The e-commerce guide

What is e-commerce? The 2024 guide

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What is e-commerce? The 2024 guide

What is this item about?

E-commerce is now an integral part of our everyday lives – for many of us, shopping online is second nature. E-commerce refers to the sale of products or services over the Internet. Customers can order and pay for products online and the products are then delivered directly to the customer's home.

The main advantage of e-commerce is that customers no longer have to go to a retail store to buy products, but can order from the comfort of their own home. Through e-commerce, products can also be ordered from anywhere in the world, creating a wide range of products and competition on the market.
As a customer, it’s important to pay attention to the security and seriousness of the supplier when it comes to e-commerce. Customers should choose trustworthy payment methods and find out about the supplier before they place an order.

For companies, e-commerce offers the opportunity to sell products and services quickly and easily over the Internet, while achieving a wider reach and customer base. For this reason, many companies now also operate their own online shops or sell their products via well-known e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.

Some also see e-commerce as an opportunity to set up their own business – either full-time or part-time.
E-commerce offers a good opportunity to tap into an additional source of income in addition to your job.

By building up your business model with e-commerce, you can work remotely and outsource individual processes. Thanks to the various models of online retail, it is also possible to offer a wide range of products – in some cases even without your own inventory.

There are numerous points to consider when starting an e-commerce business. This article provides an essential guide for all interested sellers who want to start selling online. It explains what e-commerce websites are and which important steps are needed to set up an e-commerce business,

as well as the possible advantages and disadvantages of setting up your own e-commerce business. Challenges, tips and advice on how to successfully continue your business after the initial launch are also explained. In addition, you’ll also find information on whether your own web shop solution or an existing website such as Amazon could be an option for you.
What is e-commerce? The 2024 guide

What is e-commerce?

E-commerce stands for “electronic commerce” and refers to doing business on the Internet. E-commerce allows companies to sell their products and services online. This enables customers to shop and order products from the comfort of their own home without being physically present in a shop.

E-commerce includes a wide variety of business models, including online shops, auction platforms, digital marketplaces, and more. An online shop is an online store that is accessible via a website or an app, which customers can use to select products or services and order them directly. Digital marketplaces like Amazon are platforms where independent retailers can offer their products for sale.

E-commerce has many benefits for customers and companies. For customers, shopping online means a wider selection of products and services. Customers can compare prices and order from the comfort of their own home.

For companies, e-commerce offers global reach, lower operating costs and a better chance of retaining customers through personalized offers and recommendations.

Payments in e-commerce are usually made electronically. This includes credit cards, PayPal, bank transfer and other electronic payment systems. Many e-commerce companies use logistics companies to ship and deliver products to customers and ensure that orders reach customers safely and quickly.

Ultimately, e-commerce has revolutionized the way we shop and has become an integral part of our daily lives.
E-commerce has grown rapidly with the spread of the Internet, particularly since 2000. Since then, sales in the German e-commerce market in B2C (business to consumer) have grown significantly. In 2021 alone, almost EUR 87 billion of goods and services were sold according to Statista, which corresponds to an increase of 19 percent over the previous year.

The world of online retail presents a huge opportunity, both for buyers and sellers. According to Statista, clothing, electronics and telecommunications are among the top-selling product groups in German online retail. The clothing segment accounts for almost a quarter of total turnover in B2C e-commerce.

The global e-commerce sector will continue to grow according to forecasts by Statista. Approximately EUR 4.61 billion of physical goods will be sold worldwide in the B2C e-commerce market in 2025.

How does e-commerce work?

Not all e-commerce is the same. Buyers and sellers can be people or organizations that do online business together.

There are many different e-commerce business models – the following section provides an overview of some common models that are most relevant in the context of this guide:
  • B2C — This refers to companies that sell directly to end users.
    The abbreviation B2C stands for business-to-consumer (end user). This end user is a private person (e.g. the consumer) who buys a product in a place such as a supermarket.
  • B2B — In this model, companies sell directly to other companies and not to end users.
    The abbreviation B2B stands for business-to-business and covers business relationships between at least two companies.
In today’s world, e-commerce works entirely via websites. The online transfer of information and money via the Internet facilitates the trade of goods and services.

With a single website, it is now possible to process everything required for a transaction online.

A significant part of e-commerce is e-commerce fulfilment.
The term e-fulfilment refers to the entire process, from ordering via the Internet to payment, storage and transport to delivery of the goods. After-sales service and disposal are also part of e-fulfilment.

What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of e-commerce?

Nowadays, e-commerce is much more than a digitized catalogue of offers from a specific company. It offers sellers many more options, to the extent that some providers only offer their goods and services online.

Potential benefits of e-commerce:
  • You can expand your product range by as many items as you want and are not limited to the space in your sales premises and warehouse.
  • Goods can often be stored more cost-effectively in storage rooms outside busy inner cities.
  • You can offer helpful information about your products — in different formats, from a written or digital user manual to product descriptions, product images or an explanatory video.
  • You can offer product reviews for all items you sell.
  • Sellers can add new products or specifications to their product range in just a few minutes and don't have to wait until the next catalogue is released.
  • Online evaluations give you an overview of which products your customers like to buy in combination with other products.
  • The customer data you obtain gives you the opportunity to create targeted product offers for your buyers.
  • You can then provide product recommendations from these results, allowing you to generate additional sales.
Potential challenges of e-commerce:
Selling your goods or services over the Internet provides you with a wide range of options, but there are also a few important things to consider.
  • Firstly, many customers are wary of ordering high-priced products online. Customers often use the Internet to obtain more information, but personal impressions are typically obtained from local retailers, and in many cases, this is where purchases are also made. However, even in these cases, it is still possible to sell high-priced items provided you offer appropriate references, product videos and guarantees.
  • Many customers are still reluctant to buy shoes and clothing online because they can't try on these items in advance. To avoid making the wrong purchase, many customers order their blouses, trousers or shoes in several sizes and then send back the items that do not fit. For this reason, many companies now offer a free return service.
  • However, a free return service (which many customers now insist on) is associated with high return shipping costs for the company. In addition, the returned goods also have to be reprocessed. In most cases, these can only be resold at reduced prices. For this reason, you should take this into account from the outset and look for solutions to minimise the return rate.
  • Positioning an online shop in the search results of major search engines can prove to be very complex, and therefore you should consider hiring a professional. Using a website such as Amazon, which already has a large number of daily visitors, is also an option.

What do you need to sell online?

  • Market research: It is essential, especially at the beginning, to identify the target group, the competition and the demand for the products or services you want to sell. It's also important to have a clear understanding of customer preferences and buying behaviour in order to develop effective marketing strategies.
  • E-commerce platform: Choosing a suitable platform that can handle the volume, payment processing and security requirements of your business is critical. The platform should also have a user-friendly interface, be customisable and provide reliable customer support.
  • Brand identity: Creating a strong brand strategy and marketing plan is essential to stand out in the highly competitive e-commerce landscape. This includes developing a unique brand image, creating a user-friendly website, performing search engine optimisation, and using various social media platforms to retain and attract customers.
  • Product selection: Choosing the right products to sell is crucial for every online retailer. This includes analysing customer demand, identifying profitable niches and procuring products from reliable suppliers. It is also important to consider factors such as product quality, branding and packaging.
  • Inventory management: Proper storage and management of inventory is essential to ensure timely delivery of products to customers. This includes tracking inventory, forecasting demand and optimising warehouse space. Retailers must also consider factors such as shipping costs and delivery times to determine the best fulfilment strategies.
  • Prices and payment: Setting the right price for products is key to acquiring customers and generating revenue. Retailers must consider factors such as competition, production costs and consumer demand when pricing their products. It is also important to offer a variety of payment options and ensure transactions are processed securely to build trust with customers.
  • Customer service: Providing excellent customer service is critical to building a loyal customer base. This includes being responsive, helpful and polite, and doing everything possible to solve customer issues and address their needs.
  • Returns and refunds: Processing returns and refunds is an important part of any online retail business. This includes clear policies and procedures to ensure that customers can easily initiate returns, and to process refunds quickly and efficiently.
  • Feedback and reviews: Encouraging customer feedback and reviews is a great way to improve your business and build trust with customers. This includes actively seeking feedback, responding to customer concerns and complaints, and using feedback to improve your products and services.

How can you start selling on Amazon?

Amazon offers a number of ways to connect buyers and sellers. For example, buyers have access to a wide range of different products, while sellers have a large daily customer base from the outset. This is particularly beneficial for sellers, who would otherwise have to invest significant time and resources in developing their own online store.

The Amazon website is visited by several million people every day. The high flow of visitors is set to increase further due to the constantly expanding range of offers.
In addition, more and more people are starting product searches on Amazon directly instead of using search engines. If customers start their search directly on Amazon and find what they are looking for, they also complete their purchase there. As a result, customers may be less likely to purchase from your own online store. One option would be to have a presence on Amazon in addition to your online store.

Amazon offers a wide range of transparent information to help you start your e-commerce business. With an overview of how to get started with Amazon and the beginner's guide, you'll find plenty of tips to get you started.
What is e-commerce? The 2024 guide

Basics for selling online with Amazon

Step 1 - Create your Amazon seller account

Creating a seller account with Amazon is easier than you might think. Develop an e-commerce strategy that fits your business model right from the start.

The first step to getting started on Amazon is to sign in to Seller Central.
Go to “Register”, enter your details, and set a password to complete the registration process. Then enter your business details (such as your bank account details). Finally, select the products that you would like to sell on Amazon.
Next, decide whether you want to register as an individual or a professional seller.

The main differences are explained in more detail here:
  • The plan for individual sellers offers free registration and a referral fee of €0.99 per sale. Bear in mind that certain features, such as the use of various third-party tools, are limited.
    The individual selling plan is ideal if you want to sell less than 40 items per month. You only pay fees to Amazon if you've sold an item. This plan is therefore ideal for when you first start selling online on Amazon.
  • With the professional selling plan, the fee is €39.00 per month. This plan offers numerous additional features, such as selling in restricted categories and access to advanced sales tools. The “Professional” selling plan also gives you access to inventory tools. In addition, you can upload multiple files and manage your orders via feeds and reports. These advanced tools are particularly useful for medium-sized to large companies. This plan is recommended for retailers who sell more than 40 items per month.
Step 2 — Products

If you're selling on Amazon for the first time, start by getting an overview of what opportunities this can offer you.
It's best to start with product research in order to identify products with low competition and high demand. You should then create your product listings so you can start selling. Now it's time to list the products that you want to sell. Once you're done, you can search for the product using the product name or the product's barcode.

If the product is not yet in the AMZ database (Amazon Product Database), you must create the first listing for that product. This also applies if you want to sell private label products. Then enter all important product information, such as the price and product descriptions.
At this point, you should also decide how you want to ship the products you sell. Amazon offers two options for this. One option is to ship it yourself. The second option is fulfilment by Amazon.

It can be helpful to start with a small number of products on Amazon to gain initial experience and find out how the process works. In any case, you should find out which product guidelines you should follow.
Step 3 — Shipping

If you want to sell your products on Amazon, you have two options for shipping:
  • Fulfilment by Merchant (FBM)
    This means that you take over the organisation of storage, warehouse management, packaging and delivery to the buyer.
  • Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA)
    This option gives you access to Amazon's logistics service. You ship your products to an Amazon fulfilment centre and Amazon will do the rest for you. Fulfilment by Amazon includes storage, packing, shipping, customer service and returns. This shipping method can be an easy way to get the Prime badge for most offers. Many Amazon buyers look for products with the Prime badge, as this gives them faster and free shipping.
Step 4 — Shipping schedule

Now it's time to create your shipping schedule. For the shipping schedule, you must enter the origin address and packaging type. This is an easy step – you simply need to follow the instructions provided.

Once you've added your shipping plan, you can list all of your items on the Amazon website. When doing so, make sure that you set your selling price to include all important expenses, including shipping costs.
Step 5. Product shipping

This is essentially the last step in the sales process in order to fulfil your delivery obligations.
If you ship your products yourself (FBM), it is possible to get shipping labels from Amazon. This gives your buyers the option to track shipments directly via the Amazon website.
In the case of Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), once you have completed all the previous steps, you can ship your items to the Amazon warehouse. Please follow all Amazon guidelines. If you do not comply with these guidelines, your items will be rejected and will not be accepted in fulfilment centres.
Step 6 — Sell your first item on Amazon

Once you've set up your store, you can start selling on Amazon. Amazon offers various options to help you increase your sales, which are explained in the rest of the guide.
Step 7 — Payment processing

As soon as you register your Amazon account on Amazon Seller Central, you must enter your payment details. Amazon Seller-Central stores your data in order to forward payments from buyers directly to your account.

Grow your business on Amazon

Once you've created your Amazon account and your products are ready to be found on the Amazon website, you can find out more about e-commerce marketing opportunities and take advantage of growth opportunities.
It is also important to increase your visibility. You can also find extensive information at Amazon Seller University, such as training videos. These will help you learn the basics of sales, sales tools, advertising and marketing.

With Amazon advertising, you can access a range of services to grow your business, increase sales and measure the effectiveness of your ads. Check out the Amazon Ads website to learn more.

One way to support your sales can be advertising, e.g. with PPC ads (pay-per-click). Amazon offers an ad service for sellers who want to try PPC to obtain new traffic. Find out more about Amazon Ads here.

You can also use organic search engine optimisation (SEO) by creating so-called key words. This refers to the words that your customers use to search for something in search engines. Think carefully about which terms you want to use to draw attention to your products. Finding relevant key words for your product description, title and information is the key to a better organic ranking.

If you've already created your own branding strategy, Amazon Brand's brand tools can help you to build on your success. Alternatively, you can start to establish your own brand.

International expansion offers another way to drive your business forward. Amazon offers various options for this, which you can find on the worldwide sales website.

Tips for growing your online business

  • Use high-quality product photos:
    Clear and visually appealing product photos can make a big difference in attracting potential customers. Make sure you use high-resolution images that show your product from multiple angles.
  • Provide detailed product descriptions:
    Your product descriptions should be informative and accurate and help customers understand what they're getting and what makes your product unique. Including dimensions, materials and other relevant information can help customers make an informed purchase decision.
  • Interact with your customers:
    Building relationships with your customers can lead to repeat business and positive reviews. Respond to customer inquiries and feedback in a timely and professional manner and consider offering incentives or special promotions to encourage repeat purchases.
  • Take advantage of social media platforms:
    Create accounts on various social media platforms to increase your online presence and connect with potential customers. Share updates and promotions, and engage with your audience to build a loyal following.
  • Optimise your online shop for search engines:
    Improve your website's search engine ranking by using relevant keywords in your product descriptions, URLs and meta tags. This makes it easier for potential customers to find your shop when searching online.
  • Use customer reviews to your advantage:
    Encourage customers to leave reviews on your website and social media platforms. Positive reviews can attract more customers and build trust in your brand, while negative reviews can provide valuable feedback to improve your products and services.
  • Offer promotions and incentives:
    Ensure customers keep coming back to your store by offering promotions such as discounts, free shipping, or referral bonuses. This can help build a loyal customer base and increase sales over time.


Online retail is constantly evolving and offers a wide range of opportunities to buy and sell different goods online.

It also provides numerous opportunities for business owners to sell their products and services without the limitations of a physical business location.

Small businesses have the opportunity to grow their customer base and product range, and even expand into international markets. E-commerce also offers beginners the opportunity to build up an additional income with small quantities or used items from private stock. In order to succeed, you must develop a stable business model and strategy.

An important aspect of online business is creating an online presence, including via a website, social media channels and online marketplaces. Your website should be user-friendly and responsive and provide a secure and easy way to order and pay for products and services.

Another important component of online business is creating an effective marketing strategy that increases website visibility and attracts potential customers. This can be achieved through search engine optimisation, paid advertising, social media marketing and email marketing.

It's also important to collect and use customer feedback to improve your business and increase customer satisfaction. This can be achieved by setting up rating and feedback systems on your website, social media platforms and online marketplaces.

Online business offers a wide range of benefits, such as lower operating costs, global reach and flexible working conditions. However, it also requires a high level of commitment and adaptability to keep pace with the ever-changing demands and trends of the online market.
What is e-commerce? The 2024 guide


What is e-commerce?
E-commerce refers to the process of buying, selling, or trading products or services over the Internet. The term also covers using and transferring funds to carry out these transactions. Sellers and buyers can be individuals, companies or even governments and government agencies.
Do I need my own website to set up an e-commerce business?
Some sellers choose to set up their own websites or online stores, while others choose to launch their online business or brand on Amazon or similar websites. You can also combine both options.
How can I market my e-commerce store effectively?
There are plenty of advertising and marketing strategies you can use to help customers discover your store more easily and buy products from you. For example, Amazon offers multiple advertising solutions to help you increase your visibility and grow your business on Amazon.
Is e-commerce still a growth market?
Yes. Statistics show that e-commerce sales are expected to reach EUR 800 billion in 2027. This represents an increase of EUR 300 billion since 2021.
How many people use Amazon Prime?
Around half of Amazon customers in Germany used Amazon Prime services in 2019.
How many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) work with Amazon in Germany?
By 2022, more than 30,000 German SMEs were working with Amazon. In total, German SMEs sold products worth EUR 750 million on Amazon.
How do I get started with e-commerce?
To start an e-commerce business, you should first take two steps: find a sales platform (this could be either your own website or selling on platforms like Amazon) and carry out market research to understand your competitors and analyse demand for the products you want to sell.

After that, it's important to establish a brand identity, carefully select your products, master inventory planning, set reasonable prices and determine your shipping method for customer delivery. You have the option of either organising shipping yourself or using shipping services such as Fulfilment by Amazon.
What are the benefits of e-commerce?
E-commerce can offer selling partners many benefits, including:

- Unlimited expansion of the product range beyond the company premises and warehouse.
- Cost-efficient storage outside busy inner cities.
- Provision of helpful information about the products in different formats.
- Offering product reviews for every item sold.
- Using online analytics to understand customer preferences.
- Preparation of targeted offers based on customer data.
- Promoting sales through product recommendations.

Start selling online with Amazon today

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