Retail & Ecommerce Business Plans
Did you know each of these plans was created in LivePlan? Learn More
Art Store Business Plans
- Art Sales Custom Framing Business Plan
- Art Supply Store and Gallery Business Plan
- Pottery Studio Business Plan
Bookstore Business Plans
- Newsagent - Newsstand Business Plan
- Online College Bookstore Business Plan
- Scrapbooking Store Business Plan
- Used Book Store Business Plan
Car Dealership Business Plans
- Auto Inspectors Business Plan
- Auto Parts Store Business Plan
- Automotive Repair - Sales - Valet Business Plan
- Environmental Car Dealership Business Plan
- Motorcycle Shop Business Plan
- Used Auto Sales Business Plan
Clothing & Accessories Retail Business Plans
- Bridal Gown Shop Business Plan
- Clothing E-Commerce Site Business Plan
- Clothing Retail Business Plan
- Custom Quilt Artist Business Plan
- Specialty Clothing Retail Business Plan
- Family Clothing Business Plan
- Lingerie Retail Clothing Store Business Plan
- Lingerie Shop Business Plan
- Maternity Clothing Business Plan
- Women's Boutique Shoe Store Business Plan
- Womens Clothing Boutique Business Plan
- Women's Shoe Store Business Plan
- Vintage Store Business Plan
Convenience Store Business Plans
- Convenience Store Business Plan
- Convenience Store Cafe Business Plan
- Convenience Store Gas Station Business Plan
- Convenience Store Soda Fountain Business Plan
- Truck Stop Business Plan
- Vending Machine Business Plan
Cosmetics & Cleaning Retail Business Plans
- MLM Cleaning Products Business Plan
- Day Spa Business Plan
- Hair And Beauty Salon Business Plan
- Hair Removal Business Plan
- Hair Replacement and Salon Business Plan
- Hair Salon Business Plan
Ecommerce Business Plans
- Children's Website Business Plan
- Cigar Manufacturing Business Plan
- E-commerce Internet Business Plan
- E-Commerce Retailer Business Plan
- E-Commerce Start-Up Business Plan
- Ecommerce Fabric Store Business Plan
- Fish Breeder Business Plan
- Home, Garden Gifts Online Business Plan
- Horse Reseller Business Plan
- Mail Order Returns Business Plan
- Maternity Clothing Online Business Plan
Franchise Business Plans
- Athletic Shoe Store Franchise Business Plan
- Fast Food Restaurant Business Plan
- Franchise Sandwich Shop Business Plan
- Pizzeria Franchise Business Plan
Gift Shop Business Plans
- Florist Business Plan
- Gift Basket Business Plan
- Gift Novelty Souvenir Shop Business Plan
- Gift Shop Business Plan
- Gifts and Collectibles Retail Shop Business Plan
- Gifts, Novelties, Souvenir Business Plan
- Specialty Gifts Business Plan
Health Products Business Plans
- Massage Products Business Plan
- Medical Equipment - Supplies Business Plan
- Pharmacy Business Plan
Home & Garden Retail Business Plans
- Decorative Pottery Business Plan
- Feed and Farm Supply Business Plan
- Garden Nursery Business Plan
- Hardware Retail Franchise Business Plan
- Home Accessories and Gifts Business Plan
- Home Decoration Fabrics Business Plan
- MLM Water Filter Business Plan
- Retail Discount Store Business Plan
- Retail Hardware Store Business Plan
- Retail Furniture Manufacturer Business Plan
Jewelry Business Plans
- Custom Jewelry Business Plan
- Diamond Retailer Business Plan
Office Supplies & Office Furniture Business Plans
- Direct Mail and Shipping Business Plan
- Office Equipment Rental Business Plan
- Office Furniture Manufacturer Business Plan
- Office Furniture Store Business Plan
- Office Supplies Retail Business Plan
- Online Print Shop Business Plan
- Printing Services Broker Business Plan
- UK Furniture Manufacturer Business Plan
Raw Materials Retail Business Plans
- Gravel Rock Products Business Plan
Retail Music Business Plans
- Music Retail Business Plan
- Musical Instrument Store Business Plan
Sporting Goods Retail Business Plans
- Fishing Equipment Business Plan
- Fishing Shop Business Plan
- Fishing Supplies and Fly Shop Business Plan
- Paintball Products Retail Business Plan
- Retail Bicycle Shop Business Plan
- Retail Tennis Shop Business Plan
- Skateboard Gear Retail Business Plan
- Sporting Goods Retail Store Business Plan
- Sports Clothing Retail Shop Business Plan
- Sports Equipment Cafe Business Plan
- Sports Equipment Rental Business Plan
- Sports Equipment Retail Business Plan
- Sports Memorabilia Business Plan
- Used Sports Equipment Store Business Plan
- Yoga Center Business Plan
Technology Retail Business Plans
- Cell Phones Retailer Business Plan
- Computer Hardware Reseller Business Plan
- Computer Software Retailer Business Plan
- Computer Support Business Plan
- Computers Reseller Business Plan
- Electronics Retailer Business Plan
- Software Sales Business Plan
- Telephone Sales Business Plan
- Wi-Fi Kiosks Business Plan
- SaaS Business Plan
Do you have dreams of owning your own brick and mortar retail store? Or an eCommerce website you can run from the comfort of your own home? Whichever retail option you choose, you’ll need a business plan to get started and successfully manage it.
Check out our library of retail sample plans for inspiration and guidance as you build out your own physical retail or eCommerce business.
Or to develop a more modern online plan that updates with your retail needs, we recommend you try LivePlan . It contains the same templates and information you see here, but with additional guidance, sections you can update on the fly and automatic financials to help you easily manage your business.
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How To Write the Perfect Business Plan in 9 Steps (2023)
- by Desirae Odjick
- Dec 3, 2022
- 25 minute read
A great business plan can help you clarify your strategy, identify potential roadblocks, decide what you’ll need in the way of resources, and evaluate the viability of your idea or your growth plans before you start a business .
Not every successful business launches with a formal business plan, but many founders find value in taking time to step back, research their idea and the market they’re looking to enter, and understand the scope and the strategy behind their tactics. That’s where writing a business plan comes in.
Table of Contents
What is a business plan?
Why write a business plan, business plan formats, how to write a business plan in 9 steps, tips for creating a small business plan, common mistakes when writing a business plan, prepare your business plan today, business plan faq.
A business plan is a document describing a business, its products or services, how it earns (or will earn) money, its leadership and staffing, its financing, its operations model, and many other details essential to its success.
We had a marketing background but not much experience in the other functions needed to run a fashion ecommerce business, like operations, finance, production, and tech. Laying out a business plan helped us identify the “unknowns” and made it easier to spot the gaps where we’d need help or, at the very least, to skill up ourselves. Jordan Barnett, Kapow Meggings
Investors rely on business plans to evaluate the feasibility of a business before funding it, which is why business plans are commonly associated with getting a loan. But there are several compelling reasons to consider writing a business plan, even if you don’t need funding.
- Strategic planning: Writing out your plan is an invaluable exercise for clarifying your ideas and can help you understand the scope of your business, as well as the amount of time, money, and resources you’ll need to get started.
- Evaluating ideas: If you’ve got multiple ideas in mind, a rough business plan for each can help you focus your time and energy on the ones with the highest chance of success.
- Research: To write a business plan, you’ll need to research your ideal customer and your competitors—information that will help you make more strategic decisions.
- Recruiting: Your business plan is one of the easiest ways to communicate your vision to potential new hires and can help build their confidence in the venture, especially if you’re in the early stages of growth.
- Partnerships: If you plan to approach other companies to collaborate, having a clear overview of your vision, your audience, and your business strategy will make it much easier for them to identify whether your business is a good fit for theirs—especially if they’re further along than you in their growth trajectory.
- Competitions: There are many business plan competitions offering prizes such as mentorships, grants, or investment capital. To find relevant competitions in your industry and area, try Googling “business plan competition + [your location]” and “business plan competition + [your industry].”
If you’re looking for a structured way to lay out your thoughts and ideas, and to share those ideas with people who can have a big impact on your success, a business plan is an excellent starting point.
Free: Business Plan Template
Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.
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Business plans can span from one page to multiple pages with detailed graphs and reports. There’s no one way to create a business plan. The goal is to convey the most important information about your company for readers.
Common types of business plans we see include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Traditional. These are the most common business plans. Below, we’ll cover the standard elements of a business plan and go into detail for each section. Traditional business plans take longer to write and can be dozens of pages long. Venture capitalist firms and lenders ask for this plan.
- Lean. A lean business plan is a shorter version of a traditional business plan. It follows the same format, but only includes the most important information. Businesses use this plan to onboard new hires or modify existing plans for a specific target market.
- Nonprofit. A nonprofit business plan is for any entity that operates for public or social benefit. It covers everything you’ll find in a traditional business plan, plus a section describing the impact the company plans to make. For example, a speaker and headphone brand that aims to help people with hearing disabilities. Donors often request this plan.
Check out real-world examples of different business plans by reading The Road to Success: Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own .
- Draft an executive summary
- Describe your company
- Perform a market analysis
- Outline the management and organization
- List your products and services
- Perform customer segmentation
- Define a marketing plan
- Provide a logistics and operations plan
- Make a financial plan
Few things are more intimidating than a blank page. Starting your business plan with a structured outline and key elements for what you’ll include in each section is the best first step you can take.
Since an outline is such an important step in the process of writing a business plan, we’ve put together a high-level overview you can copy into your blank document to get you started (and avoid the terror of facing a blank page). You can also start with a free business plan template and use it to inform the structure of your plan.
Once you’ve got your business plan outline in place, it’s time to fill it in. We’ve broken it down by section to help you build your plan step by step.
1. Draft an executive summary
A good executive summary is one of the most crucial sections of your plan—it’s also the last section you should write.
The executive summary’s purpose is to distill everything that follows and give time-crunched reviewers (e.g., potential investors and lenders) a high-level overview of your business that persuades them to read further.
Again, it’s a summary, so highlight the key points you’ve uncovered while writing your plan. If you’re writing for your own planning purposes, you can skip the summary altogether—although you might want to give it a try anyway, just for practice.
An executive summary shouldn’t exceed one page. Admittedly, that space constraint can make squeezing in all of the salient information a bit stressful—but it’s not impossible. Here’s what your business plan’s executive summary should include:
- Business concept. What does your business do?
- Business goals and vision. What does your business want to do?
- Product description and differentiation. What do you sell, and why is it different?
- Target market. Who do you sell to?
- Marketing strategy. How do you plan on reaching your customers?
- Current financial state. What do you currently earn in revenue?
- Projected financial state. What do you foresee earning in revenue?
- The ask. How much money are you asking for?
- The team. strong> Who’s involved in the business?
2. Describe your company
This section of your business plan should answer two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you plan to do? Answering these questions with a company description provides an introduction to why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good investment bet. For example, clean makeup brand Saie shares a letter from its founder on the company’s mission and why it exists.
Clarifying these details is still a useful exercise, even if you’re the only person who’s going to see them. It’s an opportunity to put to paper some of the more intangible facets of your business, like your principles, ideals, and cultural philosophies.
Here are some of the components you should include in your company description:
- Your business structure (Are you a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or incorporated company?)
- Your business model
- Your industry
- Your business’s vision, mission, and value proposition
- Background information on your business or its history
- Business objectives, both short and long term
- Your team, including key personnel and their salaries
Some of these points are statements of fact, but others will require a bit more thought to define, especially when it comes to your business’s vision, mission, and values. This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
To define your values, think about all the people your company is accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Now consider how you’d like to conduct business with each of them. As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge.
Once you know your values, you can write a mission statement . Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence.
As an example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Making commerce better for everyone.” It’s the “why” behind everything we do and clear enough that it needs no further explanation.
What impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision?
Next, craft your vision statement: what impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision? Phrase this impact as an assertion—begin the statement with “We will” and you’ll be off to a great start. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most. The best vision statements are concise.
Finally, your company description should include both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Make sure all your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
3. Perform a market analysis
No matter what type of business you start, it’s no exaggeration to say your market can make or break it. Choose the right market for your products—one with plenty of customers who understand and need your product—and you’ll have a head start on success. If you choose the wrong market, or the right market at the wrong time, you may find yourself struggling for each sale.
Market analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it.
This is why market research and analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it. It should include an overview of how big you estimate the market is for your products, an analysis of your business’s position in the market, and an overview of the competitive landscape. Thorough research supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to validate your own assumptions as you work through your plan.
How big is your potential market?
The potential market is an estimate of how many people need your product. While it’s exciting to imagine sky-high sales figures, you’ll want to use as much relevant independent data as possible to validate your estimated potential market.
Since this can be a daunting process, here are some general tips to help you begin your research:
- Understand your ideal customer profile . If you’re targeting millennial consumers in the US, you first can look for government data about the size of that group. You also could look at projected changes to the number of people in your target age range over the next few years.
- Research relevant industry trends and trajectory. If your product serves retirees, try to find data about how many people will be retiring in the next five years, as well as any information you can find about consumption patterns among that group. If you’re selling fitness equipment, you could look at trends in gym memberships and overall health and fitness among your target audience or the population at large. Finally, look for information on whether your general industry is projected to grow or decline over the next few years.
- Make informed guesses. You’ll never have perfect, complete information about the size of your total addressable market. Your goal is to base your estimates on as many verifiable data points as necessary for a confident guess.
Some sources to consult for market data include government statistics offices, industry associations, academic research, and respected news outlets covering your industry.
A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed?
These breakdowns often are presented as a grid, with bullet points in each section breaking down the most relevant information—so you can probably skip writing full paragraphs here. Strengths and weaknesses—both internal company factors—are listed first, with opportunities and threats following in the next row. With this visual presentation, your reader can quickly see the factors that may impact your business and determine your competitive advantage in the market.
Here’s an example:
Free: SWOT Analysis Template
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There are three overarching factors you can use to differentiate your business in the face of competition:
- Cost leadership. You have the capacity to maximize profits by offering lower prices than the majority of your competitors. Examples include companies like Mejuri and Endy .
- Differentiation. Your product or service offers something distinct from the current cost leaders in your industry and banks on standing out based on your uniqueness. Think of companies like Knix and Qalo .
- Segmentation. You focus on a very specific, or niche, target market, and aim to build traction with a smaller audience before moving on to a broader market. Companies like TomboyX and Heyday Footwear are great examples of this strategy.
To understand which is the best fit, you’ll need to understand your business as well as the competitive landscape.
You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product, so it’s important to include a competitive overview in your business plan. If you’re entering an established market, include a list of a few companies you consider direct competitors and explain how you plan to differentiate your products and business from theirs.
You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product.
For example, if you’re selling jewelry, your competitive differentiation could be that, unlike many high-end competitors, you donate a percentage of your profits to a notable charity or pass savings on to your customers.
If you’re entering a market where you can’t easily identify direct competitors, consider your indirect competitors—companies offering products that are substitutes for yours. For example, if you’re selling an innovative new piece of kitchen equipment, it’s too easy to say that because your product is new, you have no competition. Consider what your potential customers are doing to solve the same problems your product solves.
4. Outline management and organization
The management and organization section of your business plan should tell readers about who’s running your company. Detail the legal structure of your business. Communicate whether you’ll incorporate your business as an S corporation or create a limited partnership or sole proprietorship.
If you have a management team, use an organizational chart to show your company’s internal structure, including the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between people in your chart. Communicate how each person will contribute to the success of your startup.
5. List your products and services
Your products or services will feature prominently in most areas of your business plan, but it’s important to provide a section that outlines key details about them for interested readers.
If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines; if you only sell a few, provide additional information on each. For example, bag shop BAGGU sells a large selection of different types of bags, in addition to home goods and other accessories. Its business plan would list out those bags and key details about each.
Describe new products you’ll launch in the near future and any intellectual property you own. Express how they’ll improve profitability.
It’s also important to note where products are coming from—handmade crafts are sourced differently than trending products for a dropshipping business, for instance.
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6. perform customer segmentation.
Your ideal customer, also known as your target market, is the foundation of your marketing plan , if not your business plan as a whole. You’ll want to keep this person in mind as you make strategic decisions, which is why an overview of who they are is important to understand and include in your plan.
To give a holistic overview of your ideal customer, describe a number of general and specific demographic characteristics. Customer segmentation often includes:
- Where they live
- Their age range
- Their level of education
- Some common behavior patterns
- How they spend their free time
- Where they work
- What technology they use
- How much they earn
- Where they’re commonly employed
- Their values, beliefs, or opinions
This information will vary based on what you’re selling, but you should be specific enough that it’s unquestionably clear who you’re trying to reach—and more importantly, why you’ve made the choices you have based on who your customers are and what they value.
For example, a college student has different interests, shopping habits, and pricing sensitivity than a 50-year-old executive at a Fortune 500 company. Your business plan and decisions would look very different based on which one was your ideal customer.
7. Define a marketing plan
Your marketing efforts are directly informed by your ideal customer. Your marketing plan should outline your current decisions and your future strategy, with a focus on how your ideas are a fit for that ideal customer.
If you’re planning to invest heavily in > Instagram marketing , for example, it might make sense to include whether Instagram is a leading platform for your audience—if it’s not, that might be a sign to rethink your marketing plan.
Most marketing plans include information on four key subjects. How much detail you present on each will depend on both your business and your plan’s audience.
- Price. How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision?
- Product. What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market?
- Promotion. How will you get your products in front of your ideal customer?
- Place. Where will you sell your products?
Promotion may be the bulk of your plan since you can more readily dive into tactical details, but the other three areas should be covered at least briefly—each is an important strategic lever in your marketing mix.
8. Provide a logistics and operations plan
Logistics and operations are the workflows you’ll implement to make your ideas a reality. If you’re writing a business plan for your own planning purposes, this is still an important section to consider, even though you might not need to include the same level of detail as if you were seeking investment.
Cover all parts of your planned operations, including:
- Suppliers. Where do you get the raw materials you need for production, or where are your products produced?
- Production. Will you make, manufacture, wholesale , or dropship your products? How long does it take to produce your products and get them shipped to you? How will you handle a busy season or an unexpected spike in demand?
- Facilities. Where will you and any team members work? Do you plan to have a physical retail space? If yes, where?
- Equipment. What tools and technology do you require to be up and running? This includes everything from computers to lightbulbs and everything in between.
- Shipping and fulfillment. Will you be handling all the fulfillment tasks in-house, or will you use a third-party fulfillment partner?
- Inventory. How much will you keep on hand, and where will it be stored? How will you ship it to partners if required, and how will you approach inventory management ?
This section should signal to your reader that you’ve got a solid understanding of your supply chain and strong contingency plans in place to cover potential uncertainty. If your reader is you, it should give you a basis to make other important decisions, like how to price your products to cover your estimated costs, and at what point you plan to break even on your initial spending.
9. Make a financial plan
No matter how great your idea is, and regardless of the effort, time, and money you invest, a business lives or dies based on its financial health. At the end of the day, people want to work with a business they expect to be viable for the foreseeable future.
The level of detail required in your financial plan will depend on your audience and goals, but typically you’ll want to include three major views of your financials: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement. It also may be appropriate to include financial data and projections.
Here’s a spreadsheet template that includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections if needed.
Your income statement is designed to give readers a look at your revenue sources and expenses over a given time period. With those two pieces of information, they can see the all-important bottom line or the profit or loss your business experienced during that time. If you haven’t launched your business yet, you can project future milestones of the same information.
Your balance sheet offers a look at how much equity you have in your business. On one side, you list all your business assets (what you own), and on the other side, all your liabilities (what you owe). This provides a snapshot of your business’s shareholder equity, which is calculated as:
Assets - Liabilities = Equity
Cash flow statement
Your cash flow statement is similar to your income statement, with one important difference: it takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid.
When the cash you have coming in is greater than the cash you have going out, your cash flow is positive. When the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is negative. Ideally, your cash flow statement will help you see when cash is low, when you might have a surplus, and where you might need to have a contingency plan to access funding to keep your business solvent .
It can be especially helpful to forecast your cash-flow statement to identify gaps or negative cash flow and adjust operations as required. Here’s a full guide to working through cash-flow projections for your business.
Download your copy of these templates to build out these financial statements for your business plan.
Know your audience
When you know who will be reading your plan—even if you’re just writing it for yourself to clarify your ideas—you can tailor the language and level of detail to them. This can also help you make sure you’re including the most relevant information and figure out when to omit sections that aren’t as impactful.
Have a clear goal
You’ll need to put in more work and deliver a more thorough plan if your goal is to secure funding for your business versus working through a plan for yourself or even your team.
Invest time in research
Sections of your business plan will primarily be informed by your ideas and vision, but some of the most crucial information you’ll need requires research from independent sources. This is where you can invest time in understanding who you’re selling to, whether there’s demand for your products, and who else is selling similar products or services.
Keep it short and to the point
No matter who you’re writing for, your business plan should be short and readable—generally no longer than 15 to 20 pages. If you do have additional documents you think may be valuable to your audience and your goals, consider adding them as appendices.
Keep the tone, style, and voice consistent
This is best managed by having a single person write the plan or by allowing time for the plan to be properly edited before distributing it.
Use a business plan software
Writing a business plan isn’t the easiest task for business owners. But it’s important for anyone starting or expanding a business. Fortunately, there are tools to help with everything from planning, drafting, creating graphics, syncing financial data, and more. Business plan software also have templates and tutorials to help you finish a comprehensive plan in hours, rather than days.
A few curated picks include:
- LivePlan : the most affordable option with samples and templates
- Bizplan : tailored for startups seeking investment
- GoSmallBiz : budget-friendly option with industry-specific templates
For a more in-depth look at the available options, read Get Guidance: 6 Business Plan Software to Help Write Your Future .
Other articles on business plans would never tell you what we’re about to tell you: your business plan can fail. The last thing you want is for time and effort to go down the drain. Avoid these common mistakes:
- Bad business idea. Not every idea is going to win. Sometimes your idea may be too risky and you won’t be able to get funding for it. Other times it’s too expensive or there’s no market. Aim for small business ideas that require little money and bypass traditional startup costs.
- No exit strategy. Investors reading your business plan want to know one thing: will your venture make them money? If you don’t show an exit strategy, or a plan for them to leave the business with maximum profits, you’ll have little luck finding capital.
- Unbalanced teams. A great product is the cost of entry to starting a business. But an incredible team will take it to the top. Unfortunately, many business owners overlook a balanced team. They assume readers want to see potential profits, without worrying about how you’ll get it done. If you’re pitching a new software idea, it makes sense to have at least one developer or IT specialist on your team.
- Missing financial projections. Your numbers are the most interesting part for readers. Don’t leave out your balance sheet, cash flow statements, P&L statements, and income statements. Include your break-even analysis and return-on-investment calculations to create a successful business plan.
- Spelling and grammar errors. Some businesses think hiring a professional editor is overkill. The reality is, all the best organizations have an editor review their documents. If someone spots typos while reading your business plan, how can they believe you’ll run a successful company?
Read through the following business plan example. You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own business planning.
Download sample business plan example (.doc)
A business plan can help you identify clear, deliberate next steps for your business, even if you never plan to pitch investors—and it can help you see gaps in your plan before they become issues. Whether you’ve written a business plan for a new online business idea , a retail storefront, growing your established business, or purchasing an existing business , you now have a comprehensive guide and the information you need to help you start working on the next phase of your own business.
Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall
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How do i write a business plan.
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Products and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations
- Financial plan
What is a good business plan?
What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan, what are the different types of business plans, about the author.
Desirae is a senior product marketing manager at Shopify, and has zero chill when it comes to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
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- eCommerce Marketing
[Tutorial] How to easily create your online shop’s business plan step by step
Ecommerce Consultant at Doofinder
Are you thinking about creating an online shop? If you think it is as simple as setting it up and starting to wait for clients to come, you are quite wrong. You need a business plan for you online shop. Even if you are not a startup and you don’t need to get people to invest thousands of euros in your project, the business plan is still essential to put your best foot forward. Having a business plan will save you a lot of headaches, such as finding out that your online shop doesn’t sell as you expected. In today’s article we will show you the main points your business plan must include so you can start working on it today. Are you ready to jumpstart your online shop?
Table of Contents
Why do you need a business plan for your e-commerce?
There are two types of actions in life:
- Those that bring gratification first and pain later.
- Those that bring pain first and gratification later.
When we have an idea, what we want is to get it off the ground as quickly as possible. We can picture ourselves killing it with our e-commerce shop and what we don’t feel like is wasting time on writing down a business plan.
“Everything is in my head!” you’ll hear.
Creating a good business plan is one of those actions that bring pain first, but that leads to huge rewards afterwards.
A business plan can help you earn lots of money, or save it, if while creating it you realize that your project wasn’t as perfect as you thought.
Another reason to do it is that you may need to show it to someone: investors, banks, or even friends.
In any case, let’s take a look at the key points that it has to cover.
1. Executive Summary
It is the first thing your supposed investors would read if you were looking for funding since it is the synopsis of your business plan. This summary creates a first impression for your project and this is why many entrepreneurs make the mistake of making it too long or overwriting it with extravagant words. Experts actually recommend consolidating it. Just one sheet of paper summarizing every section of the business plan should be enough. Although it is typically placed at the beginning, it should be the last section to be written .
What the executive summary should include:
- Idea presentation: In one or two sentences it has to define your project, the value proposal, and the main competitive advantage.
- Who is behind the idea: A good idea needs the support of a good entrepreneur. It is time to introduce yourself, but don’t overuse the standard CV formula. Be honest, creative, and original.
- Basic information: This is your planned name, the legal status it will acquire, location, and foreseen scope. You can show this as a chart to make it easier to read .
One of the issues that are not always analyzed in depth is the matter of the legal requirements. It shows that you have read them and that you can resolve them easily. Include them briefly, and then you can go into more details if necessary.
2. Description of the Company
The goal of this section is to identify the competitive advantage of your online shop so that you can make use of it in the future. You must reflect the company’s identity by defining:
- Mission: the reason behind your shop’s existence, the role it plays in the market, who is it directed toward, and what its differential factor is.
- Vision: the objectives that you want to achieve long term, which must be both realistic and ambitious so they can be motivating.
- Values: the universal ethical principles that you want your shop to be identified with. Only choose those values that you will be committed to upholding with every action you take.
At this point it will be helpful if you do a SWOT analysis.
We’re going to take a quick look at what’s behind those letters.
A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) allows you to carry out an external and internal assessment of both positive and negative points of your project.
It is a matrix where each quadrant includes one of the letters.
- Threats: These represent what could happen or what already exists in the market that may be a trouble for the project.
- Opportunities: These could be change of legislation or any other favorable situation, whatever the reason may be.
These are factors that don’t depend on the business itself, but rather that the business either exploits them or foresees the risks.
The internal aspects:
- Weaknesses: These are our weakest points. We may not master the technical part or we may have a lack of resources.
- Strengths: What are we good at and how does that give us an advantage over competitors?
If we had to define the relation between the SWOT analysis and the business plan in a sentence, it would be this:
The business plan should show that the strengths outweigh the weaknesses and that, at the same time, they are strong enough to combat the threats and exploit the opportunities.
Now let’s jump into the next point.
3. Environment analysis
Once you have completed the SWOT analysis it will be really easy to complete this one.
A business plan for an online shop should include an analysis of the environment, which we are going to divide into three types:
If you are thinking that the existence of competitors is a negative point, you are wrong.
A lack of competitors would be even worse since it would mean that there is not enough demand.
Your business plan should show that there are competitors, but not enough as to be a threat: turn it into an opportunity!
Analyze the main competitors and repeat the strengths and weaknesses process which each of them. This will give you a very clear scenario to see where exactly you can surpass them.
Finding out who your competitors are is very easy with the Internet. Have a look on Google at the best-positioned pages and the ones with the most authority for your main keywords. In addition, analyze the behavior of your ideal client and find out what they visit and what they buy.
At this point you have to dig deep into the legal aspects within your market.
A modification to the law may mean both a risk and an opportunity.
For some sectors, it would be essential to stay up to date regarding the technological level of the market.
Summarize the main tools that you need:
- Do they require investment? Will it be just one or will it be recurrent?
- Do you have the necessary knowledge to use them?
- Will you need to hire a third party?
The business plan for your online shop should answer those questions.
If you want to further develop this point, you can include a sociological or cultural analysis, but be careful not to include too much irrelevant information because it won’t help you achieve your goals.
4. Products and Services
What is my product going to offer to clients? This is the fundamental question you need to ask yourself at this stage of your business plan for your online shop. Your target clients and the problems you are going to solve for them must be crystal clear. If there are similar products in the market, clearly establish what your added value is compared to the other options.
Again, you can use a table. The table will show your products, their price, and the estimated profits.
If you are looking for funding, what matters to the risk analyst regarding your business plan is not the price. What really matter is why users will be willing to purchase and how much you’ll be getting from it.
Talk about pricing strategies and expenses. A company that has 100% control over where its money goes is already on the right path.
5. Marketing Plan
We have already shown how and what we offer to our webpage visitors. This section includes every action planned in order to get sales.
Another common mistake, both online and offline, is to put too much effort into getting it ready and then just “opening the door” and waiting.
In a physical shop, at least passersby will see you, but for an online one that is just starting up, there is not even a street.
Bear in mind that a website, at the beginning, is located in a desert with nobody around. Telling your friends and family to visit you will make it look better at the beginning, but the real struggle is to make strangers come and make a purchase.
The marketing plan within the business plan should answer the following question:
How are we going to get constant visits to the shop?
Indeed, if this is not the most important part, it’s close. Gaining visibility is a slow process that must be planned.
A good marketing plan starts with a thorough analysis of the market . Identifying your direct competitors and deciding which strategies you will implement to try to overcome them will be essential. In addition, this section will include which channels you will use to convey your message and to get leads that will become clients.
- Email marketing
- Social networks
- Videomarketing and YouTube.
- Content marketing
- Paid traffic with AdWords or Facebook Ads.
Don’t forget to clearly state how you’ll use each of them.
6. Operational Planning
The operational planning includes your daily tasks as a entrepreneur. You must establish basic things such as your work schedule, your location, your daily tasks timetable, and your product stock.
If reflects the task-flow from your e-commerce shop and how they’ll be divided.
If you are the only person in charge, you need to show what your routine will be.
Bear in mind that at the beginning you will have more tasks related to promoting and growing, but after some time you will have others to do:
- Manage returns
- Offer support
- Deal with unforeseen events
- Manage the stock
- Negotiate with suppliers
Surely you will have to go through it again in the future , but it is important to have an initial idea on paper, and then make small modifications down the line.
By doing this you, will show that everything is under control in your business plan. 😉
7. Financial projections
Once you’ve gotten to this point, you will have to think about where you want to see your shop in 1, 3, and 5 years time .
For those who don’t know where they are going, no wind is favorable.
That’s even truer for an e-commerce or an online business.
The reason for doing this is to give you a direction for moving towards your goals and, most importantly, to ask yourself how are you planning on achieving them. Based on this fact and when you start getting your first sales, you should establish which percentage of the profits you are going to reinvest into making your business grow.
Making an accurate prediction about your profits is difficult—and the person reading your report will know this—but at least you are showing that you have worked on it. Just don’t write figures without a rhyme or reason.
8. Funding Application
This is the last step of your business plan, in the case that you need external funding. It should include the amount of money you need and the exact ways that you plan on making use of it.
Put yourself in the investor’s shoes. Imagine that you are the one who is going to invest your money and think about what information you will like to read.
You may know the idea, the risks, the opportunity, and how to exploit it, but the other person doesn’t.
Be careful with the language you use—be precise and specific, and avoid vague expressions like:
“My experience and my multifaceted profile give me everything I need to comprehensively manage the business that I need your money to start.”
If you are only specific about the amount of money that you need, forget about the funding.
Use a chronogram in order to show your plan visually. It is easier to understand it if it comes with a graphic instead of just having a bare text.
This may not be necessary since you can start with a budget based on the popular family and friends funding in addition to your own funds.
Remember that the three Fs (Friends, Fools, and Family) will help you get started, but they can’t be the foundation of your strategy.
How to present the business plan of an e-commerce
You already know how to create your e-commerce business plan step by step and now it’s time to take action. Remember that it is just a document and that you can write yourself with just a bit of time. As you can see, you don’t need to have studied business administration at university to be able to write your own business plan.
You don’t need to be a graphic designer. The important part is the content—don’t steal its thunder with an opulent presentation.
Once you have a rough draft with all of the information, bring into a Google Doc or Word document and save it as a PDF.
Just like with other aspects, less is more.
To wrap things up, here you can download lots of examples of business plan templates.
Use the examples carefully. Each project is different and if you just copy-paste it, the result will be a boring, non-informative text.
Get inspired by the templates and this post, then create your own version and make people fall in love of your idea.
Do you remember what we starting off talking about?
The things bring in the most profits are the ones that require effort before you see any rewards.
Don’t forget that when creating your business plan. That way, you’ll do it with the love and attention it deserves.
Also think about the fact that the main beneficiary is you. It is also true that it will open the doors to funding, but you don’t want funding for a project that isn’t viable.
The business plan will help you in two ways: to get to know your project more deeply and, if it is viable, to gain the resources to make it work.
And don’t worry about the difficulty of writing it. It doesn’t matter whether it is about a clothes shop, a shoe shop, or a shop that sells fishing equipment. You are the person who best knows the project and that is you need to have is knowledge about your project and your sector, as well as a general strategic vision .
This is the first step towards creating the online shop you dream of, so what are you waiting for?
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8 Steps to Write a Successful Online Store Business Plan
Whether you’re looking to create an online store or start up a different type of ecommerce business , writing up a solid online store business plan is one of the major jumping off points. This could feel like a daunting task, but with some preparation, it doesn’t need to be.
Read over our steps and tips to creating a strong online store business plan.
Who Needs an Online Store Business Plan?
If you’re looking to jump into ecommerce, you need a business plan. It will prove vital to your overall success by creating an overarching guide for your new venture.
Your business plan can serve multiple purposes. It can help you secure investors or business loans. You can use it as a tool for recruiting employees and partners. Also, you’ll be able to use it as a roadmap.
Creating Your Ecommerce Business Plan
As with so many things in the world, there aren’t really many hard and fast rules when it comes to crafting an ecommerce business plan. However, the most effective business plans tend to have the following components:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations
- Financial plan
We’ll go through each of the steps you’ll need to take to complete these components.
Step 1: Write an Executive Summary
Your executive summary is the first thing that will be presented in your online store business plan. As the name implies, it acts as a summary for the entirety of your business plan, with high-level information laid out for readers to easily peruse.
The importance of a concise and informative executive summary cannot be understated. It’s likely any potential investors or lenders with busy schedules are going to read the executive summary before taking any time to read the more detailed parts of your business plan. You don’t want to lose them here.
Make sure your executive summary is easy to read and includes pertinent information you want to communicate. You want to give the audience an idea of who/what your company is, without trying to sell yourself too hard. The rest of your business plan will do the selling, as your executive summary should entice them to read the business plan.
Try to write no more than two pages for your executive summary, but you really should be aiming for just one page. At the end of the summary, the reader should know who you are, the problem you have identified, and your approach to solving that problem.
Beyond high-level points in the summary, you can get a bit more granular in pointing out things such as current partnerships, customers, product development, monetization strategies, and other details that will help the reader get a better idea of who you are, and what to expect when reading your full business plan.
You might want to save writing the executive summary until after you have completed the rest of your business plan, or you could write it first to help give you a guide to the bulk of the plan.
Step 2: Complete Your Company Description
Where your online store business plan executive summary should give readers and potential investors a high-level sense of your business, creating a company description is where you need to get extremely specific.
Include all identifying elements of your company, including:
- Business structure, such as:
- Sole proprietorship
- Website domain name
Now, start getting more detailed in describing who and what your company is on a grander scale. This is where your business plan should include your company’s mission statement and vision.
Your mission statement should be short and sweet. You’re essentially wrapping up your entire company in one sentence. Tell the reader and the world why your company exists as quickly as possible.
If you’re having trouble coming up with your mission statement, start with something extremely grand and general. Then try to insert your company into that grand statement.
What grand thing or problem are you attempting to solve are you doing, and for whom are you doing it? If your company sells food from organic and sustainable farms to schools maybe your mission statement is something like, “Keeping the world green and our kids’ diets clean.”
Where your mission statement tells the world who you are now, your vision statement shows where you want to be in the future. Think about the overarching goal you want to reach through your mission. “Our vision is to ensure the health of the people and planet. Through this, we will get nutritional and tasty meals to kids across the country, sourced from our curated and highly-vetted sustainable farmers and producers.”
After sharing your mission and vision statements, give the reader some more background into where you are coming from. How did you find the problem and what made you think about the solution? What experience do you have?
Then, introduce yourself formerly. List the key players involved from ownership down to staff. Though if you are already substantially big, you probably don’t need to list absolutely everybody. Be proud of who your team is and show why their contributions matter.
Step 3: Document Your Market Analysis
As with any good business, conducting market analysis plays a big role in getting off to a good start. Including your analysis in your business plan not only shows anybody reading it what is happening in the market, it also shows the that you fully understand the market yourself.
Break up your market analysis into three distinct categories:
- Audience analysis : Identify the demographics you are selling your products and services to. Use key identifying factors such as age, gender, location, and income. Show your understanding of what is important to your audience.
- Industry analysis : What is the current state of the industry? How did it get there, and where is it heading? Are there ecommerce trends that could impact your business? Back your conclusions with data where possible.
- Competitive analysis : Know and understand your competition. What are the products/services they offer? What is there pricing structure? What is their current standing with the public? Identify their strengths and weaknesses. Find learnings from your competitors’ successes and failures. Identify any gaps that you can fill. Show how you can reach higher profits, how your product is better than theirs, and you might target an untapped audience.
You can even go the extra mile and analyze yourself. Conduct a SWOT analysis to name your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This will give you huge insight into how you are already set up for success, and things that could use extra attention and work.
Step 4: Describe Your Products & Services
Here is your chance to dive deep into your products and services with your online store business plan. Use this space to detail how your products differ from competitor products. Point out how your products helps address any problems.
Keep in mind that this probably isn’t the place to get very technical. Avoid jargon here and make things simple and easily digestible for a wide and varying audience. You also don’t have to go into every single product or service if you have a large selection. Concentrate more on categories of products rather that each single individual item.
Step 5: Put Together Your Marketing Plan
You’re sure to go far with a good plan to market your ecommerce business . Outline your marketing plan here as part of your greater website business plan.
Start by pointing out who your audience is, where you’re most likely to find them, and how best to grab their attention. Then consider how much you want to invest in marketing strategies.
Working in ecommerce gives you several tried and true online methods of marketing.
- You can help your audience find you organically by building a digital content strategy where you create and produce related content, like articles and videos.
- You can learn and establish best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) for ecommerce so that your website will rank higher in web search platforms like Google.
- You can take advantage of Google’s popular pay per click (PPC) program to get your site listed in front of a target audience.
- It’s also a good idea to build a strong social media presence where more people will be able to find you. Social platforms also offer a breadth of paid advertising tools if you want to go that route.
- With affiliate marketing , you can have external editorial websites leverage their built-in audience to highlight your product to get a cut of sales that come through their funnel.
- Many influencers will work with companies to promote products. Target influencers in your niche rather than looking for just the people with the most followers.
It’s important to note that organic marketing (or unpaid) doesn’t exactly mean free. It takes labor and quite often a good chunk of money to build out and implement a good organic marketing strategy.
Step 6: Detail Out Your Logistics and Operations
Here is where you’ll point out all the things you need to keep your business running day to day. If you are selling physical products, you’ll need to consider things like:
Many small ecommerce companies rely on third parties to handle the bulk of their logistics. If you are doing so, be sure to highlight that here.
If you are selling a service, your logistics and operations will look a bit different. You’ll be more concerned about things like transportation, computer hardware and software, office upkeep, and more. Of course, that doesn’t mean that companies selling products aren’t also concerned with these operational items.
By completing this section, you should get a strong grasp of what your business needs to run well, and you’ll be able to give potential investors an idea of the costs required to operate well.
Step 8: Lay Out Your Financial Plan
There’s a ton that goes into ecommerce business planning, and one aspect does seem to loom large: financials.
While you may have touched on your finances in other parts of your business plan, here’s where you need to be much more granular and detailed. Just how into the weeds you get will depends on what you deem crucial for others to know. Investors and lenders, for example, are probably going to pay more attention to your financial plan than anyone else.
You’ll want to include these main pillars of a well thought out financial plan:
- Income statement : This will give your reader a look into your bottom line by showing your total revenue against your expenses over time. Of course, if you have yet to launch your business, you can project these numbers.
- Balance sheet : Used to calculate shareholder equity, your balance sheet reflects your total assets (everything your business owns) minus liabilities (all your reoccurring costs).
- Cash-flow statement : True to its name, this shows how your cash flows in and out. You’ll detail out when your revenue comes in and how much. You’ll also explain when you must pay out all your expenses and how much too.
Wrapping Up Your Online Store Business Plan
Coming up with an entire business plan for online businesses is no small feat. If you need a little more help, check out the many ecommerce business plan templates available online. Once you’ve tied all loose ends, don’t forget to at least give yourself a small pat on the back. As you wrap things up, keep in mind that your business plan can absolutely be a living document. It’s even a good idea to tailor it according to whomever is reading it.
For example, if you know an investor who gets excited by big ideas, you might want to put more thought into products and services. If you’re presenting it to somebody highly experienced in the industry, you might want to throw in a few more ecommerce terms than you normally would. If you have a number cruncher, you probably want to fine-tune your financial plan. If you’re just using it as a roadmap for your organization, you might be content to keep things high level.
Whatever the case, remember that you have the power to make your business plan perfect for your needs. If you need more help with your new company, take a look at some of the top ecommerce KPIs to build your business and grow revenue.
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- Hubspot Blog
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How to Write an Ecommerce Business Plan [Examples & Template]
Published: July 07, 2022
If you have a promising idea for an online ecommerce business , it’s important to create an ecommerce business plan to ensure your vision has enough stock to be profitable.
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 ecommerce success.
In this post, we’ll go over what an online store business plan is and how you can create one for your ecommerce startup. Let’s get started.
What is an ecommerce business plan?
An ecommerce 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 ecommerce 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 ecommerce business plan is essential for evaluating a business and determining areas of improvement.
An ecommerce business plan is especially important, with an increasing number of shoppers conducting business online. It's estimated this number has reached over 2 billion . Having an ecommerce 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 ecommerce business plans and what goes into writing one using our free template .
Ecommerce Business Plan Template
Download Your Free Template Here
HubSpot's template provides clear steps to structuring one for your ecommerce business. Throughout this section, I’ll use the example of a photography company specializing in online photo editing.
How to Write an E-commerce Business Plan
- Give an executive summary.
- List and describe your business.
- Detail your products and services.
- Conduct a market analysis.
- Strategize your marketing plan.
- Create a sales plan.
- Outline legal notes and financial considerations.
1. Give an executive summary.
An executive summary is a one-to-two page overview of your business. The purpose of an executive summary is to let stakeholders know what the business plan will contain. HubSpot's free template offers some tips on how to write one, as I've done below:
It's important to provide an executive summary so that an investor or executive, who doesn’t have the time to read your full plan, can quickly see the most important highlights of your business.
2. List and describe your business.
This is the section that needs the most detail because it highlights what you're selling. To begin, provide an overview of your product or service. For instance, a photography company would probably list their photo packages arranged by price and services, as I did below:
HubSpot's template also provides direction on how to describe your company's purpose and break down values. It also advises businesses to include team structure, if applicable. Below that, you should go into detail about your product and service lines.
3. Detail your products and services.
Once you have described your business and its purpose, you’re ready to dive deeper into your plan. What products and services do you or will you offer? This is an opportunity to list each item and its purpose, allowing you to answer the question ‘ why?’ Why are you choosing to offer these specific products and services?
After detailing your products and services, outline your pricing model. What is the cost associated with each service? Determining price, especially as a startup, can be challenging. However, sales pricing calculators help determine the best pricing strategy.
Download This Template
4. Conduct a market analysis.
For the market analysis, provide the operational climate of the industry you're in. To illustrate, at this step, the photography company would need to analyze its position in a world of rival companies like Adobe or online services like Canva. Below, I've done a quick competitor analysis, available in the template:
Using directions in the template as a guide, I was able to come up with more selling points of the company and how it stands out from competitors.
Filling out the market analysis section of the business plan assists with providing the framework for future campaigns. You’re able to define your target market and ideal customer. Refer to my example below for how to structure this analysis in your ecommerce plan.
Good market analysis includes your target audience, projections of your company's goals, and a breakdown of the competition's goals and weaknesses. This is a counterpoint of how your business improves upon those weaknesses.
For a complete guide on how to create a market analysis, we have one here.
5. Strategize your marketing plan.
For any business, having the right marketing plan for your eCommerce business is crucial. It serves as a roadmap for how your company will build brand awareness, reach your target audience, and boost sales and revenue. As seen in this template, your marketing plan will focus on positioning strategy, acquisition channels, and tools and technology.
Positioning strategy fixates on how you will position yourself to your audience. How will you address their challenges and goals? How will you use the tools at your disposal to accomplish this?
The marketing plan will also require you to focus on where your customers come from. Are they finding your business through search engine marketing? Do they discover your business from your blog or social media accounts? Identifying your acquisition channels allows you to identify which ones to prioritize.
Lastly, your marketing plan should lay out the tools and technology your marketing team will need and use. Will you use a content management system (CMS) like CMS Hub ? List all the software and programs your company will use to execute its marketing plan.
6. Create a sales plan.
When creating your sales plan, describe your methodology, organization structure, sales channels, and tools and technology. For example, when discussing methodology, will you focus on an inbound strategy where you attract customers to your business through your content or an outbound strategy where you initiate contact with your prospects? This part of your ecommerce business plan will also require you to outline the people in charge of selling your products and services, as well as what channels they’ll use to sell your products.
Similar to creating your marketing plan, the sales plan will also require a brief on what tools you plan to use. While your marketing plan might need a CMS, your sales plan might need a customer retention management (CRM) software like HubSpot to manage your relationships with current and potential customers.
7. Outline legal notes and financial considerations.
In the following two sections of your business plan, describe the legal and financial structures. The photography company should provide detail on the legal considerations like online safety rules, ecommerce regulations, and the company's costs.
Listing legality and every cost needed to start ecommerce is crucial information for investors and stakeholders. In this section, it's important to be honest and thorough to give partners a realistic idea of how to contribute.
Ecommerce Business Plan Examples
1. maple ecommerce plan.
This sample plan, provided on LinkedIn, is for a fictional company called Maple, an online store that sells exclusive Apple products. Maple's sample plan is great because it provides easy-to-follow charts and graphics while highlighting the most important information. For example, their market analysis included a SWOT plan for the business.
Outlining the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of Maple in this format is easy for potential investors to follow. Notating each value with a letter keeps the format consistent, which is carried throughout the plan. For businesses that find their information is best presented in graphics, Maple is a good plan to follow.
2. Nature's Candy Ecommerce Plan
Nature's Candy is an online retailer that provides nutritional supplements. Its business plan is available online and is helpful in seeing how businesses go from planning to execution. Below is a preview of its plan in the financial forecasting section.
This example shows who will be on payroll yearly, giving investors an idea of how their investment will work in the long term. Planning ahead also shows stakeholders’ dedication to starting up your business.
3. NoHassleReturn Ecommerce Plan
Fictional company NoHassleReturn's sample ecommerce plan is an expansive, detailed version of how ecommerce would translate to a completely online store. The company itself is structured to offer a way to make returning items bought from an online store a simple process, and the steps to take are featured below.
Having a sequence of processes like this is useful if your company is a niche idea. Investors and stakeholders need to know how your business will be new and unique for the market.
Even though writing out a business plan seems like a painstaking process, we have a step-by-step guide to help. This will keep you organized and keep you on track when structuring your business.
4. OGS Capital Ecommerce Plan
This sample ecommerce business plan comes from OGS Capital, where they created a test business plan for Botswana’s first private psychiatric hospital focused on inpatient and outpatient clinical health care. It features detailed sections for the business model, marketing plan, financial projects, and more. This level of detail is demonstrated below in their executive summary section.
While some ecommerce business plans will explain the executive summary through a series of paragraphs, the layout in this sample makes the information more digestible. The project is separated into sections that detail the business idea, as well as its goals and strengths. The business idea includes price projects, geographical focus, and target customers. Goals for this project are created for 10 years with specific, individual goals built at one-, five-, and seven-year time markers. Lastly, this executive summary highlights the strengths of this business plan to solidify this project and its importance.
5. Egrocery Ecommerce Plan
For centuries, people have left their homes to buy groceries from stores, supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and more. At-home grocery delivery has grown in popularity and is reflected in this sample ecommerce plan for a fictional business named eGrocery. This sample plan establishes the company as an online grocery retail business with plans for connecting customers to distributors for fast, convenient at-home deliveries.
In its business model section, eGrocery outlines how it will implement both a business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) model to get products from distributors, retailers, and wholesalers to its household customers. This section provides an effective demonstration of the company’s overall function.
6. Shannon & Shavonne Inc. Ecommerce Plan
Shannon & Shavonne Inc. is a fictional United States-based online retailer that offers its customers an abundance of products in fashion, home appliances, electronics, and more. The depth seen in this plan is particularly helpful, especially with the detail seen in outlining the business structure and each job’s roles and responsibilities.
The plan first lists all the necessary roles, from the chief executive officer (CEO) to a call center agent. It then describes the responsibilities of each role. As displayed in the image above, an information technologist (IT) would be tasked with managing the organization’s website, updating the online store, and ensuring the security of the company’s payment platform. The clear distinction of roles helps manage employee expectations and accountability.
7. Firstcry.com Ecommerce Plan
In this sample, we have Firstcry.com — a fictional ecommerce site that creates eco-friendly baby and feminine hygiene products. Because the company is looking for funding to launch the business, its plan focuses on its financial highlights and projections, which is crucial information for investors.
While disclosing what the startup funds will be used for, this plan also estimates its top-line projections over the next five years. As seen in the chart above, they include revenue, expenses, interest, and net income. The plan even breaks down how many customers per day and annual orders will be needed to reach this goal.
When it comes to building an ecommerce business plan, you’ll likely find that the more detail you include, the better.
Planning is the first step.
When starting a business, planning is always a crucial first step. If you find that you’ve launched a company without a concrete plan, it’s never too late. Successful businesses require strategy, and that’s what an ecommerce business plan gives you. It allows you to strategize what your business does, how it operates, and why it's essential. Not only does it help you pinpoint who the key players of your company are, but it helps you identify who your target audience should be.
With the steps listed in this article and the examples to take inspiration from, you’re one step closer to building an ecommerce business plan for success.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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How to Write a Great Retail Business Plan for Your Store
- Growth Strategies
Every successful business has a strong retail business plan. It’s one of the first things many investors and donors ask for when inquiring about your business. Why, you ask? That’s because a business plan details your business’ short- and long-term goals, and lists the steps and financial requirements necessary to achieve those goals.
To help you get started, we’ve outlined what you should include in your retail business plan. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a strong foundation for a viable retail business.
A system that grows with your business.
We’re with you from Square one to whatever’s next.
Provide a company description
Your company description is one of the most important aspects of your retail business plan. This section should reflect how you want people to envision your business. It should include the logo, concept, ownership and business structure, design, and layout. Think of a retail shop that you enjoy. What is it about that business’s logo, concept, and design that stands out to you?
Include information from target market and industry analysis
A retail market analysis is a deep look at your industry, competition, and geography. All of these things need to be defined in your retail business plan in order for investors to have a full picture of what your particular brand is and how it fits into the overall retail puzzle.
Target market and customer analysis: You’ve probably heard business owners say they want to target anyone interested in their brand. However, defining your target market makes it much easier for you to see who your audience is and how to best market your company to that audience. When researching and analyzing your target market and customer base, it’s important to figure out the characteristics of your ideal customer. From there, dig deeper to determine your ideal customer’s age, location, gender, income and education levels, marital status, and more.
Industry analysis and industry segment: An industry analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of your retail market. It looks at upcoming trends in retail , what’s selling and what’s not, and more. Once you know the state of the overall industry, break it down a bit further. What trends are you seeing for specific products and categories?
Competitor analysis: You need to take a deep look at how your competitors fit into the puzzle. When analyzing your retail market and location, research which of your competitors has the biggest market share, how close competitor retailers are to your location, and what advantages your brand has over the competition.
SWOT analysis: The last thing to check out is your SWOT analysis , which looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities your brand can capitalize on, and threats from tough competition. When you add SWOT to your retail business plan, you can identify and focus on your strengths so you can minimize weakness and stand out from your competition.
Explain your products
This is where the fun begins. Everyone, especially investors, wants to know exactly what they can buy at your store. In your retail business plan, you want to be as detailed as possible about the items you’ll be selling.
If it’s clothes, include whether there will be tops, pants, and/or shoes. Will customers be able to purchase accessories there? What sizes will you carry? What about plus sizes? Here is where you want to show your vision for your retail shop and feed the imagination with vivid descriptions of what your products will look and feel like.
Additionally, you should include information about your supplier and any contracts you need to have with suppliers to keep your shelves full. Will your items be made overseas or in the U.S.? How will you manage inventory? What will happen to the items you don’t sell? You should also detail your pricing strategy: how much will items cost? Will there be regular sales? How much will your sales be?
Address operational needs
Thinking about how to run your business is an important aspect when first starting out. Therefore, it’s important to assess various retail operations and determine a custom strategy for your business.
Supply chain: This is part of inventory management. Making sure that your supply chain runs smoothly is the best way to ensure profits. Include how you’ll control and oversee ordering inventory, store that inventory, and control the amount of product for sale. This helps to ensure you never run out of product or overpay for it.
Merchandising: You need a merchandising plan to show how you’ll plan, buy, and sell your products to maximize your return on investment while meeting market demands.
Technology: How will you complete transactions? One way to streamline everything from sales and inventory to orders and customer directory is through Square for Retail. Square for Retail allows you to keep track of every aspect of your business in a way that helps optimize business profitability.
Create an organizational structure
If you’re going to run a successful business, investors will want to know its legal structure. Will you operate as a sole proprietor, general partnership, limited partnership, LLC, or corporation? Choosing a business entity determines how you file state and federal taxes each year, which affects your earnings and profits.
Additionally, you need to include how many team members your retail shop employs. Who will serve on the management team? Who will work under the managers? How will this play into the overall structure of your company?
When you’re thinking about your team, technology such as Square for Retail can help make life much easier. You can integrate your POS system to centralize payments and sync calendars. You’ll have a centralized place with customer information, in case you want to market promotions or sales directly to them via email.
Here is where we start getting into the nitty gritty of your retail marketing strategy . You want to include a positioning statement, which explains how you want the outside world to perceive your brand. For your positioning statement, write a description of how your retail shop differs from others, how customers will enjoy your brand differently than that of competitors, the category in which your brand competes, and any compelling reasons why your target audience should have confidence in your claims.
Additionally, you want to include which channels you’ll use to open your business and which channels you’ll continue to use to promote your business. This can include digital channels such as a website , social media platforms , and rewards and loyalty programs .
Provide a financial plan
Your financial plan helps investors understand how your business will make money to achieve its strategic goals and objectives. For your retail shop, you need to conduct a financial analysis and analyze your startup costs, funding options, break-even point, and projected profit and loss. Using these plus a cash flow analysis benefits your financial plan, as well.
When analyzing your startup costs, you should look at everything it takes to run your business. That includes everything from the products you sell in your store to the technology you use to build and maintain your store’s website and point of sale. Investors need to know how much money your retail store will cost up front, and how long it will take for them to see a return on their investment.
Another important area to look at is your break-even analysis . Investors will want to see this breakdown. Essentially, the break-even analysis is a look at how much revenue you need to justify how much you’re spending.
Running a business is no easy feat, but Square is here to help. We have all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business, whether you’re selling in person, online, or both. And we’ve made all our tools to work together as one system, saving you time and money — and making decisions easier. So you can get back to doing the work you love and focusing on whatever’s next. See how Square works .
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How to write a business plan for an online store?
In the age of digitalization where customer-friendly experience appears to be a cornerstone of every online store, it is of great importance to design a creative and meticulous ecommerce business plan.
It’s said that 50% of new businesses close down within five years from the launch and therefore if you are thinking about opening up your own business, or you already have one, you’ll benefit greatly from writing a plan.
An ecommerce business plan is usually presented in the form of a booklet with a detailed description of your business. It consists of elements such as: Executive Summary, Company structure, Products, Operations, Market Analysis, Marketing Strategy and Financial Plan. We will elaborate on each and every of these sections further on.
Having a written business plan will keep you on the right track and encourage you to meet your targets (e.g. sales targets) more effectively.
How to write a business plan?
So now that you know what a business plan is, let’s talk about the structure. It’s worth remembering that every plan is highly individual and depends on the owner’s vision and the objectives of their company. The aim of the following article is to give you a hint or a general idea of what components of your company need a thorough consideration. But before we move on to the structure, let’s discuss the aim of writing it.
Why is it good to have a business plan?
There are many compelling reasons behind having an ecommerce business plan, one of which is to think critically about every major feature of your company: What do I want to achieve? How? What message would I like to send? How am I going to talk about my business? Those are the questions that need a deep thought before getting started. It allows you to identify any limitations and prevent possible problems. Moreover, it can be beneficial when you’re after outside funding. Setting clear goals and showing your potential makes your business credible and attractive to future investors. There are also other reasons that seem to reappear, among which we can distinguish: planning, idea evaluation, research, recruiting and partnership.
Planning. Writing down a description and the concept of your online store will give you a clue about how much time and money will you need, what is the scope of your company and what kind of resources will be needed from day one.
Idea evaluation. Writing a business plan will also help you decide whether your concept has a chance to achieve success. It’s also a great opportunity to distinguish the strengths and weaknesses of your idea.
Research. A good business plan needs solid research. Therefore, the information you will find, might be of great importance if it comes to your business, sales and marketing strategy.
Recruiting. Another reason to design a business plan is to communicate your mission and vision to other people by inviting them to your team. Also, it’s a perfect moment to think about what personalities and professions will be of great value to your business.
Partnership. It takes two to ta ngo… or even more. Another reason behind making a business plan is to identify if and what kind of collaborations you are going to have especially when you are in the early stage of growth.
While writing your business plan it’s crucial to include the following aspects:
An overview of what’s happening on the market plays a crucial role while planning a business and therefore, it gives you substantial information about the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.
Making a deep analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will determine your competitive advantage on the market or illustrate aspects that need improvement. To make it clear and coherent we suggest you make such an analysis in a grid form with specific bullet points in each section.
Every merchandise needs to be delivered to the customer and this is possible thanks to logistics. This is an aspect that plays a crucial role in customer acquisition since the more efficient logistic service, the happier the shopper. There are five logistic models among which we can distinguish:
- Own warehouse;
If you need more information about each logistic model, click here . Also, if you feel that fulfillment is the best option for your ecommerce business, leave us a contact below.
Ecommerce business plan structure
Every business plan is individual and will cater different needs and objectives. However, there are several features that need to be included:
The word summary in this section isn’t without reason. This part is a company description that introduces and highlights key elements of your business. It serves as a booklet presenting your mission statement and describes your major objectives. The more objectives you enumerate, the better sense of direction you will get. Present your online store platform and describe briefly your products. Think about what makes your online store so special and how you are going to stand out from other companies. Remember that it’s a summary- keep your executive summary brief and consistent.
It’s a good idea to start from the very basics of the plan. Writing down the list of people working for your company will give you a clue who is responsible for which task. Moreover, it will not only present their responsibilities but also illustrate their qualifications and skills. Also, think about the business model you represent- Are you a solo proprietorship, general/limited partnership, incorporated company/ LLC?
Before launching your product or service, it’s of great value to spend some time on the market analysis. Try to understand your ideal customer: Who and how old are they? What professions do they represent? What social media/ ecommerce platforms do they use? What will they buy? What kind of products or services might they be interested in? Also, don’t forget to research relevant industry trends and its trajectory. Will your products be in demand next year? Is your target market stable or rather changeable? Is your ecommerce platform efficient? All that information will give you a clue about the feasibility and viability of your business plan.
This seems to be the very cornerstone of your online store. This is where it all began, right? Think about the product/service you are selling. Focus on their specifications and benefits. To help you sort all those aspects out, I strongly recommend following the questions below: What are your main products? What makes them unique? How do you acquire them? What kind of materials are used to produce your product? How much will they cost? Are your products seasonal? Will they last? How long?
Next step in the process of designing an ecommerce business plan is to think about the means you are going to use in the process of customer acquisition. How will you acquire, convert and retain customers? Consider the following: SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PR, Content Strategy, Search Engine, Social Media (e.g. Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram), Email marketing, Promotions. In addition to that you might consider Customer Loyalty as well. How are you going to reward returning customers? According to statistics, 58% of customers that belong to a brand’s loyalty program make purchases from that brand at least once per month . As you can see, having an effective marketing strategy will keep your ecommerce business sustainable.
Let’s talk about logistics as this is the essential part of every ecommerce business. Behind every successful delivery and customer-friendly service, there is a meticulous and efficient process. Therefore, it’s a good idea to give this aspect a longer thought. Think about things such as, the website of your online store, the shipping process, payment processing, the staff and management team, suppliers, couriers and 3PL services. A smooth workflow has an immense impact on the final outcome and the future success of your company.
Talking about money is never an easy task; However, in terms of your business plan it is one of the most important aspects to ponder on. Without money, your business wouldn’t happen in the first place and that’s why it needs your attention. By planning your finances, you won’t be taken aback by unexpected expenses and if it comes to outside funding, you will stand out as a transparent and scalable company. The complexity of this part of your business plan depends on the goals, audience, and the size of the business. Typically, there are three major factors to consider: an income statement, a balance sheet and a cash flow statement. Nevertheless, feel free to include as much information as you need.
To sum up, writing a business plan gives you an opportunity to look critically at every aspect of your online store and introduce your mission statement. Make sure it’s not just a daunting task and treat it as an in-depth analysis of your idea for the business. You might find it beneficial to highlight the key points you’ve discovered while writing your plan. Perhaps you’ll find something that needs an adjustment. Focus on features such as: Basic concepts, Business mission and objectives, Product description, Planning strategy, Target market, Operations (e.g. the platform, shipping process, payment processing etc.), The ask, The team, Current/Projected Financial state. Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight- it needs some time but with a solid plan, it will make it.
August 4, 2021 9 min
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Starting a Business | 5 min read
How to write a business plan for your online business
Your business plan is vital to your success, and for more than one reason. First, your business plan provides a strong foundation from which to move forward without losing momentum by wondering what to do next. Second, a well-written business plan is required when presenting your business to potential investors.
Don't be intimidated by the idea of writing. You can start with an informal plan and clean it up later by fitting it into a business plan template when (or if) you're looking to secure a loan. Your starter plan doesn't need to have perfect grammar or really be in any shape to show to investors — that comes later. The most important thing is that you do it!
Below well show you how to write a business plan step-by-step, with 9 key sections that every business plan should include.
Point 1: Your Business Plan Executive Summary
The Executive Summary of your business plan covers the objectives of your business and lays out your mission. It's basically an overview of your business and the problems your business will seek to solve for your clients. Discuss your motivations and business goals. It's recommended to write the Executive Summary last, after you've outlined everything else.
Point 2: Your Business Description
Describe your business from your own point of view and discuss how you plan to grow. Explain where your profits will come from. Explain what kinds of customers you're going to target and how your products or services are going to help them specifically.
Point 3: Market Analysis and Competition
Show that you've thoroughly analyzed the market you're targeting and prove that there's a demand for the product or service you're offering. Include information about the size of your market and how many customers you expect to have, and how many will be repeat customers. Discuss your competition and how your business will stand out from the others.
Point 4: Your Product or Service
Here you explain in detail the product or service at the heart of your business. Remember to lay it out as if you're describing it to someone brand new to your idea (it can be easy to forget to do this and phrase things more for someone already "in-the-know" since that's where you're coming from when you write it).
Point 5: Marketing and Sales Plan
In this section, describe how you'll reach the marketplace you're aiming for. Are you going to create a website and social media profiles? Do you plan to attend trade shows? How about paid advertising? Don't limit yourself to what you'll do at the beginning — if you plan to hold off on paying for ads until later, make a note of that.
Point 6: Ownership, Management, and Personnel
This section includes a description of how you'll staff and manage your business, who the owners are (if more than you alone), and the types of personnel you'll need. Include team members you'll be looking to hire as well as those already working with you at this stage. Write a one-paragraph profile of each existing major team member, including yourself.
Point 7: Financial Plan and Projections
This is a very important section, both for your own planning and especially if you're going to seek investors. Create a cash flow projection to describe your monthly predicted revenue and expenses, a break-even analysis to show how many sales you need to make to cover your initial expenses and make a profit, a sample profit-and-loss statement using anticipated values, and a balance sheet describing your business's current assets, liabilities, and equity. These are the kinds of financial data you'll need to assemble every year at tax time, at which point you'll have real numbers to work with rather than projections.
Point 8: Investment
What will your investors receive, based on your cash flow? This doesn't just include outside investors who you might approach later (and with a more formal business plan). It should also include estimates for the return on investment for anyone who has put money into the formation of the business, like you and anyone you're already working with.
Point 9: Appendices
The appendices are a collection of any supporting data you have, such as testimonials, research excerpts, charts, and other information relevant to your business.
Informal vs. Formal Business Plans
Your informal business plan only needs to be around 10 pages , and you can leave the appendices out if you desire. As mentioned, the informal plan doesn't have to be perfect, but it should still be reasonably professional — you may want to recruit a trusted friend or editor to proofread, for example.
Your formal business plan, on the other hand, can be up to 40 pages and should be written to the best standards you can manage, since the formal plan is the one you'd bring with you to secure a business loan or court investors. The appendices will come in handy here to help convince them of the value of investing in your business. Remember, your formal business plan should be impressive but honest.
Business Plans Templates for Download
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Starting a Business | Templates
4 Free Retail & Online Store Business Plans
WRITTEN BY: Blake Stockton
Published December 13, 2019
Blake is an award-winning consultant, writer, and speaker. As a consultant, he helped over 700 biz owners start and grow their business. His expertise is featured across Fit Small Business in starting a business content.
This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business .
A retail business plan can help entrepreneurs analyze their business concept and explain why it will be successful. Many banks and investors like to see companies’ strategic plans before agreeing to provide funding. All business plans for retail and online stores should showcase their products and services, financial projections, and marketing strategies.
Before starting your retail or online store, it’s important to register it as a legal entity with the state in which it’s doing business. A legal business entity would protect the business owner’s personal finances if a lawsuit were to ever occur against the business. Rocket Lawyer is an online legal service that assists small business owners with the paperwork needed for legal entity registration. Register your business with Rocket Lawyer for $99 plus state fees.
Visit Rocket Lawyer
Retail Business Plan Templates
We’ve included four retail business plan templates below and separated them into different types, including one for retail product-based storefronts, retail service-based storefronts, retail companies with a storefront and an online store, and retailers that run their business completely online. To understand each section of the business plan template better, we recommend you read our step-by-step business plan guide . All of the templates below include the necessary sections to obtaining funding from a bank or investor.
We’ve included template copies that are in both Microsoft Word and Google Docs. To save the Word document, click on your desired template’s link below. Once it downloads, click “File” within the document, then “Save As” to save the template to your computer.
To save the Google Doc, click your desired template’s link below. Copy all of the words in the document, open a new Google Doc on your account, and paste in the template. The new template will automatically save to your Google Doc account.
Product-based Retail Storefront
Word / Google Doc
Retailers with Storefront And Online Business
Service-based Retail Storefront
Online Only Retail Store
How Retail Business Plan Templates Work
These retail and online business plan templates walk you through how to create a plan for your business. They all come with questions in each section and subsection to spark creative thinking and provide direction.
It’s important to note that some businesses will have information that fits into all of the template categories. For example, a bakery can sell products in person and online in addition to providing a service with educational classes to aspiring chefs. If your business happens to have diverse revenue sources like this, choose the template that applies to how the majority of your revenue is earned. For example, if the online store will only earn 1% of overall sales, you should choose the storefront-based business plan template.
Product-based Retail Storefront Template
This template is for a retail business with a storefront that primarily sells products rather than services to customers. Typically, these types of businesses have a local marketing focus. Additionally, inventory and sales staff are important topics to discuss in the business plan. Examples that fall into this business category include clothing boutiques, food businesses, and jewelry companies―essentially, any store that buys and resells items in small quantities, not in bulk like wholesalers.
Download the product retail storefront business plan in Google Doc or Microsoft Word format. PDF isn’t available, because the Table of Contents’ page titles and numbers won’t update after you add new information to the template.
Service-based Retail Storefront Business Plan Template
The service-based retail storefront template is right for anyone who primarily provides a service to its customers. This type of business has a local marketing focus. Additionally, hiring and managing quality staff are discussed in this business plan. Examples of service-based retail storefronts include massage therapist companies, nail salons, product repair, shops, and rental-based businesses.
Download the service-based retail storefront business plan in Google Doc or Microsoft Word . PDF isn’t available because the Table of Contents’ page titles and numbers won’t update when you add new information to the template.
Business Plan for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers With Online Stores
This template is for any retail business that has a storefront and is selling a product online as well. The business plan discusses ecommerce and online marketing strategy in depth. Examples of brick-and-mortar retailers with online stores include memorabilia or comic book stores in addition to shops that sell clothing, outdoor goods, and spices.
Download the retail storefront and online business plan template in Google Doc or Microsoft Word . A PDF version isn’t available, because the page titles and numbers within the Table of Contents won’t update when you add new information to the template.
Online Retailer Business Template
The online store business plan template is for retailers that primarily sell products online. The template emphasizes ecommerce, online marketing, and shipping. It’s best for niche businesses that cannot fund a storefront, such as stores that sell artisan soaps or custom items. Dropshipping businesses will also find the template useful.
Download the online retail business plan in Google Doc or Microsoft Word . A PDF version isn’t available because the Table of Content page titles and numbers won’t update when you add new information to the template.
What All Retail Business Plans Should Include
If you’ve looked at the above templates, you may have noticed that several sections are similar on all four business plans. That’s because no matter your type of business, when writing your business plan , bankers are looking for certain sections, including the Executive Summary, Company Summary, Market & Industry Analysis, Marketing Strategy, Financial Projections, and Appendix.
This section is an overview of the business plan and is typically one to two pages in length. We recommend completing the executive summary last so that you know which sections are most important to emphasize and expand upon.
It’s important to make the executive summary as persuasive and compelling as possible. Interested investors often request the executive summary first to determine if they should spend time reading the rest of the plan.
The company summary highlights the company’s successes if already in business or why it will be a success if you have a new business. In this section, include information about what you need to purchase to start your business and how much it will cost. Additionally, briefly discuss the company’s ownership structure and its competitive advantage, which is the one big feature that gives your business an edge over competitors.
Market & Industry Analysis
In the market and industry analysis section, make your case as to why your business will be a success. Market analysis is a deep dive into research that you can use to show that there are sufficient customers who need your business. You should research the need in your local area, especially if you’re not operating online, to help prove your business can be successful. Use software like ReferenceUSA to research for free at thousands of local libraries across the United States.
For industry analysis, you need to show evidence that the industry in which you’re starting a business is growing, not shrinking. You can use a paid service like IBIS World to pull industry data. IBIS World’s industry experts update industry forecasts and data around every four months.
The marketing section is where you outline the marketing strategy for your business. The information in this section will vary depending on the type of business you own. For example, some businesses may want to showcase the quality of their interior buildout while others expand into their online marketing strategy. You may even want to discuss the high-quality materials you’ll be creating to promote the business.
Regardless of the marketing strategies you mention, we recommend including as many visual examples as possible. You may want to include one or two visual marketing materials in this section. If you have more materials to showcase or large graphics―a menu or interior rendering―place them in the Appendix ( discussed below ).
The financial projections are the most important part of any business plan. Unfortunately, they are also the most difficult for business owners to create. In the financial projection section, you should predict how much revenue and expenses will flow through the business during its first three years in operation.
Calculating financial projections can be time-consuming, especially if you have a physical location because you have to research specific costs such as construction, inventory, and utilities. Software can also be a big expense. For instance, payroll tools like Gusto , accounting software like Intuit QuickBooks , cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) systems like Vend , and so on.
Additionally, it can be difficult to predict how much each product or service line will sell month-by-month over the first three years in business. Use software like Biz Miner to obtain yearly startup financials for your industry.
To organize your financial projections, you can use a free Excel workbook from the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). In the workbook, you’ll find tabs for financial statements that need to be completed, such as the Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Profit and Loss Statement.
The appendix is optional but recommended for a business plan. This is where you will put supporting documentation for your business. Include items like marketing materials, licenses, permits, leases, purchase agreements, and illustrations.
When to Use a Template Alternative
An alternative to the more traditional retail business plan templates above is a more modern business plan called the Business Model Canvas (BMC) . The BMC is a visual business plan that can be used in a team-building exercise and completed by upper management. Additionally, you should note that if you’re pressed for time, you can complete the BMC in under an hour. The downside of the BMC is that most banks and investors won’t accept it as a business plan.
Many business owners find that creating a business plan is a daunting task. Staring at a blank screen can be intimidating. If you need an alternative to using the templates above, consider using a business plan software to walk you step-by-step through the planning process. LivePlan is an affordable and easy-to-use business plan software that provides more than 500 business plan examples from which to learn. Get started with LivePlan for only $11.66 per month.
Every retail business owner needs to go through the exercise of creating a business plan. The process helps the owner understand the strengths and potential weaknesses of their business. Use our business plan templates along with the SCORE financial projections workbook to obtain necessary funding for your retail business. You may find yourself struggling with portions of the financial projections. If so, contact an accountant for assistance or use a business plan software.
If you’re on a tight budget and need legal advice about your business, you can contact an online legal service. Rocket Lawyer provides affordable expert legal advice to business owners. Get started with a 30-minute consultation from a Rocket Lawyer attorney for $59.99.
About the Author
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Blake Stockton is a staff writer at Fit Small Business focusing on how to start brick-and-mortar and online businesses. He is a frequent guest lecturer at several undergraduate business and MBA classes at University of North Florida . Prior to joining Fit Small Business, Blake consulted with over 700 small biz owners and assisted with starting and growing their businesses.
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Retail Business Plan Template
Written by Dave Lavinsky
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their retail 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 a retail business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
Download our Retail Business Plan Template here >
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your retail business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Retail Business Plan
Sources of Funding for Retail Businesses
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a retail 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 a retail 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 not fund a retail business. They might consider funding a chain, but never an individual location. This is because most venture capitalists are looking for millions of dollars in return when they make an investment, and an individual location could rarely achieve such results.
Your business plan should include 10 sections as follows:
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of retail store you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a retail business that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of retail businesses.
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the retail industry. Discuss the type of retail store 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.
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of retail business you are operating.
For example, you might operate one of the following types:
- Speciality Store – a store with a tight focus (e.g., hip apparel for women)
- Off-Priced/Used Goods Store – sells massively discounted or used products
- Department Store – often located at a mall and offer tons of products (e.g., Macy’s)
- Supermarket – focuses primarily on food items
- Convenience Store – offers just the most popular items a supermarket offers in a much smaller location
- Drug Store/Pharmacy – primarily offer medicines and medical products
- Discount Store – offer large inventories at low prices (e.g., Walmart)
- Hypermarket – offer many food and non-food items often in large quantities at a discount (e.g., Costco)
- E-commerce – offers products for sale online (e.g., Amazon)
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, new store openings, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the retail business.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the retail 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 local retail businesses with online counterparts, it would be helpful to ensure your plan calls for a significant online presence.
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 retail business plan:
- How big is the retail business (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in your local 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 retail business. You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of your niche’s market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The following are examples of customer segments: college students, sports enthusiasts, soccer moms, techies, teens, baby boomers, etc.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of retail business you operate. Clearly baby boomers would want a different atmosphere, pricing and product options, and would respond to different marketing promotions than teens.
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. Because most retail businesses primarily serve customers living in their same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
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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Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other retail businesses. They are most likely local businesses who sell similar items to you.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from you that aren’t direct competitors. You most likely will have online competitors; companies that sell the same or similar items to you, but which operate online.
- 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. Look at review websites to gain this information.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you provide superior products or services?
- Will you provide products that your competitors don’t?
- Will you make it easier or faster for customers to acquire your products?
- 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.
Product : in the product section you should reiterate the type of retail business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products 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 items you offer and their prices.
Place : Place refers to the location of your retail business. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your retail business located next to a heavily populated office building, or gym, etc. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers. Also, if you operate or plan to operate kiosks, detail the locations where the kiosks will be placed.
Promotions : the final part of your retail 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:
- Making your storefront extra appealing to attract passing customers
- Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
- Partnerships with local organizations
- Local radio advertising
- Banner ads at local venues
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 retail business such as serving customers, procuring inventory, keeping the store clean, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 5,000th 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 location.
Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in the retail 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 retail businesses and/or successfully running retail and small businesses.
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 retail 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, you may need to purchase inventories now that you can’t sell (and get paid for) for several months. During those months, 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 a retail business:
- Location build-out including design fees, construction, etc.
- Cost of fixtures
- Cost of initial inventory
- 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 your store design blueprint or location lease.
Retail Business Plan Summary
Putting together a business plan for your retail business is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the retail 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 retail store.
Download Our Retail Business Plan PDF
You can download our retail business plan PDF here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.
How to Finish Your Retail Business Plan in 1 Day!
Or, let us develop your retail business plan for you.
Since 1999, Growthink’s business plan consulting team has developed business plans for thousands of companies who have gone on to achieve tremendous success.
Click here to see how our professional business plan writers can create your business plan for you.
Retail Business Plan FAQs
What is the easiest way to complete my retail business plan.
Growthink's Ultimate Retail Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Retail Business Plan.
Where Can I Download a Retail Business Plan PDF?
You can download our retail business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.
Do you have dreams of owning your own brick and mortar retail store? Or an eCommerce website you can run from the comfort of your own home?
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Competitive analysis: Know and understand your competition. What are the products/services they offer? What is there pricing structure? What is their current
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The online store business plan template is for retailers that primarily sell products online. The template emphasizes ecommerce, online
For example, give a brief overview of the retail industry. Discuss the type of retail store you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview