In this post, we are going to discuss how to start an online store from scratch. Contrary to popular belief, starting an online store won’t cost you a fortune. Also, it is not a complicated process. Now you can start an online store for your business even by yourself.
Yes, I know that starting an online store can be an overwhelming task, especially you not the techiest person around. But don’t worry. Now there are several DIY solutions to start your own online store without having to spend too much money.
How to start an online store in 9 steps
- Decide the niche for your online store
- Selling your own products Vs. Dropshipping
- Find the perfect online store builder
- Learn a bit about SEO
- Choose a business name and get the domain name for your online store
- Develop a brand identity for your online store and Select an e-commerce template
- Create the product listings
- Set up the payment gateways
- Set up a blog for your online store
Start an online store Step 1
Decide the niche for your online store
This step is not directly related to our main topic “how to start an online store.” But, it is essential to understand the importance of selecting a niche for any online business. Therefore, let us discuss a little bit about choosing a niche for your store.
Today, it is super easy to start an online store, but on the other hand, it is super hard to handle marketing for an online store. Even though there are so many opportunities to market your products online, you will find that it is not that simple to create an effective marketing strategy.
So, the solution is to target a small group of people with similar interests through your marketing campaigns. That is the best way to penetrate into a dense market and start selling. Once you got some traction, later you can expand into the other niches as well.
You need to keep this strategy in mind while creating your online store. You will see why this is so important when we go through the other steps.
Start an online store Step 2
Selling your own products Vs. Dropshipping
Before starting an online store, you need something to sell online. At this point, I believe that most of you might have already figured out what you are going to sell online. But, if you are not, I will show you some options. If you already know what you are going to sell, please jump to Step 3.
Create an online store as an online sales channel for your existing business
If you already have a brick and motor store, you can start an online store to sell your products online. This can help you to break the geographical boundaries for your business.
We live in the age of the internet. Apart from purchasing things online, people would love to “research” what they can find in a physical store before actually visiting that place. So, they can save time and make better purchasing decisions. By having an online store, you can help your customers to do the same.
Also, you can build email marketing and social media marketing strategies along with your online store. This can help you find new customers and to make more sales for sure.
Create an online store for dropshipping
Dropshipping is an online retail fulfillment method. If you don’t have your own products to sell on your online store, you can re-sell products from other suppliers, and use dropshipping for the order fulfillment.
Start an online store Step 3
Find the perfect online store builder platform
Now we are getting into the best stuff. Let us find out what is the best online store builder platform to start your online store.
There are several ways to build an online store. Some popular solutions include,
- WordPress + WooCommerce – The most flexible and agile online store building platform. Not so beginner friendly. But, this is the best, fully customizable, and open-source platform to start an online store. You can start an online store with WordPress for around $7 per month (including the domain name, hosting, and SSL certificate).
- Shopify– Shopify is the most popular and all-around platform to start an online store. They offer a large number of subsidiary services like Orbelo (to easily import products to your store) and Printful (for on-demand printing/ order fulfillment service). Shopify basic package will cost you $29 per month + transaction fees.
- BigCommerce – Bigcommerce is a futuristic store building platform, and it offers a versatile enterprise solution. They provide some fantastic built-in features (like content bridging APIs). The standard Bigcommerce plan starts from $29.95 + zero transaction fees.
- Wix – Wix has an amazingly beginner-friendly drag-and-drop website builder. This helps you to create a fully customizable online store, without even knowing to write a single line of code. Wix costs $20 per month + Additional charges for the SSL certificate for the basic business package.
- Squarespace – Squarespace is popular for the fantastic collection of store templates and analytics tools. It will cost you $18 per month to use the Business plan to start an online store with Squarespace.
Other online store building platforms include,
- Weebly – Great value for money.
- GoDaddy – Easy to use, and discounts for the domain names
- Volusion– Great analytical tools to adjust your online marketing strategies
- BigCartel– Start an online store for less than $10 per month.
Note: Providing the step-by-step instructions on how to build an e-commerce store on different platforms is out of the scope of this post. So, please check the tutorials provided by those store building platforms for in-depth learning. This post is intended to give you an overall idea about how to start an online store. But, below I have added two sub-sections about WordPress and Shopify to provide you some guidance to find the best tutorials.
How to make a WordPress online store
I have a few online dropshipping stores, and all of them are built on WordPress. But, to be honest, WordPress + WooCommerce might not be the best beginner-friendly solution to start an online store. Setting up an e-commerce store on WordPress require some basic knowledge about web development stuff. But, it is the most flexible and agile platform to start an online store.
If you are interested in starting your online store on Wordpress, check this video on YouTube. It is a two-hour video. But it is worth watching. Also, you can find several other tutorials and resources about using Wordpress from WPbeginner.
How to make a Shopify online store
Shopify is the most popular online store building platform around. And, they have a massive app store, which you can use to add more features to your online store seamlessly. Shopify is more of an all-around solution. The best thing about Shopify is that they have a good set of tutorials and a community forum to learn everything about starting an online store using Shopify.
Start an online store Step 4
Learn a bit about SEO
SEO (Search engine optimization) plays a significant role bringing in traffic to your online store. Google search is the most excellent marketing tool ever. It is like the catalog of the internet. And, the best thing is, it is entirely free to use.
By optimizing the content of your online store for search engines, you can rank up your site on Google search.
Why is the traffic from Google is so essential for an online store?
You might already know that there are several ways to advertise your online store. For example, the most popular way is to have a social media marketing campaign.
Let us have an example:
Let us assume that you sell baby clothes in your online store. When you run an ad campaign on Facebook, a lot of people would see your products. But how many of them are actually in need of baby clothes? They will take action (make a purchase from your online store), only if they got intrigued by your ad copy to make a purchase.
But, on the other hand, let us assume that someone would search on Google for baby clothes. Then they will see your online store on Google. Is this person in need of baby clothes? Yes. That is why they are actively searching for a product. So, your chances of making a sale for a website visitor coming from Google (organic traffic) is exceptionally high. That is why you need to focus on SEO.
Additional Reading:SEO Starter Guide by Google
Start an online store Step 5
Choose a business name and get the domain name for your online store
Selecting a business name is another crucial step for starting an online store. Also, it can be an overwhelming task. Having a sloppy business name and the domain name can harm your business in many different ways.
A lousy business name and a domain name can,
- Harm the reputation of your online store
- Bady affect your brand identity design
- Weaken your SEO strategy
Therefore, it is crucial to have a proper business name and a domain name when starting an online store. But don’t overthink it. If you do so, you will become a victim of “Analysis paralysis” and delay your whole process of starting an online store. Here I have added some DOs and DONTs to make it easy for you.
DOs when selecting a business name and domain name
- Find a name that sounds easy and exactly like it’s spelled – We are all bad at spellings. So, don’t make it hard for your customer to find your online store. Also, make sure your business name sounds as it is spelled. Otherwise, your potential customers will go for another site with correct spellings.
- Be original and unique – Don’t have Abibas.com to make it looks like Adidas. That won’t work for long. If you do so, get ready to face some lawsuits.
- Make it related to your niche – This is not a must. But, by making your business name related to your niche, people will quickly “get” it. Also, it can help your SEO strategy as well.
- Use a .com domain extension – Again, this is not a must. It is all about perceptions and practices. Anyway, it is better to reserve the .com domain for your business name before someone else does.
DONTs when selecting a business name and domain name
- Choose maximum two words – It is nearly impossible to find a domain name for a single word (unless it is a made up name). So, choose a maximum of two words for your business name. If it becomes too long, people won’t search it, and will severely affect your search engine result pages.
- Don’t use numbers with words, unless it makes sense – Having numbers together with words may look like your URL is not legitimate. If you must use numbers, make it seems right. For example, 99designs.com have numbers and words. But, it makes sense.
- Don’t limit yourself to a single product – Having the product name in your business name can be useful for your SEO and web traffic. But, it can make your life hard, when it is time to expand.
If you already have a business name, sometimes the exact domain name might not be available. In such cases, you can try to purchase that domain name from the current owner (can be expensive), or will have to compromise.
Start an online store Step 6
Develop a brand identity for your online store and Select an e-commerce template
Developing and designing a brand identity for your online store is an optional step and an optional cost. But, if you have a good brand identity design, it will definitely help you to sell more.
Brand identity design is the voice of your online store. It can convey the idea of trustworthiness (of your business) to your potential customers. Also, a strong brand identity design for your online store can set you apart from your competitors.
People usually presume that the cheap looking websites and lousy logo designs indicate that the owners are not serious about their business. Since we don’t want people to judge our online store as “not serious,” we need to focus on creating a proper brand identity design when we start an online store.
Selecting an e-commerce theme (template) for the online store
When you are using an online store builder platform, you can readily use a theme (or a template) to have a jump start for your online store.
Take a look at:
These templates are optimized for e-commerce, and you can simply choose a theme that goes together with your brand-identity design. Also, you can customize these themes to match your store preferences.
Start an online store Step 7
Creating the product listings
After stylizing your online store, you can start adding product listing to the store. All of the online store builder platforms have a simple step-by-step process to add product listings.
In this step, we will discuss three things that you need to consider when creating product listings.
- Writing product descriptions that can sell
- Uploading the optimum quality images
- Creating categories
Writing product descriptions that can sell
Writing product descriptions for an online store is an art, and it has a lot to do with your SEO too. Some store owners even outsource the product description writing to the copywriting freelancers too. But, before thinking about outsourcing, try to write your own product descriptions, when you start an online store.
Uploading the optimum quality images to your online store
Uploading photos to your online store is a bit tricky thing to do.
Because, while you need to upload the best quality photos to make it appealing to your customers, large images can slow down your site loading speed too.
So, you need to focus on image optimizing before uploading images to your online store. There are different ways to optimize images for the web before uploading them to your online store.
Below video shows how to optimize images for the web using Adobe Photoshop. But, you can check the above link to find out other free tools to do the same.
Creating product categories
When you create product listings on the online store, make sure to start creating product categories as well. A lot of new sellers overlook this part and lose a lot of potential sales.
Create around 5 categories to start with. That will make it easy for your customers to browse through the products in your online store. Also, having product categories can help with your SEO strategy too. Here are some key points to create product categories.
- Men’s, Women’s
- New items
- Items on sale
- Price steps
- Specifications (i.e., collar sizes for t-shirts)
- Brand names etc.
Check out this video about how to create a product listing on Shopify.
Start an online store Step 8
Set up the payment gateways
Payment gateways (like PayPal, Stripe, Apple pay, etc.) let you accept online payments for your sales. Sometimes (depending on the country that you operate) you can even integrate the merchant accounts from your local banks to accept payments from the online store.
How to choose the best payment gateway
This solely depends on the country (or countries) that you operate. If you are selling to international customers, the best way to accept payments is from PayPal. PayPal payments are available for many countries, and people trust PayPal.
Accepting credit cards can be an option too. But, with my own experience running a few online stores, people are reluctant to enter the credit card information to any website. So, it is much convenient to use PayPal. You can also add multiple payment gateways when starting an online store. This helps your customers to have a choice.
Different payment gateways will charge different amounts of fees for using their service. Usually, this varies from 1% to 3% of the transaction amount. So, you need to be conscious of these costs when pricing your products to sell online.
Start an online store Step 9
Set up a blog for your online store
As we have discussed in the very beginning, nowadays it is easy to start an online store, but it is hard to sell products online. So, you need to work on an effective marketing strategy to sell your products. Also, as we had discussed in the fourth step (when we discussed SEO), the organic traffic to an online store has a higher chance of making a sale.
So, in this step, we are going to discuss how to create an effective marketing strategy to boost your organic traffic for the online store. You can achieve this by starting a content-rich blog.
When you have a blog on your online store, your articles (with rich content) can easily rank on Google for your desired keywords (or for the shoulder keywords). These ranked articles can bring in a lot of organic traffic to your store.
I will give you an example. Let us assume that you sell pet toys. So, you can start writing blog posts about “how to select the best dog collar,” “how chew toys can be beneficial for pet’s gums,” etc. with such articles, you can attract the pet owners attention and engagement to the blog of your online store.
So, by doing this, you are subtly attracting your potential customers, at the initial stages of their purchasing journey. It is much easier to attract your customers before they actually start their purchasing journey. It is less competitive and less costly.
To be honest, a lot of e-commerce sellers (especially the dropshipping sellers) forget the importance of having a blog on their online store. They rely solely on paid ads, which is not so profitable for your business. Apparently, I did the same when I first started an online store. I relied only on the paid ads, and I lost a lot of money later.
The blog should be a part of your content marketing strategy
Now you know the importance of having a blog when starting an online store. But, remember a blog should be just a part of your content marketing strategy. There are other options too. For example, you can create a YouTube channel to build video content around your online store.
How to start an online store – The final words
Starting an online store is not a complicated task. There are plenty of online tools and services that you can use to start an online store by yourself.
Before starting an online store, make sure to read and learn a bit about SEO. This knowledge will help you to do everything right from the beginning.
Now there are several store builder platforms that you can use to build an online store, without even knowing to write a single line of code. You can use the built-in e-commerce themes and templates to have a jump start for your online store building process.
Finally, start a blog together with your online store to create a content marketing strategy for your business. This will definitely help you to rank your online store up on Google and get a lot of organic traffic.