Starting an online store may seem like an overwhelming task, but this step-by-step guide will help you take the first steps towards making your business dream a reality. Whether you have never started an online store before or have limited knowledge of what it takes to start one, this post will give you everything you need to get going. Let’s get started!
Pick The Niche
The first step in starting your own e-commerce business is picking a niche. It’s tough, I know—but having a niche means you can have laser-like focus. If you sell everything under the sun, then you run into problems like: broad customer appeal (or lack thereof), having too many different kinds of products and services that appeal to very few people… plus it’s super difficult to stand out in a crowded market when there’s so much competition for eyeballs and wallets.
Instead, it helps to narrow down your target audience by looking at demographics (age/gender/location) or psychographics (personality traits). But whichever you choose as your qualifier, pick one thing—and only one thing! You don’t want to overextend yourself from day one.
Pick a Domain Name
A domain name is your store’s address on the web. Think of it as a potential customer trying to find you; if they don’t find you, they can’t buy from you. To pick a good one, type out what you want your business name to be (e.g., Super Soap Shop), and then search that phrase in Google. If any of those domains are available, use them! They’re simple, catchy and easy to remember—they also show off how proactive you were in picking out a unique URL for your shop.
Once you have your domain name picked out, head over to GoDaddy or NameCheap and set up hosting for yourself so that people can easily reach you on their computer or phone at all times. Just make sure you fill out everything needed (like a company email address) or else people will think something’s fishy when they try to contact you later on. It might seem like there’s a lot to do here, but we promise starting an online store really isn’t hard once you get going.
Pick a Payment Processor for your online store
When you’re selling products online, there are several different payment processors that can handle your sales. PayPal has long been a top choice, but it’s not always best. Even if you already have a merchant account set up for your brick-and-mortar business, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it for your ecommerce store. Each service has its own rules and fees—read through them carefully before choosing one to handle your online payments. While you don’t want to pay more than necessary, don’t be afraid of premium services: they can add a layer of security and help reduce fraudulent transactions.
Design Your Shop
If you’re going to start an online store, your first step should be designing your shop. Where will it live? How will customers find it? How will they get from point A (your site) to point B (purchase)? These are all considerations that need answering before you actually build out your shop. There are also legal requirements, including your business name and address, that need doing as well. So don’t just jump into Photoshop; dig around a bit first—it could save you time later down the line.
Also, make sure you have your products and photos prepared beforehand, as there may be some editing required once your design is finished. Finally, decide whether or not you want to use a shopping cart software for order processing; having one can streamline shipping, but is entirely optional (and very personal choice).
Write Product Descriptions
Once you’ve figured out what products you want to sell, it’s time to write some product descriptions. Do your research and find a few competitors online. If possible, get access to their shopping cart so that you can see how they’re writing their product descriptions. I also recommend finding similar items for sale from other retailers (maybe even offline retailers), and write how your item is different/better than theirs. This will come in handy later when potential customers compare your store with others.
While it may be tempting to fill up these pages with advertising copy or filler content that doesn’t really help explain why someone should buy your product, avoid doing so at all costs. You don’t have much of a chance if people aren’t able to determine how it will benefit them during their first impression of your site!
Get Quality Product Photos
The reality is that people want to buy from brands they trust, and one of the best ways for them to build that trust is by looking at quality product photos. If you want your store’s photos to make a strong impression, you’ll need high-quality lighting, good gear, and a bit of luck. When shopping around for photo equipment, remember: better cameras don’t always mean better pictures.
Great shots are all about location and experience more than they are about equipment. Also remember that while it might take time to get your shop up and running—and even longer before you start turning a profit—once your online store is operational, it will continue to run (and earn) without any additional effort on your part.
List Your Products
After you’ve done some research and have a pretty good idea of what items you want to sell, it’s time to take a look at your competition. Create short lists of your top 5-10 competitors for each item. Once that’s complete, look at how these sites list their products; what catches your eye first? Next, put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for that particular product.
What do they need from that site? Does it address those needs? If not, how can you make sure your online store does? Finally, try setting up mock online stores for different customers who are shopping in different ways—just keep track of where people click to give yourself a better understanding of how people might browse through your store. Just remember: An online store is only as strong as its product catalog—that’s why keeping it simple is so important!
Promote Your Products on Social Media Channels
Social media can be a great tool for growing your business and promoting products. In some instances, it may even be more effective than paid advertising (depending on your target audience). If you’re not using social media as part of your marketing strategy, you’re missing out. While every social network is different in terms of demographics and engagement level, there are certain common denominators between platforms.
Make sure you know how to promote your products properly across these channels. This means building relationships with influencers and leveraging tools like TweetDeck or Hootsuite to schedule posts at optimal times. The best way to reach customers? Interact with them one-on-one through social networks. Be personable, get creative, show off your sense of humor—just remember that half of all sales happen after initial contact via social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram.