How to Start an E-Commerce Business


With COVID-19 and social distancing, Canadians must shift to a new normal. For entrepreneurs, that normal is either moving current operations partially or wholly online, or starting new e-commerce enterprises. Online shopping is in great demand right now; here are a few tips on how to get started.

A Clear Point of View

You need to start with a clear idea of what your business provides, and the demographics of your target market. This will drive every decision going forward, from how you position the brand to which platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) you leverage.

Market Research

Once you know what you want to sell, and who to sell it to, start researching. What seems like a great idea in your mind may already be available in the market, or could have already been tried without success. A great example of this were fidget spinners. For a short time they were hot sellers, but those late to the trend wound up with piles of unsellable inventory – because like so many fast selling trinket items, fidget spinners were a fad. A little research at the outset can save you a lot of time and money later on.


It is common to source products online and resell them, but the pandemic has shown how shaky global trade routes can be. Strongly consider items you can make and sell on your own, or spend the time finding both a reliable manufacturer and fulfillment option (your own warehousing and logistics or Fulfillment By Amazon, for example). Keep adequate stock so you don’t have shortages during busy seasons or during times of interrupted trade and shipping.

Paperwork and Compliance

E-commerce businesses are recognized by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as legitimate businesses, so it’s important to treat this business like you would any other brick-and-mortar store. This includes securing any import permits or licenses, registering your trade name, incorporating (if necessary for limited liability), setting up My Business Account, and remitting GST if required.

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Another aspect of your e-commerce business is how you handle the financial side of things. Even if your product is successful, failing to manage your bookkeeping, end of year reporting, and CRA compliance can seriously hold back your business.

Work with an accounting firm dedicated to the changing needs of Canada’s small business landscape. Look for a firm that keeps pace with the tools and technology that makes e-commerce accounting easier. Your accountant should be able to provide cloud-based, user-friendly, all-in-one tools like Xero and A2X.

AF Accounting – Agile E-Commerce Accounting Solutions for a Changing World

AF Accounting has always been at the forefront of what Canada’s entrepreneurs need, be it becoming a Gold Partner with Xero in 2016 or having specialized services for e-commerce sellers long before the pandemic forced businesses online. With e-commerce on the rise, you can trust AF Accounting to provide the bookkeeping, accounting, and cloud-based services you need. Contact us today to learn more about this and our other small-business-focused services.

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