In 2021, there were around 2.1 billion online shoppers worldwide. That’s up from 1.66 billion in 2016, so there’s never been a better time to start an online store.
Keep in mind that starting an online store means you are starting a business, not a risk-free hobby. You need to be strategic and have a plan if you want to be successful.
But if you don’t have any experience selling online, you might miss crucial steps and fail before you even begin. Don’t worry! These tips will help you set up a successful online store that will continue to grow and thrive.
1. Decide What Products You Want to Sell
Chances are that if you want to start an online store, you have an idea of what you want to sell. This could be a service, products you make, or products you buy wholesale.
Here are some considerations for choosing the best products to sell online:
- How big are the products and how much storage space do they need?
- Do the products have a short shelf life or expiry date?
- Are your products seasonal?
- What are the import and export fees for your products?
- How much are the packaging and delivery costs for your products?
- Is there a demand for your products?
- Are you passionate about your products?
Thinking about these factors now will stop you from dealing with any nasty surprises later. And don’t be afraid to start with one product and then expand your business down the road. For example, if you sell only skateboards at first, you could progress to selling skate accessories and clothing too.
2. Choose an eCommerce Platform and Host
Now that you have tons of online store ideas floating around in your head, you need to make them a reality. Choose an eCommerce platform and/or website host that will allow you to make sales.
Here are some things a good eCommerce platform has:
- List products
- Accept payments
- Smooth checkouts
- Controls inventory
- Intuitive usability
- Ongoing support
Some eCommerce platforms have built-in web hosting, or you can subscribe to a third-party service. Built-in hosting offers ease, but third-party hosting offers flexibility.
Most platforms offer a free trial, whether that’s for seven or 14 days. It’s smart to try out a few because once you choose one it’s hard to migrate to another one later. Shopify, WooCommerce, and Squarespace are three popular eCommerce platforms you should try.
3. Design Your Brand and Website
All businesses need branding. You need a distinctive and attractive design that helps you stand out from other businesses.
Here are some considerations and decisions you need to make when building your brand guidelines:
- Business name
- Domain name
- Social media handles
- Logo and website font
- Logo and website colors
- Logo and website artwork
- Packaging design
- Website theme template
- Photographs for marketing
Hire a freelance graphic designer if you are clueless about design. But you can do many of these tasks yourself.
You can use an easy-to-use online design program like Canva. And you can buy a Shopify theme by Debutify for less than $30 a month.
4. Choose Dropshipping or Inventory
When first starting out, many online store owners resort to using their spare bedrooms as warehouses for their inventory. But what if you don’t have the space to do this or the capital to hire an off-site facility yet? And what if you don’t want to be the one who has to package and send your product?
There are alternatives. Dropshipping is where your online store acts as a middleman between your wholesaler and the customer. Customers buy products through your site, but your wholesaler stores and sends the product.
Both processes have pros and cons. Choose the one that’s right for you!
5. Do Market Research on Prices and Demographics
Before you list your products, you need to know who you will sell them to and what you will charge. Sometimes your product will decide your demographic, but not always. Here are some decisions to make about your target audience:
- Where is their location (e.g. your country or worldwide)?
- What is their age, gender, and marital status?
- What is their occupation, education, and income?
- What are their hobbies, and what is their lifestyle like?
Build an “avatar” for your audience in your mind. Create a person that is your ideal customer for your store and give them all these attributes.
Then, you need to decide on retail prices for your products. Take your time, expenses, packaging, and wholesale costs into account.
6. Photograph Your Products and Write Descriptions
Once you have your products ready to ship, you can list your inventory! You should have two types of photographs for each product: in a studio and in situ.
Hire a product photographer to take detailed close-ups of your products against a white background. Then, hire a lifestyle photographer to take photos of your products in the environment your customers will use them. For example, if you sell backpacks, then have photographs of models using the backpacks.
For the descriptions, you can hire a copywriter or write them yourself. Write descriptions that will appeal to your store’s avatar. Don’t forget to include the product’s dimensions and materials.
7. Market and Advertise Your New Online Store
How will people buy products from your store if they don’t know it exists? Create social media accounts for your business and start writing a blog. You can hire a digital marketing freelancer to help, or you can DIY.
Investing in paid ads is the only way to get your business in front of fresh eyes on social media. To increase traffic to your website, PPC and organic SEO are great tools.
Stop Stalling and Start an Online Store Today
Taking the leap to start an online store can be scary. But if you start small and follow these tips step-by-step, soon you will be your own boss and you’ll never look back.
Starting a new online store means you are opening a new business. You’ll need to learn more about being an entrepreneur if you want to be successful! Browse our business articles for lots of helpful tips and advice.