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Ecommerce Businesses: How to Start an Ecommerce Business Without Spending Any Money


It’s hard to know just how many ecommerce companies there are in the world. One of the most accurate studies from 2014 revealed there were about 110,000 ecommerce companies generating a meaningful amount of revenue online.

But that study didn’t consider the new ecommerce startups emerging every day. And what about individual entrepreneurs and small-time operators?

If you look hard enough, you can find ecommerce business opportunities everywhere. The trick is finding the right niche and figuring out how to start lean.

You can start some ecommerce businesses with just $50. Others, you can start with no money at all.

Read on to learn how to start your own ecommerce business with zero starting capital.

Pick Your Business Model

Most people assume an ecommerce business sells products online. It’s not a bad instinct. Many of them do, and retail ecommerce sales in the U.S. are expected to surpass $700 billion in 2022.

But there are six recognized ecommerce models. First, you need to decide which model you’re going to operate with:

  • Business-to-Business (B2B)
  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C)
  • Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)
  • Consumer-to-Business (C2B)
  • Business-to-Administration (B2A)
  • Consumer-to-Administration (C2A)

Most ecommerce businesses are B2B, B2C, or C2C. However, C2B is also worth considering.

A B2B ecommerce business would have you selling products or services to other businesses. Wholesalers fit into this category.

B2C ecommerce typically refers to retail ecommerce businesses. These are businesses selling to consumers online. Amazon fits into this category, but solopreneurs who come up with their own products do, too.

If you have the skills and connections, you can create a B2C personal finance business like Bonsai Finance, for example.

The C2C ecommerce model involves transactions between two consumers. These are often facilitated through a third-party website. Selling your old recliner on Craigslist fits this model.

And finally, C2B ecommerce, or the consumer-to-business model, is when you offer products or services to businesses as a consumer. Influencers who give their audiences product recommendations for a fee would fit into this category.

B2A and C2A ecommerce refer to any situation where products or services are provided to a public administration (i.e. the government). Unless you have experience as a government contractor, these models may not be a great option.

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If you want to start an ecommerce business with no money, your best option is probably B2C. But, if you have some skills that businesses might value, you could possibly start a B2B business with nothing but a website.

Decide What You Want Your Business to Do

Of course, you need to determine what your business will actually do. In other words, you need to decide how your business will operate and deliver value.

Do you want to sell physical products? Maybe you want to lease yourself out as a consultant? You can even generate a fan-base with your musical or artistic talents.

A few of the recognized ecommerce business types are:

  • Drop shipping
  • Wholesaling and warehousing
  • White Labeling
  • Subscription businesses
  • Retail ecommerce

Drop shipping is one of the most common types of ecommerce businesses. It’s easy to get started and you can start it with no money.

First, you start with a storefront. Then, you sell products to consumers from a third-party provider. The third-party does all the legwork and you take a small cust for providing the business.

Wholesaling and warehousing require you to manage inventory and invest in a warehouse space. It’s not a good option if you don’t want to spend a dime to start off (or if you don’t have any inventory management experience).

With a white labeling business, you order products from a vendor, repackage and rebrand it, then sell it to your own customers. You may need some startup capital for this type of business. All the product you sell, you’ll have to buy from a vendor.

Subscription businesses can take a variety of forms. Artists and musicians often use subscription models to earn money by providing fans with exclusive merchandise or personalized experiences. You can start this type of business without any cash.

Some other examples of subscription businesses are meal kit services and even internet service providers.

Finally, retail ecommerce is one of the most recognized types of online businesses. In this case, you simply sell products to consumers online.

Find Your Niche and Product

When picking your niche, it’s best to choose what you have a passion for. It can also help if you have experience or connections in a certain field.

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For example, if you’re an engineer, you may have a great product idea. You already know how to build it, who can use it, and why it adds value.

If you’re a talented business blogger, you create your product every time you sit down at a keyboard. Consider starting a monetized business blog or selling digital content online.

In ecommerce, there are three types of products you can sell:

  • Physical products (inventions, white-labeled products, drop-shipped products)
  • Digital products (online eBooks, courses, videos, or audio files)
  • Digital services (any type of service delivered electronically)

Once you choose your product, identify your customers. Create a documented strategy laying out who you’re selling to and how to sell to them.

Launching Ecommerce Businesses

In order to launch your business, you’ll need to secure your product and ensure you have a way to receive revenue. You’ll also need to secure a platform, such as a website or online storefront. Look for free or low-cost options.

But the most difficult part will be getting people interested in your product or business.

Find the best medium to target your audience. If you target businesses, consider joining relevant groups and making connections on LinkedIn.

If you target consumers, find out where they hang out online. Are they watching YouTube or posting on Instagram? They may even be having conversations on Reddit.

Get The Word Out

Once you find your customers, give them free stuff. This may sound counter-intuitive but look at it from their point of view.

You’re a brand-new business with a brand-new product. You have no sales history. They need to know you’re legit before they’ll hand you their hard-earned money.

Content is perhaps the easiest thing to give away for free. Provide people with free video demonstrations of your product, how-to guides, infographics, and other helpful media.

It may take some time before your ecommerce business takes off. But don’t give up!

Once you get just a few customers, you can compound your success through word-of-mouth advertising.

Do you want to learn more ways you can spread the news about ecommerce businesses? Check out the latest digital marketing tips on Digital Media Thoughts.