The Ultimate Guide to Writing an E-commerce Business Plan That Gets Funded (2024)

So, you‘ve got a great idea for an online store and you‘re ready to launch your e-commerce empire. Congratulations—you‘re in good company! Global e-commerce sales are projected to reach nearly $6.4 trillion by 2024, a 70% increase from 2020 levels.

With more consumers shopping online than ever before, it‘s a great time to get into the e-commerce game. But before you start building your website or sourcing products, there‘s one critical step you can‘t afford to skip: writing a business plan.

Think of your e-commerce business plan as a roadmap to success. It helps you define your target market, clarify your unique value proposition, establish your financial needs and goals, and formulate a plan to acquire customers and drive revenue. Not only that, but a solid business plan is essential for securing funding from banks, investors, or other outside sources.

According to a research study by The Pitching Institute, business plans with a high rating were 12.75% more likely to receive funding compared to average pitches. The more robust and well-thought-out your plan, the better your odds of getting the capital you need to get your e-commerce business off the ground.

In this guide, we‘ll walk you through how to write each key section of an e-commerce business plan, share real-world examples from successful online retailers, and provide a free template to kickstart the process. By the end, you‘ll have a clear roadmap to e-commerce success. Let‘s dive in!

E-commerce Business Plan Template

Before we get into the details of each section, let‘s take a look at the basic structure of an e-commerce business plan. While there‘s no one-size-fits-all formula, most plans include the following key components:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Overview
  3. Market Analysis
  4. Products & Services
  5. Marketing Plan
  6. Operations Plan
  7. Financial Plan

You can use this template as a starting point and customize it to fit your unique business. We‘ve also created a free, editable version you can download in Google Docs or Microsoft Word format.

[Download Your Free E-commerce Business Plan Template]

With the basic outline in mind, let‘s dive into how to approach writing each section of your e-commerce business plan.

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary is a concise overview of your entire business plan. It‘s the first thing people will read, so it‘s critical that it‘s engaging and persuasive. Even though it appears at the beginning of your plan, it‘s usually written last after you‘ve fleshed out the other sections.

Key elements to include in your executive summary:

  • Your e-commerce business idea and unique value proposition
  • Overview of your products or services
  • Target market and opportunity
  • Competitive advantage
  • Financial highlights and funding needs
  • Milestones and traction to date

The goal is to pique the reader‘s interest and convince them that your e-commerce business is viable, lucrative, and worthy of their investment. Keep it concise—aim for 1-2 pages max. You‘ll expand on the details in later sections.

Example: Warby Parker‘s executive summary does a great job distilling their unique value prop, target market, and competitive advantage:

"Warby Parker is a lifestyle brand that offers designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. By circumventing traditional channels and engaging with customers directly through our website and retail stores, we‘re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear for a fraction of the price."

2. Company Overview

This section provides background information on your e-commerce company, team, and business model. Key points to cover:

  • Origin story and company history
  • Mission, vision, and values
  • Team member bios and relevant experience
  • Business model and revenue streams
  • Partnerships, certifications, or awards

Use this section to give readers a sense of who you are, what you stand for, and where you‘re going as a company. If you have an interesting backstory or a noble cause at the heart of your brand, this is the place to share it.

Example: Bombas, the e-commerce sock retailer, dedicates a section of their business plan to explaining their one-for-one giving model and how it aligns with their mission:

"Socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. That‘s why we donate 1 pair of socks for every pair purchased. As of today, we‘ve donated over 40 million pairs of socks to those in need. This mission is integral to our business model and helps drive customer loyalty."

3. Market Analysis

A thorough market analysis helps you demonstrate the need and opportunity for your e-commerce business. It should include:

  • Industry outlook and e-commerce trends
  • Target market demographics and psychographics
  • Buyer personas and customer pain points
  • Competitor analysis and SWOT
  • Potential barriers to entry

Support your research with credible data from sources like industry associations (e.g. National Retail Federation), market research firms (e.g. eMarketer), and government databases (e.g. U.S. Census Bureau).

Example: Casper‘s market analysis cites data to highlight the massive opportunity in the mattress industry:

"The global mattress market size was valued at $27.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7% from 2019 to 2025. The U.S. mattress industry, in particular, is a $15 billion market dominated by brick-and-mortar retailers with high markups and little innovation. By cutting out the middleman and selling direct-to-consumer online, Casper has an opportunity to disrupt this stagnant market."

4. Products & Services

Here‘s where you dive into the details of what you‘ll be selling in your online store. Include information such as:

  • Product assortment and collections
  • Unique features and benefits
  • Pricing strategy and positioning
  • Product sourcing and manufacturing
  • Intellectual property or patents

Use this section to showcase how your products solve real customer needs and set your brand apart from competitors. If you have any data or social proof demonstrating demand for your products (e.g. waitlist signups, customer reviews, etc.), include that as well.

Example: Allbirds‘ business plan highlights the innovative materials used in their sustainable sneakers:

"Our shoes are made from premium natural materials like merino wool, eucalyptus tree, and sugarcane, which are not only environmentally friendly but also extremely comfortable. We‘ve developed a proprietary process to transform these materials into durable, machine-washable shoes—something no other footwear brand has been able to achieve."

5. Marketing Plan

No e-commerce business can thrive without a solid digital marketing strategy to attract and retain customers. Your marketing plan should spell out:

  • Brand positioning and messaging
  • Digital advertising strategy (search, social, display)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) plan
  • Email marketing and retention tactics
  • Influencer and affiliate partnerships
  • Offline marketing channels (if applicable)

Be as specific as possible in terms of targeting, tactics, and budget allocation. Identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) you‘ll use to measure success.

Example: Beauty brand Glossier‘s marketing plan focuses heavily on organic social media and user-generated content:

"Instead of spending money on traditional advertising, we leverage social media and micro-influencers to spread the word about Glossier. Our customers are our best marketers—77% of web traffic comes from owned or earned sources. Through hashtag campaigns, referral programs, and exclusive launches for our followers, we‘ve built a highly engaged community of over 2.7 million Instagram followers."

6. Operations Plan

This section describes how you‘ll run and scale your e-commerce business from a logistical and operational standpoint. Key elements to cover:

  • Suppliers, fulfillment, and shipping
  • Inventory management
  • Web development and site maintenance
  • Customer service procedures
  • Talent recruitment and training

If you have any proprietary software or automation tools you‘ll use to streamline operations, mention those here. The goal is to show that you have a clear, realistic plan for managing the day-to-day of your e-commerce business as it grows.

Example: Fashion rental startup Rent the Runway details their unique reverse logistics process in their business plan:

"To ensure a consistent, high-quality rental experience, we‘ve built custom software to track and manage our inventory at the item level. Each dress is inspected, dry cleaned, and pressed before being sent to the next customer. This back-end technology is a key competitive advantage that enables a 98% on-time delivery rate and eliminates waste."

7. Financial Plan

Finally, your financial plan should include a detailed look at your e-commerce startup‘s financial needs and projections, including:

  • Startup costs & overhead
  • Break-even analysis
  • 3-5 year financial projections (revenue, expenses, profit)
  • Cash flow forecast
  • Funding needs and plans

If you‘re seeking outside investment, focus on painting a compelling growth story backed up by realistic assumptions and projections. Highlight your expected margins, customer acquisition costs, and lifetime value.

Example: Men‘s grooming brand Harry‘s financial plan emphasizes their profitable unit economics:

"By owning the entire value chain from manufacturing to last-mile delivery, we‘re able to offer premium razors at an affordable price while maintaining strong margins. Our projected gross margins are 60%+ with a CAC:LTV ratio of 1:3. We expect to reach profitability by Year 2 and generate over $50M in revenue by Year 5 based on our assumptions around market penetration and repeat purchase rate."

Putting Your E-commerce Business Plan Into Action

Writing an e-commerce business plan is no easy feat, but it‘s a critical step to set your online store up for long-term success. By following the outline and examples above, you‘ll be well on your way to crafting a compelling plan that impresses investors and serves as a roadmap for your growth.

Some final tips to keep in mind as you‘re writing your e-commerce business plan:

  • Keep it concise. Aim for 15-25 pages.
  • Make it skimmable with clear headers, short paragraphs, and visuals.
  • Tailor your tone and content to your audience.
  • Support your assumptions and claims with data.
  • Emphasize your competitive advantages and barriers to entry.
  • Focus on the customer throughout.
  • Proofread and spellcheck carefully before sharing.

Once your plan is complete, the real work begins. Use it as a living document to guide your decision making, track your progress, and adjust your course as needed. With a solid plan in place and the drive to execute it, you‘ll be well on your way to e-commerce success.

Want to jumpstart your e-commerce business planning process? Download our free template customized for online entrepreneurs. With helpful prompts, expert advice, and plugin-and-play sections, you‘ll go from blank page to investor-ready plan in no time.

[Download Now: Free E-commerce Business Plan Template]

Here‘s to your e-commerce success in 2024 and beyond!