanding what a business plan is and why it's essential is the first step toward building a solid foundation for your online business.

An e-commerce business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines your business strategy and goals, target market, marketing strategies, financial projections, and operational plan. It provides you with a structured blueprint to guide decision-making and ensure the long-term success of your e-commerce company.

In this article, we'll explore the critical components of e-commerce business plans and provide insights on creating your business plan. Whether you're an e-commerce startup entrepreneur or an existing business owner looking to expand into e-commerce, a well-crafted business plan will be a valuable tool to attract investors, guide your operations, and beat out your competition.

Keep reading to learn more about e-commerce business plans and how to begin crafting one for your e-commerce company.

Before starting an e-commerce business , you should have a clear plan. A business plan provides a clear strategic direction for your business. It defines your business plan, goals, target market, and unique value proposition. By outlining your business objectives, you can stay focused on your long-term vision and make informed decisions that align with your overall strategy.

Market research and analysis are key to crafting an e-commerce business plan. You can't successfully build a marketing strategy without knowing who you're marketing to and your competitors. This process gives you insights into your industry, direct and indirect competitors, and target market.

Understanding market trends and customer preferences helps e-commerce businesses position their stores, identify opportunities, and address potential challenges.

Another aspect of an e-commerce business plan is financial planning and resource allocation. By forecasting your revenue, expenses, and profit margins, you can assess the economic viability of your e-commerce business. This helps in resource allocation, budgeting, and setting realistic financial goals.

Additionally, your business plan outlines your day-to-day operations. This includes logistics, inventory management, customer service, and more. Planning for operational efficiency ensures smooth business operations, fast order fulfillment, and a positive customer experience.

Effective planning plays a crucial role in achieving long-term goals for any venture. A well-structured business plan guides the business by outlining strategies, setting clear objectives, and anticipating potential challenges.

Key elements of a comprehensive e-commerce business plan

A comprehensive e-commerce business plan addresses key elements that lay the groundwork for success. Every business plan template or example you'll come across will require these components, and they're something you should plan for the future.

Let's explore the crucial elements of your business plan and how they help your online store succeed.

Executive summary

The executive summary is the snapshot of your entire e-commerce business plan. It provides a concise overview of your business, its mission, goals, and strategies to achieve them.

Investors and stakeholders often base their initial impressions of a business on the executive summary, making it a critical section in determining whether they want to learn more.

To create an engaging executive summary, highlight the uniqueness of your e-commerce business. Consider the business model, its market opportunity, and the strategies that set you apart.

Market analysis

Market analysis comprehensively examines your industry, target market, and competitors.

Understanding the market landscape can help you identify opportunities, mitigate risks, and tailor your strategies to meet customer needs effectively. This component provides the context necessary for informed decision-making and strategic positioning.

Market research involves gathering data on market trends, consumer behavior, and competitor strategies. Use research methods like surveys, interviews, and industry reports. Analyze demographic, psychographic, and behavioral factors to paint a detailed picture of your target audience. This information can then be used to guide product development and marketing. 

Product and service description

Clearly defining your products and services helps to communicate your value proposition to potential investors and customers. This component of your e-commerce business plan outlines what sets your offerings apart and addresses the specific needs of your target audience. 

Clarity in product and service descriptions helps customers understand your business and its offerings and helps internal teams align their efforts with the overall business strategy. 

Present your products and services in a way that resonates with your target audience. Emphasize unique features, benefits, and how your offerings solve customer pain points. Use visuals such as high-quality images or graphics to enhance the presentation. 

You should also clearly articulate your competitive advantage and address any gaps in the market that your product or services fill. This component should leave readers of your business plan with a compelling understanding of why your offerings are a must-have for your target customers. 

Marketing and sales strategies

Every successful e-commerce business has marketing and sales strategies to support it. Your marketing plan serves as a driver behind customer acquisition and revenue generation. Effective marketing creates awareness and builds brand loyalty while engaging customers throughout their online journey. 

Combining robust marketing efforts with strategic sales tactics is essential for maximizing conversion rates and ensuring sustainable growth in a competitive market. Again, crafting effective marketing strategies requires deeply understanding your target audience, using the proper channels, and delivering compelling messages. 

To reach your audience, leverage digital marketing strategies such as social media marketing, email and SMS campaigns, and search engine optimization (SEO). Implement data-driven approaches, analyze customer behavior, and optimize the user experience to enhance conversion rates. A seamless integration of marketing and sales efforts is key to staying ahead. 

Financial projections

Accurate financial projects provide a realistic view of the business's financial health to promote better decision-making and resource allocation while attracting potential investors.

Financial projections include revenue forecasts, expense estimates, and profitability assessments that can help you achieve financial goals and sustain long-term viability and growth. 

Consider market trends, customer demand, and pricing strategies when forecasting revenue. Analyze your cost structure, including production, marketing, and operational expenses, to protect accurate financial outcomes. 

You can use historical data if available and adjust for anticipated changes in the market. Regularly revisit and update your financial projections to reflect the evolving nature of your business.

A tailored e-commerce business plan is crucial to building a successful online store. While the key components above can guide you, writing a business plan specific to your company is crucial.

Follow these steps to write your business plan: 

1. Write your executive summary

Start by succinctly articulating the essence of your e-commerce business. Clearly state your mission, vision, and unique value proposition. Highlight what sets your business apart in the online market. You should also outline your business's short-term and long-term goals.

Express how your e-commerce business aims to meet the needs of your target audience and contribute to the market. 

2. Perform market analysis

Conduct a thorough analysis of the e-commerce market you're entering. Identify your target audience, analyze market trends, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. 

Create detailed customer personas to understand your ideal customer's demographics, preferences, and behaviors. This information will guide product development and future marketing strategies. 

3. Craft your product and service descriptions

Clearly define your products and services. Highlight their unique features, benefits, and how they fulfill the target audience's needs. Use visuals to enhance understanding. 

When detailing your products and services, articulate your competitive advantage. Explain why your target customers should choose your offerings over competitors. Showcase any innovative elements or unique selling points. 

4. Build marketing and sales strategies

Develop a cohesive marketing and sales strategy that aligns with your business goals. Use digital marketing channels, social media, and content marketing to create brand awareness and engage customers. 

Outline specific sales tactics to maximize conversions. Consider discounts, promotions, and effective call-to-action strategies to encourage online purchases. 

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5. Detail your finances

Project your revenue based on market demand, pricing strategies, and sales forecasts. Be realistic and transparent about your assumptions. Consider different scenarios to assess potential outcomes. 

You should also review your expenses and detail any operational and marketing costs. Break down production, advertising, and logistics costs to ensure your expense projections align with your revenue forecasts.

6. Outline operations

Outline your operational processes, including logistics, inventory management, and order fulfillment. Ensure scalability to accommodate growth. 

Don't forget about customer service. Detail how you'll manage customer inquiries and complaints. Whether through chat support, email, or phone, articulate how you'll provide excellent customer service. 

7. Manage risks

Anticipate potential risks and challenges. Whether it's market fluctuations, supply chain disruptions, or technological issues, have contingency plans in place. 

Outline strategies for adapting to unforeseen circumstances. This may involve diversifying suppliers, having logistical backup plans, or implementing agile business processes that can adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics. 

8. Monitor and adapt

Set a schedule to review and update your business plan regularly. Ensure that it evolves with market, industry, or internal process changes. 

Ensure you set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your strategies. Monitor customer acquisition cost, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction to gauge performance.

Regularly updating your e-commerce business plan is essential to keeping it dynamic and aligned with the evolving business landscape. As markets change, consumer behavior shifts and new technologies emerge, your business plan should reflect these developments to remain relevant and effective. 

When adapting your plan, stay informed about industry trends, continuously monitor customer feedback and preferences, and be open to revising your strategies based on data-driven insights. Consider integrating agile business processes that allow flexibility and quick adjustments to seize new opportunities or address emerging challenges. 

Start your own business and create your business plan with Mailchimp. We offer tools to enhance various aspects of your e-commerce business. From email marketing to customer relationship management (CRM) and analytics, Mailchimp provides solutions to help you connect with your audience, measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, and adapt your marketing strategies based on real-time data. logo

How To Make an E-commerce Business Plan

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Every e-commerce business needs a plan. As the old saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” The rise in easy-to-use and affordable  e-commerce platforms  has facilitated a huge increase in the number of successful online businesses. But that’s not all your business needs to thrive.

A profitable and long-lasting online store requires forward planning, and an e-commerce business plan is essential in helping you lay the foundations for your business’s future growth and success. In this article, we’ll go through:

  • What an e-commerce business plan looks like
  • Who needs one
  • Why you need one
  • Everything you need to include in your own plan

What Is an E-commerce Business Plan?

Man leaned back looking up at various graphics.

An e-commerce business plan is a written document that details and outlines your business, your business goals, and how to achieve them. It also describes how you plan to maintain and scale your business, financial plans, customer base, and many other details that help you manage the direction of your e-commerce business.

Why Is an E-commerce Business Plan Important?

Far from just another task on your to-do list, an e-commerce business plan plays a crucial strategic role in the success of your venture. Below are just a few ways an e-commerce business plan helps you achieve your business goals, highlights your pain points, and helps you to plan for the future.

Helps You Develop Your Value Proposition and USP

A common problem for e-commerce business owners is how to differentiate their stores from the hordes of others that exist. However, even if you don’t have an e-commerce niche, it’s still possible to distinguish your store from the rest by developing a solid value proposition and unique selling proposition (USP).

When you start to put pen to paper about what makes your business unique, you’ll begin thinking about factors you haven’t thought of before. Much like a mind map, you’ll start small, and expand on your original ideas and goals. You’ll be surprised how much an e-commerce business plan can help you evaluate, clarify, and refine your value proposition and USP and, in turn, understand the scope of your business.

Helps You Establish Business Goals

Making a profit is a priority when it comes to business goals, but an e-commerce business plan helps you outline exactly how you’ll achieve that. Getting a plan down on paper helps you create realistic goals, separate your short-term goals from the long-term ones, and specify exactly what you can do to achieve them.

Helps You Avoid Making Mistakes

E-commerce business plans not only help you realize what you need to do to achieve your goals but also what you should avoid doing. Your business plan will help you identify common mistakes that you may be at risk of making before it’s too late. For example, targeting the wrong customer base, choosing the wrong e-commerce tools, or not doing enough research into  dropshipping  options.

Helps You Identify Opportunities

Usually, when you embark on your e-commerce venture, your product is front and center of your mind. However, an e-commerce business plan helps you identify opportunities to promote your product, expand and differentiate your business, and build any relevant partnerships.

Helps You Evaluate Your Competitors

Once you get stuck into your e-commerce business plan, you also get immersed in what your competitors are doing well, what they’re not doing well, and any opportunities you have to plug gaps you may not have explored.

Who Needs an E-commerce Business Plan?

Illustration of a person pushing a shopping cart across a laptop.

No matter where you are in your e-commerce journey ― whether you’re just started out, are looking for investors, or have been running your online store for a while ― everyone needs an e-commerce business plan. Every stage of your online business needs a plan to be successful.

At the beginning of your e-commerce venture, an e-commerce business plan helps you put your goals into action and estimate how much time and money you’ll need to make these goals a reality.

When you want to attract investors, an e-commerce business plan helps you outline why your business is worth their investment. When you want to grow your business, you need a plan to help you work out how exactly to take your business to the next level.

What To Include in Your E-commerce Business Plan

Your e-commerce business plan is the cornerstone of your business. It lays out clearly the how, why, what, when, and where of all of your business goals, which can sound quite complex.

This level of information can feel overwhelming. To make writing your e-commerce business plan simpler, we’ve broken down the main sections you’ll need to address into digestible sections.

Business plan outline example.

Executive Summary

Like the synopsis of a book, an executive summary gives anyone who reads your business plan a high-level understanding of what your business does, what your goals are, and how you’re going to achieve them.

Even if you’re creating a business plan for your eyes only, an executive summary helps you reaffirm your business concept and ideas. An executive summary should be a one-page document that outlines:

  • The business concept
  • Your products and services
  • Vision and goals
  • Current and future financial state
  • Your expected growth trajectory
  • Your marketing strategy

Your Product and Services Plan

In this section, you’ll highlight exactly what products and/or services you will sell. This is your chance to think about how your products serve customers, what makes them unique, and why they’re worth a certain price point.

You’ll also expand upon how your products are sourced, manufactured, and stored, how much they cost to produce, and what the life cycle of your product or service is. If you sell multiple products or services, highlight the key, high-level features of each.

Ecommerce graphic with various symbols including a credit card, shopping cart, coins, purse, and a globe.

Market Analysis

Any successful e-commerce venture starts with knowing your specific market inside and out, which requires an in-depth market analysis. This section will outline:

  • Industry trends and growth:  Think about where there are opportunities in the industry, where the market is saturated, and how you can exploit any gaps in the market.
  • Competitor analysis:  Who are your main competitors and how can you compete with them realistically? What will you do differently? What will you do better?
  • Buyer personas:  Who will buy your product or services and why? What key demographics will you serve and how will you make your product or service attractive to them?

Customer Profile

Building on your buyer personas, this section helps you delve into the personality, habits, and lifestyle of your target customers. This benefits you when creating your marketing plan since you’ll know who to target and how. Include information like:

  • Where they live
  • Their age bracket
  • Their job title
  • Their income level
  • Their lifestyle choices
  • Their shopping patterns

Marketing Plan

Customer profiles are the bedrock of every marketing plan. They’ll inform how, where, why, to who, and when to market your products or services.

Your marketing plan section should be as detailed as possible since it will form the basis of how you’ll get the eyes of potential customers on your product. At the very least, your marketing plan should include:

  • Information on pricing points:  How much does your product or service cost? Why does it cost this much?
  • The product or service:  Again, how does your product or service stand out from the crowd, and how can you showcase its originality?
  • Where you’ll market your product or service:  Which sales and marketing channels do you use to promote your products? Why are these channels a priority?
  • Financial information:  How much will you spend on your marketing efforts?

Financial Plan and Projections

Of course, the success of your e-commerce store hinges on how well you manage and plan your finances. Most financial plans include:

  • An income statement
  • A balance sheet
  • A cash-flow statement

If you haven’t yet launched your store, it’s best to focus on your financial projections for the first six months of your business. Your projections will take into account your proposed customer base, marketing plans, expected expenses, and potential profit.

Prioritize Your E-commerce Business Plan and Set Your Store Up for Success

Every successful business venture starts with a solid foundation and creating an e-commerce business plan gives you the chance to:

  • Identify opportunities
  • Assess any potential risks
  • Gauge how viable your e-commerce business is
  • Overcome future hurdles
  • Learn about the aspects of the business you’re unfamiliar with

An e-commerce business plan isn’t just another pile of paperwork, but a vital step in securing the success of your business.

What Should You Do Next?

A thorough and well-researched business plan is paramount to bringing your e-commerce business from the planning phase to the launch phase. Choose the  best e-commerce platform  that allows you to manage your e-commerce website, products, sales, marketing, and inventory, all in a single location.  

Evaluate your KPIs  (key performance indicators) as often as possible. It assesses your e-commerce business’ growth if it’s still on track in reaching the goals you set out in your business plan. The best KPIs provide meaningful and actionable insights to grow your e-commerce business. Use the insights to optimize your customer experience across the buyer’s journey. 

A good e-commerce business plan is driven by research and data. To keep it smart and realistic, update your forecast by identifying what works and what doesn’t. Seek opportunities to sustain the financial growth of your e-commerce business, and your growth as an e-entrepreneur. Good habits help you grow faster, keep on learning, and expand your knowledge on how to thrive as an e-entrepreneur.

Rhiân Davies Avatar

business planning in e commerce

How (and Why) to Write Your Ecommerce Business Plan

Reviewed by

December 22, 2021

This article is Tax Professional approved

Visions of becoming a successful ecommerce entrepreneur may have you browsing domain name ideas and virtual storefront websites. After all, what’s easier than launching an online business from your living room in just a few clicks?

What's Bench?

I am the text that will be copied.

The truth is that prospective ecommerce business owners who don’t have a step-by-step plan can face major challenges later on. An ecommerce business plan can help you anticipate future growth and avoid common obstacles.

Why you need an ecommerce business plan

You may wonder why a business plan is even necessary if you’re just going to have an online store.

Even though you won’t be selling products out of a traditional brick-and-mortar shop, you still have to clarify your goals, finances, suppliers, and marketing strategies. More importantly, you can use the plan to convince prospective lenders and investors to back your ecommerce company financially.

Without a roadmap for planning your online shop, it’s easy to lose direction and focus. The ecommerce business plan serves as your guide on your journey from a small start-up to a potentially profitable venture. A solidly written business plan will not only help you get your business off the ground, but it will also be an indispensable tool to help with future expansion.

An e-commerce business plan can help you:

  • Validate your business idea.
  • Define your target audience and which products and services to sell.
  • Detail the financial, physical, and human resources you need to get the business off the ground.
  • Create a game plan, including measurable goals, for sales and future expansion.
  • Understand who your competition is and how you will gain the upper hand in the marketplace.
  • Convince investors and lenders to help you establish your business and expand later on.

What an ecommerce business plan includes

An ecommerce business plan will act as the guide describing the how’s and why’s of your future business.

The plan should include the following:

  • Values that the business will offer to customers and clients. These can include finances, time, convenience, and customer service.
  • How and when your ecommerce business will be profitable.
  • Any resources necessary to operate the business, such as funding, employees, and equipment.
  • Plans for expansion, including new products or services you plan to offer in the future.
  • How your business stacks up against the competition.
  • Current financial reports and projections.

Writing your ecommerce business plan

Now that you know what to include, you can begin writing your formal ecommerce business plan. There are many free business plan templates available for download, but we like this easy-to-follow ecommerce business plan template from the Shopify website .

Templates and formats will vary, but there are five main components you should always include in your ecommerce business plan:

1. Executive summary

Think of the executive summary as an introductory short story about your business that should draw potential investors into the rest of the plan. This first section sets the stage for your small business and should leave readers with a strong impression.

Make sure you address the following factors:

  • The business name and domain name, both of which should be easy to remember and accurately reflect what you’re marketing.
  • The products and services your business will provide.
  • The target market for your business.
  • If the ecommerce site will be run from your home or from a rented office space.
  • Short and long-term goals of the business.
  • What marketing strategies you plan to use.

For example, say your business is going to specialize in sugar-free candy. You’ll can use your executive summary to introduce the business with an easy-to-remember name—something like “The Low Sugar Shop,” maybe—with a similarly catchy domain name to go with it.

2. Company overview

This section, also known as the company description, could be considered a biography of the company. Be sure to include in-depth details, such as:

  • The history of the company, including how you came up with the idea for the business.
  • The legal structure of the business (LLC, S corporation, C corporation).
  • If you are a B2B or B2C ecommerce business.
  • The management team, as well as any partners.

The company overview should also include your mission statement, which is the reason you are starting the business. It can be a simple statement or a more detailed description.

A sample mission statement

For your sugar-free candy shop, a mission statement might look something like this:

The Low Sugar Shop is dedicated to offering a wide variety of the highest quality, low and no sugar candy at affordable prices. At the Low Sugar Shop, we believe sugar-free candy should be just as satisfying as its high-sugar counterparts. That’s why we offer a complete line of the most popular low and sugar-free candy available today.

3. Market research and analysis

Every business needs a market—without customers, your business won’t succeed. How you identify your market is key to your ecommerce business’s success. The more information you have about your potential customers, the more faith your investors and lenders will have in your business.

Recent industry reports can usually be found online, and they’re a great place to research growth in your target market. These reports include information such as how much growth there is in the industry, what may be causing this growth, and the demographics of the industry’s largest customer segments.

The market analysis section should include:

  • The demographics of your target market, such as population size, age, education, and income level. If it’s a niche market, is there enough demand for your business to be successful?
  • The needs and search habits of your target customers, as well as your ability to meet these demands.
  • Your anticipated competitors, as well as what will differentiate your business from theirs. This requires some competitive analysis to uncover their key product features, pricing strategy, monthly website traffic, mission statement, and business model.
  • Once you know what you’re up against, you can strategize ways to stay ahead of your competition, such as offering unique products, concentrating on specific in-demand items, and offering more attractive discounts.
  • Your marketing plan, including the marketing channels you plan to use.
  • Your marketing strategy will be informed by your previous work in this section since the shopping behaviors of your target personas will impact where you choose to advertise. This will include social media and any paid advertising methods, such as pay-per-click ads, affiliate marketing, and influencers. You can also include other unpaid strategies you may use, like email marketing or writing SEO-driven blogs and articles to help increase traffic to your website.

Market research for the Low Sugar Shop

To continue our example, in conducting your industry research for the Low Sugar Shop, you discover there is tremendous growth in this area since many people are cutting down on their sugar intake for health reasons. The taste and quality of sugar-free candy have also improved significantly in recent years, adding to the demand and appealing to more consumers.

Your research also indicates that your target demographic will be relatively well-educated, health-conscious consumers in their 40s and 50s.

Your candy business can start by looking into the popularity of specific brands of other low-sugar and sugar-free candy products. This information gives you an idea of how to stock your ecommerce store so that you meet that demand.

Include how you will target your advertising, which in this case may be in publications and websites that cater to healthy eating.

4. Logistics and operations

If your business will be selling physical products, your logistics and operations plan will describe how your ecommerce business will manage product inventory and deliveries. This is where you can demonstrate a thorough understanding of your supply chain, including contingency plans for any issues with timelines and raw materials.

If you are only selling digital or virtual items, this will not be an issue. However, you must still specify how these items will be delivered, such as via email or by navigating to a download website. This assures your stakeholders that your products will be readily available for your customers upon request.

This section of your business plan should contain the following information:

  • Where you will obtain your inventory from, and how much lead time is needed to ensure adequate stock of all your products. Include who your suppliers are along with their costs. This includes any wholesalers to purchase products in bulk for resale or if you plan on using a dropshipping service.
  • The amount of inventory you will have on hand and how it will be stored.
  • Any restrictions for shipping to international customers.
  • The projected packing and shipping times of your products from your wholesaler and estimated shipping time to your customers.
  • Any contingency plans you have in place for peak demand periods.

5. Financial plan and projections

Prospective stakeholders will go over your financial plan with a fine-tooth comb. After all, they want to be assured that they are making a wise investment in your ecommerce business.

This section shows potential investors how long it will take you to make your expenses back and help determine if you need a business loan.

You’ll need to include the following supporting documents in this section:

  • Income statement : Your income statement includes all of your projected startup costs, including supplies, licenses, fees, and deposits, as well as costs for creating the business structure. Be sure to include additional fixed expenses, such as domain name registration and server fees. Your variable projected expenses are the cost of products sold and credit card payment fees.
  • You can calculate your projected net income by subtracting all of the above expenses from your projected total revenue.
  • Startup balance sheet: Your balance sheet lists the business’s assets, such as inventory, equipment, supplies, on one side and liabilities, such as taxes and loan repayments, on the other.
  • Subtract the liabilities from the assets to arrive at a projected amount of shareholder equity.
  • Cash flow statement : The cash flow statement documents your projected cash inflow and outflow. Here you will list the amount of money you plan on having at the beginning of each month, total sources of cash from sales, loans, lines of credit, and expenses you plan on incurring.

How Bench can help

A detailed projection of your start-up costs and revenue assures investors that you’ve carefully considered every possibility, which makes your ecommerce business a better bet. Stakeholder confidence soars when you can provide professionally prepared financial statements to prove that you already have a solid bookkeeping system in place.

Bench can help by assigning a dedicated bookkeeper to handle your pre-revenue startup tasks, including preparing your projected financials.

After your e commerce business is off and running, your Bench bookkeeper keeps your books in order so you can focus on the day-to-day responsibilities of your new business. Learn more .

Putting it all together

We get it: writing up a business plan may not be the most exciting activity, but it can save you time and money in the long run and help prepare you for the challenges ahead. The plan puts all of your ideas, questions, and concerns with their solutions in writing, providing a roadmap that guides you throughout your business start-up journey.

Join over 140,000 fellow entrepreneurs who receive expert advice for their small business finances

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business planning in e commerce

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Ecommerce Business Plan Template

Written by Dave Lavinsky

Growthink Ecommerce Business Plan Template

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their ecommerce businesses. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through an ecommerce business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.

Download our Ultimate Ecommerce Business Plan Template here >

What Is An Ecommerce Business Plan?

An ecommerce business plan is a detailed and comprehensive document that outlines the strategies, objectives, and operational blueprint of an online business. It serves as a roadmap guiding the company’s operations and growth within the dynamic and competitive digital marketplace. The plan typically covers various aspects, including market analysis, target audience identification, product or service offerings, marketing and sales strategies, competitive analysis, financial projections, and risk assessments.

Why You Need an Ecommerce Business Plan ecommerce

Source of Funding for Ecommerce Businesses

With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for an ecommerce business are bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.

The second most common form of funding for an ecommerce business is angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan.

Venture capitalists will fund an ecommerce business but not in its infancy. You will need to first achieve sales traction. Once you do that venture capitalists might invest $2 million to $100 million into your business over time.

Finish Your Business Plan Today!

Below are the 10 sections a sample ecommerce business plan should include:

Executive Summary

Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.

The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of ecommerce business you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup or do you have an ecommerce business that you would like to grow further.

Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the ecommerce business industry. Discuss the type of ecommerce business you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your financial plan.

Company Analysis

Growthink ecommerce businessman

For example, you might operate one of the following types of ecommerce businesses.

Ecommerce businesses based on businesses model:

  • Drop Shipping: you sell the product on your website and the product’s supplier fulfills it
  • Wholesaling And Warehousing: you sell the product on your website and the fulfill it yourself (through your own warehouse and systems)
  • Private Labeling And Manufacturing: you sell the product on your website and you manufacture it yourself or have someone manufacture it for you
  • White Labeling: you sell the product on your website and have someone manufacture it for you (but unlike private label, your product is not unique; the manufacturer is also creating the product under other brand names)
  • Subscription: you sell the product or service on your website on a subscription basis (customer pays you every week/month/year)

Ecommerce businesses based on customer model:

  • Business-to-Business (B2B): your business is selling to other businesses
  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C): your business is selling to consumers
  • Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C): your business provides a platform for consumers to sell to other consumers (e.g., ebay)
  • Consumer-to-Business (C2B): your business provides a platform for consumers to sell to businesses
  • Business-to-Government/Administration (B2A): your business is selling to governments or administrative agencies
  • Consumer-to-Government/Administration (C2A): your business provides a platform for consumers to sell or communicate with governments or administrative agencies

In addition to explaining the type of ecommerce business you operate, the Company Analysis section of your business plan needs to provide background on the business.

Include answers to question such as:

  • When and why did you start the business?
  • What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include sales goals you’ve reached, customer milestones, etc.
  • Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.

Industry Analysis

ecommerce business

While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.

First, researching the ecommerce business industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.

Secondly, market research can improve your strategy particularly if your research identifies market trends. For example, if there was a trend towards subscription businesses, it would be helpful to ensure your plan calls for offering subscription options.

The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.

The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your ecommerce business plan:

  • How big is the ecommerce business (in dollars)?
  • Is the market declining or increasing?
  • Who are the key competitors in the market?
  • Who are the key suppliers in the market?
  • What trends are affecting the industry?
  • What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
  • What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your ecommerce business. You can figure out your relevant market size by multiplying the amount of target customers by the amount they might spend on a product or service like yours each year.

Customer Analysis

The customer analysis section of your ecommerce business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.

The following are examples of customer segments: college students, sports enthusiasts, soccer moms, techies, teens, baby boomers, manufacturing plants, state government agencies, etc.

As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of ecommerce business you operate. Clearly baby boomers would want a different offering and branding than teens or government agencies.

Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve.

Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.

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Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.

Direct competitors are other ecommerce businesses.

Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from you that aren’t direct competitors. This includes offline stores or other ecommerce companies that offer similar products or services. You need to mention such competition to show you understand that not everyone who needs the products or services you provide will frequent a business like yours.

With regards to direct competition, you want to detail the other ecommerce businesses with which you compete. For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:

  • What types of customers do they serve?
  • What products do they offer?
  • What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
  • What are they good at?
  • What are their weaknesses?

With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And check product review websites to learn what your competitors’ customers like most and least about them.

The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:

  • Will you provide superior ecommerce services?
  • Will you provide ecommerce business products/services that your competitors don’t offer?
  • Will you make it easier or faster for customers to acquire your products/services?
  • Will you provide better customer service?
  • Will you offer better pricing?

Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.

Marketing Plan

ecommerce business plan marketing

Product/Service : in the product section you should reiterate the type of ecommerce business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products and/or services you will be offering.

Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the menu of items you offer/will offer and their prices.

Place : Place refers to the location of your ecommerce business. In general, the place for an online business is well, online. But if there is a physical component to your business, document that here.

Promotions : the final part of your ecommerce business marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine marketing
  • Traditional public relations
  • Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
  • Advertising in physical newspapers, magazines, radio and television
  • Partnerships with other websites and/or organizations

Operations Plan

While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.

Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your ecommerce business such as warehousing, invoicing, serving customers, procuring supplies, etc.

Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 10,000th customer, or when you hope to reach $X in sales. It could also be when you expect to hire your Xth employee or launch a new product or service.

Management Team

ecommerce management team plan

Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in the ecommerce business. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.

If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act like mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in ecommerce businesses and/or successfully running retail businesses.

Financial Plan

Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.

Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.

In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you serve 100 customers per day or 200? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.

Balance Sheets : While balance sheets include much information, to simplify them to the key items you need to know about, balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. For instance, if you spend $100,000 on building out your ecommerce business, that will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $100.000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.

Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt. For example, let’s say a company approached you with a massive $100,000 contract, that would cost you $50,000 to fulfill. Well, in most cases, you would have to pay that $50,000 now to fulfill the contract. But let’s say the company didn’t pay you for 180 days. During that 180 day period, you could run out of money.

In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing an ecommerce business:

  • Website and technology buildout
  • Payroll or salaries paid to staff
  • Business insurance
  • Taxes and permits
  • Legal expenses

Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include agreements you’ve negotiated with developers, manufacturers and/or employees.

Ecommerce Business Plan Summary

Putting together a business plan for your ecommerce business is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the online store business plan template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the ecommerce business, your competition and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful ecommerce business.

Download Our Ecommerce Business Plan PDF

You can download our ecommerce business plan PDF here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

Ecommerce Business Plan FAQs

What is the easiest way to complete my ecommerce business plan.

Growthink's Ultimate Ecommerce Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Ecommerce Business Plan.

Where Can I Download a Free Ecommerce Business Plan PDF?

You can download our ecommerce business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

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E-commerce Business Planning

E-commerce stores may on the surface seem like they require less planning than their brick-and-mortar alternatives, but this is a common and incorrect assumption. While you don’t need to organize the practicalities of a physical storefront, there is still a lot of business planning involved for an entrepreneur to create a successful e-commerce store. In fact, without a business plan, it is likely that your business won’t survive in the highly competitive world of e-commerce. This guide is here to help you understand more about e-commerce planning, to ensure that you have the best chance of making your business dreams become a reality.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a written document that outlines, in detail, a business’s core activities, objectives, and the methods they intend to use to achieve these goals. It is vital that you have created a business plan prior to begin operations. Your business plan is your blueprint; it will outline how your processes and operations run.

Why Is a Business Plan so Important?

It is essential that any business creates its own business plan before they begin operating. Taking the time to create a business plan has been found to provide high rewards, as it forces you to build up valuable knowledge, insights, and strategies:

  • You gain a valuable and comprehensive understanding of your target audience
  • You build up knowledge of your competition and their strategies
  • You analyze your projected costs, revenues, and profits
  • You clarify your business model
  • You come up with a well-thought-out action plan
  • You conduct an industry analysis including potential threats and growth opportunities
  • You conclude with a mission statement
  • You develop a brand identity and company values

Without a business plan, companies leave themselves open to a whole host of potential risks, such as:

  • Running up debt
  • Running out of capital
  • Damaging sales from lack of target market understanding
  • Frustrating customers with poor order fulfillment systems
  • Stock issues
  • Wasting resources due to a lack of clarity of goals

If that wasn’t bad enough, without a business plan you will not be able to obtain financing from investors.

What an E-commerce Business Plan Must Cover

A successful e-commerce business plan must include:

  • Market and competitor research
  • Niche identification
  • A marketing plan
  • Operations and processes
  • A mission statement

Market Research

The first step to starting any e-commerce business should be market research. Your intention with market research is to learn more about the industry in which you intend to operate. There are many aspects that you should consider with market research , such as industry trends, keyword analysis, and market size. There are many online tools that you can use to perform your market research. For example, Google Trends is a feature-rich tool that generates graphic data in real-time to inform you of the popularity particular keywords have gained over time. Tools like Google Trends will help you to identify which areas in your industry are gathering and sustaining the most popularity. This knowledge will enable you to create more effective marketing campaigns.

Competitor Research

Whatever area you intend to operate in, you will have competition. It is important that you use the knowledge of your competitors to inform your business planning. Competitor research and analysis can help you learn from other businesses’ actions, enabling you to take inspiration from what others have done successfully and where they have failed. Areas to focus on while completing your competitor research include:

  • Product price points
  • Customer reactions
  • Brand identity
  • Website design

This research should inform your plan so that you are in the best position possible to use successful techniques to fill a market gap.

Niche Identification

Once you have researched and analyzed your market and competitors you can start identifying your e-commerce niche. An e-commerce niche is a specific category in which your products and services fall. Your niche is the specific part of a broader market in which you intend to operate. The reason that an e-commerce niche is so important is that it enables you to define your brand and more effectively target a relevant and valuable audience in a crowded marketplace.

A Marketing Plan

With millions of e-commerce stores currently in operation, it is vital that you plan how you intend on connecting with your target audience. No matter how comprehensive your research, or how innovative your product, without a marketing plan you will not be able to find the customers your business needs to survive. Your marketing plan should be based on an in-depth understanding of your ideal target market, one who suits your e-commerce niche. Knowledge of your target market should be used to inform a range of marketing particles such as:

  • Social media campaigns
  • Keyword usage
  • Influencer partnerships
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Paid advertisements

Operations and Processes

The next step is to organize the practicalities of how you are going to actualize your intentions. You need to consider every part of how your operations will run, from securing the products to the final stretch of the delivery . When you are planning your business operations it is vital that you consider both your customer and your budget. For example, there is no use only using the cheapest suppliers, as low quality will disincentivize returning customers. It is vital that you perform a long-term cost/benefit analysis and find a happy medium between what you can afford and customer quality. You must also put a lot of thought and effort into the packaging design process, as the packaging is the customer’s first impression of your product and will have a lasting impression.

Create a Financial Plan

In order to ensure that you are able to actualize your intentions, you need to plan not only your business process but your funding. Your financial plan should cover a range of different areas such as running costs, projected earnings, recurring expenses, and fulfillment expenses. Your financial plan is there to ensure you are capable of continuing operations in the future.

Mission Statement

Your mission statement should be a short and digestible outline of who you are as a business, what your goals are, and when you intend to achieve them. It is common for a mission statement to appear at the beginning of a written business plan. The reason that it is appearing so far down on this list is that it is useful to wait until you have completed research before outlining your statement.

A business plan will enable you to most effectively make your e-commerce dreams a reality. However, it is not only there to help you get started. Regularly reviewing your plan and comparing your expected progress with reality is a very useful way of keeping your business on track.

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Entrepreneurship is the process of starting a new business venture or developing a product that can impact the community interacting with it. Entrepreneurs identify market needs, develop a business plan, get funding, and build a team who shares their vision to convert it into reality.

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  • I’m sure you’re going to enjoy the beauty of the town walking along the streets. You will find the historic buildings which are now being converted into hotels, restaurants, breweries, etc.
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Ecommerce Business Plan

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So apparently everyone is jumping in to start an ecommerce business. Considering you already have your star product or service ready, you must be very thrilled to launch your business and make your first sale.

However, wait. Is your business plan ready? If you haven’t marked writing a business plan as the most important task on your checklist, you need to do that right away.

We know writing an ecommerce business plan is challenging. As a business owner of this new challenging enterprise, you don’t have much time. But this detailed guide with step-by-step procedures is likely to make the entire process of writing easier for you.

Don’t waste a minute further. Let’s dive right into the topic.

Key Takeaways

  • Elements like executive summary, product or service, operations, marketing and sales plan, management team, and financial plan come together to make a compelling business plan.
  • Determine marketing strategies for your ecommerce business and lay a clear action plan for building a solid brand image.
  • Clearly establish your value propositions, business goals, and objectives to form relevant strategies for your ecommerce company.
  • Make financial projections and consider various progressive and aggressive scenarios to establish the feasibility of your business idea.
  • Identify the gaps and loopholes in your planning and make changes to your business idea accordingly.

Why do you need an Ecommerce business plan?

A business plan has many more advantages apart from helping you get approved for a business loan. Here are a few potential benefits of having one for your ecommerce company:

  • Goals fulfillment: You will have to juggle multiple roles while running your ecommerce store. A well-crafted business plan will offer a roadmap to your business while helping you realize your business goals.
  • Business strategies: A  business plan simplifies your business strategy and helps put the strategies for sales, marketing, and operations in perspective.
  • Market analysis: A business plan strengthens your stand in the market by compelling you to conduct a detailed market analysis of the industry, competitors, and potential customers.
  • Test ideas: An ecommerce plan will help you realize the gaps and errors in your planning. This allows you the luxury to make changes in the business model before investing your money in it.
  • Simplifies the finance: A well-structured business plan lays a clear financial plan for your ecommerce business. The figures will help you understand the profitability, costs, and expenses of the company and its viability in monetary terms.

There’s much more to it. A business plan is like a beam of bright light that will make walking through the woods easier. It’s a living document that will evolve as the business grows.

Key components of an ecommerce business plan

Wondering what goes into making a perfect ecommerce business plan? Well, these are the key components you shouldn’t be missing.

  • Executive summary: The executive summary will highlight the key details of your entire business plan.
  • Business overview: This section will include a brief business overview along with its value proposition, objectives, mission, and vision statement.
  • Market analysis: This section will define your potential customers and competition. A detailed industry analysis and competitors analysis will lay a foundation for important business strategies.
  • Products and services: Define the products and services you will sell to your ideal customer. Also, offer a brief description of each product.
  • Sales and marketing strategy: Highlight your sales and marketing plan to attract your potential customers. From content marketing to social media- include every detail of your strategies here.
  • Operations plan: A well-defined plan that will help you run a smooth online business. Clearly defined process for inventory, order fulfillment, sales, storage, etc.
  • Management team: A brief introduction of your company’s management team and their expertise in the field.
  • Financial plan: Includes detailed financial forecasts and key reports like balance sheet, cash flow, P&L, and investment plan.

There is no definite format for business plans. However, a comprehensive plan accounts for all these components and makes it effective.

How to Write an Ecommerce Business Plan: A Complete Guide

From undertaking thorough market research to creating a marketing plan- uncover every detail on writing an effective plan for your online business with this guide.

1. Get an Ecommerce business plan template

Crafting a stellar business plan is a challenge. However, it can be the most precious reward for your business if you manage to write it comprehensively.

The process of translating your business idea into a business plan is lengthy and time-consuming. One is likely to leave behind an important detail or two without any definite format.

This is why you need an Ecommerce business plan template to write your plan in a structurally organized format. A template will help streamline your thoughts, organize the vision, and bring your ideas to life effortlessly.

Let’s not look elsewhere for a perfect template. Upmetrics business plan template is intuitive and is enriched with relevant examples that can be easily used as a reference while writing your plan.

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2. Write an executive summary

Executive summary is a concise rundown of key points that summarizes your business plan. Though presented at first, it should be written in the end after you have walked through all the other aspects of planning.

Consider it as a document that will offer a brief insight into your overall business. Investors will read this part and gauge the viability of your business idea. If they find it fascinating and intriguing enough they will read it further in detail.

Add brief details of your ecommerce business, target market, problem, solution, service model, business goals, and financial figures in this section.

Adapt a narrative tone to make it interesting and keep it highly informative. And, most importantly keep it within a limit of 1-2 pages.

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business planning in e commerce

3. Create a company overview section

As the title suggests, this section offers a brief company description of your ecommerce business. You must also include brief details about the company’s history in this section if it’s not a new venture.

So what does this section include?

  • Name and location of the business , i.e. location of your warehouse, back end office.
  • Type of your Ecommerce business , i.e. B2B, B2C, D2C, C2C, etc.
  • Business structure of your e-commerce brand , i.e. sole proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, limited partnership, etc.
  • Business goals : Highlight milestones such as sales or revenue goals.
  • Mission statement : Describe the fundamental purpose of your business explaining why the business exists. For instance, the mission of First Cry is to offer eco-friendly baby care and maternity items to conscious buyers through its website and listings on a third-party platform.
  • Vision statement : It is a declaration of what you want to achieve with your ecommerce business. For instance, First Cry wants to become the preferred brand for baby care products in the markets of North America, Asia, and Europe.

4. Conduct a competitive and market analysis

In this section of competitive and market analysis, you will dive deep into the study of the target market, industry trends, and your competition. Only a thorough understanding of these key elements will help you build a resilient business.

Target market and market opportunities

Begin by determining the Total Addressable Market (TAM) for your products and services. This part of the market analysis will offer a realistic idea of your market size.

Further, strengthen the understanding of your target market by identifying your target audience. Create a buyer persona by considering the psychographic and demographic details of your ideal customer.

Collect data from US census boards, government websites, and industrial publications for solid and foundational market research.

Lastly, identify the market trends and highlight your business strategy to fill the gaps in the existing market.

Competitive analysis

Ecommerce companies operate in a severely competitive marketplace. Understanding your competition will help you safeguard the business against potential threats and risks from your direct and indirect competitors.

Collect the data and analyze your competitors on the grounds of prices, services, quality, product offering, target market, and market size to make conclusive points. Evaluate their strengths and weaknesses using methods like SWOT analysis.

Now, detail the competitive advantage of your products and service offerings. This analysis should reflect that your business idea has a solid advantage over competitors’ offerings.

Focus on quality research. The study of the target market and competition will lay a foundation for crafting efficient business strategies.

5. Detail your products and services

After completing your market analysis, you will create a detailed section for your products and services.

Highlight all the product lines that your online business will offer. Also, mention the products within each product line and the product source.

If you are amongst the ecommerce businesses that sell digital products or services, mention those and explain how the customers will access them.

For instance, an OTT platform offers streaming services to its clients through an application.

Keep this section detailed by adding a brief description of each product and its pricing.

Consider this as a checklist of questions you must answer within this section:

  • What are the products of your online store?
  • Will you manufacture the products or source them from vendors?
  • How will your customers buy the product- Website, application, shopping platforms, etc.
  • What will be the pricing of your product offerings?

ecommerce business plan products and services

6. Develop a sales and marketing plan

By now, the readers are aware of the products and services that your online business will offer. It’s now time to tell them your sales and marketing plan.

Millions of ecommerce businesses start every year. But very few manage to crack their desired sales.

In this section, you will make sales strategies to ensure that your desired sales become achievable.

Try answering the following to form an efficient sales plan:

  • Sales channels: website, application, ecommerce platforms, subscription box platforms, flash sale sites, etc.
  • Sales method: Inbound methods or outbound methods
  • Sales personnel: Who will be responsible for product/service sales
  • Sales tools: CRM

The decisions you make here will influence the marketing strategy of your online store.

Marketing strategy

Now you need a well-rounded marketing plan to market your online store. After all, marketing is crucial to developing a brand, reaching your target customers, and acquiring sales.

In this section of a business plan, you will highlight the marketing plan for your ecommerce business. Identify the marketing channels that will be most effective for your target customers and design your strategies accordingly.

Here are a few prevalent marketing methods that can help you grow your online store:

  • Content marketing: Start writing informative and useful blog posts for your target audience. Focus on principles of SEO and keyword research to grow your reach organically. Also, post guest blogs on websites to increase your chances of reaching a wider audience.
  • Social media marketing: Identify the social media platforms that are used the most by your target audience and dedicate your marketing efforts accordingly.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing is the most rewarding marketing channel for thousands of ecommerce businesses out there. Explain how you will build your Email list and draw conversions through them.
  • PPC: Design strategies for running paid ads on Google, Facebook, and other platforms and determine your budget for the same.
  • Traditional PR: Traditional methods of publications can also help you market your product effectively. If you will be using such methods, highlight the details regarding the same.
  • Influencer marketing: Will you hire or barter with influencers to promote your product? If so, define your strategy for the same.

All in all, the marketing plan should clearly define a roadmap to reach your target audience. Also, highlight different marketing tools you will use for your online business.

marketing strategy for ecommercre business

7. Introduce your management team

Having the right team will help you build a successful ecommerce business. So take your time and figure out the manpower needs for your business.

In this section of your business plan, you will introduce the key management members at your ecommerce store. Define their role, responsibility, experience, expertise, and achievements to prove their suitability in your organization.

Outline the organizational structure of your online store and explain how these people will be responsible for the smooth functioning of your business.

8. Outline your operational plan

Running an ecommerce store is not an easy task. From managing the backend to offering timely deliveries- a lot goes into ensuring smooth business operations.

A solid business plan cannot be complete without a detailed section of operations in it. So take your time and set your operations in line before you start with the store.

Here are a few things that most ecommerce business plans have in common. Consider adding them to your operations plan as well.

  • Order fulfillment process: Everything from getting an order to delivery, managing returns, shipment, packaging, exchange, and tracking is defined at this step. Explain how the order will be fulfilled at your online store.
  • Manufacturing and quality control: If the products will be manufactured in-house, what will be the manufacturing process? How will you ensure quality? Where will the goods be manufactured? What machinery will you use?
  • Suppliers: Who will be your supplier for products and services? What will be the purchase terms? Will there be an agreement or contract? What would be the contingency plan in case of casualty?
  • Storage: Will you dropship the products or store them in a warehouse? Where will be the storage located? How will you manage stock? What methods will you use?
  • Technology and payment processors: How will the customers pay for online shopping? What payment methods are available for them? What technologies will you use to facilitate payments? How will you secure their personal information?
  • Customer service: How can the customers reach you? What will be your order policies? Will there be any customer service team?

The logistics and operations plan will serve as a policy book for your organization. It will answer every query and doubt regarding the process.

9. Prepare financial projections

Now comes the most taxing part of creating a business plan- preparing a financial plan.

A financial plan is crucial because it will help you determine the feasibility of a business idea. Moreover, if you plan to seek funding for your online business, the projections in this plan will compel potential investor’s interest in your business.

Here are a few things to include in your financial plan:

  • Startup costs: Estimate the startup costs for your ecommerce business . From website development to inventory costs, licensing fees, security, and software charges- include every cost that will go into establishing your online business.
  • Funding source: Determine your funding requirements and what sources will you use to acquire the funds, i.e. business loans, angel investors, friends and family, etc.
  • Pricing strategy: Include your pricing plan for the products and services. Consider various overhead and operational costs to determine the final pricing.
  • Sales projections: Include your monthly, quarterly, and annual sales projections through different sales channels and also estimate your revenue.
  • Income statement: Also known as profit and loss statement, in this key report you will forecast the company’s profit and loss for the next 3-5 years. The difference between a company’s revenue and expenses will give you gross profits and net profits.
  • Cash Flow Statement:   A clear documentation of cash that is generated and spent in a business. This will help potential investors understand whether your business will make or lose money.
  • Balance sheet: A key summary of your business assets and liabilities that indicates your net worth. Calculate your equity in the business by deducting all the liabilities from your assets.
  • Break-even analysis: Break-even will help you evaluate how long before the business will start making money.

Too much of calculations right? Not with the financial forecasting tool from Upmetrics. Simply enter your numbers in the tab and the tool will do all the detailed calculations for you. Import the data from Excel sheets and before you know your projections will be done.

financial highlights for ecommerce business plan

Ecommerce Industry Highlights 2023

Ecommerce is a trillion-dollar industry. It’s indeed a rewarding market for anyone who wants to start an ecommerce business. But before that, you must check out these latest industry highlights of 2023.

  • Global market size: The global Ecommerce market size is expected to reach 6.3 trillion dollars in 2023. There is ample room for new businesses to venture into this market.
  • Online marketplace : According to Forbes , 24% of total retail purchases will be made online by 2026.
  • Market leader: Amazon accounts for 37.8% of Ecommerce sales , which is far more than other ecommerce businesses.
  • Cart abandonment: 48% of online shoppers abandon their carts because of extra costs on shipping and taxes. You are likely to lose your potential customers if you fail to consider these aspects.
  • Frequency to shop: 79% of online shoppers will shop for something or the other at least once a month. Considering the customer segments, nearly 96% of Gen Z shop at least once a month online.
  • Social media commerce: If you think websites and platforms are the only way to reach your potential customers, you are wrong. 96.9 million people in the USA are reported to shop on social media.

The US online marketplace is expected to reach 940.9 billion by 2023 end. There is enough scope for new businesses to emerge and grow in this competitive market space.

Related Ecommerce Resources

  • Creating a Successful E-commerce Marketing Plan
  • E-commerce Industry Statistics
  • Calculating Your Online Store Startup Budget
  • How To Open n E-commerce Business

Download a sample ecommerce business plan

Looking for help to write your business plan? Well, we have something absolutely perfect for you. Download our ecommerce business plan sample pdf and get a detailed guide to write a plan along with relevant examples.

Upmetrics business plan templates are designed specifically for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to write their own business plans. Our templates are modern, intuitive, and easily available to kickstart your plan writing.

The Quickest Way to turn a Business Idea into a Business Plan

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Write your business plan with Upmetrics

All set to start your own ecommerce business? Let’s simplify the entire business planning process for you with Upmetrics. We have more than 400+ customizable sample business plans suited for varying different businesses. With features like AI assistance and financial forecasting, you can bring together an actionable business plan in easy steps.

So whether you are aiming to start a business-to-business or business-to-customer or any other type of ecommerce business, you are well equipped to write the most stellar plan with our business planning app .

Get started now.

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Frequently asked questions, can i get expert help to draft my ecommerce business plan.

Of course, you can. Writing a business plan is not an easy task. You may lose context or can leave behind an important detail while writing. A plan writer can translate your business idea into a plan efficiently with his compelling skills. If not, you can take the help of online tools and search for relevant templates to write your own business plan.

Can I customize my ecommerce business plan as per my business needs?

Absolutely yes. No two ecommerce businesses are the same. The very purpose of a business plan is to address the unique concerns, ideas, and questions relating to your ecommerce business. From executive summary to a financial plan, customize every aspect of your plan with Upmetrics business plan builder.

What are the common mistakes to avoid while crafting an ecommerce business plan?

Here are a few mistakes to avoid while drafting a business plan for your new business:

  • Lack of market research
  • Inadequate financial planning
  • Overlooking the competition
  • Not having a clear value proposition
  • Undermining the technology needs
  • Not considering casualties and emergencies
  • Using complex language

Can I create an e-commerce business plan on my own, or should I hire a professional?

Ideally, you should be the one drafting your business plan. This is because no one knows your business better than you yourself and your business partners. So instead of hiring a professional, take the assistance of plan builders and step-by-step guides and create a compelling plan. Upmetrics AI assistant will simplify the writing process by helping you put together a cohesive write-up.

What are some emerging payment technologies to consider in your e-commerce business plan?

If you are planning to start a competitive ecommerce brand, you need to offer a bunch of payment solutions preferred by your target audience. Here are a few payment technologies you must definitely have in your business:

  • QR code payments
  • Mobile wallet
  • Contactless payment
  • Real-time payments
  • Buy now pay later solutions

About the Author

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Upmetrics Team

Upmetrics is the #1 business planning software that helps entrepreneurs and business owners create investment-ready business plans using AI. We regularly share business planning insights on our blog. Check out the Upmetrics blog for such interesting reads. Read more

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Run » finance, 4 simple steps to smart financial planning for small businesses.

Financial planning often involves looking for funding to help take your business performance to the next level. Here are some strategies to explore.

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Financial planning is an iterative, ongoing process that helps your business reach its long-term goals. Financial planning strategies assess your business’s current financial position and allow you to adapt to market changes, forecast business growth, and achieve higher returns.

A typical financial strategy combines two key elements to help you reach your short- and long-term financial benchmarks. These elements are debt and investments. As you think about your financial strategy for the next year and beyond, here’s how to evaluate these options for fueling growth.

Start with goal-setting

Before you can determine whether to take on debt or pitch to investors, you must know the result toward which you are working. Set a SMART goal — one that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound — that you can break down into smaller financial targets.

For instance, most business owners aim to increase profit. However, there are more manageable goals that you can set along the way to earning more profit, such as:

  • Increase revenue.
  • Streamline operating expenses.
  • Improve customer retention.
  • Optimize pricing.

Set numerical targets and deadlines for these smaller benchmarks to get a clear picture of the resources and financial strategy that will help you make progress toward your larger objective.

[Read more: CO— Roadmap for Rebuilding: Planning Your Financial Future ]

How to use debt as a financial strategy

Loans are the most common form of debt that a company can use in its financial planning strategy. Loans from financial institutions, credit card companies, or even friends and family can be a good way to get the cash you need for short-term investments.

As a financial planning strategy, the appeal of using debt is that it’s relatively flexible. “Banks offer a range of different business loan products, including term loans, business lines of credit, equipment financing and commercial real estate loans, among other options,” wrote NerdWallet . “Unless you opt for a product that has a specific use case, like a business auto loan, for example, you can generally use a bank loan in a variety of ways to grow and expand your business.”

However, loans have strict eligibility requirements and can be slow to fund, involving a lot of paperwork and a strong credit score. New businesses may struggle to use debt in their financial planning strategy.

Loans are the most common form of debt that a company can use in its financial planning strategy.

How to use equity or investments in financial planning

Issuing equity (stock) is another way to fund your financial plan. Startups in particular can sell shares of ownership to investors to raise capital for growth, expansion, or acquisitions. This allows you to avoid taking on debt and can bring on partners with mentorship and advice to offer.

“With equity financing, there is no loan to repay. The business doesn’t have to make a monthly loan payment which can be particularly important if the business doesn’t initially generate a profit. This in turn, gives you the freedom to channel more money into your growing business,” wrote The Hartford .

The downside of equity financing is that you will need to share a part of your profit with your equity partners. Equity is best suited for financial strategies that require significant capital quickly.

[Read more: 4 Financial Forecasting Models for Small Businesses ]

Final tips for financial planning

Debt and equity are the key ways to ensure you have the cash flow to reach your financial goals, but there are other elements to consider in your strategy. Make sure you plan a safety net for unforeseen risks; build an emergency fund and get insurance to protect your business. In addition, review your financial results quarterly and annually to ensure your projections are realistic.

“As you look over your annual income reports, you can gain insight into the activities that led to improved revenue and double down on them to raise profits as part of your financial plan,” wrote FundKite , a business funding platform.

Revisit your financial plan frequently to make sure the funding options you explore are still serving your business goals. There are plenty of alternative funding sources — such as grants and crowdfunding — that can help you reach short-term benchmarks along the way.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here .

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Walmart Reports Rising Holiday Sales as Shoppers Seek Value

The number of transactions at the retail giant rose 4.3 percent, but the average ticket price decreased by 0.3 percent, a sign that shoppers spent a little less during shopping trips.

Jordyn Holman

By Jordyn Holman

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, said on Tuesday that sales rose in the fourth quarter over the previous year, offering one of the first looks at how Americans shopped during the crucial holiday season.

A woman with a shopping cart, and a child in the cart’s seat, in an aisle filled with merchandise inside a Walmart Supercenter.

The Numbers

Walmart said its comparable store sales were up 4 percent in the three months that ended in late January compared with the year before. The number of transactions at Walmart rose 4.3 percent, but the average ticket price slightly decreased 0.3 percent, a sign that shoppers spent a little less on shopping trips.

The retailer’s online U.S. sales increased 17 percent, and its online global sales jumped 23 percent, surpassing $100 billion. Losses for the e-commerce business were slowing as the company spent less on fulfillment costs, John David Rainey, Walmart’s chief financial officer, said in an interview. He added that more customers were using Walmart’s delivery services, helping to reduce costs.

“Instead of a Walmart delivery being delivered to one house on a cul-de-sac, now we’re dropping it off at two or three houses from that cul-de-sac,” Mr. Rainey said.

At the same time, he added, U.S. shoppers were pulling back on discretionary purchases, like computers, TVs and other electronics. “Those are the parts of our business where we see less sales growth versus some of the more everyday essentials,” he said.

The Bigger Picture

Walmart is one of the first major retailers to report fourth-quarter earnings. Companies including Target, Macy’s and Kroger will do so in the coming weeks.

Many retailers, including Walmart, focused on value last year as the economy cooled and shoppers became more selective. Walmart’s sizable grocery business and emphasis on low prices helped insulate it from the sales declines that other retailers reported . The company said on Tuesday that its strong comparable sales were underpinned by sales in its food business.

“In food, prices are lower than a year ago in places like eggs, apples and deli snacks, but higher in other places like asparagus and blackberries,” Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive, said during an earnings call on Tuesday.

Mr. Rainey said Walmart had a wider assortment of private label brands now than it did two years ago, as it caters to shoppers looking for lower priced items.

Walmart also said it would acquire the television maker Vizio in a deal worth $2.3 billion as it continued to increase Walmart Connect, its fast-growing advertising and media business.

The Road Ahead

During the high inflationary period in 2022 and through the middle of last year, Walmart won over many customers who were in search of lower prices. The company particularly drew more shoppers with household incomes of more than $100,000. Analysts and investors want to see whether the retailer can keep them as inflation subsides.

General merchandise, which includes apparel and home décor, continues to be bolstered by higher-income shoppers, Mr. Rainey said. Two-thirds of the share gain in that category came from households making more than $100,000.

Gaining more new customers will become increasingly difficult, testing Walmart’s ability to continue its sales growth momentum, said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData.

“This essentially puts Walmart in the position of having to work far harder and more creatively to generate growth,” he said in an email.

Still, Walmart sees this as a time to expand. Last month, it said it planned to add 150 U.S. stores, a big jump from the past few years. It has also been increasing pay, bonuses and benefits for store managers in a bid to retain them. On Tuesday, it said it expected both net sales and operating income to increase this year.

These will be metrics that analysts will be watching closely as they expect retail sales industrywide to moderate this year after a surge in consumer spending in the early stages of the pandemic.

Jordyn Holman is a business reporter for The Times, covering the retail industry and consumer behavior. More about Jordyn Holman


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