Change can be intimidating for small businesses, especially technological change. The good news is you don’t need to become a tech expert to add an E-commerce platform to your website. You just need a plan. Here are 3 steps to build an E-commerce strategy that will pay for itself.

  1. Determine your goals
  2. Choose your tools
  3. Promote your new platform

Spoiler alert: One of the tips involves small business grants from the government. So, if you like free money, you’ll want to keep reading.

Bridget Brown

#1 – Determine Your Goals

It’s important to consider what problem you’re trying to solve before building an E-commerce strategy. Consider what’s driving you toward adding products or services for sale on your website.

Are you trying to reach more people? Are you trying to shorten your sales cycle? Are you trying to keep up with your competition? Answering these questions will help you set appropriate goals.

You might aim to increase your average transaction size or reduce customer churn. Remember to add a timeline for when you’d like to achieve your goals and be sure to track your results.

Consult Your Marketing Plan

Before undertaking any major project, reviewing your marketing plan is key. Harmonizing new initiatives will ensure they fit in with the overall objectives of your business.

Considering your E-commerce plans in conjunction with your business as a whole will also give you valuable insights into how to succeed using your existing knowledge of your target audience.

For example, if your buyers live primarily in rural areas, you’ll want to ensure your e-commerce shipping and delivery plan reflects that.

Reviewing your marketing plan will also reveal whether your current strategy will effectively promote your e-commerce store or if you’ll need to add some new tactics.

Consult your marketing plan

#2 – Choose Your Tools

Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s time to pick the right E-commerce platform and get the necessary support to launch it. There are a staggering number of choices, and it can seem daunting to narrow it down.

There are several factors to think about when choosing an E-commerce platform. Some are obvious; for example, you’ll want the flexibility to make changes, as well as the platform to be able to store your buyers’ personal information securely.

Other aspects are more specialized to your needs. For example, you may require multichannel support to take payments in person, on your own website, and on Instagram.

In addition to comparing the monthly cost of running an E-commerce platform, remember to compare any transaction fees the provider may charge.

Enlist a Professional

One of the small business lessons it took me a few years to learn is the importance of adequately valuing my time. It was difficult to get out of the frugal mindset that helped me launch my marketing business using only the small severance I received from my corporate job.

There were many times I thought it would be cheaper to take on a given project myself, but I soon learned that when a task is outside my area of strength (cough…bookkeeping…cough), the DIY option isn’t a good use of my time or money.

Setting up your E-commerce store all by yourself may be tempting, especially since many platforms have easy drag-and-drop interfaces. However, you’ll likely save money by hiring an expert to help you, based on how long the job would take you versus how long it would take a pro.

#3 – Promote Your New Platform

Whoever said, “If you build it, they will come,” was clearly not a small business owner.

We need to tell our audience what we’re offering and why it’s amazing as many times, and in as many ways, as we can.

In Step 1, we reviewed our marketing plan to ensure we have a plan to effectively promote an E-commerce store. In Step 3, it’s time to enact that plan. To help you, check out this Master List of 50 small business marketing tactics.

In addition to using all your channels (I.e. email, social, and website) to let people know they can now buy online, you may want to dedicate some money to paid advertising.

Even if you’re already running search, display, or social media ads, expanding your ad spend to ensure your buyers know they can purchase online helps to ensure a successful launch.

If you’re trying to build an e-commerce strategy on a budget, incurring more costs may be daunting. That’s okay. There are ways to make building an e-commerce strategy less expensive.

Canada Digital Adoption Program

A great place to access help to build your eCommerce strategy is the Canada Digital Adoption Program. The Grow Your Business Online Grant offers microgrants up to $2,400 as well as free 1-on-1 sessions with an expert E-Commerce Advisor to help small businesses set up e-commerce solutions and best practices. It is designed to support companies that need help boosting their online sales. For example, a store owner might be moving out of their physical store location in order to sell their products online from the comfort of their own home office.

Now that you know a bit more about creating an e-commerce strategy, you are ready to take the next step. If you’re a small business owner looking to make the leap into the world of e-commerce, check out the Canada Digital Adoption Program’s Grow Your Business Online Grant, by visiting

Bridget Brown

Founder, Create That

Bridget Brown is a Calgary-based branding and marketing strategist. She founded Create That in 2015 after 15 years as a television news reporter. Create That is Calgary’s only marketing agency dedicated to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Bridget is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Neuroscience at King’s College London, with a special interest in how our brains make buying decisions.